A customer's desire for new flooring may swell with urgent enthusiasm once a product is selected. Well, there are ten conditions which may hamper the pace at which your new flooring can be installed or made ready for use. If you cast caution to the wind and press forward blindly, you may pay more than twice as much for your floors and suffer the interruption of a full replacement. Broadly, the key aspects which influence a project's speed pertain to a site's conditions, the product's conditions, and the post-installation conditions.
Is your building or home ready for new flooring? We must consider your subfloor, your site's exterior, and your site's interior.1
Site Condition: New Concrete Curing
If you have new construction or a new concrete substrate, your project will likely have a prolonged delay for the concrete to sufficiently cure. Expect the delay for almost all flooring types. The language from many manufacturers and organizations reads nearly the same.
"Newly poured concrete floors generally take 90-120 days to cure." —Desso Carpet Installation of DESSO® Carpet
"Newly poured concrete floors generally will take 90 to 120 days to cure." —The Mohawk Group Installation Guidelines for Uniplus System II Double Stick
"Should be allowed to cure for 90 to 120 days and must be properly sealed." —Masland Contract Carpet Tile Instructions
"New concrete subfloors and basements should be cured for a minimum of 90-120 days prior to the installation." —CFI Wood and Laminate Training Resource Guide (2009)
The length of the wait is influenced by the thickness of the concrete.
"Newly poured concrete floors generally will take 30 days per inch to cure." —Mohawk Tufted and Woven Goods Double-Stick Installation Instructions
New concrete holds much moisture. A substantial percentage of which is released in the first 120 days. During these first four months, the concrete increases hardness and adjusts dimensionally. Excessive moisture and movement can ruin new flooring. Shaw Floors offers a supplemental remark about when to begin testing new concrete for moisture.
"Before moisture testing begins, the slab must be cured for a minimum of 30 days." —Shaw Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installation Guidelines
Moisture testing is mentioned again later.2
Exterior Jobsite Condition: Drainage and Ventilation
Your outside jobsite conditions are your responsibility. You should be concerned about drainage and ventilation.
Your facility or house should successfully drain water away from your structure. Sprinklers should point away from the exterior. Look for any place where water may puddle by your exterior walls.
"Gutters and downspouts should be in place and the exterior grade complete to allow for proper drainage of water away from the building’s exterior perimeter." —Shaw Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installation Guidelines
Many of Tampa's historic homes have a wood subfloor over a crawl space. Does this describe your home? Verify that you have good air flow under your home. Subterranean moisture (in the form of vapor) can damage your flooring.
"Basements and crawl spaces must be dry. Use of a 6 mil black polyethylene is required to cover 100% of the crawl space earth. Crawl space clearance from ground to underside of joist to be no less than 18" and perimeter vent spacing should be equal to 1.5% of the total square footage of the crawl space area to provide cross ventilation." —Shaw Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installation Guidelines
Interior Site Condition: HVAC
Another concern unique to new construction or major remodels is to enclose your building and have the HVAC system running for days prior to your job starting.
"Before jobsite testing, the building envelope must be sealed (walls, roofing, windows, doorways etc., installed)." —Mannington Spacia Installation Instructions
If your building envelope is incomplete, your indoor environment cannot be regulated.
"The permanent HVAC system must be operational and functional and set to a minimum of 65°F (20°C) or a maximum of 85°F, for a minimum of 7 days prior to, during, and after installation. Once the installation is complete the temperature should not exceed 85°F." —Shaw Hard Surface Commercial Resilient Installation Guidelines
Notice in the above quote that the manufacturer wanted the air conditioning system running normally for seven days prior to the start of the installation. Some manufacturers will require less days for their goods, as is evident in quotes below.4
Interior Site Condition: Everything Else
We are basically the last workers to visit before a building or home becomes move-in ready. You do not want plumbers, electricians, drywall hangers, and painters to destroy brand new carpet, LVT, hardwood, etc., so those other trades precede us. If you want to freshen your wall colors, paint beforehand. Notice the closing directive published by Mannington:
"Do not install Mannington LVF until jobsite testing and subfloor preparations are finished and the work of all other trades is complete." —Mannington Spacia Installation Instructions
There may be touch-up painting needed for baseboards or shoemolding or some other minor work.5
Interior Site Condition: Subfloor Testing
The previous quote by Mannington mentioned testing and subfloor preparations. Your flooring may require tests which delay the starting date. In some cases, we provide third-party verification of a calcium chloride moisture test (ASTM F1869) to document your slab's moisture vapor emission rate. We also offer the in situ probe test (ASTM F2170) to document your slab's relative humidity. These tests require two to three site visits and takes no less than 72 hours plus an additional two days to receive written results. We will not enumerate other possible tests.6
Interior Site Condition: Subfloor Preparation
The myriad potential of subfloor shortcomings cannot be briefly listed. Needless to say, potential corrective measures create a potential unknown delay. Floor preparation might include moisture remediation coatings or applying a anti-fracture membrane. Mannington, in Spacia Installation Instructions, offers an example:
"Surface Flatness for all Subfloors: The surface shall be flat to 3/16" (3.9 mm) in 10 ft. (3050 mm) and 1/32" (0.8 mm) in 1 ft (305 mm). Bring high spots level by sanding, grinding, etc. and fill low spots. Smooth surface to prevent any irregularities or roughness from telegraphing through the new flooring."
