April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23
By Jason Spangler
Hardwood is one of the oldest and most widely used premium flooring types, and its popularity is increasing. In the United States today, sales of hardwood flooring products are approaching $4 billion yearly.
On the downside, however, more than $500 million is spent each year on repairing flooring failures. Since hardwood accounts for about 10% of all flooring installations, that amounts to roughly $50 million lost to wood flooring failures. That means it’s in your best interest to take precautions to minimize the risk of failure.
The worst enemy of a wood floor is excess moisture, which can come from a wood or concrete subfloor, the ambient air or the flooring materials. Excess moisture can cause cupping, crowning, gaps, buckling and squeaking.
To protect yourself from liability and callbacks, you need the proper tools to measure moisture. Remember: moisture must be within acceptable limits in the subfloor, the flooring system you’re installing and in the ambient air both during and after the installation.
Before you begin, make sure the subfloor has been tested for moisture. If you’re installing over a concrete subfloor, ensure you possess ASTM standard documentation that proves the concrete has been tested for the correct moisture conditions. You may be able to get this from the general contractor, or you may have to conduct the testing and document the results yourself. Wagner Meters offers an easy-to-use and quick concrete moisture test system that fully complies with ASTM F2170, so if there’s a failure after your installation due to excess moisture from the subfloor, you can prove the problem isn’t with your work. If you’re installing over a wood subfloor, the situation requires the same documentation to protect you against liability.
Next, use a pin or pinless wood moisture meter to make certain your flooring system materials have been properly stored and acclimated before you begin the installation. Both types are accurate if used properly, but pinless meters have some important advantages. First, pinless meters don’t damage the floor. Pin-type meters use metal pins that must be pushed into the wood, which mars the surface. A pinless meter rests on the top of the wood and determines moisture content in the wood via an electromagnetic wave pattern. Pinless meters are also faster and easier to use. There’s no time wasted pushing the pins into the wood, and because they use an electromagnetic field to measure moisture.
If you’re properly equipped for your installation, you’ll have a high-quality wood moisture meter that can also be used on the subfloor. A dual-depth moisture meter can be adjusted to the thickness of the material you’re testing, so you can use it to accurately test both the subfloor and the flooring materials before and during installation.
After the installation is complete, it’s important to ensure the correct ambient conditions are maintained. Even if you’ve done your job and kept moisture conditions within spec, the client can cause damage to the floor by not maintaining the proper service conditions post installation.
You can help prevent this problem by monitoring and recording the ambient conditions in the space after the installation. However, this requires you to return to the site repeatedly.
Jason Spangler is the flooring division manager for Wagner Meters. He has more than 25 years of experience in sales and management across a wide spectrum of industries. He can be reached at 844.808.8761.