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Installments: Reading adhesive labels

May 12/19, 2014; Volume 27/Number 27

By Catherine Panagakos

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.20.19 AMDuring the 2014 FCICA convention in St. Petersburg, Fla., I fielded numerous questions specific to adhesives, with one continually being brought up by a number of contractors: “Why is it so important that I’m being required to use the adhesive that the [floor covering manufacturer] is recommending under its own brand? I’m using XYZ brand and besides it saving me money up front and helping the bottom line, I know it’s been working well because my installers say so.  On top of that, my installers complain that the label information is not only hard to read but really appears to just be a way for the manufacturers to cover themselves if a problem appears down the road.”

The answer to the question is very simple.

The recommended and/or required adhesive is specified to help provide satisfaction with the end result. Unless you’re the flooring manufacturer, it’s difficult to understand why it is necessary to use a specific brand-name adhesive. Just as all the adhesives on the market have specific formulations, the same goes for floor coverings, including VCT, solid or luxury vinyl, sheet material, carpet backings, linoleum, etc. They all vary and have nuances that may or may not set them apart, requiring special considerations in the developmental process.

Product labels are written together by the flooring manufacturer and partnered adhesive company to cover a variety of issues beginning with the adhesive description and its recommended use. Testing requirements, mixing instructions, trowel recommendations, subfloor prep and a number of other issues are addressed on the label. There is also an MSD listed on most labels; however, this is not a full material safety data sheet. There are numerous tests performed under rigorous circumstances, stretching the performance of the floor covering and the adhesive. Most adhesive manufacturers have developed specific properties for products, using proprietary raw materials to gain the best performance.

Most private labels are bilingual or trilingual. The labels can include one or two “pages” or may be a trifold; some also include booklets with recommended practices for various layouts. Sometimes there is a lot of writing on a small area, leaving an installer scratching his head. Even though the label may seem confusing and sometimes intimidating, this testing data helps the manufacturer’s technical support team assist you. If the installer gets to a point of confusion, it pays to call the technical support number listed on the label. The user should describe the conditions and the floor covering being installed, letting the experts offer guidance prior to the installation.

Most flooring manufacturers are more than willing and encourage installers to give them a call if there are any questions.  Most companies have toll-free numbers that can be called 24/7. Each manufacturer has experienced practices with adhesives.

The one thing to remember is all adhesives are different, even though the labels may read similarly. This is why a private-labeled adhesive is written as such, to protect end users as well as the flooring manufacturer.

Installers should remember to always read the label carefully and highlight any questions first. They should be sure to follow directions that fit each particular installation based on the material and conditions of the subfloor, gathering as much information as possible prior to calling the technical support number. Everything, no matter how trivial, can have an impact on the answers they may receive.  And, most important, installers must follow the floor covering manufacturer’s recommended practices—they are the experts on installing their materials.