At the International Surface Event (TISE) held this past January, I had the privilege of speaking to contractors and installers about moisture testing and mitigation methods. I moderated a panel that included Paul Pleshek, head of the National Academy of Floor Covering Training (NAFCT), and Sonny Callaham, owner of Divergent Adhesives. Those of you who have been in the industry a while know these two names well, and as you can imagine it was a spirited discussion.

At one point Sonny made a provocative statement. He looked out at the audience and apologized in advance to any moisture meter manufacturers that might be in attendance. Then he said one of the major reasons moisture has become such a prevalent issue in the industry today is the reliance on ASTM F2170 (also known as the “RH test” or “in-situ probe test”).

At first I was shocked by that answer, but he quickly explained that ASTM F2170 is a scientifically valid and accepted test. However, the problem comes when contractors use that single data point to make their final decision on potential moisture issues. Sonny said that relying on one type of data skews the results; in order to get the whole picture the RH test needs to be performed along with the calcium chloride test (ASTM F1869). That way, there are two data points measuring two different things—the relative humidity and the moisture vapor emission rate of the slab—resulting in a much clearer picture of the situation.

Of course, living in the real world of fast-track schedules, I don’t expect everyone to suddenly adopt two test methods on every job. I don’t think Sonny does, either. But for those big projects where a lot of money is riding on the end result, it only makes sense to add that extra insurance in the form of both tests. To even further cushion yourself from potential litigation down the road, both Sonny and Paul recommend that contractors use a certified third party to perform the tests. These third parties not only know what to look for; more importantly for any litigation they know what to document.

It was definitely an eye-opening panel for me, and it led to some soul-searching as well. How many times have we, in both our professional and personal lives, relied on one data point—one result that we are already biased toward getting an answer from—to make important decisions that can affect the course of our careers and our relationships? The panel was a good reminder that it’s important to fall into compliance. However, it’s equally important not to fall into complacency.