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How to Choose Carpet Tiles to Beat Sub-Floor Moisture Problems

Posted on Nov 7, 2016, by Mike Brown

Moisture can cause huge, expensive problems for new construction and renovation projects alike. As well as increasing the risk of mold and mildew growth throughout your facility, sub-floor moisture can wreak havoc with your flooring installation. In worst case scenarios, it can necessitate a full reinstallation – at your expense.

Today I’m sharing how sub-floor moisture can ruin your flooring projects, and how to choose carpet tiles to prevent moisture from ever becoming a problem.

What Causes Sub-Floor Moisture Problems?

It may seem obvious, but the source of sub-floor moisture problems is water. Both in new builds and renovation projects, moisture problems arise when water vapor condenses into its liquid form. Water vapor (either released by curing concrete, or from fluctuations in the water table) will travel through the slab until it evaporates or reaches an impermeable barrier, which traps it in place.

It then only requires the temperature to fluctuate by a fraction of a degree for the vapor to condense to liquid water, which breaks down water-based flooring adhesives and, more worryingly, provides the perfect environment for mold and mildew to develop.

Free Tip Sheet: 7 Ways to Prevent Mold & Mildew in Your Facility

3 Traditional Moisture Management Methods

There are a selection of methods that construction and renovation teams have traditionally used to assess sub-floor moisture levels, and manage moisture problems during flooring installation:

  • Wait for concrete to dry – for new construction projects, curing concrete is the main source of sub-floor moisture. Therefore, waiting for concrete to dry eliminates this moisture. However, it takes months for concrete to cure fully, which in most construction projects, simply isn’t viable.
  • Measure sub-floor moisture levels – different adhesives and flooring products are suitable for different humidity levels. However, moisture levels can – and do – fluctuate over time, so your sub-floor moisture measurements may give you a false sense of security.
  • Seal the floor (either chemically or via membranes) – this creates an impermeable barrier between the sub-floor and your flooring, which means moisture cannot penetrate into your flooring. However, this doesn’t solve the sub-floor moisture problems, but simply traps moisture underneath.

How to Beat Sub-Floor Moisture Problems – Not Just Minimize Their Impact

The three methods above all share an inherent flaw: they don’t solve the problem of sub-floor moisture; instead they force you to adapt your installation plans to manage the risk of moisture problems.

However, it is possible to beat sub-floor moisture problems altogether, by choosing carpet tiles that are specifically designed to excel in high-moisture situations. There are two main criteria your carpet tiles need to meet, to beat sub-floor moisture problems:

1) Permeable Backing

Most flooring tiles have impermeable backings, which trap water vapor between the tile and the sub-floor. However, if you choose carpet tiles with open cell cushion backing, this is permeable and allows water vapor to travel through the carpet tile backing in gas form, and evaporate away at the carpet tile seams. This removes the water vapor, and with it the risk of liquid water forming on top of your sub-floor.

2) Moisture Resistant Adhesive

Choosing carpet tiles with a permeable backing is the single most important thing you can do to choose flooring that beats sub-floor moisture problems. However, certain situations can require use of an adhesive that is specifically designed for use in high-moisture situations, to ensure you get a good bond between the subfloor and your carpet tiles.

The Solution to Sub-Floor Moisture Problems: Remove the Moisture

The problem with traditional moisture management methods is that they manage the symptoms, rather than dealing with the root cause. Choosing carpet tiles with open cell cushion backing removes water vapor from the sub-floor, preventing water from forming in the first place. No moisture, no moisture problem.

how to prevent the 11 root causes of flooring failure

Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown