Posted on

Installments: Proper subfloor prep requires the right tools

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By David Stowell

When it comes to a challenging subfloor, you don’t just need the right team for the job; you also need the right materials and tools. Incorporating the right tools and equipment can make a monumental difference in job productivity, application ease and, ultimately, subfloor quality.

Choosing the best tools can be tricky. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true recommendations from flooring industry experts.

Stainless steel smoother. The Smoother’s 24-inch blade allows for clean, even coverage of material. This stainless-steel blade smooths underlayments for a seamless, flush finish. A sturdy laminated wood mounting can also be used to apply and spread material, ideally self-leveling material. An aluminum bracket can be easily attached to the Smoother using the included hardware. This bracket fits onto any standard broom handle making it an extremely practical tool.

Gauge rake. The 24-inch gauge rake allows for an even distribution of materials, such as self-levelers. This rake is designed to be durable yet lightweight. It’s the ideal instrument for long hours of spreading. The two adjustable steel T-Skates attach directly to the rake and can be moved according to the desired depth of underlayment. This easy-to-assemble rake includes all of the necessary hardware upon purchasing. Its aluminum bracket is also designed to fit a standard broom handle.

Standard spike roller. The spike roller is used to easily achieve even surfaces in the self-leveling underlayment process. This particular rolling method breaks the tension in the material, allowing the smoothing agents to self-level. Each spike pierces the surface underlayment with a depth of 1¼ inches.

Gunite shoes. Wearing a flexible spiked shoe allows you to work on gunite, epoxy and sealers with ease of movement. The shoe protects the fresh surface from footprints and gaps while forcing air bubbles out of the application. Thirteen firmly attached ¾-inch (overall length) steel spikes cover the bottom of the shoe. Two adjustable nylon straps hold the gunite shoe in place. These shoes are multipurpose as they can also be used for aerating lawns.

Foam tape. This is essentially the ultimate barrier to stop product overflow. It acts as a dam in transition areas such as doorways. When working with Portland self-leveling underlayments (SLUs) or synthetic gypsums, contact to vertical structures can be avoided by installing a foam tape. It is important to prevent direct contact with metallic constructions, such as heating pipes, which can lead to corrosion.

Self-leveling kit. This all-inclusive kit holds every necessary element for a self-leveling installation: measuring and mixing utensils, gunite spiked shoes, a gauge rake, a stainless steel smoother and a standard broom thread handle. A self-leveling kit is an excellent asset when first establishing your tool assembly.

As you can see, many of these tools are practical and yet essential to the overall project plan. Incorporating the right tools and materials can directly affect the extent of physical labor and project timeline. Many of these items are available for purchase through distributors, manufacturers and supply outlets. For the best advice and tool recommendation for specific substrate material, contact your local company rep. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be for a seamless job well done.

David Stowell is the technical director at Schönox, HPS North America. He has 30 years of industry experience, beginning as an installer in 1988. Over the course of his career, he has worked for several manufacturers, including Pergo. For more information, contact Stowell via e-mail:

Posted on

Installation: Self-levelers solve subfloor prep issues

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Lindsay Baillie

Retailers, installers and contractors know that what’s underneath a floor is just as critical to a consumer’s long-term happiness as the floor’s overall look and feel. For the consumer to get the most out of her floor over the life of the product, installers need to properly prep the substrate.

To assist installers with this crucial step, manufacturers are developing new self-levelers to help shorten prep time and create a better working environment for workers on the job site. Following are some of the recent entries to the market.


Ardex K 22 F and Ardex K 60 are designed to accelerate even the tightest construction schedule. Ardex K 22 F is a high-flow, self-leveling underlayment that is reinforced with microfibers to increase product flexibility. This installation can be done as thin as 1⁄8 inch without the need for a liquid admixture or any sort of mesh fastened to a wooden subfloor. The product eliminates the need for putting down lathe. It is also fiber reinforced and low tension allowing it to go over challenging substrates with less floor preparation than the most common self-levelers.

