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Commercial Flooring News

Flooring Contractor Becomes The Fall Guy

John Alcock on problems with LVTs laid over asphalt subfloors

I SOMETIMES wonder if the lives of flooring contractors are fated to be complex – dealing with various parties to try and balance the best product quality and price margins, whilst also meeting the varying, and often high, demands of clients.

Then you always have the ‘joker in the pack’ – jobs that seem to go wrong for no good reason and demand plenty of extra work to put things right. Mastering all these elements successfully can often prove to be a balance that’s difficult to strike, and as I’ve talked about a number of times in the past, the poor contractor is sometimes held responsible for events outside his control.

I was reminded of this the other week when I received a call regarding a kitchen flooring job.
Luxury vinyl tiles had been installed in the kitchen of a house, which had been fairly unusual for its age in so far as that the subfloor was laid of asphalt. Taking this into account the contractor had decided to use a latex smoothing compound.

All seemed to have gone well until a few weeks after completing the job. It seems cracks had started to appear, not in the tiles themselves but showing through them and proving pretty unsightly.

Understandably the client wasn’t happy with how this was making his new kitchen floor look.
Investigating things further, the contractor first thought that the asphalt might be to blame, but tests proved that it was a decent 25mm depth and met the demands of the job.

Was it the LVT’s themselves causing the problem? Were they too strong for the asphalt subfloor? We know that LVT’s are prone to expand and contract, especially under sunlight, and it could be that this was causing the problems alongside the combination of flexible subfloor and smoothing compound below.

Now, I know that a number of LVT manufacturers would argue that a water based smoothing compound is the better choice for use with their products, and to be fair you can see their point – it’s stronger than latex and so more likely to bear the movement of the tiles on top.

However, the other consideration is whether asphalt affords too much movement to LVT’s, and whether the two should even be used together in the first place. Others might suggest that a sand- based subfloor would be the better option for use with LVT’s. This would certainly help to avoid problematic movement by providing a more rigid layer beneath.

In any case, much like the smoothing compound in question, the contractor has been left in the middle of a tough situation. He didn’t appear to have done anything wrong, but the poor client was left with a kitchen floor that offered anything but the luxury effect he was hoping for.

How would the contractor decide who or what was at fault for the problem, and would he have to face the expensive job of relaying the floor?

This isn’t the first case of its kind that I’ve come across, so I would be interested in hearing if anyone else has had similar issues. If you have, please let me know your thoughts. It would help making sure we have the right advice to avoid it happening in future.

Should we look into some more detailed guidelines for situations such as these? It would certainly help to reduce those times when contractors are the fall guys in the middle of a situation beyond their control.

John Alcock is technical specifications manager at Bostik
T: 01785 272727

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at