Sub-floor moisture can wreak havoc with your flooring. To help you avoid a long, costly installation process, and mitigate the problems of mold, mildew and loose flooring, we’re looking at 4 easy moisture prevention solutions for your next flooring install.
Moisture problems are often caused by fluctuations in the water table; but in the case of some construction and renovation projects, moisture is created as a by-product of curing concrete.
If it’s possible to definitively rule-out other causes of sub-floor moisture (for example, you’re on the third-floor or thirtieth-floor of a building, and unaffected by water table fluctuations), your moisture issues will likely be resolved by waiting for the concrete to dry.
However, if your moisture issues are caused by the water table, or you’re working to one of a growing number of tightly compressed construction deadlines, you won’t be able to spare the time for concrete to fully cure. In these cases, you’ll need to take steps to mitigate moisture problems.
Thankfully, there are 3 other strategies your organization can use to protect against moisture, and make the installation process as quick and efficient as possible.
2) Seal the Floor
Where moisture problems persist, many organizations choose to use sealants to trap moisture in the sub-floor. By applying a chemical coating to the sub-floor, it’s possible to block moisture at the source, and prevent it from penetrating into your flooring product.
Though application can be labor-intensive (often requiring significant time and effort to achieve an effective level of coverage), sealants are arguably the most effective method for preventing moisture from impacting your flooring installation. With the floor sealed, you’re then free to use virtually any type of adhesive or flooring product – offering the greatest design flexibility of any moisture prevention solution.
However, there are trade-offs with sealants. In addition to labor-intensive application, many sealants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are harmful, making some sealants unsuitable for use in hospital, school and office environments, and creating a need to ‘air out’ installation sites.
3) Choose a Moisture-Resistant Adhesive
In an effort to improve sustainability, most manufacturers have switched to water-based flooring adhesives. Though better for the environment, these types of adhesives can sometimes break-down when exposed to high moisture levels. This can cause flooring products to start “curling” or “cupping” - lifting away from the floor, and causing a potential trip-hazard.
Thankfully, there are different grades of water-based adhesive available, each designed to cope with different levels of relative humidity. By measuring the moisture in the floor (usually with an RH probe test), it’s often possible to choose an adhesive designed to withstand the moisture levels in your installation site.
Most adhesives are rated to withstand up to 80% relative humidity, but ‘tougher’ products are designed to withstand up to 85, 90, 95% or higher. Though the costs of these products tends to increase with their relative humidity rating, choosing the right grade of adhesive for your installation site will circumvent the need to seal the floor prior to installation.
4) Look for Adhesive-Less Products
Moisture causes two primary problems: the breakdown of water-based adhesives, and the growth of mold and mildew. If you’re not worried about the development of mold and mildew (if you have antimicrobial technology in your flooring, or you’re using carpet tiles with open cell cushion to wick moisture away), it’s possible to mitigate the problem of adhesive breakdown by using an adhesive-less flooring product.
Many organizations replace water-based adhesives with pressure-sensitive tape. By connecting the seams of each tile with a strip or patch of tape, the entire floor can be connected together. The combined weight of the joined tiles minimizes movement, and helps prevent any curling or cupping in the floor surface.
Though effective, this can be a time-consuming process – requiring the peeling and sticking of hundreds (often thousands) of pieces of tape. Particularly in larger spaces, it can be better to opt for flooring products with a high-friction coating (like TractionBack). This type of technology prevents flooring tiles from slipping or moving, without the need for water-based or tape adhesives.