Moisture is the number one cause of failed flooring installations. Photos courtesy of Laticrete
In 2020, we embraced the “stay at home” culture quite well, and while we didn’t even realize it, this mantra set the stage for a high demand of renovation projects in 2021. As we all spend more time in our homes, the itch to renovate our spaces to be more functional and beautiful continues to escalate. Using tile in a home renovation project has many benefits. It can enhance your home’s vibe and aesthetic, is durable, easy-to-clean, maintain and can even boost your home’s resale value.
With this current demand, tile installers should be educated about what a successful tile installation looks like to ensure the process goes smoothly, which includes being informed of common flooring issues that may arise and how to mitigate them.
To ensure a smooth installation process, installers should make sure they have a plan and are using the most current products that are best suited for the installation and jobsite conditions. Knowing the type of tile installation is an essential first step in a successful project completion, in addition to knowing the capabilities of each surface preparation material prior to application such as substrate compatibility, working times, curing times and minimum and maximum thicknesses.
Installers should also make it a priority to stay up to date with industry recommended installation practices and requirements. The construction industry’s focus on sustainability shows no signs of stopping any time soon, and therefore, the tile and flooring industry will continue to produce innovative multifunctional products that focus on the environment, health, efficiency, ease of install, and most importantly, promote the green and sustainable building movement.
Considering the substrate is an important step that can prevent hours of corrective work and costly repairs later on. If the substrate is in poor condition, whether that be not dry enough or properly cleaned before using leveling products, the finished flooring performance will be compromised. To achieve an effective tile installation experience, the substrate must first be perfectly flat. A quality self-leveling underlayment is key, as well as patches and skimcoats, which are intended to repair minor imperfections to the substrate prior to installing the floor covering. Once the self-leveling underlayment, patch or skimcoat is installed, it is critical to test that the surface is as level as possible before installing the floor covering.
The need for moisture protection and waterproofing has become more significant over the years as savvy construction professionals continue to recognize the long-term benefits offered by relatively inexpensive prevention mechanisms, namely using moisture vapor emission control products.
Floors and walls shift over time, causing cracks beneath the finished tile. When using self-leveling products for subfloor prep, it is important that installers also address moving joints and cracks in the substrate. If not addressed and repaired, moving joints and cracks can transfer up and cause cracks in the finish. To account for natural building movement against restraining surfaces, Laticrete also recommends that installers evaluate and isolate the area around walls, columns, penetrations and other building elements where movement may be anticipated. Crack isolation and anti-fracture membranes can be applied prior to the installation of tile to prevent this from being a costly issue down the line.
Moisture is the number one cause of failed flooring installations. The need for moisture protection and waterproofing has become more significant over the years as savvy construction professionals continue to recognize the long-term benefits offered by relatively inexpensive prevention mechanisms, namely using moisture vapor emission control products.
With an increase in moisture-sensitive flooring materials such as luxury vinyl tile, vinyl composition tile and carpet tiles, it is imperative to address any moisture concerns early on in the construction process. Addressing moisture vapor emissions should be a key component of proper surface preparation across the entire industry, and if not addressed, could result in additional costs and repair time for flooring installation failures in the long run.
To determine exactly how much moisture is present on a jobsite and decide on the best tile and flooring installation materials, there are various approaches and testing methods that can be used to assess moisture conditions such as using relative humidity meters in accordance with ASTM F2170. It is important to note that, although testing is essential, the results are purely a snapshot in time as to what the current situation looks like and cannot guarantee moisture will not become a problem in the future.
A moisture vapor barrier product such as NXT Vapor Reduction Coating or the new Laticrete Vapor Ban Primer ER is highly advised for use before placing underlayments or finished flooring in these conditions.
Contractors should consult the manufacturers about the products they wish to use prior to installation. This step will easily save contractors headaches later down the road when costly repairs may ensue from improper choices. Using one manufacturer as a single source of materials for a complete system can also be a great advantage and offer piece of mind to ensure product compatibility and full systems warranties.
Arthur Mintie serves as senior director of technical services at Laticrete International, Inc. He is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Laticrete technical services department, which provides technical assistance to specifiers and construction professionals, and is actively involved in global education and training for tile and construction industry materials and methods. He also serves on various tile and stone standards development and technical committees, including ANSI, ISO, TCNA, NTCA and NSI. He authors industry articles and technical manuals and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
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