A large flooring installation project can become complex and time-consuming - but it doesn't have to be that way. Today I'm reviewing the - sometimes unnecessary - steps that are factored into the majority of standard installation jobs, and how your flooring choices can help simplify the entire installation process.
What's Involved in a Standard Flooring Installation?
The majority of professional flooring installers have a standard package for flooring installation, and they quote for your job based on that standard process, rather than the actual requirements of your flooring installation.
A standard flooring installation typically includes several processes that occur before the new flooring is brought in, including:
- Adhesive removal - a time- and labor-intensive process, which is designed to prevent chemical incompatibility between old and new flooring and adhesive, and remove any lumps and bumps that may show through the new flooring. This involves either manually grinding away the old adhesive, or encapsulating it in a non-reactive layer.
- Floor leveling - removing old flooring can reveal imperfections in the subfloor, or worse cause damage to the slab. As a result, many flooring installers apply a skim coating to the subfloor to create a perfectly smooth and level surface.
- Moisture testing - many flooring manufacturers specify moisture testing as part of warranty requirements and will only warrant installations up to a predefined relative humidity (RH) and pH level.
- Moisture mitigation - depending on your moisture testing results, moisture mitigation processes may be required. However, because of the expense and risk associated with moisture problems, many installers now incorporate moisture mitigation into their standard installation package, to cover all bases. The most common process is to seal or encapsulate the subfloor with a two-part epoxy, at the cost of around $54 per square yard. While this can be very effective, it's important to note that this traps the moisture in the slab - preventing it from damaging your floor, but without truly mitigating the moisture problem.
That's a lot of work before you even start installing the new flooring. Fortunately, advances in carpet manufacturing processes mean there is a way to simplify your flooring install.
3 Steps to a Simpler Carpet Installation
1) Select Flooring with a Non-Reactive Backing
This includes thermoplastic and cushion-backed carpet tiles, but check with your specific manufacturer that the flooring has a non-reactive backing.
If flooring is non-reactive, this mitigates the risk of any incompatibility between traces of old adhesive and your new flooring products, especially when used in conjunction with a non-reactive adhesive.
This means you may not need to invest a lot of time and money removing every trace of adhesive from the subfloor prior to installing your new carpet - however, some types of non-reactive carpet backing have other weaknesses that require significant amounts of floor prep.
2) Opt for Plush Carpet with a Cushion Backing
While thermoplastic backings have the benefit of being non-reactive, their major weakness is that they allow the lumps and bumps from the subfloor to show through the carpet - a problem often referred to as telegraphing.
Instead, opt for modular carpet with a cushion backing. The cushion is thick enough to absorb any unevenness from the subfloor and prevent the unsightly unevenness that's so often synonymous with thermoplastic-backed products.
3) Choose a Moisture-Wicking Carpet
Most moisture mitigation solutions work by trapping moisture in the subfloor, so it can't damage your flooring - but they don't deal with the root cause of the problem.
However, it's possible to negate the need for both moisture testing and moisture mitigation altogether. To do so, select flooring that deals with the problem of moisture altogether rather than simply attempting to cover it up.
Moisture vapor-wicking carpet with open cell cushion backing allows moisture vapor to travel through your carpet and evaporate away naturally, so it doesn't get trapped under your flooring and cause mold growth, adhesive breakdown or long-term damage to your new flooring.