Al’s Column: The importance of proper substrate preparation

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January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Scott Perron

Recently I wrote an article discussing the challenges with installing hardwood flooring or any other moisture-sensitive product on substrates that are ill prepared (FCNews Product Guide, Sept. 26/Oct. 3). I received several calls and emails, as well as a referral from a dealer in Montana to handle an installation that was challenged here in Florida. Most of the respondents wanted a little more information so I decided to write a follow-up.

As previously stated, it is of paramount importance to perform moisture testing on any substrate where you will be installing hard surface products regardless of type. Not only will this clearly set you apart from the vast majority of your competitors, but you will win the customer’s confidence when explaining the reasons for this test. Although our industry has produced many innovative products such as LVP, which is constructed using a waterproof core, moisture can still get trapped under this product causing mold or unwanted odor, leading to an unhappy customer. The same issue applies to laminate. Although moisture resistant in some cases, laminate flooring will also cause the same problem when installed over a concrete substrate that has not been moisture mitigated.

Following are some recent real-world examples. Back in October, our retail entity inspected three different claims installed by another firm that had failed due to moisture. Two were engineered wood floors and the other a 3.2mm click LVP that cupped and separated. Although the LVP was structurally sound, the odor coming from beneath the floor was unbearable. In the two wood cases the flooring was supplied by a very large national retailer that does not provide direct installation on their tickets, so the customers had no recourse without expensive litigation.

Scott Perron

A few months prior to that, I personally inspected a laminate floor that was floated over an engineered wood floor that had been glued down for many years in a large family room. The mere act of trapping the wood floor under the 12mm laminate did not allow the normal moisture to dissipate naturally and caused the floor to buckle and fail. Luckily, the laminate was still intact so we were able to remove the wood flooring, apply a moisture mitigation product and re-install the existing goods needing only two additional boxes of material for the boards that were damaged during removal.

Bottom line: Do your due diligence and moisture test every floor you install over concrete or even wood substrates you feel may be compromised. There are several products on the market that couple a moisture-mitigation product with an adhesive when installing wood flooring or other surfaces. Whichever product you choose, be sure to use products manufactured by the same company to avoid the proverbial “blame game” if there is a failure. Do not trust the warranties that are loosely described regarding 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 wood adhesives as these warranties clearly spell out what steps need to transpire at installation in order to be valid—most of which are not properly followed by the majority of installers. Any misstep will void the warranty and that does not bode well for you or your sales team.

Finally, I strongly recommend that your installers and salespeople attend any local or regional courses on proper floor preparation, as this knowledge will help you sell more product and higher profits with fewer claims.

Don’t be “wet behind the ears” when it comes to proper substrate preparation as these failures are always in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in potential exposure to the dealer.

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