With moisture-sensitive flooring on the rise, it’s important that flooring installers and other industry professionals are properly educated on moisture testing and control. FCI caught up with several industry experts to gain their insight on how flooring contractors can better address moisture issues.
Consequences of Improper Moisture Testing
“Moisture has been a topic of discussion based on the estimate of $2 billion per year for flooring replacement in the U.S.,” said Shane Jenkins, senior technical coordinator at Schönox HPS North America. “The elimination of solvent borne adhesive and the use of water borne adhesives has created a demand for moisture testing.”
Proper testing is highly advised before placing an underlayment or finished flooring. If not, short-term and/or long-term issues may arise that can lead to additional costs and repair time, says Laticrete product manager Elvis Torres.
“As condensed construction timelines increase in frequency, concern over moisture mitigation has grown significantly across the nation,” said Torres. “This often means less time is allotted for concrete slabs to properly dry, which can result in unsuitable relative humidity levels for flooring installations.”
Improper moisture testing can also produce the wrong information, says Stauf director of training Wayne Williams.
“If the improper test results are within manufacturer guidelines, the installer may assume it is okay to install the flooring, which could cause a future flooring failure,” said Williams. “If there is a high reading, they may look to the general contractor for a change order to do moisture mitigation. Either way, it can be a costly expense to the end user—either by the floor failing due to high moisture or the extra expense of the mitigation.”
This is why properly training flooring contractors on moisture testing is important.
“Moisture testing is a risk assessment step to protect the health and well-being of the building occupants and preserve ownership’s floor covering investment,” said Will White, director of technical communications and training at Custom Building Products. ”No one wants to pay for testing or substrate preparations, but both are necessary to ensure a successful, protected flooring installation.”
Warranties’ Effect on Moisture Testing
The issue of moisture testing in the building industry has given rise to the question of whether flooring manufacturer warranties are making it too easy to forego testing.
Torres says some manufacturers simply don’t have the products required to attack moisture and vapor issues, which poses a risk for installation.
“The purpose of a product warranty is to alleviate any concern by the customer and ensure they are adequately cared for in the rare case that a product exhibits manufacturing defects,” he said. “Laticrete offers limited system and product warranties to protect our customers and because of our high confidence in the quality of our solutions.”
It’s also difficult to assess the condition of the concrete without some sort of benchmark to reference, adds Jenkins.
“Most flooring and adhesive manufacturers will reference standards such as ASTM F710 which states moisture testing should be conducted,” he said.
Should Flooring Contractors Conduct Moisture Testing?
Some flooring industry experts believe that contractors should not be responsible for conducting moisture testing, but for educating other building industry professionals on the importance of moisture testing prior to installation. Grete Heimerdinger, vice president of Lignomat USA, is one of them.
“It does not have to be the floor contractor who does the testing as long as the testing is done professionally following the instrument manufacturers and the ASTM F2170 guideline,” said Heimerdinger.
Williams from Stauf says moisture testing shouldn’t just fall on flooring installers. “The testing needs to be done long before the installer shows up to install the flooring,” said Williams. “When moisture issues arise, it will always fall back on the flooring contractor because a floor should never be installed if there are moisture issues. We have to first train the general contractors and architects on who needs to test for moisture.”
Jenkins says third-party companies that specialize in moisture testing can be hired as well to eliminate potential bias.
“There is merit to the statement that the owner or general contractor can hire independent companies to test for moisture in concrete,” said Jenkins. “The flooring contractor should educate and inform the owner and general contractor on the requirements the flooring and adhesives manufacturers require for warranty.”
Torres said that rather than focus on whose responsibility moisture testing falls on, it is more productive to ensure everyone has the base knowledge on the value it provides to the overall project.
“The industry used to be more reactive, with testing taking place at the very last minute and often leading to concrete having too much moisture to proceed,” said Torres. “Now, the process is more proactive and specifiers are including moisture mitigation systems upfront.”