Moisture Mitigation Case Studies: Contractors Share Their Stories
In a marketplace where fast-track construction is the norm, moisture mitigation has become a vital part of the contractor’s arsenal. Not only do moisture mitigation systems offer peace of mind, they are also usually part of a system of products that can lead to some type of extended warranty from the manufacturer. We speak with contractors across America to find out their take on moisture mitigation, when it’s needed and how to sell it.
Justin Kilmer, project coordinator for Springfield, Mo.-based Zickel Flooring, said he is convinced fast-track construction is the number-one reason moisture issues are so prevalent right now. “Nobody wants to give the concrete the time to fully cure like it’s supposed to.”
His company relies on Tec’s The LiquiDam Penetrating Moisture Vapor Barrier, including in a recent install where 400,000 sq. ft. of the product was used at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo. “We’ve been using Tec’s moisture mitigation products for three or four years now, and no one has called back yet. In fact, all the Mercy Health System facilities use The LiquiDam as their product of choice whenever there’s a need for moisture mitigation.”
Charles Yelvington, a National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) inspector for hardwood and laminate flooring based in Fort Myers, Fla., said his go-to moisture mitigation solution is Bone Dry products because they’re “easy to apply and drive moisture out of the slab.”
“We get lots of moisture problems down here in Florida—both new homes and older houses. I probably see moisture issues at least every other day.”
One of the biggest problems he sees in failed floors is installers not taking any type of moisture reading on the job. “Ninety percent of the installers don’t even own a meter. They don’t want to spend the money, so instead they’re buying back the job when the floor fails.” When asked about relative humidity (RH) testing, Yelvington laughed. “Hardly anybody is doing that—many don’t even know what an RH reading is. Most of the guys claim ‘We can just look at the slab and tell,’ or ‘We put down plastic if we see moisture.’ I hear those things all the time.”
Also based in Fort Myers, Will McLain, owner of PSI (Professional Surface Installations), relies on MAPEI products. “We’re probably the largest moisture mitigation company in the country for MAPEI materials. MAPEI has one of the best warranties in the business as far as I’m concerned.”
He noted substrate prep is the key to the success of the job. “It’s everything as far as we’re concerned. We will only prep by the book.”
One type of concrete he cautions floor installers on working with is fibrous slabs. “Slabs on upper decks often have fiber in it. Once you take that hard troweled surface off, you have lots and lots of fibers. You can’t scrape the fibers, you can’t cut them. If you try to mitigate them, you have a million little wicking points that can go through the moisture mitigation material. You need to torch the fibers—it’s an involved process and you can’t skip any steps. Bottom line is this: if you don’t understand what you’re working with, call in an expert. Don’t wing it.”
Kirk Dalton, head of specialty cements and applied coatings for Welker Brothers in San Francisco, said his area of the country “is full of low-lying ground so we have moisture problems everywhere.”
He prefers using Custom Building Products’ moisture mitigation materials, and said it’s important to start talking about moisture mitigation with clients immediately. “We always take the time to mention moisture mitigation and the importance of it. We want to allow for that time in the schedule, because if it’s not in the schedule we’re going to end up impacting the other trades.”
Marc “Buddy” Davenport, president and owner of San Diego-based Classic Hardwood Floors, likes using Franklin International’s Titebond 531 and 531 Plus moisture control systems. “I would recommend a moisture barrier in any project. I’ve been in the business 35 years and I just know the slabs are wet.”
One surprising use for moisture barriers increasingly in Southern California is basements. “Basements are becoming very popular in San Diego. Real estate is very expensive so to get the most out of their square footage, people are adding basements. Of course when you’re below ground, you have to use a moisture barrier.”
Ardex LevelMaster Elite installer Grant Petruzzelli, account manager for Universal Metro in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., said his company regularly uses Ardex products in healthcare environments. He recalls one recent project at Providence Little Co. of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., which required Ardex MC Rapid for a site measuring 150,000 sq. ft., across five floors. The project was made even more challenging because the company was only given two days per location from prep to finish.
“It’s normal for us to be in a situation where we have to turn something over in a short time frame, but having to do 150,000 sq. ft. in a hospital environment that is fully functional and still focused on patient care—that was a unique challenge on this particular project.”
He said planning was a must for a project of this scope. “Part of it was just focusing on products that were going to allow for a shorter cure time, and overlapping work in multiple areas at a time. We had to figure out how we could maximize our workforce as well as the output of the products we were using.”
Larry Richardson of Larry Richardson Flooring in LaGrange, Ga., swears by Stauf for moisture mitigation. “Their ERP 270 is a really good product. I’ve used it for two years now, and have had a really good experience.”
When prepping the floor, he shot blasts instead of grinding it. “I find it’s a whole lot better to shot blast. It seems to give more of a bite to the slab and bonds a lot better. When you trowel the product on, it really holds. You also don’t need to use as much patch when you skim the floor.”
He noted the importance of cleaning the floor thoroughly before adding the ERP 270. “You can’t skip a step. You need to take all the dust off the floor. We use a HEPA vacuum and that works really well.”
Raymond Miller, installation manager for Halpin’s Flooring America in Baton Rouge, said his company uses DriTac products including the Golden Bullet (DriTac 4141 sound and moisture control urethane wood flooring adhesive) and DriTac MCS 7000 Concrete Moisture Control System, a two-part epoxy.
His company’s philosophy is to take moisture readings no matter what. “We take moisture readings on every job we do. We use a moisture meter to get a range of moisture, and if that’s high we’ll do a calcium chloride test. The results of that will decide what product we end up using. We use brand new trowels and brand new adhesives for each job as well. We don’t skimp. We want to make sure everything is covered.”
Steve Triplett, president of TMS Commercial Flooring in Nashville, is impressed by Schonox moisture mitigation products. “We primarily use Schonox SDG and EPA. SDG is great for RH up to 93 percent. When we start getting above that, we go to the EPA, which is a two-part epoxy system.”
Whenever encountering a moisture problem, Triplett stated “first thing is to get the manufacturer of the floor covering involved. Let them inform the general contractor, owner or end-user. From there you’ll have a meeting. That’s where you can bring up the importance of moisture mitigation and warrantied systems.”
Jeffrey Zeikus, principal and founder of Floorz—in Colorado Springs, Denver and Ft. Collins, Colo.—favors Traxx’s Traxxshield99 Rolled Moisture Barrier. He first came into contact with the product while working on moisture mitigation at University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus.
“We started getting high moisture readings and when the university heard how much a two-part epoxy system would be, they asked us if we could save them some money. We did some research and found the Traxxshield product. We had some of the Traxx people come out and show us how to get it down. Everything was working fine, so we then proceeded with it on the rest of the project, about 350 rolls.”
He said the advantage of a rolled product is two-fold: labor and cost savings. “It’s a fairly easy thing for my carpet installers to handle. We have a separate crew that does a lot of bead blasting. With the Traxxshield product I can just use my carpet installers not two different crews.”
Zeikus recognizes other advantages as well. “We didn’t have to worry about creating a huge mess and banging into the walls with our bead blasters. We didn’t have to bring in generators to run our equipment. And there was no smell or scent to it, which was just what we needed for a residence hall.”
According to Stan Johnson, owner of Floor Guy in Norfolk, Neb., his go-to product is MP Global underlayment like QuietWalk. “I use these products constantly under some of my wood floor installations and all of my laminate installs. It helps with moisture if the product is going to be somewhere where leaks are common, like near a dishwasher or washing machine.”
He said he doesn’t have trouble convincing residential customers about the importance of using a moisture barrier. “If there’s a need, I talk them into it. The benefits usually outweigh the small cost of adding it on.”