How does moisture threaten the longevity of your flooring?
Floor coverings or adhesives exposed to a prolonged, moist, high-pH environment can result in:
- Blistering, bubbling, and curling
- Adhesive breakdown and/or bleeding through the seams
- Complete release of the flooring material
Additionally, moisture in the substrate may also be a cause for indentations and wheel marks; this is especially true with sheet vinyl flooring materials. Moisture inherent in the concrete can soften the adhesive causing it to become mushy and allow rolling wheels to leave marks in the flooring material.
These conditions can produce trip hazards, the tendency for mold, and an undesirable appearance that may reflect poorly on your brand image. Ultimately, failure to address high moisture in your concrete will cost you money in the long run.
Why are moisture related issues more common today, than ever?
Moisture-related problems with flooring materials installed over concrete slabs are not new and have been around since the earliest days of flooring installations. However, the magnitude and frequency of such issues are more prevalent today.
There are a number of reasons why moisture-related flooring problems are so common today:
Reason One: First, we live in the fast-track world of construction – Developers and builders do not provide sufficient time for concrete to dry naturally to a level acceptable for the installation of flooring or coating materials. In addition, Curing, sealing, or bond-breaking compounds are commonly used in concrete slab construction all of which inhibit the release of free moisture from within the slab.
Reason Two: Second, it is all too common for a below-slab vapor barrier to be omitted from the building design – Additionally, often the barrier material used provides less than adequate protection.
Reason Three: Third, there have been changes in the material make-up of flooring and adhesives – For example, the change from solvent-based to water-based adhesive formulations and the use of new synthetic (recycled)backing and flooring materials that don’t allow moisture to get through, so it can’t naturally dissipate. The result is dimensional instability.
What are the visible signs of moisture?
There are a variety of “signs” that can alert anyone to a potential moisture problem on a site visit. Some common indicators that moisture may be an issue, in addition to a distinctive musty smell, are:
There are a variety of “signs” that can alert anyone to a potential moisture problem on a site visit. Some common indicators that moisture may be an issue are:
Moisture permeating from concrete floor slabs affects the performance of flooring systems such as resilient and textile floor coverings and coatings. Manufacturers of such systems generally require moisture testing to be performed before installation on concrete substrates.
There are 2 industry accepted testing methods for determining the moisture levels in concrete. Some industry experts suggest that, when testing new concrete slabs, a combination of both tests provides more data for use in making the most informed decisions.
The Calcium Chloride Test or – CaCI Test ((CaCL/MVER): This test measures the volume of water vapor radiating from a concrete slab surface over time. Use this test to measure the amount of moisture that emits from 1,000 square feet of slab surface during a 24 hours time period. (The result is expressed as “pounds” which is the equivalent weight of water emitted as vapor over 1,000 square feet in 24 hours.) This test needs to be placed undisturbed for 60 – 72 hours and in this time frame it is understood that the results reflect the moisture emitted from the top ½ – ¾ inch of the slab.
Relative Humidity Test – Change text to: Relative Humidity Test (RH Probe Test): This test is conducted through the use of in situ probes that measure the relative humidity (RH) within the slab. RH probes measure moisture deeper within the concrete (as compared to the Calcium Chloride Test) by placing a sensor within a hole drilled into the slab. The test results are believed to be the best predictor of what the moisture condition will ultimately be at the slab surface after a floor covering or coating is applied and slab equilibrium is reached. In other words the moisture within the slab is expected to migrate to the surface once the floor covering is installed. The test’s placement location within the concrete also means they are less susceptible to environmental or ambient changes at the surface.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these testing options. Our FLOORX INC team of experts would be happy to talk through them with you.
What are your moisture mitigation options?
High Performance Adhesives typically require the slab to be “new” as well as have a “properly placed intact vapor retarder”. When this option is proposed in a remodel situation, where the existing slab does not meet the requirements, we will work with the adhesive manufacturer to provide warranty coverage on a case-by-case basis based on the specific project site conditions.
Reactive Penetrants reduce moisture transfer from the slab by reducing the surface porosity of the concrete by combining with the hydroxides within the cement paste. There are many factors that will determine the effectiveness of this option:
- The material must be capable of penetrating into the concrete.
- The reactive material must then find a sufficient amount of calcium hydroxide in the concrete to complete the intended reaction. (Materials such as fly ash can reduce the availability of calcium hydroxide needed by the reactive penetrant.)
- Reactive Penetrants must not be over applied; they need sufficient time for the chemical reaction to take place. Over applying can create a film that can adversely affect adhesion. With so much reliance on the proper chemical makeup of the slab combined with the fact that Reactive Penetrants moisture tolerances are so low, we typically do not recommend Reactive Penetrants when FLOORX INC is required to assume liabilities. Product examples are DriSeal, BoneDry, and SDG.
Membranes are becoming a popular solution to moisture problems and are getting a lot of traction due to their ease of use. The data shows that these systems work in the right application at moderate moisture levels. Membranes utilize a specialty fabric that creates a buffer between the slab and the flooring material. This fabric is typically not attached or adhered to the substrate.
Membranes are generally limited to modular products.
Coatings are the most common mitigation option and have been around the longest with the most proven track record. They require an aggressive surface profile such as shot blasting or grinding and typically are epoxy based. When installing resilient type products they will require a “cap” or skim coat of patching compound. When working in an open store remodel situation this system often cannot be completed in one night. This is due to the dry (cure) times associated with the coating, the skim coat primer, & the skim coat. The extended dry times can make it difficult to apply the coating, install the flooring, and move the fixtures back before customers arrive. Therefore this system typically requires moving the fixtures twice.
Other Products – There are a number of flooring options available that either allow sufficient moisture to escape from the floor surface or are simply not affected by high moisture levels. Specialty tiles, for example, are one of the largest growth segments in our industry. These tiles do not use adhesives an instead “interlock” mechanically creating a “floating floor” (limited to modular materials). Beyond specialty tiles, additional product options are:
- Colored, stained, & polished concrete
- Colored or stained overlays
- Ceramic tile
Click below for an illustration of how FLOORX INC’s Coating’s Process can provide a lasting solution to your moisture problem.
If you suspect that your flooring may have moisture and you need unbiased expertise to:
- Evaluate the situation
- Explore all your options, and
- Weigh the business risk and costs to arrive at the best mitigation solution, our FLOORX INC team would like to put their experience to work for you.
Our focus is on effective execution while minimizing business disruption. And, we’ll even provide unbiased recommendations for alternative flooring solutions.
At FLOORX INC, we work with all the major moisture mitigation solutions.
Call 1 416 315 9411 today to speak with one of our Moisture Mitigation experts or SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION.