Installation: Adhesive tips, tricks of the trade

Home Inside FCNews Installation: Adhesive tips, tricks of the trade

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie


When it comes to working with today’s advanced, high-performance, user-friendly adhesives, it’s critical that installers avoid the temptation of taking shortcuts. That’s according to expert floor layers and instructors who say improper installations due to misapplication of adhesives can cause a host of problems, including voided warranties, bad company reviews and even safety risks.

FCNews rounded up several experts who provided valuable tips to apply when working with adhesives.

Practice safety
Steve Zizek, an INSTALL floor covering instructor and member, College of Carpenters & Allied Trades, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, is a second-generation installer with 33 years of experience. When training new installers, he always stresses the importance of having a material safety data sheet (MSDS) on site. Sounds rudimentary, but the MSDS provides health and safety information about products, substances or chemicals, as well as information on manufacturers or importing suppliers.

“The MSDS needs to be provided upon delivery to the job site,” Zizek explained. “This not only protects the users but also all workers on the job site. They should actually have [the MSDS] before they bring the adhesive to the job. It’s mainly a safety issue for everyone at the site.”

Read the label
One key component to maintaining safety on the installation site is to fully understand how a particular flooring glue is designed to work. According to Zizek, when a new adhesive comes out older installers tend to make assumptions about what it can do. “Read the whole label of the adhesive being used. The label will give you the adhesive’s uses, full information, descriptions, industry standards, etc. Make no assumptions.”

Once the label is read and understood, then it’s a matter of following the instructions to the letter. So says Mark Bevacqua, INSTALL floor covering instructor, Floorlayers Union Local 1541, Delta, British Columbia, Canada. “There are no shortcuts when it comes to adhesives. Always follow the specifications from the manufacturers as closely as possible. Many manufacturers even have apps or online sites where you can get a lot of information about the adhesive. A lot of suppliers have tip lines where you can talk to representatives and ask questions.”

Apply correct trowel techniques
Dave Gross, INSTALL floor covering instructor, Local 251 UBC Floorlayers, Hammonton, N.J., suggests using the teeth of a hand trowel as a metering device for applying adhesive to the substrate. “However, it is important to note that the angle at which the trowel blade is held and the hand pressure applied is just as important as the tooth configuration.”

For example, Gross said an angle of 50 to 65 degrees is typically correct. However, the installer should check if the manufacturer offers a recommended angle. In terms of hand pressure, he said too much force causes compression of the teeth and scraping of the glue causing a deficiency. Conversely, insufficient pressure causes the teeth to ride over the glue leaving excess material. “The best verification for proper teeth, trowel angle and hand pressure is to actually measure and grid out a sample area and see if you are meeting the manufacturers spread rate coverage. If not, adjust these elements one at a time by spreading additional grid areas until you align with the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

When covering large areas, experts like Robert Varden, CEO, International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), suggest flipping the trowel around. “We turn our trowel backwards so when we’re spreading thousands of yards of adhesive we have less fatigue on our forearms.”

In terms of the trowel’s teeth, Mark Olsen, INSTALL floor covering instructor and member of North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, Pewaukee, Wis., warns installers to throw away old devices. “When you’re using your trowel or metering device don’t re-notch your device—just throw it away.”

Keep it clean
When applying adhesives, pro installers say it is important to be as neat as possible. It’s also important to be prepared for any spills or mishaps that could happen. “[Installers] should keep a damp white rag close to them, but not on the substrate as it could cause contamination,” Zizek explained. “Keep the rag just in case there are any emergencies—it is easier to clean the adhesive when it’s wet.”

Check the room’s conditions
Before applying the adhesive, be aware of the amount of air circulation and atmospheric conditions in the work area. As Gross explains: “I always recommend against placing a fan directly on the adhesive to increase drying time for the following reasons: It will not uniformly cover the whole area; it will tend to dry the top creating a skim and preventing moisture trapped in the lower area from properly drying. There is a potential for dirt and debris to blow into the glue.”

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