Claims file: A dangerous situation

Home Columns Claims file: A dangerous situation

by Lew Migliore

The use of concrete moisture suppression systems as an additive to the concrete pour, or topically applied, is getting a great deal of attention in the construction industry as the need to thwart the failure of flooring installations due to moisture issues escalates exponentially. General contractors and architects are causing these systems to appear in construction specifications. As a result, flooring contractors are coerced to accept the use of these systems, and are some- times forced to guarantee installation of flooring materials over substrates where these products have been used.

This leads the end user, contractor and architect to believe there will not be any flooring material or installation failures if one of these systems is used.

There are several problems with these systems that present very dangerous situations for the end user and the flooring dealer or contractor.

There is no realistic means of authenticating the effectiveness of silicate based integral or topical moisture mitigation systems. They will not pass the calcium chloride test, RH test or hood test. The end user is stuck with accepting the effectiveness of these systems on the word and literature of the companies selling them. The warranties, like so many warranties in the flooring industry, don’t cover what buyers thought they did and manage to find a way not to implicate the system for any flooring failure that is sure to occur. Any failure is sure to be deemed the fault of the flooring material or flooring contractor.

These moisture mitigating systems limit the ability for concrete to facilitate a bond to the flooring adhesive, which is used to adhere flooring materials to the concrete substrate. As a result, the flooring material cannot be successfully installed and will inevitably de-bond from the substrate in a very short period of time—30 days would not be a surprise. The blame for the failure will be laid on the installation firm, the flooring material or the adhesive manufacturer.

In the quest to find a simple and easy bandage for a hemorrhage, actual bloodletting will occur. The blood will be that of all parties other than he who is truly responsible, and the architect, general contractor and end user won’t believe it until convinced otherwise.

This lunacy must be stopped before it gets started. Flooring contractors are contacting us with increased frequency, frustrated by being forced to accept specifications that obligate them to warrant the installations when moisture mitigation systems are specified. It is a suicidal move to be sure but no one today wants to refuse to do an installation. When the installation fails, the fix is catastrophic.

Normally an installation failure due to moisture can be mitigated by bead blasting or grinding the substrate, applying an appropriate moisture suppression system and floating a new cementitious coating—an expensive and invasive proposition. When integral or topically applied moisture systems are used and the installation fails, the entire slab may have to be replaced or a 1⁄2-inch or more of the concrete surface removed. Saying this resolution is expensive and invasive is an understatement. It makes moisture mitigation look like child’s play. “Let the lawsuits begin,” is the battle cry you’ll hear.

These integral or topical moisture suppression systems don’t have to be specified or used because there are installation systems that work with high moisture levels in concrete. I’ll have more details about this subject. If you need help, contact us.

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