Flooring Project Considerations For New Construction
Part 2 of a 2-part article explaining strategies for successful flooring projects.
Flooring projects on new construction can be equally tricky, so let’s look at a new project — and many factors here will also apply to an existing site. First, the space must have an operating HVAC system before and after flooring is installed.
New concrete must be tested for moisture and alkalinity prior to flooring installation. This must be done with the HVAC system operating or the test results are meaningless, and the tests must be done by an ICRI (International Concrete Repair Institute) certified technician. The substrate must be free of foreign substances and the concrete cured for — a good rule of thumb — 30 days per inch without having been affected by moisture of any kind. If the concrete gets wet, you have to start from the beginning again for drying. On grade or below, concrete must also have a 15 mil vapor retarder placed directly beneath and wrapped up the sides of the slab so no water can infiltrate laterally into the slab. There should be drainage for moisture or water away from the building, grading should pitch away from the building, French drains should be installed if necessary, and any breaches in the concrete from work after any of this has been done should be repaired to the slab’s original condition. This is where a failure will occur if the slab is not put back the way it was.
Flooring must have time to acclimate to the space (i.e., warm up and relax). Often, by the time a project gets to flooring installation, the schedule has shortened or the project’s behind. The time given the installers is reduced and everything is in rush mode. It’s how problems occur.
It is essential to get the right contractor. Unqualified installers will create more problems than you can imagine. It can’t be stressed enough that, for commercial flooring projects to be successful, a professional contractor with experienced installers should be used. Contractors like this will help you get the project done on time and on budget and guide you on what’s needed for successful installation. They can also help you select the right material. They work with the products daily, and know what works well where, and how it should be installed. No matter how fast you want a project done, write the schedule with enough time to get the flooring installed right without the installer having to work under combat conditions.
In one recent high-profile project, the end user complained about damage and appearance change to a very expensive woven carpet, and wanted to blame the flooring contractor. The real problem was that scissor lifts were being driven on the carpet directly behind the carpet installers. Photos showed an installer on his hands and knees working on the carpet and a 2,000-pound scissor lift on his heels with electricians working above. And not just one lift; there were eight.
Understand that today’s flooring materials don’t always do what you think they should. The hottest products today are luxury vinyl tile and plank. The market is being flooded with them, and some are unsuited to a commercial environment. Those that aren’t of the highest quality may shrink, curl, or cup. Buy from a reputable domestic manufacturer with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. Glueless or click-type installations, nice as they may sound, may be unsuited to the motion and weight of high traffic.
Wood is another product racing into the commercial market. Remember, wood can be affected by unstable environments and heavy traffic; it is natural for wood to expand and contract, crack, distort, indent, etc.
The biggest problem in the industry, based on 40 years of work, is the wrong product installed in the wrong place. Next would be expecting a flooring installation or project not to fail when so many factors along the way made that result inevitable. Guidelines from the flooring manufacturer and the industry are too often ignored, and then people are surprised when a failure occurs.
Lewis G. Migliore is head of LGM and Associates, which offers technical flooring services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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