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How to Beat Moisture Problems on New Construction Projects

Posted on Jun 22, 2016, by Michael Eckert

Moisture can be a huge problem for new construction projects. Waiting for newly-poured concrete to cure can take a long time and put you way behind your construction schedule. But rushing to complete the project can cause even bigger problems if you install your flooring too early.

Today I’m looking at how you can prevent moisture-related problems from wreaking havoc on your new construction projects.

What Causes Moisture Problems in New Construction Projects?

Moisture issues have been increasing rapidly over the last ten years, driven by changes to construction processes and sustainability concerns. The biggest causes of moisture problems are:

  • Ever-tightening construction deadlines, so it’s not always possible to allow adequate curing time before the flooring is laid. Industry recommendations state you should allow 28 days initial curing time, and then 30 days per inch – which when your typical concrete subfloor is 4 inches thick, can mean 4 months additional curing time!
  • Increase of additives in concrete to lower costs and speed up construction. These can react with your flooring and cause floor compatibility problems.
  • The flooring industry’s shift towards using water-based adhesives rather than solvent-based. These are more environmentally friendly than solvent-based adhesives, but are liable to break down and dissolve in high-moisture situations.

How to Prevent Moisture Problems in Your New Build

1) Wait

In an ideal world you would be able to wait until your newly poured concrete has had adequate curing time.

Unfortunately, with tight construction schedules, every wasted minute is a major problem. So unless you’ve got a big budget and can afford to add several months onto your construction project, waiting for your moisture problems to resolve themselves won’t be viable, and you might want to consider an alternative solution.

2) Seal the Subfloor

By applying a chemical coating (usually 2-part epoxy sealers) to the sub-floor, it’s possible to trap moisture underneath to prevent it from penetrating into your flooring. Unfortunately, sealing the floor doesn’t actually get rid of the moisture problem, it just keeps it contained.

However, by sealing the floor you’re then free to use virtually any type of adhesive or flooring product, offering the greatest design flexibility of any moisture prevention solution.

3) Choose the Right Adhesive for the Job

As concrete cures it continues to release moisture. If you’ve laid your flooring with a water-based adhesive that can’t handle higher-than-normal relative humidity levels, you’ll find that your adhesive will dissolve and your tiles will come loose, leading to a lengthy and expensive reinstallation process. Fortunately, there are other options:

  • Dry adhesives – these use a system much like double-sided sticky tape, and involves peeling and sticking hundreds of pieces of tape. You won’t have a problem with adhesive breakdown, but you will find this option majorly slows down your flooring install.
  • Adhesive-Free installations – some flooring products can be installed without the need for wet or dry adhesives. Products like TractionBack use a high-friction coating to keep tiles in place, and can be resist relative humidity levels of up to 85% out-of-the-box, or higher if used in conjunction with high-moisture adhesives.
  • Specialized High-Moisture Adhesives – regular flooring adhesives can resist relative humidity levels of up to 80%. But for seriously high moisture areas, you can get adhesives specifically designed for high-moisture situations. These products are designed to withstand 85, 90, 95% relative humidity – and in some cases, even higher.

4) Choose Flooring with Open-Cell Cushion Backing

By combining open-cell cushion backing with high moisture adhesive, you can mitigate many of the risks associated with the high levels of moisture released by newly-laid concrete.

The structure of open-cell cushion backing allows for ‘moisture wicking’, making it possible for moisture from the concrete sub-floor to travel through the carpet backing and evaporate away at the seams of the tiles. In contrast, hard-backed carpet tiles trap moisture between the tile and the sub-floor. Without the ability to evaporate, this can cause mold and mildew, or problems with adhesives.

how to prevent the 11 root causes of flooring failure

Topics: Installation

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert