Underlayment suppliers keep surfaces dry, headaches to a minimum

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by: Louis Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013

When it comes to installation problems, professionals from across the industry always sing the same tune and lament the same culprit: moisture. The quest to develop the latest solutions in order to abate and prevent moisture from seeping up through subfloors continues.

The first order of business is identifying the issues at hand understanding why they happen. This research leads to solutions and methods of attacking the problem.

At QEP, marketing manager Leslie Del Pozo described how moisture problems in homes come in many forms—from leaks in the roof to below-grade situations where water comes through the walls and, of course, the capillary effect through subfloors (concrete as a prime example) and other such high moisture subfloor situations (exposed crawl space, etc). “The fact there is excess moisture will cause problems in many ways.”

Cupping (boards that concave on the face) occurs in wood floors where moisture is present, she explained. “Laminate floors can trap moisture in the core and begin to swell and grow mold and mildew, while vinyl floors trap the moisture causing mold and mildew to grow underneath, leading to potential health issues.”

As Duane Reimer, technical director of MP Global Products, stated, the chief problem of moisture abatement occurs when moisture is trapped between the subfloor and finished floor. That moisture needs to be released, otherwise a wood subfloor could become spongy, grow mold or even rot. The finished floor must be opened to dry it out or damaged sections need to replaced with patches. “Moisture in a concrete subfloor can migrate up into the underside of wood, laminate or floating wood flooring, causing similar types of problems.”

Ray Rodriguez, president and CEO of Starline Associates, agreed in that wood-based floors are the most vulnerable. “Moisture coming up from the subfloor can easily destroy a wood, bamboo or laminate floor. These floors are susceptible to moisture intrusion and will grow and buckle.”

Solutions to the problem

At QEP, Quiet Cushion premium acoustical underlayment and AirGuard premium 3-in-1 underlayment are two products under its Roberts brand that can be used to prevent moisture problems. “Our Quiet Cushion is made of a very dense, cross-linked foam,” Del Pozo said. “Cross-linked foam refers to the method of manufacturing that combines a few types of foam and compacts them into a high-performance product that is more durable and moisture resistant than the standard closed-cell foam offerings.”

AirGuard combines Air Flow technology, Microban and a moisture barrier in one premium underlayment, she said. “The Roberts Air Flow Technology provides air ventilation that fights damage caused by trapped moisture. The moisture in the subfloor passes through micro holes in the bottom layer and into the air pockets. The top layer blocks the moisture, protecting the floor. Then, simply walking on the floor creates air pulses, which moves the air beneath the floor, redirecting and releasing moisture vapor out through the room’s perimeter.”

MP Global’s sustainable fiber acoustic and insulating underlayment products address moisture protection aimed at preventing mold, mildew or rot, Reimer said. For example,

QuietWalk for engineered wood and laminate floors and VersaWalk universal underlayment for wood, laminate and LVT both feature a patented moisture management and protection system. “The pad can absorb over five times its own weight while releasing water through evaporation. The waterproof vapor barrier on top of the pad keeps water away from the underside of the finished floor. If the source of the water, such as a leak, is stopped, the absorbent padding will wick water and disperse it through the pad until it eventually evaporates or escapes through the subfloor.”

VersaWalk and QuietWalk underlayments can be used over many types of industry-approved subfloors, he noted, including completely cured concrete. “However, installations over concrete in high moisture areas will require additional protection such as a sealant or polyethylene vapor barrier.”

Starline’s Rodriguez said the company’s Silent Blue acoustic pad underlayment and new Silent Red both block moisture from rising and damaging the floating floor above. “Sound control is actually mandated by most high-rises to keep the noise down for the resident underneath. Why not use an underlayment that is waterproof and provides acoustic properties that help reduce the noise from the impact of walking on the floor? Silent Blue delivers the highest independently tested sound ratings available today.”

In addition to underlayment, there are other factors that play roles in moisture abatement, Rodriguez noted. “Some wood flooring adhesives now have built-in moisture blockers.”

Del Pozo noted it is difficult to say any one type of flooring is less prone to the typical moisture problems. “However, it’s important to remember moisture may be deeper and therefore will cause more problems than what is visible on the surface. It’s always best to fight this at the source for the best possible protection of the flooring and overall health of your home.”

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