Installers know that while consumers and commercial clients are always looking for style and durability in their flooring, the real stars of the show are the unsung and often unnoticed materials –adhesives and underlayments. Without these essential ingredients, a flooring installation simply will not be complete, whether in a commercial or residential setting.
FCI spoke with a wide range of manufacturers to learn about the latest tools and techniques for working with these important installation materials. The biggest tip centered on the trowel. Once the trowel has worn down, it is essential to get out a new, replacement trowel. Also, use the appropriate trowel as specified in the technical data sheet. Using the wrong trowel will almost always guarantee an installation failure. Read on for other tips.
Tools: “The most basic tool required is the adhesive manufacturer’s recommended trowel. A straight edge is needed to check areas that might require patching or leveling, which must be done using Portland cement-based material (e.g. Bostik UltraFinish, Webcrete 95 or SL-150). Last but not least, tools will be needed which can mechanically abrade the concrete, such as a coarse open grit paper or a diamond blade, to achieve a surface texture similar to light broom-finished concrete as well as to remove surface contaminants.”
Tips: “In order to slow down vapor transmission evenly, you must have a consistent layer of adhesive/moisture retarder. It is absolutely on the installer’s shoulders to follow each system’s instructions for a warranted successful installation.”
Tools: Steve Taylor focused on tools and tips for Custom Building Products’ RedGard Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane and EasyMat Tile & Stone Underlayment. For the mat, the tools include a utility knife, hand roller, and margin and notched trowels. For the membrane, tools are a thickness gauge, floor scraper, flat and margin trowels, paint roller/extension pole, paint brushes, and 2” and 6” mesh tape. For both, tools include a floor scraper, push broom, latex gloves and a straightedge square.
Tips: For the mat, common mistakes include not collapsing the air pockets with a hand roller and creating insufficient mat width for crack suppression. For the membrane, mistakes are not filling joints at the change of plane, not applying to the correct thickness, not waiting for the material to dry between coats, and not maintaining a continuous film for waterproofing.
“For both the mat and membrane, read the instructions and then read them again, and keep your work area neat and clean. Proper surface prep is mandatory for a successful installation.”
Tips: “Try holding your trowel at a 45-degree angle when applying the adhesive, as this will help you to more closely achieve the spread rate set forth by the manufacturer. Additionally, when applying the adhesive, use a figure eight pattern motion with your trowel. This will help to obtain the necessary coverage and adhesive transfer to your flooring product.
“If your chosen adhesive is evaporative, make sure you have good airflow, ventilation and the proper amount of heat introduced into the installation. If your chosen adhesive is a reactive urethane, make sure the substrate you install over and the surrounding air space and environment is within limitations and doesn’t contain too much moisture.”
Jerry Palys, national customer service mgr., Halex
Tools and tips: “The most important tool required to install plywood underlayment is the pneumatic stapler. For Halex, the biggest installation problem is when an installer does not hit every fastener marking with a staple. Our sheets are marked where fasteners need to be driven, and this will maximize holding power of the underlayment to the subfloor. Failure to hit every fastener marking may result in spongy-feeling flooring, nail pops, and seam telegraphing.”
Tips: “A common error is not allowing the proper open time for the adhesives to work at their optimum performance levels. Open time can be affected by factors like temperature and humidity in the installer’s geographic region as well as the porosity of the subfloor.”
James Keene, owner, Keene Building Products
Tips (for noise control): “With a thin sound mat like 3 mm (0.125”) of recycled rubber, [such as the company’s] QQ Step Soft 03, IIC code compliance can be achieved with about any floor finish. That is with and without a ceiling in a concrete structure.
“One finish that will cause some real consternation is VCT. It isn’t installed with any type of underlayment since it has such difficult tensile requirements. The stress/strain of the product means the subfloor can’t have any deflection.”
Tools: Mintie recommends various tools for different parts of the job. For floor preparation, he recommends floor scrapers, sponges, utility knives, and mechanical abrasion equipment for larger projects.
Underlayment application will require steel trowels, gauging rakes and smoothing trowels for larger projects, and brushes and rollers for underlayment primers. Low-speed drill mixers and mixing pumps may also be used. Adhesive application requires an assortment of trowels. If mixing is required, a low-speed drill mixer may also be used.
Tips: “Make sure that the structure is adequate. Know your subfloor and underlayment materials. Prepare the surface properly. Select a suitable adhesive type. Ensure sufficient adhesive coverage. Clean and finish. Become familiar with new installation materials.”
Tools: While MAPEI offers a large assortment of installation products for multiple flooring types, Johnson focused on resilient flooring adhesives for this article. He recommends a high-performance patch and skim coat with a good quality flat trowel and plenty of replacement trowels as needed.
Other tools include an appropriately sized weight roller as defined by the resilient flooring manufacturer, to move out any trapped air and to crush adhesive ridges.
Tips: “The best trick is to read the technical data sheet for each adhesive you use. There is lots of good info there.”
Pat Giles, vp technical and R&D, Maxxon Corp.
Tools: “The tools of the trade for us are first and foremost having the right sand, approved by Maxxon. We sell bags of concentrated gypsum concrete and cementitious concentrates, so we do not have to ship the sand to the customers. All the sand that is going to be mixed needs to be tested to meet our specifications, however.
“Number two on the list is that the pumps are properly cleaned and maintained. We also want to make sure the proper bonding primers and sealers manufactured by Maxxon are used.”
Tools: “A stable bucket platform prevents injury and provides a safer and faster mixing environment when mixing setting materials and adhesives.” According to Deutsch, QEP’s new No Spin Mixing Bucket is “the only bucket on the market today that addresses this concern.”
Maren Feindler, sales mgr., Sika Corp.
Tips: “If any adhesive gets spilled on the finish of the hardwood, always clean as you go, because there is no stain remover product out there that can take out spills after they’ve been sitting there for four hours or so.
“Installers should also make sure there is no contamination on the substrate when applying a wood flooring adhesive. If you sprinkle water on the surface and it beads up, that means you likely have some sort of contamination on the substrate. Remove this before you start gluing up your wood.”
Tools: “The basic tools for adhesive are obviously a trowel, adhesive cleaners or wipes, weight (in the form of the wood, pails of adhesive, sand bags, etc.), possible straps for solid wood installation, tape measure, speed square and line snappers for straight installations.”
Tips: “Apply lotion to hands and arms before spreading adhesive. This helps keep the adhesive from sticking to your skin.”
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