How Can You See What You Can't See: The Luxury Vinyl Tile and Plank Dilemma
Commercial Flooring Report
What is Litigation? Litigation is the term used to describe legal pro- ceedings initiated between two opposing parties to enforce or defend a legal right. Litigation is typically settled by agreement between the parties, but may also be heard and decided by a jury or judge in court or by arbitration or mediation. There are two parties in litigation, the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff, the party filing the complaint, has the burden of proof.
Welcome to the 100th edition of the Commercial Flooring Report. I thank all of you for the continued support over the years and your quest for knowledge of the industry.
I want to give you a brief walk in my shoes and why we occupy such a unique, one of a kind, position. It began in 1971 when I went to work for Rochester Linoleum and Carpet in Rochester, NY, my home town, after graduating college, yes I went to college. I was schlepping in the warehouse at first, sold on the floor and then managed one of their five stores selling carpet and hard surface flooring. Not one to be content and tied down I transitioned into the carpet cleaning business, joined two associations and from there took every class I could on flooring. One of these classes was the RBI Carpet Seminar instructed by Reg Burnett. He quickly became one of my mentors. Somewhere in the 90's Reg asked me to be the author of his newsletter, called the Commercial Carpet Digest. My writing career actually be- gan with Floor Covering News with Al Wahnon, another of my mentors, with my column The Claims File which I wrote for over 26 years.
The conditions of the space where flooring is to be installed are increasingly ignored based on the number of claims, complaints and flooring failures we’re seeing around the country. Of major importance is the fact that the space in which the flooring material is to be installed be conditioned as if it was occupied by those who will populate it. The Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC) must be operational for two reasons. First, to properly conduct any moisture testing being done, whether calcium chloride or relative humidity and second, to acclimate the flooring material regardless of what it is from carpet to wood to vinyl and everything that goes on the floor.
At the recent Starnet meeting in Nashville, Tennessee held on Novem- ber 4th and 5th there was an APPA Facility Managers panel discussion sponsored by Tandus that essentially discussed the effect of learning facilities condition on occupants.
By condition we mean the design and aesthetics of the space and how they relate to the occupants attitudes while populating that space. APPA used to stand for the Association of Physical Plant Administrators in the late 1960's through the early 1990's. Today, the association is known as AP-PA: Leadership in Educational Facilities, and is most easily recognized and referred to as simply "APPA." The panelists at this presentation were from the University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University and an APPA Leadership consultant.
This article originally appeared in our September 2011 CFR is- sue but we've had an onslaught of work in this area and issues and I wanted to give you an update. Woven Axminster and Wil- ton carpet is the Rolls Royce of the carpet industry. It is the old- est form of machine made broadloom carpet. Products from this process grace the most elegant and luxurious homes and facilities in the world. There are only a handful of woven Axmin- ster and Wilton carpet manufacturers in the world and a smaller number yet who produce significant volume of commercial car- pet. The primary commercial markets for these carpets are hospitality (high end hotels), casinos, high end restaurants and any property that qualifies as the best of the best in its particular category. Almost all woven Axminster and Wilton carpet manu- facturing takes place outside the US with the majority of woven carpet now coming from state of the art mills in China but owned by the same manufacturers who've been in the business for dec- ades. Only a few woven manufacturers exist in the US and they primarily produce corporate type carpet. The highest end woven Axminster or Wilton carpet is most often constructed of an 80/20 blend of wool and nylon (80% wool / 20% nylon) - the nylon is used to bolster the performance of the wool - but it can also be made with 100% nylon - either solution dyed or yarn dyed.
We've talked repeatedly over the years about failed flooring installations and problems with flooring but have't really spent much time or focus on how to fix or address a failed flooring installation. So let's take a look at it. The same guidelines apply when writing a story which is who, what, when, where and why and add to it how and then heap on what went wrong and why and who's at fault --the most important part. With that we top it off with how do we fix it.
Not a week goes by that we do't get a call from a flooring contractor or general contractor about a flooring installation that failed after the've done everything right only to be told by someone charged with coming to the site, looking at the problem and telling the lamenting party that they are in the wrong. So what do you do when you believe that you've done everything right, followed all the directions to the letter but you're still accused of doing wrong - short of pulling your hair out and screaming?
We're going to look at several actual cases we've been involved with lately and use them as examples of what we're talking about.
This month's issue has been provided in part by Jason Spangler of Wagner Meters http://www.wagnermeters.com/author/jspangler/ and deals with the continuing issue of moisture in concrete and testing for it. This issue is not going away and continues to plague the industry so you have to test but you have to understand the testing and that it must be done and done correctly. This article should help you deal with that.
Our guest columnist for this issue is Jeff Loether; his bio appears at the end of this issue. We have included some additional information on noise and sound as well from some recent experiences and cases we've had with what we think is going to be a growing concern that Jeff so aptly describes. The issue of noise affects not only the hospitality industry, but apartments and condos as well. With the number of high rise units being built around the country, noise is going to generate a great deal of concern and complaints.
In a conversation Jeff and I had he stated, "Ears don't have ear lids. Higher noise levels create stress and strength reaction. The ears never sleep. Living in caves, listening for the mountain lion that wanted to snack on us, kept our ears on high alert and they are still this sensitive to sound. The primitive brain is always listening for danger."
We were discussing this issue at the lab the other day after seeing a new series of problems with some of the most popular products in the flooring market.
Carpet tile will inherently have a bit of doming so that when pressed in place it fits snugly. This physical characteristic which is very slight, nearly imperceptible, has always been part of carpet tile. However this also now presents a new dilemma. Too much dome and you get the "pillow or quilted" appearance.
The adhesive used to install carpet tile, though not meant to hold the tile flat, does have enough tack to pull the tile down enough so very minimal doming would not be noticed and when the tile relaxes it will settle in.
The dilemma occurs when using tabs to install lighter weight carpet tile, obviously without any adhesive so any dome in the carpet tiles can be visible. The weight of the tile also comes into play. With carpet tiles getting lighter in weight overall, not being held in place with adhesive and only affixed in place by tabs in the corners there is nothing to prevent the carpet tiles from assuming a natural doming physical position. This is a new twist on what we have begun to see with carpet tiles.
Will they fix themselves on the floor?
Getting the right flooring product into the right place can be very challenging particularly if you don't fully understand all of the circumstances, conditions and parameters of what you want to use, where and how to use it. That said we'll look at how you go about getting the right product in the right place, regardless of what it is and having it meet all your expectations. Nothing in a commercial space gets as much abuse as the flooring material. With the right product it may never show how much traffic and use it really gets. The wrong product will make you want to pull your hair out when it fails miserably after a short period of time.
Installing floor covering materials of any kind and floor preparation treatments such as leveling agents and feather finishes is challenging enough without impeding their effectiveness with a barrier. We’ve discussed before the use of Fly Ash in concrete and how, if in high enough quantity it can prevent anything from bonding or sticking to concrete substrates.
The flooring industry, and anyone else involved in flooring which includes the General Contractor, Architect, Designer, Facilities Managers and owners are facing another obstacle to successful floor covering installations due to the use of concrete admixtures, additives and topical applications.
Unfortunately this action has moved us from the frying pan into the fire. Worse yet a bill of goods on these systems are being sold to Architects and General Contractors and the systems are being written into the construction specs. This forces the flooring contractor to either install the flooring material and face imminent failure or not do so and face legal action.
This issue is dedicated to my dear friend Dan Blake who passed away suddenly on February 13, 2016.
In commercial flooring applications it's important to make sure the flooring being selected and specified is appropriate for the application. We've talked about making sure the right product gets into the right place but we'll look at what makes the product the right one to use so it delivers the performance, life expectancy and appearance retention expected and then some.
The most complex of flooring products for commercial use is carpet. The components and engineering that go into making a carpet a high or low performing textile floor covering material are more involved than for hard surface flooring -- with all due respect. Vinyl flooring for example may have a thicker wear layer, be thicker overall or have layered in it components that categorize it for a particular application and a particular kind of backing but the list is short compared to carpet as you'll see.
