It's Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature
October 6, 2008
Hey, I know it’s an old saying from a butter commercial, but it seems appropriate for this “Best of the Worst” or “Shock and Awe” type article. The following information and photos are for learning proposes only. They are for your visual pleasure and are intended for mature audiences; any rebroadcast or misuse without written permission from FCI and ME is strictly prohibited. The names have been changed to protect the innocent; the events and time line are real and used as a teaching tool for those who choose to pay attention. All others can keep their comments to themselves or share them with one of their equal intolerants. OK, now that the political lingo is out of the way let’s get to it!
This 5-8 million-dollar industrial healthcare/office complex was built three years ago. The only flooring problem during the first two years was cracking ceramic tile on the pan-poured second floor. The basement slab had no movement or settling issues. Into the third year we have what was described as adhesive migration problems in the basement. The carpeting and ceramic flooring in the basement show no signs of bonding issues but the VET tile and sheet goods have problems. Photo 1 shows the adhesive migrating at the seams in the VET with Photo 1a being a close-up. The areas of discoloration are confined to: beneath the chair protectors (Photo 1b) and rubber backed throw rugs (Photo 2; close-up, Photo 2a). Is this adhesive migration the fault of the installer using too much glue or the wrong notch trowel? “You Make the Call.”
Part of the problem solving regimen that we learn to do (in life and inspections) is looking at every possible area of the flooring installed, even if the other areas have no problems (or so it seems). So, while looking at the break/lunch room area I see Photo 3 with close-up, Photo 3a. The owner stated that they knew what was wrong in this room: not enough adhesive used and the VET tile was edge curling. Well I must tell you that when the same installation crew puts too much glue in one room and too little in the very next room, well…I start thinking maybe ,just maybe, something else is causing the adhesive to migrate. Can “You Make the Call” now?
OK, at this point we pull out the qualitative moisture meters and start asking more questions of both the G.C. and the flooring contractor. As it turns out, the flooring contractor had the G.C. sign off on the concrete slab and its ability to accept floor coverings. Why did he do this? Because he is smart enough to cover his own ass! Whether it holds up in court is another issue; that I am not qualified to comment on. The G.C. did not provide written documentation on moisture testing and the suitability of the concrete slab to accept floor coverings to the flooring contractor. The flooring contractor did testing and informally told the G.C. he could not warranty the installation. The G.C. basically told the flooring contractor to install it any way; the timetable was short and the punch list was coming up for final in a couple days! Hooray the project was done on time and the G.C. was not penalized (as per his contract) for being late.
Well, kudos to the G.C. for once again sticking it to the little guys! Now that there is trouble, the G.C. has done moisture testing and core sampling and what did they find, 17 pounds of water vapor (as per calcium chloride testing) is emitting from the slab in the areas of the VET and roll goods. Never time to do it right but always time to do it over! Needless to say that mindset may work on home improvement projects but it has no place in the professional building trades. Moisture remediation should be done before the flooring is installed, not after.
I will leave you with the last photo (Photo 4) and an observation I made while leaving the basement area exiting out the back door. What you see is a retaining wall that the earth behind encompasses ¾ of the basement walls around the entire complex.
The downspout drains on the ground at the top of the earthen wall; the sump pump cover does have a working pump beneath it. As I was standing next to it on a sunny day without rain for the past week, I timed the pump running every 60 seconds or so! Yes the pump was working, but was it enough? Thanks again for reading “You Make the Call.”