Proper Adhesive Selection for Resilient Flooring
As an adhesive manufacturer, we must follow each product sector very closely to stay ahead of the curve. Since there are no specific standards on adhesives, I have always followed the private labels that are sometimes sold by the floor covering manufacturer. Even though none of these manufacturers manufacture their own adhesives, they do set an indirect standard. In fact, it's always best to have an open dialogue with all the flooring manufacturers as they introduce new products. The resilient industry moved away from just manufacturing flooring years ago; they have become very specialized, e.g. ecological non-PVC tile, safety flooring, multi-colored rubber, cork with special resins to reduce thickness, etc. To offer one adhesive for all resilient flooring is unrealistic and doesn't take into consideration all the unique characteristics of each resilient product in the market.
In fact, at APAC we have 3 different VCT adhesives that are very different. One has outstanding initial shear strength (tile slip resistance) and fast dry for quick turn around applications; one adhesive has long residual for 24-48 hour installations; one is ecological, not just VOC compliant. Specialization within a product type is now becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Throw in price, geographic location differences, system approaches, substrate differences (porous vs. non-porous) and individual customer preferences, you will quickly see that one size doesn't fit all! The need for adhesive specialization is here to stay.
For the installation of felt backed vinyl sheet goods, I recommend that a sheet goods adhesive be used. These adhesives are designed specifically for this type flooring. Good green strength, extended open time, antimicrobial protection and non staining are a must with any adhesive for this category. Fit the adhesive with the specific flooring. Some companies have even introduced a Good, Better, Best line for this specific type of flooring. The builder market may not need quite the long term performance of a premium adhesive if replacement will occur within two years. Use a VCT adhesive for VCT.
For the installation of vinyl backed products, the need for a specific type of adhesive is critical. You cannot use a multi-purpose adhesive for this type product. Acrylic based adhesives that have outstanding plasticizer resistance, high initial shear and peel strength must be used. When installing this type floor covering over a porous substrate, a hard setting acrylic based adhesive is preferred. These adhesives are installed wet, meaning spread the adhesive and install the flooring before the adhesive dries. When installing a vinyl backed floor covering over a non porous substrate, these wet set adhesives cannot be used. How will the water in the adhesive escape when caught between two non porous substrates. Bubbling will result if tried. Pressure sensitive type adhesives that can be used/installed dry are the adhesives of choice here; however, these adhesives do not dry as hard as the wet set types. Subsequently, pressure sensitive adhesives may not be able to hold any dimensional instability of the sheet vinyl or tile.
The good news is that the technology is fast emerging to provide the customer with one adhesive to be used both wet or dry and still keep the floor covering in place long term.
For the installation of cork, it is best to again specialize. Cork underlayment adhesives are typically carpet/ multi-purpose type adhesives that have been modified for this specific application...aggressive tack with long term performance and outstanding water resistance. Using the same adhesive under and over the cork if used as an underlayment may prevent any fight between two different adhesive types. Cork tile adhesives are typically firm setting, acrylic based adhesives to hold down any end curl or dimensional instability that may result long term e.g glass patio doors, areas of direct heat, etc.
For the installation of rubber flooring, it appears that epoxy adhesives are king; however, acrylic based adhesives are quickly moving into this market as an alternative. Acrylics are installer friendly and more cost effective ( an adhesive term for less expensive) but not "cheap".
Polyurethane adhesives are also being used as an alternative to epoxies when a true waterproof adhesive is spec'd.
It is clear to me that one must look at the specific application for the specific flooring to be able to determine the specific adhesive to use.
Find an adhesive company that offers you diversity and choice in your adhesive selection. Companies that are focused on adhesives can best assist you in the proper selection of adhesives. The age of specialization is here to stay.