Certified Testing of floor coverings and related materials is becoming a bigger part of our business. Most of the testing we do is in conjunction with our associated NVLAP certified testing lab. There are ASTM and AATCC tests we normally conduct but very often the tests conducted, after seeing the concern issues at the installation site, are hybrids of certified tests as we attempt to duplicate conditions being experienced in the field by clients complaining of product failures of varying kinds. In addition we conduct testing for coefficient of friction and slip resistance in the field. We also have the ability to conduct materials analysis tests which are often used to determine, for example, why an adhesive may have failed or a topping for a substrate is ineffective or creating a problem. Recently, because of the formaldehyde concerns in wood flooring products, testing equipment has been installed and technicians trained to conduct these tests. Much of this work is very sophisticated and elaborate testing equipment performed by very skilled technicians.
The biggest problem in the flooring industry is the wrong product specified or sold for use in the wrong place. All flooring material will not perform satisfactorily in all applications for any number of reasons. Merchantability for service and fitness for intended purpose of use is a promise, arising by operation of law, that something that is sold will be merchantable and fit for the purpose for which it is sold. An item is deemed merchantable if it is reasonably fit for the ordinary purposes for which such products are manufactured and sold. This is relative in this case to flooring material.
Most of you should know that Division 9 in a Construction Specification deals with flooring materials but not everyone has an understanding of the relationship this has with Division 3. Division 3 covers the concrete substrate on a construction project and Division 9 the finishes which include the flooring. The two are inextricably linked, particularly on a new construction project and knowledge of both should be understood. Hopefully the information here will aid you in future projects helping avoid problems and keep everyone out of trouble.
All floorcovering materials have guidelines for installation mandated by the manufacturer of that specific material.
There are also floor covering industry standards that are general in nature but specific as to the standard and common practices for installation of that flooring whether hard or soft surface products.
The new Carpet and Rug Institute Standard for Installation of Commercial Carpet -- CRI 104 -- has just been published and released (September 2015).
CRI 104 (and 105 for residential carpet) is an update for the installation of textile floor covering material that takes into consideration the latest technology in textile flooring materials and what is required to install them properly.
CRI-104 can be thought of as an umbrella document for the installation of carpet and repeatedly refers to the manufacturer's guidelines for more specific information on installation of a particular product.
Luxury vinyl tile and plank flooring is among the hottest flooring products in the market today and the use of this product is growing exponentially in the commercial market. These products are cannibalizing share from sheet vinyl and vinyl tile as well but we'll talk about them all since they are such a significant part of the commercial flooring market. There's no question these products make a beautiful floor but there are some things you should know about them to ensure you don't have a problem with them.
Slips and trips are the most common cause of injury at work, this issue hangs over every building owner. On average, they cause over a third of all major injuries and over 40% of all reported injuries to members of the public. Statistics suggest that most of these accidents are slips which occur when floor surfaces are contaminated with some sort of foreign substance such as water, tracked in contamination like oils and grease or in the winter, residue from ice melt pellets. Even dry soil particulate such as sand, grit or dirt can contribute to hard surface flooring being prone to create slips and falls. Paramount in every commercial facility, regardless of what it is and no matter the size, is the safety of those walking in the space.
It seems that the entire world is lawsuit happy and ready to bring legal action against anyone for anything and you can always find a lawyer to take the case. When it comes to floor covering issues, whether it's a concern for the flooring material, installation, substrate or another related or perceived related matter, there are always compromises that can be identified that caused the problem -- flooring doesn't just fail. When the situation becomes contentious and none of the parties want to make any concessions or the matter escalates to finger pointing, the thoughts of suing pop into mind.
Now that's a mouthful of title but it's a subject that's just as filling. There are several issues that cause installation of flooring materials to be compromised and it's not always, as many may think, the installers fault. In this case the sword has two edges that both cut deep.
