photo 1

photo 1 closeup
There is one sure-fire way to spot members of the floor covering industry; they are the ones walking with their head down, eyes locked firmly on the ground. It's a good bet that the saying "you're a pain in the neck" was first used by our flooring forefathers.

I'm out of town, working on a project, and I'm just checking into my hotel when I notice two individuals walking purposefully through the lobby, carrying clipboards and carefully scrutinizing the floor. At the time, I don't give it much thought and proceed on to my room.

photo 2
As I unpack, there is a knock at the door. The clipboard carriers are in the hall, politely asking if they can examine the room. "This will only take a minute, sir. We need to examine the bathroom floor," they said.

Well, I've looked at a few floors in my life, so how can I resist? I ask what is wrong with the floor. They explain, in some detail, that the bathroom flooring in the ground floor rooms is showing signs of discoloration. Entering the bathroom, this is what we see (photo 1).

I learn the manufacturer representative had come out a few days earlier to inspect the problem, and that no cause was given at that time. The hotel underwent a total renovation about two years ago; the discoloration began appearing 18 months later. Directly in front of the shower stall there is no discoloration. Only around the toilet are the "shades of gray" apparent. The cleaning personnel assume that it is poor aim by the male guests, as the discoloration became more distinct over time.

photo 3
The inspection around the tub reveals a failure of caulk at the edge(photo 2). Is this significant? I check for moisture; there is none in the area. I do find, however, that the shower stalls on all floors exhibit the same edge-curl and caulk failure.

I would prefer (as would many vinyl manufacturers) that something more substantial than a single thin line of caulk be used at a termination point such as this when installing commercial grade vinyl. Some might call it overkill, but using a trim edging here would be good insurance against a callback.

Check the seal on the toilet; is it leaking? Unlikely, as it would manifest itself at the base of the toilet. And again, all the bathroom vinyl in the ground floor rooms is showing the same shades of gray in the same location. Besides, if moisture is responsible, wouldn't there be a cloudy or fogging appearance in the vinyl surface?

What is the proximate cause, and who is responsible for it?
You Make the Call!

A moisture meter is used to check the levels below the vinyl flooring, and guess what (photo 3)? The levels are maxed out. What I haven't stated is that the floor covering, at this point, is still well-adhered to the concrete subfloor. And in the light of day the next morning I notice the hotel is surrounded by cattails.

The hotel was built on a swamp. The only way to fix the problem is to determine the moisture levels (measured qualitatively) and ask more questions: "Could this be moisture intrusion?" "What about hydrostatic pressure or capillary action?"

When you are confronted with a situation you are unsure about, call the experts. There are a number of companies with proven track records who excel at solving this type of situation.