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North American commercial property owners spend an estimated $2.4 billion dollars on remediation of structures and floor coverings as a result of moisture-related flooring failures yearly. An additional $1.2 billion dollars is spent on topical moisture treatments, of varying effectiveness, in an effort to address moisture issues prior to the floor covering is installed.
Why is Moisture Damaging to your Floors?
A finished floor can be no better than the sub-floor underneath. When floors fail, it is in many cases not the fault of the product that is on top, but rather the concrete slab the floor is installed over. High levels of pH and moisture vapor emissions in a concrete substrate can adversely affect the adhesive bond of a new floor covering, which may ultimately result in:
- Adhesive bond failure
- Mold and mildew growth
- Product delamination, curling or bubbling
How Does Moisture Damage Happen?
There are multiple ways that your flooring can be exposed to moisture including:
- Inadequate water drain-off from the building
- Groundwater seeping in underneath your concrete
- Rain or rewetting of the slab before the building is enclosed
- Improperly installed vapor barrier
- Insufficient drying time after the concrete slab was poured
- No moisture testing was performed, or it was done incorrectly
- The conditions in which the moisture test was initially done changed over time
When considering whether or not your commercial flooring may be exposed to moisture damage there are a few areas of concern:
In new construction projects, it is important to begin taking preventative measures to avoid future moisture damage. One thing to consider is “water of convenience.” This is what makes up the largest portion of water that must leave the slab during the drying process.
Slabs with optimal water to cement ratio have lower water of convenience. The optimal water to cement ratio is between .45 and .50 and requires about one month of drying time per inch.
Slabs with a higher water to cement ratios have more water of convenience. This can substantially increase the time it takes the concrete to dry and increase the likelihood of future moisture damage. Concrete used for suspended slabs often has a high water to cement ratio to make it more liquid and easier to pump.
It is important to remember that bonded existing flooring does not mean a lack of moisture. Existing concrete slabs can be exposed to moisture damage if they:
- Lack an effective moisture vapor retarder/barrier
- Have a degraded/broken down/torn barrier
- Have high groundwater/irrigation/drainage
- Have high water to cement ratio creating continuously interconnected pores
Testing for Moisture Damage
Part of the installation process in new floors requires testing your slab for moisture content and vapor emissions prior to the installation of any products. When communicating with the flooring contractor it is important to confirm that 3rd party testing will be included in the process.
If you are concerned about moisture damage in your existing floors some tell-tale signs include:
- Peaking seams
- Cracked or broken tile and adhesive
Preventing Moisture Damage
Fortunately, moisture damage can be prevented. Here are some tips to make sure your next install runs smoothly:
- Use concrete that has optimal water to cement ratio
- Use a proper vapor retarder
- Use a bonding agent from new to existing concrete
- Allow required drying times
Floors Inc. provides solutions for all phases of your commercial flooring project. We are proud to offer high-quality service and thousands of the most up-to-date products and installation techniques. Our trained technicians know how to work with concrete and how to bring it into industry tolerances to ensure your finished floors will not fail because of moisture issues.
Need immediate support? Give us a call at 402.423.0218 (Lincoln, Nebraska) or 402.597.0611 (Omaha, Nebraska) to speak with one of our representatives today.