Ardex K 60 Arditex—a rapid-setting, self-leveling latex underlayment—is mixed only with a latex additive and can be installed over a wide variety of substrates without the use of a primer. Ardex K 60 is a versatile product that eliminates the need for sourcing water. It also saves significant time by reducing the need for floor preparation.


The Laticrete SuperCap ready-mix delivery service is a new turnkey service that delivers blended self-leveling underlayment (SLU) through the company’s patented pump truck technology directly to the job site. According to the manufacturer, this service significantly saves both time and cost while providing a safer, cleaner work environment.

With the ability to blend and pump up to 30,000 pounds per hour—the equivalent of 600 small bags per hour—the SuperCap ready-mix delivery service benefits the entire project from design to completion by providing predictable results, according to Clint Schramm, director of marketing, Laticrete SuperCap. “Thanks to its computer-control system, a consistent, quality blend is ensured every time, shaving weeks off a project schedule while delivering a flat floor for subsequent trades to build out on within 24 hours.”


Schönox will soon take the wraps off its latest cement-based, self-leveling compounds, S1500 and XM. Schönox S1500 is a cement self-leveling compound designed for a multitude of projects with a depth of ¼ inch to 1½ inches. Schönox S1500 is noted for its very low shrinkage and PSI of 4900.

Schönox XM offers a self-leveling, cementitious smoothing as a leveling compound with very low VOC, good working properties, standard preparation and cost-effective applications. This high-flow self-leveler is designed for layers from 1⁄6 inch up to ½ inch with a PSI of 4300.

Both of these new compounds feature high hardness and strength, underfloor heating and a Schönox quality smooth subfloor.


Sika recently launched two innovative self-leveler systems: Sika Level-425 and Sika Level-525. Sika Level-425, a low-dust solution, offers innovative dust reduction technology preventing excess dust from spreading around the job site during the mixing of the product. Sika Level-525, which is designed to work quickly, rapid cures in 90 minutes, offering installers the opportunity to cover the underlayment with a floor in the same day.

The new products round out Sika’s total system of moisture-mitigation products. “The Sika Secure System helps installers to find what they are looking for,” said Marlene Morin, marketing manager, interior finishing. “We offer solutions that can provide great flow, high compressive strength, fast drying time and varying thicknesses.”


Sahara is one of Taylor’s most aggressive moisture vapor barrier (MVB) products on the market. The product, which is engineered to withstand the most extreme moisture installations, is designed to control concrete substrate vapor emissions. For glue-down applications, it is designed to be paired with the company’s all new Enhance bond promoter. Sahara can be applied directly to a clean and porous concrete substrate, meaning installers can eliminate expensive and time-consuming bead blasting or scarifying, also making it easier for the flooring contractor to comply with the new OSHA regulations on crystalline silica dust.

As a self-leveling, one-part trowel applied product, Sahara is ready to use straight out of the pail. It creates a smooth, solid surface for excellent flooring installations and is ready for next steps in approximately eight hours. Floating floors can be installed directly over Sahara and hardwood can be glued directly to it using the Taylor Signature Series line of wood flooring adhesives.


Uzin Fast System features three products: Uzin PE 414, a turbo surface strengthener/ primer; Uzin PE 280, a fast primer; and Uzin NC 172, a bi-turbo self-leveling compound. This system allows flooring to be installed in as little as four to six hours from initial application, which makes it ideal for time-sensitive projects. The Fast System also reduces mixing time from three minutes to one minute and meets strict Emicode EC1 Plus environmental criteria.

Uzin PE 414 dries in 60-90 minutes, saving time and labor costs. As a single component, it requires no mixing and is ready to use. Both water and solvent free, Uzin PE 414 meets strict criteria for healthy indoor air quality. Uzin PE 280 dries in approximately 45 minutes and has superior bonding strength. Uzin NC 172 is ready for covering in as little as one hour and provides a flat, level surface.

Posted on

Schönox ‘Worst Subfloor Contest’ focuses on fixing what lies beneath

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie


Schönox on June 1 formally opened this year’s annual Worst Subfloor Contest with the theme, “What lies beneath?” It’s a question that, according to Schönox, reflects a common worry flooring professionals often have when tackling a challenging flooring project.

