The March Issue of FCI had some really great information about cracking in ceramic floors and concrete joints. So, I was prompted to show some examples of what a worst-case scenario can look like in a VCT installation when the GC and flooring contractor ignore the job site details regarding the concrete subfloor.
The job site you are about to see needs some introductory information before we can start the “You Make the Call” process. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and this article will self-destruct within 30 seconds after being read. Just kidding, but on a serious note, this grade of quality (so-called workmanship) will self-destruct your business if you allow it to continue unchecked. Keep in mind that bonding/adhering was never an issue here; tile or carpet, they are both securely fastened to the concrete slab.
The previous owners (large electronics’ retailer) occupied this building for 10 years with the entire floor installed with VCT tile. The new owners took possession of a bare concrete slab and installed carpet in 75% of the showroom area, the rest with new VCT tile. Keep in mind that this new carpet and VCT is only 2 years in service! Within the first year, the problems you are about to see started to appear and have progressively become more visible. The GC no longer does work for this national retail chain, losing a very large account due to a lack of quality!
Photo 1 has the natural sunlight shining through the front windows of the store and shows several small sized pucks/bubbles. A close-up of one bubble is seen in Photo 1a; it is easy to see the crack (shaped like an X) on the surface the bubble. Obviously there is foreign material trapped beneath the tile and concrete. You Make the Call; was it prep related?
Photos 2 and 3 are of the same type problem but in different areas, flush to the floor electrical outlets with no patch. Can or should you patch electrical outlets like these? With proper prep yes, and only with the circuit breaker to the outlets turned off. Because everyone knows water/patch/glue and electricity do not mix well.
In Photo 4, what do we see? Trowel ridges! Say what? Photos 4a and 4b show the ridges close-up. That’s right, trowel ridges from an improperly notched trowel. I should say improperly re-notched trowel. In all the jobs I’ve seen, never, never have I seen so much or so many cracks in a VCT tile job due to this. I fully understand getting your money’s worth out of a tool, but the teeth in this trowel are better suited for gluing down engineered wood or a cheep action backed carpet-maybe! The V shape of the re-notched trowel is easily seen in the profile of the telegraphing. Here is a good rule-of-thumb regarding trowels: If you are on a first name basis with your trowels (giving them pet names like “Money Maker” or “Spread Head”) and/or you scrape your knuckles while applying the adhesive, it’s time to replace them. Often I have thought that with every 3-5 pails of glue a free trowel (with manufacturer’s recommended notch size for the specific application) should automatically go out the door. Also remember you can have the same spread rate (or really close) with different profile notches.
Photo 5 is of what, say you? That’s right, a construction joint/cold joint in the concrete slab. Photo 5a shows the movement of the tile or the movement of the slab? Both, I think. The 1/2-inch valley where the VCT has cracked (on both sides) and shows the sinking profile of the patching material at the joint. The tile-to-tile gap shows the slab-to-slab movement. Having more than a 1-inch overlap of the flooring atop this joint would be advisable wherever possible.
With so many visible problems with the tile you probably want to know about the carpet. Well, it was installed by the same company. And believe it or not, the carpet looks good! But you can hide a lot of poor prep under carpet; VCT is another story. Tile is shiny and flat and loves to telegraph the lack of proper prep! The transitioning from the carpet to tile, well that’s another story for another day! Thanks again for reading, and have a great day!