Keys to Flooring Success

Flooring success depends on a number of elements, from the choice of material to the installation itself. But one element is especially critical: the need to protect against moisture-vapor emissions and the development of mold and mildew.

“Excessive moisture is the No. 1 cause of flooring-system failures. It can cause concrete and/or adhesive failure and, more often than not, the growth of a broad range of odor-causing mold and mildew,” said Scott Banda, product manager, construction and distribution division, Bostik, Middleton, Mass.

One of the easiest ways to help eliminate the problems associated with moisture and mold and mildew is the installation of a moisture-vapor barrier coating on top of the concrete slab. Several high-performance products are available that can reduce moisture-vapor emission rates from as high as 25 lbs. to 3 lbs. or less. Experts say that even if moisture is not considered a problem at the time of installation, this step should be regarded as an extremely affordable form of insurance.

“Should conditions change in either the internal or external environments, even years down the road, a moisture-related flooring failure could render entire aisles of a store inoperable until repaired,” Banda explained.

“And from a financial perspective, avoiding such a costly, inconvenient and potentially hazardous event would have more than justified the cost of this first critical step in the construction process.”

It’s worth noting that several leading, high-performance moisture-vapor barrier-coating products incorporate some form of antimicrobial protection.

System compatibility: Another key factor in ensuring the success of a flooring installation has to do with the compatibility of the individual products that comprise the system. Depending on the type of floorcovering being installed, most installations are composed of at least two different installation products. Some jobs are a bit more complex and may involve up to four different products. It’s essential that all of these materials be 100% compatible with one another.

“Products that are not compatible could cause problems during the installation process itself, causing unnecessary schedule delays, or develop years later as a failure,” Banda said. “Demanding environmental conditions almost always will accentuate these issues.”

The selection of products from one manufacturer is the simplest way to ensure compatibility. Several of the largest manufacturers offer products that cover the full spectrum, from moisture-vapor barrier coatings to adhesion-promoting primers and adhesives. These types of “installation systems” remove the guesswork from the compatibility equation.

“Purchasing these products from more than one manufacturer can be done, but it complicates the material-selection process,” Banda said.

Many leading manufacturers of adhesives and cements will test the compatibility of their respective products with the floorcovering material in question. In most cases, this process involves shipping just a few samples of the material to the adhesive manufacturer, along with a description of the specific application.

“All those considering wide-scale flooring projects associated with retail construction should familiarize themselves with these services and take advantage of them,” Banda advised. “Such services minimize the opportunity for error, saving time, money and the reputation of everyone involved in the installation.”

GOING GREEN

The selection of low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) adhesives and paint has become a priority as retailers increasingly seek to build and operate their facilities in a more sustainable manner. Such products go a long way toward enhancing indoor air quality, one of the core areas of green building. In fact, selecting the right adhesives and sealants with regard to flooring may help contribute credit to a building’s LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification.

“The intent of the credit [Low Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants] is to reduce the quantity of indoor-air contaminants that are odorous, potentially irritating and/or harmful to the comfort and well-being of installers and building occupants,” said Scott Banda, product manager, Bostik, Middleton, Mass.

But with so many products labeling themselves as green, what is the best way to ensure that adhesives and sealants comply with the LEED standard? One of the most effective ways is to choose a product that has been certified as low-VOC by an independent, third-party laboratory. Three of the most respected certifications in this area are the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label and Green Plus Programs, and the Greenguard Environmental Institute’s GreenGuard Seal of Approval.