Flooring contractors carefully plan out their labor utilization so that they can meet their customers’ timelines, limit costly downtime and maximize revenues. However, it is difficult to plan precisely as unexpected issues arise on flooring projects. One common challenge is moisture in flooring. If a floor has high moisture content, extra time is required to conduct moisture mitigation.
Contractors are under pressure to complete projects on ever-shorter schedules with ever-tighter budgets. The imperative to get the job done quickly and efficiently may overshadow the need to fully test concrete slabs to determine whether moisture remediation is called for. However, if moisture testing is not conducted and moisture content sneaks up on you in the middle of a project, it can be extremely disruptive to schedules and it can be costly. Many contractors do not have the in-house capabilities to conduct moisture mitigation. Hiring a specialized subcontractor is difficult to schedule and may delay the project for weeks.
So, how do you avoid project setbacks and overcome the tricky balance of scheduling around unforeseen moisture in a flooring project? Consider the following four best practices:
Test Early & Test Again
One of the biggest mistakes flooring contractors make is to not plan for the possibility of moisture at the time of sale. Flooring contractors need to do their homework before setting foot on a project and educate their customers about moisture.
Excess moisture in concrete slabs is a common issue, whether working on new construction or a renovation. In new construction, accelerated project schedules may not allow time for the slab to fully dry—a process that can take several months. In renovation projects, older slabs may not have adequate waterproofing or the moisture barrier membrane may have become compromised over time. Whatever the reason, mitigating the problem before installing finished flooring is critical to avoid a costly disruption.
Get a moisture test done well in advance of installing flooring by a certified pro. Anywhere from a year to a month beforehand is ideal for conducting initial moisture testing to start planning for the “what ifs.” This early testing will give you the big picture of what you are dealing with—if moisture levels are low, you know you will not need to allocate resources for moisture mitigation and you can free them up for other projects. For higher levels, continue monitoring moisture levels closer to installation time to make a final decision on the best moisture mitigation strategy. If you leave the first moisture testing to days before installation, and there is a moisture issue, you will still have to delay the project to submit change orders and move around schedules.
By testing early you can plan for what products are needed and schedule the right pros on the job at the right time. And, if there is a moisture problem, you can order the right materials and submit a change order.
Products to Speed Up Timeline
The traditional approach to moisture mitigation is the use of a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, providing a dry substrate for the floor. While effective, this method requires multiple coats and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.
Newer technologies can help speed up the timeline when mitigation is required, freeing up labor for the next project. These innovations also help flooring contractors feel more comfortable maximizing their number of projects, while still meeting customers’ timelines.
A proven moisture mitigation strategy is to apply a moisture barrier prior to installing the finished flooring. Moisture barriers are sheet membranes designed to be laid down above the concrete slab but underneath floor coverings including carpet, vinyl, ceramic tile and more. When working on a renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring. The latest sheet membranes for floor protection are designed to offer significant advantages over liquid epoxy. Contractors and building owners can enjoy reduced installation time and easy application, saving time and labor.
It is vital to spend the time and money to make sure your team is well trained. They should know the proper installation techniques for all products used and how to use tools safely and properly. A well trained team works efficiently and avoids costly mistakes that can cause time-consuming delays.
Another important element to keep a project running smoothly and on time is daily or at least weekly communication between the general contractor and the flooring contractor, even before the flooring installation begins. Regular communication will keep everyone in sync, keep the flooring contractor updated on the latest project schedule, and avoid unforeseen disruptions. Be sure to document all communication as well. After a phone call, follow-up with an email addressing what was talked about and agreed upon action items. This follow-up documentation holds everyone accountable and avoids miscommunication that can easily happen in quick phone calls when balancing multiple priorities.
Planning well in advance, examining and testing projects before scheduling and ordering materials, using the latest innovations, training and communication all contribute to a well executed flooring project. It is critically important for flooring contractors to educate themselves and take the lead on necessary steps to avoid unexpected issues on a project. It will protect you from costly delays and your valuable reputation.