The substrate should always be tested prior to installation, even if there are no signs of compromises to the previous installation or the substrate. No matter what the substrate is or how old it is, or if someone tells you “it’s not a concern,” it needs to be tested. With all the different products on the market today and the amount of impervious materials (stuff that does not “breathe”) you can’t take chances.
Flooring failures occur every day over substrates that did not exhibit a problem with materials previously installed. Remember, commencing the installation constitutes acceptance and the assumption of liability.
On a commercial project, substrate testing is the responsibility of the general contractor. On projects where there is no general contractor, the flooring contractor is responsible.
All concrete substrate testing should be done by an ICRI certified tester. Typically, flooring contractors and installers are not substrate experts, and testing should not be part of their requirements or scope of work. But when no alternative exists, someone who is trained and certified should be brought in. If not, you risk the chance of the tests being done incorrectly, which can yield false readings.
Substrate conditions should comply with the manufacturer’s guidelines and industry standards. One of the biggest causes of floor covering installation failures is substrate issues that will compromise the installation. Incurring a problem of this kind can be astronomically expensive and agonizingly disruptive to everyone involved.
All substrate issues can be addressed and corrected prior to the installation of any flooring material, but they must be consciously recognized and not brushed aside.
All compromising conditions that would inhibit or prevent the successful installation of the flooring material must be corrected and protected prior to the installation of the flooring material. Any and all corrective measures should not compromise or jeopardize the successful installation of the flooring material, such as cleaning agents or any chemical or substance used on the substrate surfaces.
Substrates must be clean, dry and free of any and all installation compromising conditions such as oils, grease, paint, drywall compound, dust, sealing or curing compounds etc., according to manufacturers and industry guidelines. Substrate should comply with ACI Standard of 1/8 inch in 10 feet with no obstructions. This can be an issue, because there are a lot of curing and sealing materials and moisture mitigating systems being touted that may bind up moisture in the concrete but prevent the successful installation of flooring materials.
You must tread verycarefully in this area. Few products really do what you think they will, but some work extremely well. As we all know, there are ways to successfully install any flooring material, and you have to make yourself aware of them. But even if you thinkyou’ve done it right, you may still have a problem. There’s something called the Law of Physics, after all, and words don’t change that. If someone tells you some magic juice will work to prevent a problem, you better do some research first, unless you want to buy the floor.
And don’t think epoxy coatings are the magic bullet either, as they can also be compromised by moisture; we see it time and again.
The installation space to receive flooring material should be clean, dry and conditioned, prior to and after installation and free of encumbering conditions prior to installation. The flooring installation work space should be free of other trades during the installation and kept so after the installation as necessary, but for at least 24 hours.
The temperature of the installation site, flooring materials, and associated products should be maintained between a minimum temperature of 65°F and a maximum temperature of 95°F for 48 hours before, during and after installation. The installation should not be started if the room or subfloor temperature is below 65°F. The HVAC system should be up and running.
Adhesives or attraction-based installation systems will not function properly when applied over an extremely cold surface. Relative humidity should not exceed 85%. Maintain these conditions after installation. If the space is comfortable for people it should be comfortable for the flooring. On a large commercial project, by the time the project gets to the flooring installation it’s often behind and the flooring guys are charged with making up the difference and working under “combat” conditions.
You can’t expect flooring material to be installed while other trades are working in the same space and you can’t expect the flooring or installation to be free of damage or compromise under these conditions. On any flooring project, residential or commercial, the same rules should apply, but on smaller jobs it should be easier to control the space and work conditions. If in doubt write this information into your quote or make copies of the flooring manufacturer’s guidelines, the adhesive and underlayment manufacturer’s instructions and the industry standards for the products you’re using and provide them to the customer.
If you have this information you’ll eliminate any arguments that may arise as to why conditions must be as you specify. It’s not you saying it, it’s “The Industry.”
Delivery, Storage and Handling
The flooring contractor or installer must ensure the flooring material is stored in a safe manner, that it’s handled according to manufacturer’s recommendations and stored in a climate controlled space for the duration of the project or installation. The flooring products and materials should be delivered to the jobsite in unopened, mill-labeled packages with mill register numbers and tags attached, unless cut for fitting in coordinated spaces at flooring contractors staging location.
The flooring contractor should inspect all material as rolled out for cutting and fitting prior to installation. Don’t balk at this. Yes, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ship you flooring without defects but you know that doesn’t always happen. Just inspect the product because if you install it without inspecting it and don’t tell the mill first, they’ll try to make you responsible and chances are you will be legally.
Flooring materials should be laid out in installation space for 24 hours prior to installation, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. None of this stuff is impossible; it isimpossible if you think so, but I can tell you that after 42 years in the industry, if you tell the client things have to be a certain way to avoid problems and what those problems could be, they’ll make every effort to comply.
I use this saying a lot: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” If you need help, let me know; that’s what I’m here for.