Installers weigh in on glues: What they use and why

Home Inside FCNews Installers weigh in on glues: What they use and why

Oct. 7/14 2013; Volume 27/number 12

By Louis Iannaco

What are some of the more popular flooring adhesives in the marketplace today? Which glues are used more often for resilient, wood, laminate and broadloom applications?  Whether they are specific brands or types, industry professionals have their favorites.

According to some of the most experienced installers in the field today, in addition to manufacturers’ recommendations, there are a number of factors that determine adhesives they use and when they use it. One thing is certain: Adhesives today are developed as a result of extensive research and state-of-the-art technology.

“As a general rule, we use adhesives recommended or mandated by the manufacturer, with a few deviations from time to time,” noted Marty Murdoch, executive vice president of M.E. Sabosik Associates in Point Pleasant, N.J. “I lean toward Armstrong VCT adhesives for my resilient jobs. This helps hold the SKUs down. The S700 is a great all-around resilient adhesive. If the moisture readings creep up, or the owner requires a clear set, Armstrong’s S515 fits the bill, as it will warranty up to 90% relative humidity.

“Solid vinyl tiles and sheet pose their own set of issues, and as such we lean more about the specified adhesive, as this avoids finger pointing if anything goes wrong,” he explained. “Glue down carpet is another breed. I recommend you find a quality adhesive that meets or exceeds the carpet manufacturer’s specs and stick with it, again keeping the SKUs down.” Murdoch prefers Chapco’s Top Gun adhesive along with Mapei’s adhesive products.

When International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) Master Installer Roland Thompson, a manager at Kehne’s Carpet One in Frederick, Md., first came into the flooring industry in 1972, glue was made “to grab tight and not let go. The adhesive companies did not think about moisture. After some time, pH and moisture eats away at the glue and makes it turn to powder.

“The manufacturers started dealing with the issues,” he explained, “but then the green movement started, and the products took a step back because they started taking things out of the glues. The good thing is manufacturers wasted no time in getting effective [and environmentally friendly] products back on the market.”

When it comes to wood glues, Thompson’s adhesives of choice are Bostik and Mapei. “I look at what I am going over and the type of area it is being used for. If moisture control and sound reducing is needed, I will go with Mapei’s ECO 185 or Bostik’s MVP4. I like to stay with either wood adhesives that are modified polymers (easier to clean glue off wood) or moisture-cured urethane (polyurethane).”

For carpet adhesives, Thompson explained, area conditions have a lot to do with what he chooses, in addition to factors such as working with patterns and if traffic is going to be walking through soon. “If I am working with a pattern, I prefer APAC’s EZ 471 pattern match adhesive. If not, I’ll use Roberts 3095 or Henry 351.”

Like Thompson, Jerry Miller of Miller Technical Services in Dalton, a CFI Master Installer who uses Mohawk’s NuBroadlok and Para-Chem’s Parabond 4099, works with patterned products much of the time. “This has become a more pattern-oriented world. The patterns we get from the mills aren’t always perfect from breadth to breadth, so you need time to work the material, which means a fast set-up adhesive doesn’t work.”

According to Thompson, almost every manufacturer out there is making glue for vinyl or LVT. “I almost always use the adhesive that the manufacturer asks for and if not, I ask for the crossover. Durabond 1500 is one of those universal adhesives.”

Thompson believes adhesive companies are working hard to make their products better for the installer and the consumer by allowing it to “spread easier, adding things like antimicrobial protection and keeping VOCs low to meet standards.”

How new glues differ

Another CFI Master Installer/trainer, Bob Gillespie, also noted the ease of spreading adhesives as compared to products of the past. “Spreading the old urethanes would wear your arms out by mid-day. Today, glues are easier to apply.”

Gillespie will usually use the adhesives supplied to him during the training sessions he conducts. “In our classes, which are manufacturer oriented, we use a lot of Bruce hardwood, so we generally administer Bruce adhesives. Sometimes we’ll use the product provided by the distributor who is attending the class, like Mapei, Stauf or Bostik. As far as wood adhesives go, those are three brands I see quite often.”

With the plethora of reliable adhesives available today, what becomes more important is ensuring they are used properly. “Sometimes the installers don’t always read what’s on the label and don’t understand some of the newer products out there,” Gillespie explained. “At times, they treat [newer offerings] like the adhesives they used 10 to 15 years ago. Things are changing, and not only on the green side of it with no VOCs, which is especially good for hardwood installers. The companies have also added moisture barriers to the adhesives, which is a big plus.”

He added that the cleanup process is easier now as well. “There are some products that act like a urethane. If you miss a couple of spots, you can come back the next day and remove it. [With the older adhesives], it’s already etched into the face, so you will always see a little thumb or fingerprint, but because some adhesives currently on the market act similarly to urethane, it’s easier to clean.”

Adhesive companies market good/better/best, he explained, but they need to advertise the set-up time for the unqualified installer to know the pitfalls when purchasing inexpensive adhesive. “I know temperature and humidity are major factors, but most installers want cheap and fast drying. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken away the solids they expel due to the high VOCs, so today it takes special adhesives to achieve the best results.”

Much like Gillespie, Ben Boatwright, a fellow CFI Master Installer with Romanoff Floor Covering in Nashville, Tenn., believes there has been “great improvement regarding moisture from all adhesive brands, while urethane has come a long way in meeting the needs of the installation.”

According to Murdoch, a recent significant development in the world of adhesives is a shift to spray products. “There are a number of spray manufacturers out there now. The one I’m most familiar with is Spray Lock. The lineup is deep regarding the types of flooring you can successfully install using it.”

But much like spread adhesives, he noted, the biggest caveat with sprays is to make sure the right one is being used for each, individual installation. Installers need to be comfortable with the product and its uses prior to a job.

“Spray adhesives have a definite learning curve to them,” Murdoch said. “Installers can be stubborn, and spray is a whole new technology. But, once they become comfortable with it, they love it.”

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