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Commercial Flooring News

The Basics Of Surface Preparation In A Nutshell

Stephen Boulton, technical service manager, F Ball and Co, explains key aspects of
surface preparation:  
THE long-term appearance and durability of a new floorcovering is initially determined during the planning and subfloor preparation stage of a flooring installation. Measuring and managing moisture, and installing a waterproof surface membrane where necessary, is crucial to ensuring the longevity of a new floor.
At the start of any new floor installation or refurbishment, we recommend that contractors make time to conduct a thorough moisture measurement test, as well as an analysis of the requirements of the setting and subfloor.
In our experience, excess subfloor moisture is the number one reason for flooring failures. To avoid costly and time consuming remedial work, this stage of the floor preparation process should not be overlooked.
The essentials: Whatever the setting, whether a contractor is refurbishing a heritage property or laying the first floorcovering in a new building, the subfloor must be clean, dry and free from contaminants before subfloor preparation products can be used.
Unless contractors are using a smoothing underlayment designed for application directly over adhesive residues, these contaminants must be removed by mechanical means. After this point a moisture management test should be carried out, ideally with a calibrated digital hygrometer.
A visual inspection of the subfloor is not adequate to detect the presence of moisture. When relative humidity (RH) levels of 75% are above are detected, (or 65% when working with wood floorcoverings) or when there is no existing structural damp proof membrane, we recommend the installation of a waterproof surface membrane, which will impede the passage of rising damp or residual moisture by chemically bonding with the subfloor.
Moisture solutions: Sometimes contractors need to install flooring in environments where damp is particularly likely to appear, or areas where high levels of moisture are already present. In instances like these, recent developments in waterproof surface membranes have led to the development of products that are effective up to RH levels of 98%, or up to 90% directly over underfloor heating systems.
These new solvent-free epoxy resin systems offer the maximum protection and an impenetrable barrier against moisture in just one coat, with an accelerated formulation that cures in approximately three hours.
On a new build project, it will take approximately one day per millimetre, up to a thickness of 50mm, for a new concrete base to dry out naturally.
When working on flooring installations on new build projects, the use of a waterproof surface membrane can considerably speed up the process, allowing flooring products to be used without waiting for the base to dry out.
For situations like these we recommends the use of a new water-based moisture management system that is effective up to RH levels of 95%.
Ready-mixed waterproof surface membrane systems that come in a pre-prepared bottle are particularly efficient because contractors can keep a bottle on their van and reseal between jobs for future use, reducing product wastage.
Water-based systems such as these can create an impenetrable barrier against damp in less than two hours, making them ideal for fast track flooring installations.
Achieving a high performance finish: Careful planning and thorough subfloor preparation is vital to the lasting performance of a flooring installation. Investigating and managing damp should be prioritised to ensure the long-term integrity of a floorcovering, because untreated damp can have costly consequences.
Recent developments in product technology mean that there are now convenient solutions to manage moisture in any setting.
The type of floor and environmental condition should also be taken into account when choosing a smoothing underlayment and adhesive, in order to create a lasting, high quality finish.

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