Flooring Answers: By the Book – Standards Save Lives
I grew up in three family floor covering stores with a “by The Book” approach to supplying and installing floors the right way that made all three stores successful. I came over to this side of the business and I got involved with “the Book” in several ways. I joined ASTM to write industry standards and have written several manufacturer technical manuals and training programs. When I was a professional inspector commissioned to diagnose failures, “was the project by the book?” was often answered by these documents. A “no” answer could point to the architect that didn’t write the standard into the specifications, the general contractor, dealer, or installer who did not read the specifications, or a defect in the product itself. “The book” is important and specifiers can help by including important specification language in their finish package. Sometimes it’s not enough to say “install flooring according to manufacturer guidelines.” Here are a few quick examples of such language.
Climate controlled spaces, and dry, clean, smooth substrates are critical. ASTM F710 Standard Practice for Preparing Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring is a “go to” that everyone should own. Despite the title, the scope covers most flooring and coatings, “Although carpet tiles, carpet, wood flooring, coatings films and paints are not specifically intended to be included in the category of resilient floor coverings, the procedures included in this practice may be useful for preparing concrete to receive such finishes.” I agree, and here are key excerpts:
Acclimation: “Recommendations are for the installation area and materials…to be maintained at a 65 o – 85o F for 48 hours before, during and for 48 hours after…installation.” Every manufacturer says the same, but flooring is being installed in spaces with no climate control and even no windows!
- Clean The surface of concrete floors shall be free of dust, solvent, paint, wax, oil, grease, residual adhesive, adhesive removers, film-forming curing compounds…” This is important for any glue down flooring, plus patching/leveling compounds. Even the tile industry calls for complete adhesive removal in the TCNA handbook.
- Smooth: “floors shall be flat to within the equivalent of 3/6″ in 10 feet” is the standard for resilient floors, all “floating” floors and others.
- Dry: All concrete slabs to receive resilient floor coverings shall be tested for moisture regardless of age or grade level.” Note the words “shall,” and “regardless.” The carpet industry quotes this same document and there are strict moisture testing standards on the tile and wood side as well. Concrete moisture-related failures cause millions if not billions of dollars in flooring failures and testing is still not standard practice.
Ask a layperson for the most common complaint on carpet installation, and I’ll bet “unraveling seams” is high on the list. “The Books” are Carpet & Rug Institute CRI-104 and CRI-105, described as “the gold standard resource for commercial and residential carpet installation.” CRI says, “For carpet backings that require edge sealing, apply an appropriate seam adhesive covering the thickness of the primary and secondary backing without contaminating face yarns on both edges of the seam. This ensures that all edges trimmed for seaming are protected from edge ravel.” Most carpets require seam sealers so if you select one that does, be sure to specify it. “Buckling carpet” is another common complaint, so CRI specifies methods for “power stretching” carpet over pad (which is often not done), and proper methodology for adhesive installation, among many other points.
Like the carpet question, warpage or gapping of wood floors would be the common problems and National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) pre-installation recommendations cover acclimation of and moisture testing of flooring and the substrate before installation. Equally important are conditions AFTER installation that are often disregarded, leading to many wood floor failures. The space must “stay within a relative humidity range of 30 to 50 percent and a temperature range of 60° to 80° Fahrenheit. (In some climates, the ideal humidity range might be higher or lower).” A lot of building owners don’t know this when they install a new wood floor, and a simple adjustment to the HVAC system can help.
TILE LAYOUT AND LIPPAGE
Earlier this year, my column on tile addressed lippage on rectangular tile. These products are often installed in a brick pattern where the end joints are staggered 50%. That’s not “by the book” according to the TCNA Handbook by Tile Council of North America (TCNA). “For running bond/brick joint and any offset pattern utilizing tiles (square and/or rectangular) where the side being offset is greater than 15,” the offset pattern will be a maximum of 33% unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. To read more, you can find my column on tile here.
There are plenty of other examples of standards that apply to the work we do. I’m not saying you have to own copies of them all and know them by heart. However, the successful people in our industry pay attention to detail, especially when it comes to so many new products coming out regularly. Here at Spartan, we have experts on staff and with our manufacturer partners, so we are here if you need help!
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Christopher Capobianco covers the NY Metro and Connecticut area for Spartan. He’s a fourth-generation floor coverer whose family has been in the business since the 1930s. For 36 of the last 43 years, he’s had roles in retail, distributor, and manufacturer sales. The other seven years were spent in floor covering training and technical support. He also has been a part time columnist for various flooring magazines since 1988 and is a long-time member of the ASTM Committee on resilient flooring. You can reach him here.