No one asked Pete

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by Lew Migliore

Flooring problems and issues have increased exponentially, particularly relative to substrate issues. Moisture in concrete is a huge problem, bringing with it adhesive destroying alkalinity.

But moisture isn’t the only problem. Highly burnished concrete, elevated levels of fly ash content—above 30%—which will prevent most every adhesive from bonding; concrete curing and sealing additives and applications, which will break down adhesive causing installation failure, and other issues which can pop up.

As I have said for years: “Flooring never lies, people lie, but the flooring material, substrate and the evidence can’t lie.” That being said, when evaluating a problem, you have to know what you’re looking at and understand what the evidence is telling you. Most people think they know the answers but often don’t because they don’t know how to interpret the evidence or understand what they’re seeing. This is particularly true in large commercial complaint situations.

Aside from what the evidence says, you have to be able to put that information into perspective. Most people associated with flooring don’t experience major problems and some issues are simply resolved. It’s when the stumpers present themselves that all the parties start groping for answers. During this process some weird interpretations and assumptions, believed to be fact, get thrown about.

Another aspect is the parties involved may not believe or are skeptical about the information and determinations they’re hearing. They don’t think it’s possible to have a problem with a new floor when they didn’t have a problem with the old one.

This is where Pete comes in.

In a recent situation, a flooring material had been installed in a building, on grade, for years without any issues—it looked and performed great. After a renovation to the building, new hard surface flooring was installed over the old material. Within a matter of months, the new flooring started to show some cracking and telegraphing of the old flooring material. The new flooring was tenaciously adhered to the old flooring yet it was obvious a serious visual change had occurred as a result of a physical influence.

The determination was that moisture in the substrate was causing the problem. Why now when nothing seemed to bother the old floor? Once the new material was installed, it actually “capped” the old material. Moisture vapor, which had been able to escape before, was now being trapped by the new hard surface flooring causing physical changes in the material.

We pulled material off exposed areas where telegraphing was occurring in the new flooring, tested the substrate and determined without question, what the problem was. The parties present were still skeptical, until Pete came along. Pete was the head engineer in the building. When Pete heard what was being said, he had no qualms about concurring with the conclusion. Pete even knew the location as being wetland before the building was built. No one ever thought to ask Pete, who had been with the property since its construction. And why would they?

What’s the point of this? On every major flooring job, someone exists who knows something and they’re either not recognized or never asked—sometimes they’re not even thought of. But on every major issue over the years, I’ve sought out that one person who likely has the answers, whether it’s the maintenance guy, project manager or owner’s representative. Someone always has answers that can back up what the flooring is saying. There’s always a Pete in the crowd. So if you’re stumped, call us. We have the answers.

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