In the last few years, the brick-and-mortar retail landscape has changed drastically. To keep up with online shopping and the ever-changing desires of the modern consumer, retailers are spending billions of dollars redesigning their stores. For example, Target has reimagined hundreds of their stores with a focus on customization, including areas that showcase trends and seasonal products.

During most of these remodels, the stores stay open for business. Many retailers have also adopted “pop-up shops,” constructing temporary spaces to quickly take advantage of new or seasonal trends. With all of these rapid changes happening in the retail environment, qualified flooring installers are more vital than ever. These professionals know how to deal with the multiple challenges that come with flooring replacement.

Overcoming Time Constraints

In today’s retail construction, contractors want floor installation done overnight. This causes concerns, particularly when the concrete slab is damp and moisture mitigation is needed. If not properly addressed, excess moisture in the concrete slab can result in serious flooring failures. Recent technologies can help speed up the installation of moisture mitigation solutions.

One approach to moisture mitigation is to use a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, creating a substrate ready to accept finish flooring materials. While effective, this method requires surface preparation, multiple steps and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.

An alternative approach is to use sheet membranes prior to installing the finished flooring. These moisture barriers are designed to be laid on the concrete slab and underneath floor coverings such as carpet, vinyl or ceramic tile. When working on a retail renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring.

Sheet membranes offer several advantages. They can be installed in a single night, so the store can be back in business the next morning. This allows a retail store to shut its doors in the evening, renovate its flooring overnight and then return to business the next day, producing a happy client.

Retailers also have the flexibility to stay open if the flooring is being installed during the day, since sheet membranes can be installed without a specialized crew of trained applicators or the need for shot-blasting. Just roll onto the surface, tape the seams, cut in and you’re done. This allows stores to stay open with shoppers walking right by the active installation, without any mess or dust. And the flooring can be installed around displays, without unstocking and restocking the shelves.

The Demand for Modifiable Flooring

Retailers are consistently removing flooring for new décor and design changes as well as to add in popular branded pop-ups and seasonal sections. Additionally, stores that utilize short-term leases are responsible for restoring the rental space back to its original condition—which includes the finished flooring—once the lease is complete.

When sheet membranes are installed under the initial finished flooring, all that needs to be done for a new design is to pull up the existing tile and membrane. Then simply replace it with a new membrane layer, followed by the finished flooring.

These types of moisture barriers can also be used over existing tile that is smooth, flat and well-bonded to the substrate—after installing the membrane, simply install the new finished flooring over it. This is extremely useful when stores want to install a pop-up shop or other temporary space. Many of these membranes can also serve as a loose-lay underlayment, allowing removal as soon as desired without damage to the permanent flooring. This is particularly useful for flooring that is designed to be there for a very limited time, such as for a shopping season.

Our company, GCP Applied Technologies, offers a full portfolio of Kovara moisture barriers for the flooring installer taking on retail projects. The newest addition is Kovara AB 300 membrane, a patent-pending, self-adhered moisture barrier. It is suitable for use over concrete slabs with up to 99.5% relative humidity, and is designed to bond directly to the concrete subfloor with a specially formulated moisture- and alkaline-resistant adhesive that accelerates installation of the membrane—especially when heavy rolling loads and heavy foot traffic are expected. The new product joins the rest of the line which includes Kovara 95 and Kovara MBX moisture barriers.

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