“With Schönox, our approach is to develop subfloor products that can address even the most challenging conditions, knowing that success in extreme circumstances bodes well for all subfloor projects where Schönox is used,” said Thomas Trissl, principal, HPS Schönox. “The contest allows us to see the worst subfloors out there so we are staying ahead with the best subfloor answers.”

The Worst Subfloor Contest asks participants to submit entries featuring their most challenging subfloor projects and how they renovated those tough subfloor conditions using Schönox products. The worst subfloor challenges paired with the best renovation performances win. The entries, which are reviewed and scored by three independent judges, are ranked based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail taken in executing the project and the quality of the finished subfloor.

Prizes are divided into two categories: the winning company and installation team members. Last year’s first-prize company received $7,000 in Schönox dollars, while three installation team members were awarded a weekend in Las Vegas, which included a three-night hotel stay, airfare and a $500 hotel gift card. The second-place winner received $4,000 in Schönox dollars, and its three installation team members were awarded a DeWalt 20V Max XR lithium ion brushless 3-speed drill/driver kit and a DeWalt ToughSystem music radio and charger. The third-place winner was awarded $1,000 in Schönox dollars, while three members from its installation team received a Yeti Roadie 20 cooler and engraved Yeti Rambler 36-ounce bottle.

“Each year the number of entries increases along with national attention on the contest which points to the strong desire to do exceptional work in the flooring industry,” said Doug Young, executive vice president, HPS Schönox.

Those entering the contest are asked to photograph the subfloor conditions before and after the subfloor renovation project and submit the photos along with some project information at Entries can also be submitted using the Schönox app.

Projects completed from Dec. 23, 2016, through Dec. 22, 2017, are eligible for entry. The winners will be announced at the 2018 International Surfaces Event in Las Vegas.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.12.22 PM

Posted on

Underlayment: Education is key to upselling consumers

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

By Lindsay Baillie


Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.07.00 PMUnderlayments are more than essential components that complete a hard surface or soft surface installation. They are also valuable accessories that help increase margins and generate higher ticket sales for specialty retailers.

According to various underlayment manufacturers upselling from an entry-level product to a specialty underlayment is achievable through comprehensive product education. This focus on education starts with the retailer and follows through to the customer.

“Retailers should take the time to educate themselves and their team on the benefits of a good quality carpet cushion,” said Todd Betz, territory manager, Innocor Foam Technologies. “Then they can help educate the consumer on all the benefits of a better cushion such as how it will last longer and make the carpet feel better underfoot.”

Deanna Summers, marketing coordinator, MP Global, explained that there are many features to talk about when upselling underlayment. It is important for retailers to learn the various underlayments they sell and share that knowledge with others. To help retailers learn more about underlayment, she suggests talking to the underlayment manufacturers as they should be able to help with point-of-purchase information.

“A retailer will likely have more opportunity to create interest in value-added underlayment, a product many customers may not even know about but should,” Summers said. “Oftentimes the customer will be much more particular on color and style vs. performance. Underlayment upselling is a way to hone in on performance characteristics the customer may not have given much thought to.”

Once a retailer is properly educated in underlayments, he or she should make it a point to include it in the conversation about flooring. “Making the subfloor an integral part of the discussion for any flooring project is the best way to ensure the customer gets what is needed for the subfloor, and the flooring professional maximizes the overall product offering in the sale,” said Thomas Trissl, principal, Schönox. “It’s a clear win for both.”

In addition to educating retailers and RSAs, experts say consumer education is also necessary. “Offering consumers product options and educating them on the difference in these options allow them to make more informed buying decisions,” said Colleen Gormley, marketing coordinator, Diversified Industries. “In order for a consumer to invest more in her purchase, it should correspond with some distinguishable value.”

