For years it’s been said that proceeding with an installation constitutes acceptance by the contractor of the substrate and job conditions. In fact, a quote by one flooring manufacturer states that “Installation of any material and flooring related products constitutes acceptance of all materials and site related conditions by the installation contractor.”

Do flooring contractors who proceed with an installation accept the liability for the failure of the installation?  In these litigious days, that is generally the case.

Let’s take a look at some ways you might be able to prevent this type of situation from happening in your installations.

Pre-Construction Conference: Most flooring contractors do not attend a pre-construction conference, but they should. Here’s where you can work out all of the details of the installation prior to the start of the job. You can work out details about job conditions, moisture testing, temperatures storage of materials, working areas, areas of priority and all details pertaining to the installation.

If there are any concerns by either party, they can be addressed at that time.

Moisture and Alkalinity Testing: While I do think moisture and alkalinity testing should be done, it should notbe performed by either the general contractor or the flooring contractor. It needs to be done by an independent party that specializes in testing. By doing this, it also takes the responsibility from both parties.

There needs to be an RH test, one for every thousand square feet, and an alkalinity test at every test site. If there is a moisture issue it can be dealt with by both parties without the finger pointing and priorto the job start.

Too Early on the Job: Being coerced to start a job too early is your issue to address. As a flooring contractor you should know when it is best to start an installation. I know some job superintendants want you there as early as possible, but be sure that schedule is right for you and the job. In some cases the job superintendant is interested in getting done ahead of schedule so he can claim his bonus, so he is not interested in whose toes he steps on.

Job Conditions: Heating, cooling, lighting, availability of areas in a sequential order and other trades are important to the success of any installation. Things like temporary heat create concerns with slab movement, crack movement and excessive moisture from temporary heaters. Poor temporary lighting usually cause concerns for the installation personnel; when it is difficult to see you cannot easily discern areas of preparation that needs attention, or be able to perform your best work.

Slab Temperature: Nowhere can I find any specifications for slab temperature; there really needs to be some. A slab needs to be somewhere between 65°-70°F (15.6°- 21.1° C) When a slab is colder than 65°F it is nowhere near equilibrium. This means there are going to be crack and joints that are going to move and show through the finished floor, and probably end up as a complaint that is deemed your problem.

It is amazing how adhesives and materials react to cold slab conditions.

Slab Not in Equilibrium: When a slab is not in equilibrium the slab is most likely curled and all control joints and cracks are opened up. Once all of the joints and cracks are filled with Portland-based filler and the material installed, the slab will go into equilibrium.

When the slab goes into equilibrium, the slab curl will relax and the joints and cracks will close up. What results when this happens is the filler is pushed up out of the joint or crack and telegraphs through the finished floor.  I have seen many instances where this is blamed on either the flooring manufacturer or flooring contractor.

Sealers or Curing Compounds on the Slab: ASTM F-710 states the slab surface should be free of any residuals. This means excessive carbonation (usually from temporary heaters), curing, sealing and parting compounds, to mention a few. If these exist they should be removed.

I have seen jobs where a sealer was used on a slab and the sealer still had residual solvents attacking the adhesive one year later. It should have been removed and it was by the flooring contractor when the installation was replaced.

Slab Curl: If there are any absolutes, it is that a slab will crack and it will curl; the question is, when and how much? The real question is, who is responsible? Acclimation is the key to minimizing the issue; once that happens, the problems are minor rather than major.

Poor Slab with Lots of Cracks: Slabs that have water-to-cement ratios higher than 0.50 (flooring industry maximum) and slabs that have been poorly cured can have a lot of cracking. Some cracks are difficult to see, but they are there. Eighty percent of the concrete cracking occurs in the first year. The balance occurs in years two and three. When you combine the high number of cracks with slab movement, you have the potential for a disaster.

Contractor’s Responsibility Deferred: When a slab is accepted, it is no more than telling the general contractor or the concrete contractor that you are relieving them of their responsibilities. The way to prevent this from occurring is to be vigilant when going over the site walk-through.

Even though I feel they still should have culpability, many of them escape.