Using adhesives in commercial spaces

Using adhesives in commercial spaces
June 05, 2012

by Louis Iannaco

What are the top aspects manufacturers have in mind when developing adhesives for high-traffic commercial areas? How are they different from residential adhesives? According to executives, those questions can only be answered by starting with the flooring type being installed as each requires a particular application.

If hardwood, for example, then the harder and thicker surface offers a much more durable installation, noted John Lio, marketing manager for DriTac. “In high-traffic hardwood in-stallations, any premium flooring adhesive technology can be used and installer preference often plays a role in the decision process. DriTac is one of the very few manufacturers offering an adhesive for every classification, including urethane, MS polymer, polymeric resin and pressure-sensitive.”

In high-traffic installations where thinner, softer and more pliable flooring products are used such as luxury vinyl tile, manufacturers seek to develop hard-setting glues, Lio said. “These products typically possess significant sheer strength and easy trowel-ability. Traditionally, hard-set adhesives have been ‘wet-set’ products that cause the flooring to shift and slide during the installation and over time. Wet-set installations are extremely temperamental and often problematic.”

According to Cathy Panagakos, corporate ac-counts manager for Helmitin, performance and price are the top two aspects manufacturers have in mind when developing adhesives for high-traffic commercial areas because contractors need to be competitive with price per square foot, “otherwise they’ll use a cheaper product that will not perform as well.”

Since there are currently no published adhesive standards, she explained, contractors “must rely on the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations and their own experience. Warranty provisions should be thoroughly understood and questions should be addressed prior to installation.”

Based on extensive field experience and data from laboratory testing, noted Joe Tuttolomondo, vice president/general manager of XL Brands, the company can make specific adhesive recommendations. “Levels of traffic in commercial areas can vary from light (for example, an executive office) to medium, heavy and extra heavy, such as airport lobbies or facilities with rolling hospital beds.”

Premium adhesives having higher solids and bond strength, he noted, and other enhanced performance characteristics are required for floor coverings with heavy construction and/or anticipated heavy traffic. “Premium adhesives are also formulated to last through extended long-term installation warranties against bond failure.”

Briggs Sanders, territory sales manager for Bostik’s Hardwood Installation Systems, said because “high traffic floors are exposed to greater amounts of weight and stress from foot heavy traffic and mechanical objects, superior sheer and tensile strength are two important characteristics to look for in a glue.”

Flooring contractors should be seeking adhesives that contain moisture barriers “since downtime due to issues and replacement can be very costly in commercial environments. Excessive moisture from the substrate is a leading cause of problem floors. Commercial settings with high traffic areas cannot risk (liability/trip hazard) having floors, which are excessively cupped and buckled.”

These glues do not necessarily have to differ from those used in residential applications as strength and resiliency are always good characteristics to have, he added. “Most commercial real estate owners and their tenants do not want business interrupted due to an adhesive failure. This leads them to use better performing products with outstanding bond characteristics and a track record of performance in like environments. If a manufacturer doesn’t willingly publish tensile and bond strength ratings, that should tell the flooring contractor something.”

Art Minite, director of technical services for Laticrete, said, “For high traffic commercial areas, an adhesive must be able to handle the various loads to which it will be exposed. When compared to residential products, commercial adhesives typically have higher performance properties and can better handle the rigors of the more challenging commercial application.”

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) offers a Floor Tiling Installation Guide for tile and stone installations, he noted. This document provides a “service rating” for different installation methods. There are five service level categories: Extra heavy, heavy, moderate, light and residential. “The guide allows the reader to select the appropriate method (and adhesive type) for the application. High-traffic commercial areas would fall into the moderate, heavy or extra heavy category. In addition, TCNA provides environmental classifications for each of the methods. There are six commercial classifications that can further help a specifier pinpoint an applicable installation method for the project. Lastly, the adhesive manufacturer can provide a specification geared to the unique characteristic(s) of the project.”

Tom Pope, technical manager for W.F. Taylor, believes one aspect that has to be considered is durability, namely the ability to withstand heavy foot and rolling traffic. “The key is to develop an adhesive that will perform to the conditions but also be manufactured in a cost effective manner.”

Another consideration is to develop a glue that will withstand repeated cleanings by maintenance personnel. Commercial flooring in areas subjected to high traffic also demand frequent cleaning and maintenance and that requires adhesives with enhanced moisture resistance, XL’s Tuttolomondo noted.

Pope said excessive cleanings and inappropriate cleaning methods may compromise the adhesive bond. “Residential adhesives do not have to be constructed in the same manner as they will not be subjected to the amount of traffic and generally will not be cleaned as often as a commercial application.”

Therefore, the higher the amount of the resin solids, the stronger the bond will be, he explained. “Of course, this generally means the adhesive will be more expensive than conventional residential glues.”

When shopping for a high-traffic glue, it is wise to contact the carpet manufacturer “to determine if it has an adhesive recommendation,” Pope added. If a mill doesn’t, always contact a glue manufacturer for help in obtaining the proper adhesive for the project. “If the wrong adhesive is employed in the installation of a vinyl-backed carpet, for example, a failure will occur due to plasticize migration.”

According to Jeff Johnson, Mapei’s product line manager for floor covering installation systems, bond performance, durability and warranty coverage are the top three aspects manufacturers have in mind when developing adhesives for high-traffic commercial areas. “For commercial projects, the traffic conditions are considerably different from residential. Hospitals, for example, are an area where resilient flooring really gets a workout with heavy, rolling loads. Installation systems, from patching compounds to flooring, need to be built strong enough to take the abuse. Carpet installations in hospitality-type locations also take abuse in terms of foot traffic as well as equipment movement and cleaning regiment.”

Warranties also need to be addressed, Johnson said. “Commercial applications are much larger in scale and the liabilities for product failure are much higher than residential. So, an adhesive or installation system development must have a strong warranty attached to it.”

He believes contractors should be looking for products with a successful track record and come with superior technical service and support. “They should also be looking for assurances from the adhesive manufacturer that the product selected is designed to resist the abuse generated in high-traffic commercial applications. This is not an area to scrimp on. The risk the contractor takes in scrimping on the adhesive selection is he could wind up holding the entire bag should the installation fail.”

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