That distinguishable value is what MP Global’s Summers believes makes upselling underlayment easy and rewarding. Once fully explained, the products essentially sell themselves. “Upselling underlayment for new hard surface flooring is a win-win opportunity every salesperson should take advantage of as often as possible.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.10.03 PMProponents believe premium underlayments can enhance a newly installed floor in terms of wearability and lifetime performance. They can also provide noise reduction, insulation, moisture dissipation and greater comfort underfoot.

“Other talking points can be specific to the type of floor in which the customer is interested,” Summers added. “For example, underlayment selected for use under laminate flooring should be both firm enough to support the overlaying floor but offer sufficent flexibility to smooth out little subfloor imperfections, helping eliminate any rocking of laminate panels.”

Another advantage Sarah Remillard, product manager, sports and reaction surfacing, Ultimate RB, pointed out is a quality rubber underlayment can make an inexpensive laminate or engineered wood floor sound like an expensive wood floor—adding even more value to the customer’s purchase.

Ultimately, providing customers with accurate product knowledge to make informed buying decisions help RSAs gain customer loyalty. “Not only do you increase your profit from the upsell of one product, but you retain that customer for future purchases,” Diversified Industries’ Gormley explained. “Additionally, customer satisfaction should increase when using a higher quality product.”

While educating customers on the various products can help upsell underlayment, it is also important to ask the right questions. This is crucial for purchases involving ceramic and stone underlayment which are all based on specific applications. As Julia Vozza, marketing manager, M-D Pro, explains: “The retailer simply needs to know the right questions to ask their customers when selling tile underlayment so they can find out the specifics about the particular application their customer is buying for.”

Some of these potential questions may include: Is the underlayment being installed below grade or in areas where moisture is a concern? Is the tile installation in an area where the tile would need to transition up to a thicker flooring surface like hardwood? Is there a need or desire to install an in-floor radiant heating system?

Dale Asp, business development manager, Impacta Floor Underlayments, suggests retailers also find out what the customer is looking to achieve with her new floor covering. From there the retailer can discuss the different options available while presenting underlayments that possess the greatest value. “When looking for a quality underlay product the benefits must be worth the increased cost. A quality underlayment can provide superior support for the flooring above, thus ensuring the new flooring will look and perform well for many years to come.”

Good, better, best
Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.09.21 PM
Another proven strategy retailers can utilize is the tiered model, experts say. “Most retailers are familiar with the selling of the good, better, best [flooring] options for their customers,” said Ann Wicander, president, WE Cork. “Retailers who are successful in selling our underlayments use the same principle.”

When presented in the showroom, this model can help customers understand the differences between entry-level and specialty underlayments, along with the varying price points. “We’ve seen dealers really make it easy for customers to see the benefits by putting out a cushion walk in the store so they can feel the difference between a good, better or best cushion, which really helps them to realize the benefits of a higher-end product,” Innocor’s Betz explained.

In addition to using a cushion walk, Future Foam recommends showing customers a sample book—some of which can be custom made for each dealer. “These sample books fold up nicely so they are very portable,” said Mark Foster, Midwest sales manager. “They show the features and benefits while providing a walkable demonstration. Assisting the customer in an actual demonstration on how her carpet will feel over selected cushions is always a good way to help her decide what she truly wants and to show how more comfort can come from choosing the right cushion.”

Jack McMahon, vice president, Carpenter, suggests retailers flip the good, better, best model on its head and start with showing customers their best quality underlayment. He then recommends briefly explaining the cushion’s merits and closing the sale with the confidence knowing the RSA has offered the customer long-term value. “Better cushion will increase the consumer’s satisfaction with her carpet. Additionally, successfully selling better cushion is another way to reflect well on the retailer’s status as a strong business that believes in adding value to each sale.”


Posted on

Schönox kicks off subfloor competition

Florence, Ala.—Schönox has announced the start of its third annual ‘Worst Subfloor’ contest, whereby participants are asked to submit entries featuring their most challenging subfloor projects and how they renovated those tough subfloor conditions using Schönox products. The worst subfloor challenges paired with the best renovation performance win.

“The response to the contest has been strong in its first two years and we are already seeing entries for this year,” said Thomas Trissl, principal, HPS Schönox. “It’s a great opportunity to take a look at the most extreme conditions in the field and recognize the great work being done by flooring professionals all across North America.”

