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How One Library Saved $130,000 in Flooring Installation Costs – and Finally Beat Subfloor Moisture

Posted on Jun 20, 2017, by Michael Eckert

Subfloor moisture is the unseen enemy of flooring projects worldwide: high moisture levels can cause extensive delays, necessitate costly repairs, and even lead to total flooring failure. Sno-Isle Libraries experienced first-hand the problems subfloor moisture can cause, with one of their sites plagued by recurring moisture issues year after year.

The Problems of High Subfloor Moisture

There are two main causes of high subfloor moisture levels: inadequately cured concrete during construction, and fluctuations in the water table.

For Snohomish Library, high subfloor moisture levels have wreaked havoc with their flooring for years, necessitating repairs and full re-installations after multiple flooring failures.

For the first installation, cork flooring and PVC-based modular carpet were used. The Washington area has high levels of water vapor, so a vapor barrier was installed beneath the concrete slab to protect the new flooring.

Unfortunately, this didn't solve the moisture issue, and it wasn't long before problems arose. High levels of subfloor moisture led to adhesive breakdown, causing the floor to buckle and peel after only a few years. By this point, the flooring was out of warranty, and Snohomish Library had to foot the repair bill.

This time, a resin vapor barrier was installed on top of the concrete subfloor. This was a time-consuming project: the library was closed for eight weeks while the barrier was installed across the 23,000 square-foot site. While this resin vapor barrier was warranted for a decade, it didn't last the full 10 years, and the Snohomish team had to find another solution to their moisture problems.

How Milliken Flooring Facilitated a $130,000 Cost Saving - and Solved the Moisture Problem

Most moisture mitigation products work by attempting to block moisture from interfering with flooring products and adhesives - rather than dealing with the root cause of the problem.

Milliken's modular carpet, with open-cell cushion backing, addresses the initial cause of subfloor moisture issues. The open-cell construction of the carpet backing allows moisture vapor to travel through the concrete slab. It passes through the carpet and evaporates away at the seams of the carpet tiles, without ever turning into damaging liquid water - and preventing the conditions that lead to moisture-related flooring failure.

Installing Milliken modular carpet meant:

  • There was no need to carry out moisture testing, as the carpet could withstand any level of relative humidity when properly installed.
  • Expensive moisture mitigation solutions were unnecessary.
  • They could save time and money associated with extensive floor prep and moisture mitigation.
  • The flooring was fully warranted against moisture issues - meaning Snohomish Library was protected against the risk of flooring failure.

How the Savings Add Up

For Snohomish Library, the cost savings from installing Milliken carpet totalled around $130,000:

  • An estimated $110,000 was saved on labor and materials required for traditional floor preparation and moisture mitigation processes.
  • An additional $20,000 was saved on furniture relocation and storage, which would have been required if the library had required a new resin vapor barrier.

Can You Save with Milliken's Site Related Solutions?

It's easy to assume that the same floor preparation is required for every project and every product. You're quoted a single cost for floor prep and installation - plus extra for moisture mitigation - because that's how it's always been done.

However, in some cases, the most costly, complex and time-consuming aspects of floor preparation aren't necessary. If you select flooring that deals with the root cause of moisture problems, you won't need to carry out moisture testing, or apply floor sealants or other moisture mitigation treatments, so your total costs for floor prep and installation will be much lower.

This is illustrated by the chart below, comparing the costs of three different flooring types over a 20-year cycle, including installation, floor prep, moisture mitigation and replacement:

Milliken - SRS Cost Savings.png


“Knowing that Milliken flooring solutions allowed me to save my company more than $130,000 in installation preparation is a fantastic feeling: like you’re a real value and asset to your organization; that you’re fulfilling your job responsibilities in meaningful ways.”

- Brian Rush, Facilities Manager, Sno-Isle Libraries

how to prevent the 11 root causes of flooring failure

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert