An installer or contractor who does not know how to work with resilient flooring is missing out on major opportunities in both the residential and commercial environment. With customers seemingly insatiable over LVT and other resilient products, an installer needs to stay on top of the tools and tips designed to give him an edge in this increasingly popular – and lucrative – flooring material.
Bob Gillespie, CFI instructor and past president, said the most important aspect of any type of resilient installation, whether VCT, LVT or rubber, is floor preparation. “It is imperative that you have a clean, flat, dry and structurally sound surface to work on,” he noted. “Every product has their own little nuances, and it is very important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.”
He said that one of the questions he is routinely asked is how much old adhesive needs to come up off the floor before installing resilient. The answer? All of it. “What happens is the installers will go right in with a scraper and knock the trowel ridges down and think they can just glue right back over the top of it. That’s not the case. Two adhesives oftentimes do not mix.”
Gillespie added that for floating products, such as LVT, getting rid of all of the old adhesive is even more important. “Even though it’s a floating floor, if it still touches old adhesive you might end up with a tick-tack sound as you’re walking across it, because the glue and the backing are now making noise.”
Keith Papulski, Taylor Tools’ general mgr., said when it comes to floor preparation, one of the most important steps is moisture testing. While the industry is slowly shifting toward preferring RH probe tests to calcium chloride tests, he believes it is important to do both.
“Both tests tell you different things, and the more information you get, the better off you’re going to be.”
If the moisture level is too high, a moisture control product might be needed. “Floor failure and repairs resulting from excessive moisture vapor are costly and add time and immeasurable headache to a project,” stated Danielle Hunsicker, ARDEX Americas national programs & specifications mgr. “When a remedy for a high moisture vapor condition is required, advanced epoxy moisture control systems are now available to slow the rate of emissions, allowing for a quick turnaround and successful flooring installation.”
Tools for the job
Gillespie recommends a range of tools to complete a resilient installation. These include the proper weighted rollers, a good utility knife with a sharp blade, a tile cutter to save time, a chalk line, a set of trammel points, the right notch for trowels, and a broom and vacuum. “When it comes to floor prep, I especially want to take the time to sweep and vacuum, because if even a little grain of sand is left behind it will look like a rock after cleaning and buffing.”
A welder, whether manual or automatic, is also essential. Roland Beeler, Leister flooring tools product mgr., said one of the big advantages of an automatic welder is consistency. “With an automatic welder, you can control the parameters so you always have the same temperature, angle, pressure and speed. With hand-welding you never know, because the angle, the speed, the pressure and even the temperature may not always be consistent.”
He added that different temperatures are required for different types of materials, including linoleum, PVC flooring and other resilient floors, making it critical that the right temperature is consistently obtained.
Jerry Zybko at Leister said that automatic welding and grooving machines are especially helpful when installing in large areas such as hospitals. “If you’re doing a large floor with a lot of straight runs, it makes sense to use an automated machine. You are going to be able to work three to four times as fast.”
According to Brad Miller, QEP vp marketing, a wall trimmer is also a useful item for the resilient flooring installer’s toolbox. “The Roberts 10-905 Multipurpose Wall Trimmer is excellent not only for resilient, but also great for making clean cuts and leaving your walls free of marks when cutting other flooring types such as carpet tiles. The wall trimmer is sometimes forgotten because installers don’t realize the multipurpose uses of this tool on various job sites.”
According to Gillespie, after the flooring is installed, one more important step needs to be addressed: Sharing maintenance instructions with the end-user. “It is probably a very scary statistic how many floors have to be replaced due to improper maintenance. When I was working for a school district, about 80 percent of my reinstalls were due to poor maintenance.”
He said some common maintenance mistakes include using too much water or too much stripper, which gets down into the cracks of the tile and eventually lifts it right up out of the floor. “Make sure to maintain the floor the way the manufacturer recommends. The reality is, this should be part of the job of the people who sell the product to the end-user, but it often doesn’t get done. Take it upon yourself to instruct the end-users on the maintenance side, so you’re not left beating your head against the wall.”
He also recommends against shining up the floor to the point of being able to see your reflection. “A lot of hospitals especially want to shine up that finish. You go to a hospital and it looks like glass. For elderly patients, that looks like a wet floor, like ice or glass, and they do not want to walk out on it. You do not need that mirror finish, which is just going to broadcast every kind of imperfection in the floor.”