When you’re working on a renovation, project budgets are always going to be tight. So today I’m revealing the hidden cost of flooring installation that could help you save thousands of dollars on your next project.
Floor Preparation: The Hidden Flooring Installation Cost
In a renovation project, once your existing flooring has been removed, traces of adhesive are left behind on the sub-floor. These can react with the new adhesive or new flooring and cause a problem called plasticizer migration. This can cause floor tiles to discolor, soften or slide around, and will mean flooring either needs to be re-laid or replaced. You need to mitigate this risk, and the most common way of addressing the risk of floor compatibility problems is to prepare the sub-floor before your new flooring is laid.
There are two common methods for floor preparation:
- Encapsulation: a non-reactive compound is applied to your entire floor area, over the traces of adhesive, to form a barrier between it and your new adhesive and flooring, and prevent flooring compatibility problems. However, many manufacturers of encapsulation compounds don’t warranty their product if it’s applied over existing adhesive, meaning that if you encounter problems like plasticizer migration, you won’t be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
- Removal of existing adhesive: this is done by grinding away the traces of adhesive from the subfloor using a heavy-duty sander. This can be very time-consuming, especially in a large space, and will create a lot of noise, mess and dust which will be extremely disrupting, especially if the space is still in use.
These processes cost around $3 per square yard, and on an average-sized project of 1,000 square yards, will total around $3,000.
Floor preparation is often believed to be an unavoidable part of the flooring installation process, and as such, these costs will automatically be factored in to the majority of flooring installation quotes. But if you make careful flooring choices you can avoid expensive and time-consuming floor preparation, and save a significant amount in the process.
How to Avoid Costly Floor Preparation
Floor preparation is perceived as being the best way to eradicate flooring compatibility issues like plasticizer migration, which occurs when PVC (found in some tile backings or adhesives) reacts with traces of adhesives left behind from a previous installation.
To combat this, some manufacturers are removing PVC from their tiles and using different types of backing instead:
Thermoplastic (usually Polyolefin) backings don’t contain any PVC, which means there’s no risk of plasticizer migration.
However, thermoplastic backings lack the natural ‘cupping’ shape which helps PVC and cushion tiles stick to the floor. In comparison, flooring tiles with thermoplastic backings have a tendency to curl up at the edges rather than lying flat, which means it’s essential to get a perfect bond with the adhesive, with no bumps or unevenness.
This means you still need to prepare the sub-floor by grinding away or encapsulating the residual adhesive, which means you’re still facing a floor prep cost of $3 per square yard.
Open-cell cushion backing also doesn’t contain PVC, mitigating the risk of plasticizer migration. This means Milliken is the only manufacturer able to warrant their carpet tiles to be non-reactive, meaning that you won’t experience any other floor compatibility problems.
With a naturally cupping shape and additional thickness over thermoplastic backing, this means you don’t have to worry about having a perfectly smooth sub-floor in order to get a good bond with your adhesives. So you get all of the benefits of a PVC-free installation, with none of the risks associated with thermoplastics, and no need for expensive floor prep.
It is even possible to combine cushion-backed flooring with a high-friction coating like TractionBack, which keeps flooring tiles in place without the need for adhesives. This can further reduce your install costs, by speeding up the install and removing the need to purchase adhesives.
In real terms, cushion-backed flooring can save you $3 per square yard in floor preparation costs, which adds up to a huge $3,000 saving on a 1,000 square yard project.