March 14/21, 2016; Volume 30, Number 19
By Jeffrey Johnson
Flooring retailers have a lot on their plates when it comes to understanding and selling a complex, diverse, fashion-driven product to a demanding customer base. It is not surprising that installation adhesives do not show up on their business radar. But adhesives can make or break a retailer’s reputation if the wrong one is used or even if the right one is used inappropriately. A little information about adhesives is a good thing and can become a selling advantage if adhesive bond performance and warranty are incorporated into the main sales pitch for any given flooring structure.
One key point any retailer should know about flooring adhesives is that, unfortunately, there is not one adhesive that can do it all. You will need an assortment of products for various flooring types that require bonding to the substrate. For example, for any flooring type based on PVC you will need to select an adhesive that has plasticizer migration resistance. Flooring materials like LVT, LVP, solid vinyl tile, solid vinyl sheet and vinyl-backed carpet tile all have plasticizers that give them some semblance of flexibility. That plasticizer will have a detrimental effect on traditional, SBR (styrene butadiene rubber) latex or multipurpose adhesives. Only acrylic latex-based adhesives (or reactive types) will work for PVC-based flooring.
Within the acrylic latex adhesive family, there are many options, including products that work on porous or non-porous substrates, wet lay only or require a certain amount of flash time prior to installation, hard set and permanently pressure sensitive. The proper selection of an acrylic adhesive is driven by the type of subfloor and requisite installation method for the flooring type. For wood flooring, the adhesive set is completely different than those required for PVC-based types. For wood, the ideal adhesive contains no water (or the bare minimum amount). Generally speaking, wood flooring of any type is best adhered with moisture-cured polyurethane adhesives.
There are a variety of adhesive choices available, but in this domain you will find products that offer more than bonding solutions. Many polyurethane adhesives now offer sound and moisture control in a single application. Sound may not be an issue for single-family residential settings, but for multi-family or condo installations it is a major factor. Look for an adhesive manufacturer’s sound test data and select a system that will provide the requisite building code results based on the type of construction involved.
Moisture, however, is everyone’s concern when it comes to wood (or bamboo) flooring installation. Wood is the most moisture-sensitive flooring product. Because of this, selecting an adhesive that provides moisture vapor protection offers retailers a solution to sell to their customers, which will guarantee an installation that will not be affected by moisture traveling through a concrete slab. There are other grades of adhesives available for wood, but generally speaking they are limited in their ability to withstand or block moisture transmission and should only be recommended if it is known that the subfloor is completely dry.
Because of the numerous adhesive options available, it is understandable why some dealers shy away from the selection process and leave it in the hands of the installer. This is of concern because a retailer’s reputation rests on the floor being properly installed, with the right materials and with the best possible warranty structure.