Moisture-related flooring failures continue to be one of the biggest headaches on the job, resulting in commercial property owners spending well over $1 billion annually on moisture remediation and subsequent flooring replacement.

“We get, on average, 45 calls per week about moisture in floors,” said Rick Morris, vice president of commercial hard surfaces, Shaw. “Talking to our contractors, our dealers and our A&D audience, we estimate that about 15% to 25% of all projects out there have some kind of moisture concern.”

Whether it’s because of accelerated schedules to speed up construction and move in time, retrofitting a building that was built before vapor retarders were a part of the building code, or vapor retarders that have been compromised during construction, going in before the concrete is ready for the product to be installed is a costly, time consuming mistake that happens all too often. And when these mistakes occur, the finger pointing begins.

“You use a floor covering product from a flooring manufacturer, you treat it with a third party’s system, you have someone else’s adhesive and you may have someone else’s floor pads,” said Morris. “And when something goes wrong, it seems like the architectural design community or the flooring contractor or the end user is caught in a battle of finger pointing that can go on sometimes for years.”

To eliminate this common issue, Shaw Contract has developed a comprehensive portfolio that covers all bases of the project, from the floor covering and warranty to the treatment and adhesives.

“If you follow the guidelines, register the products, we will supply all the products, including our floor covering, our treatments and adhesives,” Morris explained. “If you use our products, we will give a 10-year warranty for anything that can go wrong. No finger pointing. One provider, one system, one warranty. All from us.”

Targeting bottom-up issues in concrete, Shaw Contract has developed a broad selection of products to address moisture management concerns.

The company has looked outside of the flooring industry for a time and cost saving treatment solution. Applying technology that was developed in the water treatment arena to prevent concrete tanks below ground from leaking, Shaw Contract was able to bring to market a game-changing, two-part surface prep system. “With this technology, we are keeping the water in the ground, to come up to the surface of the concrete,” Morris explained.

Essentially, the spray on Surface Prep EXT system will open up the porosity of the concrete and profile it, taking concrete’s surface profile from a 2 to a 3, replacing the time-consuming and potentially harmful need for shot blasting. “You simply spray it on, wait an hour or two, rinse it off and then you’re ready for the next step of the process,” Morris said.

He notes that eliminating the need for the mechanical operation of shot blasting has been a celebrated change among those who have worked with the system. “Shot blasting is a mechanical operation that is timely, messy and could potentially introduce a lot of dust into the air that could be hazardous. As we are going around, talking to the community, the people that actually perform the shot blasting are thanking us for taking that away.”

Following the surface prep is MoistureShield, which is also a spray on solution. Once applied, this moisture-sensing membrane provides a permanent breathable membrane just below the surface of the concrete. “At that point any of our products can be installed,” says Morris. “Our LVT, our tile, our broadloom or sheet vinyl all can be installed.”

An often unaddressed topic, MoistureShield also adjusts the concrete’s PH. “Not a lot of people talk about PH in the industry,” said Morris. “If you read the fine print of all warranties and all installation instructions, it says your PH should be between 6 and 11. This product will take a 14 PH down to neutral value of 7. So it treats the MVER as well as PH.”

The system’s breathable solution is EcoLogix Cushion Carpet Tile, which is a backing system that allows moisture to rise and evaporate through the seams of the tile, alleviating most slab-based moisture concerns. Not only does EcoLogix have a great moisture story, it also offers a high degree of comfort under foot.

“If you’re going into the workplace, we are all encouraged to stand more, and sit/stand work stations are becoming more of the norm than the exception now, so having that comfort under foot is something these products will also provide,” said Morris. “It also has really good acoustical properties. Not just from floor to floor, but inside the workspace. So it’s a great solution for any place where you have high moisture, but for the other attributes as well.”

For a bondable solution, Shaw’s 4151 All-Surface Adhesive and LokDots Pressure Sensitive Adhesive will bond the product to the floor in high-moisture environments. 4151 is a single solution for most flooring, allowing the installation of resilient, carpet tile and most broadloom products with one adhesive, saving storage space and reducing waste. And LokDots is a tab that goes on the back of the product that sticks the product to the floor, holding the product in place, thus making it a dry, non-toxic and odorless system that eliminates the issue of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

“We have researched the market over the last three years to come out with those two product solutions in a more dedicated way,” said Morris. “They’ve always been available, but they may have been a little cumbersome to use.”

Morris says Shaw Contract is asking dealers to become trained to ensure that they are working with the system properly, and the company is hosting a symposium across the U.S. to train its installation partners on proper techniques. Led by 71 SEALs—Shaw Elite Aqua Leaders—these experts on the system have gone through intense training, starting with the basics of concrete 101 and working all the way up to the system’s products, giving them a firm understanding of moisture and how it relates to concrete. 

Dealers’ responses to training have been overwhelming, says Morris, and feedback has included terms like revolutionary, genius and thank you. “We’ve gotten a lot of thank you’s. This really started with me three years ago where it did feel like a lot of finger pointing was going on. We had to do something to change this.”