The breakdown of adhesives is easily recognized by the following signs. The adhesive turns into thick liquid “goo.” It is very slick and the initial complaint may be that the tiles are shrinking. The tiles are not shrinking; they are sliding as we walk on them. The expansion gaps that were left at the drywall or under the toed base create an area for expansion. As the field and trimmed edge tiles slide to butt against framing walls, it is very visible that the middle and edge glued tiles are gapping. The gap locations may change as the tiles are in a state of constant flux.
The breakdown of adhesives can be even more severe if the old adhesive is a solvent-based product. Cut-back adhesive reaction times are quicker and more severe.
Photo 1 shows a combination of old cut-back and solvent-based carpet adhesive.
Photo 2 shows emulsification and seepage at the corner of the tile.
Photo 3 shows a situation in which the initial complaint of the tile shrinkage was disproved in examining substrate and measuring several tiles.
Note in image Photo 4, the small amount of adhesive breakdown can be assessed by looking at the darkest shiny images in this photo. All cut-back and solvent-based adhesives need to be mechanically removed and encapsulated.
At our company, it is policy to always skim coat and sand all of the hard surface installations. Looking at the image of the cut-back adhesive, notice the holes and pock marks that were filled with adhesive. This is not the type of work our customer paid for and this is not the surface on which the manufacturers want their products installed.
Photo 5 shows an installer scraping away layers of adhesive. Note the emulsified adhesive and latex floor patch that transferred to the back of the carpet tiles that are next to the bookcase.
Let’s compare the previous substrate with (Photo 6). This is the only room out of 800 square yards that did not have problems with shrinking tiles or glue emulsification. This substrate is clean; there are no multiple layers of adhesive with which to contend.
Photo 7 displays the same area after the skim coat. Notice the floor deviations and low spots that are present. The patching material makes it much easier to see the irregularities of the floor.
The previous example showed a building that was built 50 to 70 years ago. In the next viewing, a building was constructed in 2008 with both wood and concrete subfloors. It shows an example of a poor installation with minimal preparation.
All installations start with substrate conditions and it is our responsibility to point out areas of concern. DOCUMENT SUBSTRATE ISSUES! Explain to the customer and the retailer that your installation warranty will not cover problems that result from complications caused by the substrate in the area of your installation. NEVER IGNORE A SUBSTRATE PROBLEM! As soon as you start working, without noting deficiencies in the subfloor, the problems become YOURS! You are the expert on the job. You will need documentation and a sign-off waiver to avoid liability for any problems related to the surface that receives flooring installed by you.
The next time you are preparing for the next job; don’t forget that “Presentation, Quality and Value” will separate YOU from the crowd. Marketing is your game plan for success.