When I was a product manager for a major adhesive manufacturer, I was responsible for reviewing all the complaints that were entered against our products. Most were on complaint forms filled in by our salespeople. Others came in over the telephone.
During the winter months, the calls were basically the same: “What have you done to your adhesive? It’s taking too long to set up.” Whereas in summer, the question became, “What have you done to your adhesive? It doesn’t have any open time.”
I would explain, over and over again, that temperature and/or humidity has a great effect on the open time of the adhesive, especially the temperature inside the building and, even more importantly, the temperature of the floor’s surface.
To most people, this didn’t make sense. “Your label says 20 to 30 minutes, and it’s setting up in less than ten!” they would say. Or, “It’s over an hour and there is no tack, have your distributor send me some good material so I can complete the job.”
I once received a phone call early in January from an Atlanta contractor. He had used one of our floor covering adhesives on a job before Christmas, and was now in the process of completing the job. But now, the adhesive was taking 35 to 45 minutes to set up, when it only took 15 to 20 minutes before Christmas. The extra time was causing him to lose money on labor costs.
The adhesive was being stored on site. I asked him what the temperature had been before Christmas, when he started the job. He said high 60s to low 70s. I asked what the temperature was at the moment. Thirty-four degrees and damp, he replied, and the building was not being heated.
This made my answer to the problem very simple. There was no way a cold adhesive being installed over a cold floor in damp weather was going to set up in 15 to 20 minutes, as it had before Christmas. The installer did not like my answer, but said he would wait until it got warmer, or else ask the building owner to turn on the heat.
Floor covering contractors must know how to adjust their installation practices to fit job site conditions. Contractors should keep files on conditions to consider when developing a quotation for a job. If installing in the height of summer when it’s dry and hot, or hot with a lot of humidity, set up time for the adhesive will not be what it says on the container. That figure is developed under ideal laboratory conditions, while the contractor must adjust to actual job site conditions. The same is true in the winter, when adjustments must be made for cold conditions outside, the heated, dry air inside. Adjustments for air conditioning need to be considered as well.
When it doubt, call the adhesive manufacturer. Tell them what the temperature and/or humidity conditions are in the project building, and they should offer suggestions or alternatives to achieve a successful adhesive application.