Contest entries are judged based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail taken in executing the project, and the quality of the finished subfloor. Entries are reviewed and scored by three independent judges and the winners receive a variety of prizes and much-deserved recognition for their hard work and professional approach to subfloor preparation. Contestants are asked to photograph the subfloor conditions before and after the subfloor renovation project and submit the photos, along with some project information, at

“The contest provides a real-world proving ground putting Schönox products to the test in the worst subfloor circumstances,” said Doug Young, executive vice president, HPS Schönox. “Everything that we learn in the field is taken back and incorporated into our research and development efforts ensuring that our products meet emerging subfloor challenges, perform even better and do so more quickly.”

The contest runs through Dec. 9. The winners will be announced at TISE 2017  in Las Vegas.

Posted on

HPS Schönox launches second annual Worst Subfloor contest

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 9.31.24 AMFlorence, Ala.—HPS Schönox has formally launched its second annual Worst Subfloor in North America Contest, running through Dec. 11. The contest recognizes companies that encounter tough subfloors and shows how they renovated them using Schönox products.

Entries will be independently judged with first, second and third place winners based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail in executing the project, and the quality of the finished subfloor. Judges will be announced June 15.

Photo entries and relevant information may be submitted at Winners will be announced at The International Surface Event (TISE) 2016. Winners will receive Schönox Dollars and installers on the winning team will also receive prizes.

Posted on

HPS Schönox Worst Subfloor winners to be announced at Surfaces

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 9.43.50 AMFlorence, Ala.—This week marked the end date for entries into the Schönox Worst Subfloor in North America contest. Launched in May 2014, the contest was put together to shine a light on tough subfloor conditions, detail the best ways to renovate them, and provide some recognition and publicity for the companies who handle these challenging projects. “We’ve been really excited to see the strong participation by installers and contractors, and the overall interest by the flooring industry in the contest,” said Thomas Trissl, HPS Schönox principal. “We are eager to demonstrate the importance of subfloor preparation and to recognize flooring companies that excel in this area.”

The Schönox Worst Subfloor in North America contest is an opportunity for any company charged with making a damaged subfloor smooth and sound to show the tough subfloor conditions that it encountered, and how it renovated the subfloor using Schönox products. Now that the entry end date has passed, entries will be independently judged with first-, second- and third-place winners that will be awarded Schönox products based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail taken in executing the project, and the quality of the finished subfloor. Contest winners will be announced at Surfaces on Thursday, January 22 at 11:00am in the Schönox booth.

The judges for the contest are John McGrath, director, INSTALL; Lew Migliore, president, LGM and Associates Technical Flooring Services; and Jim Walker, CEO, International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association. “Any event designed to showcase the expertise of professional flooring companies and the challenges they face in the field is of special significance for me,” McGrath said. With the contest entry phase complete, judges are being provided with details on the entries and project photos for their review. “Installation companies and contractors face a wide range of subfloor challenges on a daily basis in the field,” Migliore noted. “I’ve seen so many of those subfloor issues and see new ones each day; the Schönox contest has shown us even more.”

This was the first year for the contest, beginning with the fundamental question, “Is your company working on a project that has what might be the worst subfloor in North America?” Those who entered the contest were asked to submit photos of subfloor conditions before and after the renovation project, along with project details. “The contest has been a great success in amplifying the discussion about getting the very best flooring projects, regardless of the beginning subfloor conditions,” said Doug Young, HPS Schönox executive vice president. “There is no question that the contest will now be a recurring annual event.”

Posted on

High Performance Subfloors partners with Schönox

Florence, Ala.— High Performance Subfloors Americas has partnered with Schönox GmbH, an international brand of the AkzoNobel Group. Schönox is maintaining a leading position in many markets with a complete assortment of leveling compounds and building adhesives for installing all kinds of floor coverings. The trademark Schxönox, with its unique problem solvers and product systems is created for professional craftsmen. Continue reading High Performance Subfloors partners with Schönox

Posted on

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