by Lew Migliore
Concrete moisture-related flooring installation failures cost the flooring industry hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. This is an issue we get calls on daily: it’s an epidemic. This problem is driving everybody and his brother to develop adhesive products that will prevent moisture-related flooring installation failures.
Many adhesives have been recently introduced that are touted as moisture resistant. These same adhesives are said to prevent installation failures and moisture-related installation compromises. Statements are also made that the adhesives are good up to 90% relative humidity and Moisture Vapor Emission rates up to 10 pounds.
Let’s look at the science. Adhesives are not moisture-suppression products. The only true moisture-suppression materials are non-permeable moisture barriers placed directly beneath a concrete slab. There are also some specialized products that can be applied after a slab has been bead blasted or ground and had a few topically applied specialty suppression products; none of them are adhesives. Any non-permeable flooring material applied to a slab becomes a moisture barrier.
Adhesives are susceptible to compromise from moisture and alkalinity. What some would have you believe is that a new science has been developed to make adhesive products moisture resistant. Moisture vapor emission can turn adhesive to mush or dust under a flooring material.
If a slab has an RH (relative humidity) of 90% and an MVER (moisture vapor emission rate) over 5, the likelihood of having an installation failure is extremely high. What you may not be seeing in the small print is the alkalinity, which destroys most adhesives, should not exceed 9 or 10 pH. If you have an RH of 90%, the alkalinity levels are definitely going to exceed 9 or 10 pH. You’ll be lulled into a false sense of security, and if a failure occurs the small print will be invoked leaving you high and dry.
Preventing moisture-related flooring installation problems can be a very lucrative business and many want to jump on the bandwagon of marketing a product they say will prevent moisture-related flooring installation failures. Remember what I have said many times: “Words don’t change science. Ever.”
There are, in fact, installation systems that actually pre- vent flooring installation compromise from moisture and alkalinity in a substrate. None of them employ traditional adhesives or adhesive systems; they are all unique. They don’t try to place a bandage on a hemorrhage. None of these systems have ever failed. They are also a complete paradigm shift from what anyone in the industry has ever been exposed to and you may be more inclined to believe an adhesive can solve moisture-related problems. Don’t head down that slippery slope.
Installation systems that are not affected by moisture and alkalinity and will not fail are EnviroSTIX, an installation system that is applied directly to the back of hard backed flooring materials before it is installed. Free Lay, an applied polyacrylic system that goes on a Kanga Trac cushion, can be applied to any carpet product (also marketed as Contact Release from Bentley Prince Street).
There are hundreds of thou- sands of yards of flooring material installed with these systems in the worst of conditions that have not failed. There are also systems available from Velcro, with more coming, that are unaffected by moisture and alkalinity. These are special systems developed by unique companies and individuals that address a host of installation issues, not just moisture. You may be skeptical but we’ve been working with all these systems to solve problems and there’s no doubt they do.
If you need help, call us.