Flooring adhesives have evolved quite significantly over the years. Early compositions often included asbestos to strengthen and bind the raw materials, and solvents to combine these materials, enhance adhesion to surfaces, and to make the adhesive dry faster.

In the 1980s and ’90s our society became more aware and focused upon the health hazards associated with these materials, and the flooring industry moved to eliminate both asbestos and solvents from the formulations. Terms such as respiratory irritants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and indoor air quality (IAQ) entered our consciousness.

The challenge, however, was not simply to replace these components and eliminate their negative effects, but to do so while at the same time improving on the performance characteristics they provided. Adding to this challenge is the constant advancement in flooring materials, products and backings.

The last several decades have seen dramatic improvement in not only the performance of flooring adhesives, but also extreme attention to the effects these products have on human health and the health of the environment. The glues of today are simply not “your grandfather’s adhesives” anymore.

For example, W.F. Taylor Co. was the first flooring adhesive company to truly embrace these challenges and lead our industry toward radical improvement. Not being satisfied with simple calculations of compliance, Taylor’s adhesives are actual third-party certified for extremely low VOC emissions by the UL/GreenGuard certification program, the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Plus program and the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) FloorScore program, meeting the requirements for LEED v4 credits.

Along with the need to address the health aspects of adhesives, there also are many additional problems inherent in a successful flooring installation. Subfloor moisture is probably the greatest and most prevalent factor, but dealing with poor surface interfaces, excess alkalinity and comfort issues such as sound suppression are also of major importance.

Flooring adhesives are designed to adhere a vast variety of flooring types to a myriad of subfloor substrates. Many glues are formulated for bonding specific flooring and subfloors, and there are endless products created to deal with the issues just mentioned.

Although many of the ancillary products do a credible job in correcting these problems, our “fast track” construction world does not often afford the time nor expense necessary to use several products on a job. The answer then, is the growing trend to utilize sophisticated research and development technology to create adhesives that not only perform multiple functions, but do so as well or better than the individual singular purpose products.

Over the last decade we have seen the development and introduction of true multifunctional adhesives that are revolutionizing the approach to installation.

These one-part reactive, one-application products are rapidly replacing conventional two-part epoxy and urethane adhesives. The development cycle never rests and additional multifunctional adhesive and coating products are slated for release very soon.

As important to our society as addressing the health aspects of humans and the environment, the preservation of our world and the Earth’s natural resources is of even more critical concern. Replacing the dependency of so many products on petroleum is more than just a pipe dream—it is a very achievable reality.

Facing the challenges of our ever-changing world is often a daunting task, but we, as responsible corporate citizens, must always put the full force of advancing technology behind our efforts. Just as our world and environment evolves, the flooring industry must stay in step. We can lead, we can follow or we can get out of the way. Let us choose to lead.

Look for our next article on raw material trends in an upcoming issue of Floor Trends.

Jack Raidy is the president and CEO of W.F. Taylor Co., with over 26 years of experience in the flooring industry. He first began as Taylor’s executive vice president and was part of the team that developed the very first environmentally flooring adhesive, Envirotec Healthguard—the first to achieve the coveted GreenGuard certification. You can reach him at (800) 397-4583 or marketing@wftaylor.com.