With all the interest in recycling that has impacted our business, I thought it would be informative to take a closer look at one product that is in a category all its own. Sure, we have recycled pad and now carpet, and we all have seen the recycled rubber flooring made from tires that are ground up and vulcanized into sheets and tiles. Let's not forget underlayments; whether it's ground-up wood, paper or even corn stock, there are numerous new product offerings from which we have to choose. Finished wood flooring has taken on a new look with the recycling of old barn timbers. Are all recycled products good for the environment? My answer is YES. Anything that does not take up space in a landfill and/or can be re-manufactured into a finished product is good for us all. The recycled products category is growing, and many federal agencies are required to purchase a growing percentage of recycled products. Now don't think I'm telling you to join Greenpeace or run out and start hugging the trees, but if your customers want options to prime manufacturing, you need to spend time understanding what the pros and cons are regarding the recycled products now available.

One such product that has been quietly gaining acceptance for both residential and commercial usage is a 1/4-inch-thick recycled vinyl called Protect-All. It is unique in that it is manufactured from 100 percent post-industrial scrap from the auto industry. Photo 1 shows this flooring installed in a newly constructed gymnasium. The game lines can be taped or painted, as the needs of the end user may be a multipurpose facility.

But hold on; there are several very important prep questions that have to be asked and addressed before you start any job this big (or little). Was the concrete tested for water vapor? Was the surface of the concrete checked for alkalinity? Is the surface of the concrete level enough for the floor covering (per manufacturing specifications)? And let's not forget about the all-important acclimation. If you take the 5-by-8-foot sheets out of a hot van/truck and set them on a cold concrete floor, what do you think will happen? George on "Seinfeld" said it best: "shrinkage." In this case, the manufacturer would prefer that the sheets be loose laid in place for a period of 24 hours or at least stacked on the job for 48.

Another possible application is seen in Photo 2. The 5-by-8 sheets are loose laid over a very expensive hardwood gym floor to protect it from street shoe traffic, allowing other functions like home shows or graduation ceremonies to be held in the otherwise vacant gymnasium. Photo 3 shows an installation around a very well-known ice rink. But by far the most abusive environment that you can subject a floor covering to is shown in Photo 4, the commercial kitchen.

Commercial kitchens are subjected to more grease, dirt and grime than any other flooring application I can think of, not to mention the poor maintenance they receive while in service.

Photo 5 shows the application of adhesive while the floor covering is being installed in a kitchen application. The mechanics are doing a couple very smart installation techniques that we can all learn from. The first: mixing the epoxy adhesive on a moveable board; mixing a two-part adhesive on the substrate you are adhering to is only asking for problems.

If you have ever had to remove epoxy from a subfloor, you know what I'm talking about. The other good technique is the use of duct tape to hold the sheets tight to each other while working on the next adjacent sheet. Another very important requirement for epoxy is that the floor covering must be rolled twice with a minimum 75-pound roller. The first rolling ensures transfer and expels trapped air, and must be done immediately after installing the floor covering. The second rolling should be done one to two hours after installation. Never leave mixed epoxy in the container it was mixed in; the cumulative heat will shorten your pot life and window of opportunity for proper adhesive application.

You should always apply the mixed epoxy as soon as possible to the concrete slab; this allows more open time and workability. One trick of the trade is to place the mixed epoxy (in the can) in a cooler of ice; this slows the thermal reaction that epoxies need to cure out. After the adhesive is cured, then the cord welding can begin, as seen in Photo 6. Practice, practice and practice more; this is the only way to learn cord welding. Or, you can sign up for Armstrong's installation school or Forbo's installation school. Either one, or both, will strengthen your skills and force you to practice and be attentive to job site conditions.

If you believe that the seam in any floor covering is the weakest point, then perfecting your cord welding skills will all but eliminate your problems with them. One of the biggest problems with commercial applications, next to poor maintenance, are the drain details. Photos 7 and 8 show two different types, a trough type drain and a sink or small tube drain. The most important step in a properly installed drain, in a sheet goods application, is getting a good seal between the floor covering, the pinch ring and the drain housing. I have seen many a commercial job ruined because of a lack of effective drain detail.

Without a good seal, water is allowed to travel between the floor covering and the substrate, affecting the adhesive bond, leading to a failure of the floor covering. Putting a bead of silicone caulk at the edge of the drain ring as your only seal will not work in the long term. If you are working with one of these specialty type floor coverings and are not familiar with it, then: You Make The Call!

And get the installation instructions to ensure that you have a successful installation. Every installation that you do is left with your signature. Do them with pride and the quality will speak for you and your ability. Again, thanks for reading and have a great day!