Lee Eliseian, president and CEO of IFTI (Independent Floor Testing and Inspection Inc.), has more than 30 years of experience in the flooring industry,
specializing in independent third-party concrete slab moisture testing, moisture mitigation systems and floor covering failure analysis throughout North America. For our final Moisture Problems and Solutions column of the year, FCI sat down with Eliseian to discuss his views on moisture testing and the industry’s attitude toward making sure a slab meets acceptable moisture levels before putting any flooring down.
Why does it seem like there are so many moisture issues today?
There are a number of factors. One, installers are doing the testing but not doing it correctly. Two, fast-track schedules are not giving the concrete enough time to dry properly. Three, people are making the wrong assumptions – sometimes they take over existing facilities, and they feel they don’t need to test. They think, “This slab was poured 40 years ago. It sure looks, smells, and feels dry. We should be good to go.”
Also, more people are using lightweight concrete in lieu of normal-weight concrete, and that takes longer to dry. Architects are specifying the material but not realizing it takes twice as long to dry. Understanding the conducive climate conditions is essential for drying, too. I can’t tell you how many times an installer or contractor tries to perform a moisture test while it’s raining, and doesn’t even think about trying to keep all the windows or doors shut.
Are there any other factors that contribute to moisture issues?
Probably the biggest factor of all is human behavior. It’s known out there in the industry how to do things correctly, how to minimize the risk of having a problem and doing it in a cost-effective way. The technology is out there. However, it is very difficult to get someone to change their habits. You can go to a health checkup, find out your overweight, change your diet, enroll in thousands of weight-loss programs, but if you’re not committed to changing your behavior, you’re going to gain that weight back. It’s just the way it is.
Unfortunately, we find that most people make changes only after experiencing the pain of doing it the wrong way for a long enough time that they finally want to do something about it. We have to reach out to a customer at the right time, when they’re receptive to getting moving in a way where they care about adopting an effective program that provides value. Once we get that new behavior standardized, they can then worry about any of their other problems.
When testing for moisture, should an installer perform ASTM F2170 (in situ probes), F1869 (calcium chloride) or both tests?
We share the attitude of several other colleagues in the industry. We would prefer both. Look at it this way: Say you go to the doctor with a problem with your shoulder. If he wants to truly understand the situation, he’s going to want to have a series of tests done, maybe an MRI for soft tissue and an X-Ray for the hard tissue. Without both of the tests, it would be very difficult for the doctor to diagnose and treat the symptom. The doctor might not diagnose the correct problem and treat the symptom incorrectly.
It’s the same idea with concrete moisture testing. Both tests measure different conditions – one will give you the internal
moisture content of the slab, and the other will measure moisture at the surface of the slab. Our opinion is conducting just one test is awfully limited. The whole idea is to understand as best as you can the slab conditions so you can
mitigate any adverse conditions.
What about people who don’t bother doing any type of moisture testing, claiming they’ve never had a problem?
Again, it comes down to human behavior. A contractor might claim that he has never had a problem by not performing a moisture test. How would he know that perhaps three years later, the entire job failed? He’s off the job, and he may have never heard about it. What you perceive as past success is not necessary any type of success at all. Tell that to the person on the job three years later, trying to fix the mess because the rules were not followed.
How does your company work with customers on moisture issues?
We work with our customers to deliver timely, accurate information and risk-assessment solutions across multiple commercial locations that save our customers costly moisture-related flooring problems. Most of our customers have seen value in our Risk Management System. We utilize this system as a tool to evaluate the risk condition, collaborate on treatment solutions, and select appropriate risk treatments for each individual facility based on the moisture test results. This method creates suitable and stable substrates to enhance long-term floor installation success.
Find out more at www.ifti.com. Lee Eliseian