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Installments: Moisture mitigation

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Elliot Gordon

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.38.09 PMContractors are under pressure to complete projects on ever-shorter schedules with ever-tighter budgets. The imperative to get the job done quickly and efficiently may overshadow the need to fully test concrete slabs to determine whether moisture remediation is required. However, if moisture testing is not conducted and moisture content sneaks up on you in the middle of a project, it can be extremely disruptive to schedules and it can be costly.

So, how do you overcome the tricky balance of scheduling around unforeseen moisture in a flooring project? Consider the following four best practices:

Test early and test again. Excess moisture in concrete slabs is a common issue. One of the biggest mistakes flooring contractors make is to not plan for the possibility of moisture at the time of sale. Get a moisture test done well in advance of installing flooring by a certified professional. Anywhere from a year to a month beforehand is ideal for conducting initial moisture testing to start planning for the “what ifs.” This early testing will give you the big picture of what you are dealing with; if moisture levels are low, you know you will not need to allocate resources for moisture mitigation and you can free them up for other projects. For higher levels, continue monitoring moisture levels closer to installation time to make a final decision on the best moisture mitigation strategy. If you leave the first moisture testing to days before installation, and there is a moisture issue, you will have to delay the project to submit change orders and adjust schedules.

By testing early you can plan for what products are needed and schedule the right pros on the job at the right time. If you find there’s a moisture problem, you can order the right materials and submit a change order.

Select products to speed up timeline. The traditional approach to moisture mitigation is the use of a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, providing a dry substrate for the floor. While effective, this method requires multiple coats and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.

Newer technologies can help expedite the timeline when mitigation is required, freeing up labor for the next project. These innovations also help flooring contractors feel more comfortable maximizing their number of projects while still meeting customers’ timelines.

A proven moisture mitigation strategy is to apply a moisture barrier prior to installing the finished flooring. (Moisture barriers are sheet membranes designed to be laid down above the concrete slab but underneath floor coverings.) When working on a renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring. The latest sheet membranes for floor protection are designed to offer significant advantages over liquid epoxy. Contractors and building owners can enjoy reduced installation time and easy application, saving time and labor.

Training. It is vital to spend the time and money to make sure your team is educated properly. Remember: A well-trained team works efficiently and avoids costly mistakes that can cause time-consuming delays.

Communication. Another important element to keep a project running smoothly and on time is daily or at least weekly communication between the general contractor and the flooring contractor, even before the flooring installation begins. Be sure to document all communication as well.

 

Elliot Gordon is product marketing manager, flooring, at GCP Applied Technologies, where he leads all product development and marketing initiatives for GCP’s flooring underlayment, tapes and tools product lines.

 

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Al's column: Monitoring moisture in wood

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Scott Perron

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.12.14 PMMore than 90% of all floor coverings installed in the lower Southeast U.S.—especially Florida—are laid down over a concrete slab. That means installers need to be particularly aware of problems and potential failures related to excess moisture.

When my family’s company relocated to Florida and first began 24-7 Floors in Sarasota, we had to learn many new installation techniques related to a simple change in geography. We initially saw many issues with laminate and even sheet vinyl flooring as it related to the levels of moisture present in the concrete, causing everything from discoloration to expansion. Last year we began seeing a huge rash of hardwood flooring failures as that product category has become very popular in our region over the last several years. In recent weeks I have conducted inspections at five different hardwood installations that revealed problems from minor discoloration or bubbling to complete failure in at least three cases.

For those installers who have been putting these products down without moisture testing or applying the proper moisture mitigation solutions, you need to be aware of the potential financial repercussions.

An NWFA certified inspector openly told me most companies that install hardwood flooring materials that are glued directly to the concrete are not following the proper procedures for testing or mitigation prior to installation. Surprisingly, he said, this is not limited to the “bucket-and-trowel” guys; full-line flooring retailers are guilty as well. Too many times the dealer pins his hopes on a premium adhesive as a cure all to moisture, but the fine print changes that in a hurry. Many of the worst cases I have seen personally are the result of purchases made at supply-only outlet centers that do not take responsibility for the installation, only the sale of the product.

We have compiled a library of pictures that show these failures, and we are educating each of our customers on the proper procedures for installation whether we provide labor or just materials. We discuss the proper process for testing, mitigation and adhesives, and we inform the customer we will not put these materials down unless the process is followed the correct way. We learned our lesson the hard way: One of our only installation issues happened on a job that failed in 13 months due to moisture. Prior to the installation, I decided not to test this home because it already had glue-down wood in the main living area so when we removed the old floor and added the adjacent areas we thought we were in the clear. As it turns out we were wrong; there were signs of excessive moisture in the other perimeter rooms. As a result, I promised the customer a full replacement. To my surprise, the customer was very understanding and actually added more areas which helped offset our claim.

A hardwood flooring manufacturing executive I know shared a few failure stories of his own regarding situations where his company’s products were improperly installed in some sizable projects resulting in the flooring contractor being sued and ultimately forced to close his doors. Being the low bidder in that scenario was deadly.

Although this is a challenge we feel will be a growing concern as we move into the future, it spells opportunity for a quality contractor to supply, install and correct the various issues that may arise.

 

Scott Perron is the CEO of 24-7 Floors based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also a motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com.

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Starnet Fall Membership Meeting: Moisture mitigation bubbles to surface

CHICAGO—Moisture. Generally speaking, it is the biggest enemy of flooring. Not so much the water spilling on the surface, rather the moisture that seeps through concrete substrates. In fact, it is one of, if not the leading cause of flooring failures, costing billions of dollars annually. And this is just on the commercial side where it is estimated 90% of litigation cases focus on water-related damages. This is the reason why Starnet devoted its entire Fall Membership Meeting to the topic. Continue reading Starnet Fall Membership Meeting: Moisture mitigation bubbles to surface