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Floored: Advance Actions Assure Acceptable Conditions


By Letsfixconstruction.com

More items for Good Technical Practice

The flooring industry is constantly challenged by the same repeating issues: installing too early, wet concrete, non-flat sub-floors, sub-floor surface not prepared, heat not on, windows not in and lack of installer training and certification. In fact, as construction speeds up to meet demands for faster build times and with the threat of an increase in the cost of borrowing money lurking in the economic wings, the provision of acceptable conditions for the flooring contractor is becoming less likely.

This raises the importance of supporting those in the construction team (building owner, construction manager, general contractor, design authority and flooring contractor) with good, timely information that helps all involved plan ahead for the floor covering installation. As one of the last significant trades onsite, the flooring contractor needs certain conditions, that if not planned for in advance, will be next to impossible for the construction manager/general contractor to provide without extra time and/or extra money (two things in short supply at the end of a build or renovation).

KariHoglund / Getty Images

The flooring industry is constantly challenged by the same repeating issues: installing too early, wet concrete, non-flat sub-floors, sub-floor surface not prepared, heat not on, windows not in and lack of installer training and certification.

Change is possible, but requires a few things to be understood and acted on in advance.

There is a generic Canadian floor covering industry reference manual available for specification, which supports all construction parties, and when included in the Division 09 section of the construction documents, means correct flooring processes and supportive language is available to guide the floor installation and all the points listed below.

  • Concrete is not dry just because it is cured. Concrete, on average, takes one month per inch of thickness to dry enough to receive most flooring products. Note: Concrete poured into a steel pan takes significantly longer.
  • According to national flooring standards, slab moisture testing should be conducted by a third-party testing agency according to ASTM F-1869 (calcium chloride) or F-2170 (in-situ relative humidity). Testing is not the scope of the flooring contractor, who has no way of controlling the test field from spoilage by other trades. The flooring contractor is responsible for verifying proper testing has been done prior to installation. According to national standards, installation is deemed to be acceptance of surfaces and conditions.
  • Alkalinity testing must be conducted at the same time as concrete moisture testing. High alkalinity present in all new poured concrete re-emulsifies flooring adhesive, causing bond failure.
  • Heat needs to be on well in advance. Concrete slab temperature needs to be brought up to above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) for most adhesives and above 50 degrees for many floor-leveling products. For in-floor hot water heating systems, the surface for engineered wood flooring should not exceed 82 degrees.
  • Ambient (room) relative humidity in the installation area must be maintained at levels recommended by the product manufacturer, usually between 35 and 55 percent.
  • Flatness of the sub-floor (waviness), is generally required by manufacturers to meet 3/16 of an inch over 10 feet (depending on the floor covering specified and the manufacturer) using a 10-foot straight edge. Most concrete slabs will curl and/or deflect (sag) after pouring beyond this measurement and require a cementitious topping to be added. A cash allowance or unit price for this work must be included in the budget. Additional levelling or topping work is not the responsibility of the floor-covering contractor. This work however, can be taken on as a billable extra. (Editor’s note:1/8 of an inch in 10 feet is the standard in the U.S.)
  • FF/FL requirements provided by Division 03 Concrete, according to ASTM 1155, do not guarantee an acceptable surface for the flooring contractor because this measurement system stops 2 feet from walls and columns and does not measure through doorways. Inspection of the sub-floor must take place well in advance of floor-covering installation. Additional hydraulic cement underlayment (toppings) added to the parent concrete are not in the scope of work for the flooring contractor. The flooring contractor can however bid on this work as a billable extra.
  • Sub-floor surfaces should be prepared by the construction manager/general contractor. Curing agents, paints, oils, waxes and old adhesives should be removed prior to the flooring contractor arriving on site. This also is not in the flooring contractors scope of work but can be undertaken as a billable extra.
  • Non-porous concrete surfaces should be tested for water absorbency according to ASTM F-3191. A very simple and effective test.
  • A concrete surface profile of 2 for resilient flooring and 3 for hydraulic cementitious underlayment should be provided by the construction manager/general contractor to the flooring contractor. Equipment for profiling concrete surfaces is readily available. Contact the International Concrete Repair Institute for information about and samples that show concrete profiles.
  • Bond (Pull) tests are an important, simple and effective way to confirm the overall floor system (adhesive, self-leveler, floor covering) is bonded together and to the parent concrete.
  • There are flooring contractors out there who do invest in training and certifying their installers through recognized programs such as Red Seal, INSTALL and Product Manufacturer Certification. More work needs to be done to raise the value of certification and get these skilled mechanics the recognition they deserve. This is not to say there aren’t plenty of talented installers out there with no certification. The problem is: How do other construction parties recognize skilled installers without certification? Solution: The NFCA specification requires that installers have recognized certification. This over time will increase its value.
strixcode / Getty Images

One final layer of security: Third-party inspection services available for the commercial flooring sector, referred to as the Quality Assurance Program, ensure specifications are read and that the above list of items is addressed in advance and that ultimately warranties are left in place.

These are some of the items that are commonly overlooked until the floor installer arrives on site with a crew eager to get the job installed. No flooring contractor wants to delay their customer, and so the tendency to say yes to installing too early is a common occurrence.

Conversation, planning ahead and the use of available industry standards has been lacking in flooring. Yes, we are just a finish trade, but unfortunately we are the finishing trade that brings lasting and deeply problematic issues for all involved when problems arise. Brands are damaged, business relationships broken and good companies end up in court.

One final layer of security: Third-party inspection services available for the commercial flooring sector, referred to as the Quality Assurance Program, ensure specifications are read and that the above list of items is addressed in advance and that ultimately warranties are left in place. Once engaged, QAP assigns a certified flooring inspector who will review the project and issue a series of reports at critical stages of the installation. A flooring-specific preinstallation site meeting is held, installer qualifications checked, specified products checked and that acceptable conditions required for a successful installation are provided to the flooring contractor.

This is how we secure positive change for all construction parties involved in a floor covering installation.

About the Author

Chris Maskell is the President of The National Floor Covering Association in Canada, which promotes industry standards for resilient, carpet, hardwood, laminate, cork and bamboo floor covering installations. Their mission is to engage professionals in the construction industry through education and compliance to national floor covering installation standards which provide a quality assurance platform to ensure successful installations on commercial projects.



Let's Fix Construction is written by a collective group of construction professionals involved in letsfixconstruction.com, an online impartial platform to provide forward-thinking solutions to many longstanding issues that have plagued construction. Organizers and contributors seek to better the industry by sharing knowledge, while creating open and positive communication and collaboration. Many of the posts have appeared first on letsfixconstruction.com and are republished on Durability + Design with permission. Author information is available at the bottom of each blog entry.



Tagged categories: Concrete; concrete; Concrete defects; Concrete floor coatings; Concrete slab waterproofing

Comment from john lienert, (10/30/2018, 7:36 AM)

Extremely helpful......Thank-You very much

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