To ensure that any flooring installation is a success, various factors need to be taken into consideration.
Flooring adhesives play a paramount role in the success of any installation, regardless of floor type. Many would contend that subfloor condition and preparation are critical to the outcome of a flooring installation and, without negating this contention, there are also several other unique elements that need to be adhered to or taken note of that will lead to a beautiful, fully functional flooring installation.
Flooring adhesive refers to a variety of solutions and products used to install a floorcovering material to a subfloor. Different types of adhesives are used for different types of flooring, and it is strongly advised to always follow the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.
Here are a few tips to consider when using an adhesive for an effective installation:
1. Clean surface
Before even contemplating anything else, it is critical to ensure that the surface to be worked on is clean and free of any dust or debris. However, this doesn’t stop at the first inspection. Certain floor types will require surfaces that are thoroughly cleaned during adhesive installation to ensure that they perform to expectation. Urethane adhesives have to be cleaned while they are still wet because, once they have cured, they become extremely difficult to remove. It is also advised to avoid removing urethane adhesives from tools or floors with water, as it can cause the glue to cure more rapidly.
2. Moisture check
This cannot be emphasised enough – before taking any other action, be sure to check the levels of moisture in the subfloor as this will play a key role in ascertaining whether an adhesive application and installation will succeed or fail. A quick moisture reading test will indicate whether it is safe to go ahead with an installation. The floor must be dry to the touch and have no standing water. Controlling moisture from beneath is relatively simple when using the correct products and techniques; however, moisture from the top such as spills and leaks are more difficult to control.
3. Subfloor inspection
The flooring installation will be only as good as the surface to which the installation is to be adhered. Certain adhesives will bond better with different types of subflooring. Damp, below-grade concrete will require different bonding material than flooring installed on dry, at-grade concrete. Once again, paint, drywall overspray and curing concrete subfloors are all factors that need to be taken into consideration as these all play a role in moisture levels and the amounts present.
Interior installations are not usually subjected to substantial weathering and water damage; however, exterior environments may require an adhesive that can withstand the stress of rain, snow, frost and extreme cold. Climate also plays a role as some adhesives will function better in warm or humid areas, while others are formulated to withstand freezing temperatures. It is also advised to acclimatise adhesives to certain temperatures and humidity levels for at least 48 hours before and after installation. The same is suggested before any moisture testing is done to prevent unreliable readings. For example, adhesive applied to a cold concrete slab won’t adhere efficiently and will take longer to tack up and dry. So too, glue may be irreversibly destabilised if applied to a cold floor.
When properly handled, a trowel will place the correct amount of adhesive onto the subfloor, and in turn create the optimal bond strength. It should be noted that trowels wear out, especially when spreading adhesive on a concrete subfloor. For this reason, trowels need to be replaced or re-notched regularly.
6. Follow directions
Product descriptions and instructions are not always found on the packaging – as sometimes there is too much information required and will not fit on the limited space available on the tin/container. It is recommended that the contractor or customer contact the manufacturer for a Technical Data Sheet as well as a Material Safety Data Sheet.
Before deciding on the amount of adhesive to be used for a flooring installation project, the size and space of the area needs to be calculated, including 10% for waste. Once again, it is imperative to contact the manufacturer and request the Technical Data Sheet and Material Safety Data Sheet.
8. Choosing a type of flooring adhesive
The type of adhesive used, be it polyurethane or water-based, is dependent on the floor type chosen, along with the type and condition of the subfloor. A polyurethane adhesive is in a solid form which doesn’t evaporate into the air. It forms a solid rubbery structure between the bottom of the floorcovering and the top of the subfloor. In turn, water-based adhesives are lower in VOC content and are considered easier to clean. However, if used where there is too much water in the substrate, a weak, loose bond could result. In turn, solvent-based flooring adhesives dry faster than water-based adhesives, but do not offer the advantage of low VOCs as is the case with water-based adhesives.
9. Drying time
Drying time is key as it will directly determine the rate at which the installation will have to be completed. It also determines the amount of adhesive that has to be prepared at each stage as well as the waiting period before a surface can be walked on without worrying about the materials moving.
10. Technique matters
The adhesive application technique of the installer is paramount. This is where skills training plays a significant role, as the installer has to be able to spread (cut in) the adhesive tightly to the walls, leaving no voids or puddles. Furthermore, it must not be spread into another area where a different adhesive is to be applied, as mixing the differing types of adhesives could cause a bond failure.