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ON THE BALL Top flooring tips from F. Ball and Co. Ltd.

The issue of damp should never be left to chance. Here Stephen Boulton, F. Ball and Co. Ltd.’s Technical Service Manager gives advice on how best to tackle subfloor moisture.

The presence of unmanaged excess subfloor moisture is an issue that, along with the absence of priming, is amongst the most common causes of floor failure in new installations or refurbishments. While problems may not be immediately apparent, over time excess moisture can cause extensive damage to floorcoverings that may only be resolved through costly remedial work.

Since 1965 it has been mandatory for all new buildings to be fitted with damp proof membranes. However, buildings erected prior to this time may not be protected against moisture. Similarly, in new-build projects, it takes approximately one day per millimetre, up to a thickness of 50mm, for a new concrete base to dry naturally. If floorcoverings are installed before the concrete has sufficiently dried, potentially damaging residual construction moisture may be present.

It is, therefore, vital that floor surfaces are properly assessed before floorcoverings are installed. If not tested for, or not correctly dealt with, moisture can cause floorcoverings to blister, wood to become warped, adhesives to de-bond, carpet underlays to rot and can promote the growth and spread of bacteria and mould which can, in itself, cause further deterioration of floorcoverings and potentially serious health problems.

There are now a number of products available that enable contractors to suppress moisture without requiring extensive disruptions or delays to projects. This means that problems associated with subfloor moisture can be avoided when working in almost any environment, by following a number of simple, but crucial, steps.

FIRST STEPS F. Ball recommends that, after removing existing floorcoverings, a moisture measurement test should be carried out. A calibrated digital hygrometer will give accurate readings of subfloor

moisture levels, as a measure of relative humidity (RH), which will identify whether a damp-proof membrane is necessary. Visual inspection alone is not adequate. If the moisture levels exceed 75% RH (or 65% RH for wood floors, which are more sensitive to moisture) a moisture management system should be applied before any floorcoverings are installed.


MANAGEMENT SYSTEM To guide product selection, it is important to establish the requirements of the project, including time constraints, the composition of the subfloor surface and what the area is used for.


ENVIRONMENTS When dealing with serious cases of subfloor moisture or working in environments where damp is likely to manifest, such as bathrooms and kitchen areas, epoxy resin management systems may be the most effective solution. Epoxy resin management systems, such as Stopgap F77, provide a waterproof surface membrane that, once cured, is effective up to RH levels of 98%. Pigmented black to allow for visual control of product coverage uniformity, F. Ball’s solvent-free epoxy resin system, Stopgap F77, requires one coat and cures to provide a barrier against moisture in approximately three hours, enabling contractors to deal with excess moisture quickly and efficiently.


NEW-BUILD PROJECTS Water-based moisture management systems, such as Stopgap F78, are an alternative to epoxy resin management systems and are ideal for fast track or time-restricted jobs. Due to its super fast drying qualities, Stopgap F78 provides an eco-conscious and high performance solution that cures to suppress residual construction moisture in less than two hours, and is effective up to RH levels of 95%. The use of water-based moisture management systems can considerably speed up flooring installation in new build projects, by allowing flooring products to be used without having to wait for a new concrete base to dry out naturally. Furthermore, contractors can apply certain smoothing underlayments directly onto the cured surface, without the need for priming, meaning this option is ideal for contractors working under tight deadlines in almost any flooring installation.


CONTAMINATION It is not always appropriate to apply products directly onto a subfloor. This is especially true on heritage sites where contractors may be working in listed buildings, or if the surface is contaminated. In these instances, a loose-lay isolator membrane may be the most suitable option. These laminated sheets are laid directly onto the damp surface and act as a base for new floorcoverings, meaning that new resilient floorcoverings or flooring tiles can be installed while protecting the floor underneath. Loose-lay isolator membranes are quick to install and can later be easily removed, enabling the building to be rapidly restored to its original state. TIP OF THE MONTH | 15

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