Creating sufficient flatness may consume a day or more as we wait for floor patch or self-leveling compound to dry, but such a step is crucial for some installations.7
Product Condition: Acclimation
"Can't we start now?" asks the customer. Not quite. More than likely, we will need to acclimate your new flooring to the ambient conditions of your home or building. Time is required to create harmony between the moisture content and temperature of your installation space and those of your new flooring.
"Acclimation: The installation area and materials to be installed shall be maintained at a minimum of 65°F (18.3°C) and a maximum of 85°F (29.4°C) for 48 hours before, during and for 48 hours after completion of the installation. Relative humidity level extremes should also be avoided. General recommended humidity control level is between 35-55%." —Mannington Spacia Installation Instructions
"The floor and room temperature must be acclimated by maintaining the temperature at 65° F and 85° F, and the humidity between 30% and 65%, for at least 48 hours before and during installation. In addition, the carpet and adhesive should be stored under these conditions for at least 24 hours before installation. The installation site must be acclimated with HVAC in operation." —Mohawk Tufted and Woven Goods Double-Stick Installation Instructions
"Carpet should be rolled out and allowed to relax for at least 24 hours prior to installation." —Mohawk Tufted and Woven Goods Double-Stick Installation Instructions
Acclimation is increasingly important for materials which lack dimensional stability. Flooring products will dimensionally adjust by expansion or contraction as the supplies acclimate to the new environment within 72 hours. Our goal is that your new flooring physically adjust before we install the materials.8
Interior Site Condition: Furniture Handling
Unless your property is vacant, someone will have to handle furniture. In some cases, as much time will be invested into handling furnishings as will be invested into installing your new flooring. Furniture handling, although potentially cumbersome, is always achievable by careful coordination between us and our customers.9
Post-installation Condition: Curing
Whether your new flooring is held down by a thin-set installation, a mud-set installation, a direct-glue installation, or a double-stick installation, these bonding agents (i.e., adhesives or mortars) must have a chance to dry. It's imperative to restrict the traffic away from new flooring until the bonding agent has sufficiently cured. Concentrated weight applied by the wheels of a fully loaded dolly can be the worst.
"Do not allow traffic on tile for 24 hours after installation. Flooring should not be exposed to rolling load traffic for at least 72 hours after installation to allow setting and drying of the adhesive." —Armstrong Vinyl Composition Tile Installation System
Premature foot traffic and rolling loads can break the bond or displace the adhesive. The costs increase and the schedule is disrupted when someone recklessly walks across freshly set ceramic leaving the tiles tilted this way and that. The tiles must be chiseled out and reset. Rolling a load across a new direct-glue installation could force the soft adhesive to oozing up between seams. Don't be hasty.10
Post-installation Condition: Finishing Coats or Sealers
After the installation, some flooring products must have an initial treatment or coating applied before the floor is ready for use (e.g., terra-cotta tile). To further illustrate, vinyl composition tile (VCT) is installed with a very dull appearance. VCT is not ready for use until it is waxed or polished. We must wait for four to five days before we can clean and apply several coats of new wax or polish to newly installed VCT. Additionally, the fresh wax needs another 12 hours or more to harden before any furnishings can be placed on the new VCT. We must wait another day if the client opts for a high-speed burnish to create a high luster.