In renovation projects, problems with moisture have been increasing rapidly over the last 10 years. Companies that have never had a problem before can undertake a huge renovation project, and find their refreshed space plagued by problematic moisture levels.
Today I’m looking at what causes moisture problems in a renovation project, and how you can prevent them.
What Causes New Moisture Problems in Renovations?
When you’re renovating an existing space it’s easy to overlook moisture when choosing flooring or furnishing. That’s only an issue when working on new builds, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even if you’ve never had a problem with moisture before, and no mold or mildew issues, a renovation project can unleash these new problems on your space. In many cases, the construction of your subfloor means that there’s a high likelihood of hidden moisture below the floor’s surface, which can wreak havoc with your new flooring if you don’t know about it.
Last time your space had new flooring, it was probably laid using a solvent-based adhesive. However, in recent years there’s been an industry shift towards using water-based adhesives as they’re more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, if you’re in a high-moisture situation with a lot of moisture in your subfloor, this can actually dissolve water-based adhesives and cause your flooring to come loose over time.
Alternatively, the old flooring could have had a single use moisture barrier installed between your flooring and the subfloor, which traps the moisture under the membrane so it doesn’t damage the carpet. The moisture doesn’t go away – it stays there. When the old flooring is removed, so is the membrane, so any new flooring you lay will need a new moisture barrier. But if you don’t know you’ve got a moisture problem, this doesn’t always happen, meaning your space is suddenly plagued with damp, mold and mildew.
Be Prepared for Moisture Problems
Just because your building has been standing for 20 years, doesn’t mean you’re not going to have problems with moisture.
Moisture can wreak havoc on renovation projects, much more so than new builds, simply because the project managers aren’t prepared for moisture. Even after successful moisture tests, rising water tables (sometimes triggered by melting snow or heavy rainfall) can still cause an issue where there wasn’t one before. So when planning your renovation project, choose materials that are designed for moisture management – that way, you’re covered if there are hidden moisture problems, and you’re covered if there aren’t.
So what are your options for making sure moisture doesn’t ruin your renovation project?
1) Prepare the Floor
By sealing the floor it’s possible to block moisture at the source, so it doesn’t damage your flooring. However, sealing the subfloor is very labor-intensive and can significantly bump up the install costs on a project.
2) Choose a Moisture-Resistant Adhesive
Most adhesives are rated to withstand up to 80% relative humidity. However, you can get adhesives specifically designed for high-moisture situations, products that are designed to withstand 85, 90, 95% relative humidity – and in some cases, even higher.
3) Look for Adhesive-Free Products
You can prevent the breakdown of water-based adhesives by opting for flooring that doesn’t need adhesive. Flooring products with a high-friction coating, like Tractionback, can resist up to 85% relative humidity: keeping flooring tiles in place without the need for adhesives, and removing the risk of adhesive breakdown.
4) Choose Flooring that Excels at Moisture Management
Your choice of flooring can help solve the moisture problems on your renovation project. When combined with a high moisture adhesive, flooring tiles with open-cell cushion backing have some of the best moisture management properties in the industry: the structure of the backing allows for ‘moisture wicking’, which means moisture can travel from the sub-floor, through the carpet backing, and evaporate away at the seams. In contrast, other types of carpet tile backings trap the moisture underneath the tile, and can cause the growth of mold and mildew.