We've included the latest issue 'Installation Expertise' with Tim McAdoo, Installation Expert for J.J.Haines & Co Distributors with their permission. I wanted to share this with our many residential/builder flooring contractors because it is so relevant to the challenges they face in the new home/multi-family market.
Before we can answer the question we have to know a bit about the project and the expectations of the flooring being anticipated. To start, its best to categorize the type of traffic the space is going to receive such as light, moderate, heavy or extra heavy. Next we'll want to know if the aesthetics are luxury, such as executive offices or super heavy duty such as a mall, for example. In addition we have to know if the flooring is going to be maintained regularly or almost not at all and if the maintenance is to be done by in house or contracted services on some type of routine basis.
This article was written by Lee Phillips of Professional Testing Laboratory, the premier flooring testing lab in the country and an affiliate of LGM and Associates. It was instigated by the recent 60 Minutes expose on formaldehyde in laminate flooring.
One who purchases, installs, sells and even produces flooring materials would and should expect them to remain stable and flat on the floor. This isn't always the case and the causes for that are often found in the material itself or in the way the product was installed. Unstable can mean; uneven, unsound, insecure and changeable. In fact this condition is becoming more prevalent and an issue with hard surface flooring materials in particular. Let's take a look at some hard surface flooring materials to reveal the problems that can occur and the causes and cures.
In every flooring transaction and project every individual be it the manufacturer, sales person, architect, designer, specifier, flooring contractor or installer and anyone in between who impacts the project, has a responsibility.
Thousands of flooring problems, failures and claims occur every year because one or more of the parties involved in a transaction has failed to accept responsibility for some procedural function
To successfully install commercial floor covering it is important to engage the services of a firm that specializes in this area of the market. Professional flooring contractors are not the same as flooring installers and this is a significant distinction when considering a commercial flooring installation. The more difficult and challenging the installation, logistically complex and demanding a project is, the more you need a professional flooring contractor.
For the most part the economy is coming back for the flooring industry. Almost every flooring contractor, flooring dealer, installation firm or anyone having anything to do with flooring is telling us business is anywhere from good to them being, using the Southern expression, "covered up." That's a great sign but let us not forget there's another opportunity that exposes itself and that's positioning your business for growth while business improves. When businesses get busy everyone gets excited about it but not all businesses, regardless of what they are, understand that they have to capitalize on the upturn. Relative to the flooring business, this mean strengthening your position and it's not just for the people who put their hands on the products, this is also for designers, specifiers, architects, general contractors, building owners, managers and anyone else who has anything to do with flooring products.
An interesting question was raised recently about how long a floor should last in a health care facility and if there was a guide or actuarial table for flooring life expectancy in a commercial application.
As if there aren't enough substrate issues that can compromise the installation of floor covering materials we face one situation that is sure to give the flooring contractor, general contractor and building owner fits and that's the use of abatement chemistry used during the removal and containment of asbestos containing flooring materials and adhesives.
This issue of the Commercial Flooring Report was written and contributed by Ray Thompson associate of LGM. Ray has over 3 decades of resilient flooring expertise having worked as a trainer/technical expert with both manufacturers and distributors. Ray also has expertise in substrate technology. Also contributing to this article is Tim McAdoo who is the Installation Specialist with J.J. Haines and Company. We are especially appreciative for Tim's photos of resilient discoloration issues.
Multi-Family housing is described as buildings with more than four residential units. It is primarily residential rental property but also includes townhouses and condominiums. The market itself is fragmented with individuals who own multiple properties, local singleton properties held by one owner, and large complexes owned by larger corporations who also build and operate other commercial properties such as class A, B and C space. In addition companies who build developments of single family homes often own multi-family apartment complexes or townhouses both of which may be co-mingled in the same development. The flooring industry is broken into several segments and the Multi-Family housing market is one of them. The unique feature of this market is that it is serviced by three varying flooring groups; commercial flooring contractors who often have a division for this, retail dealers who participate in the segment, possibly with a Main Street Market (small business) division and true dedicated multi-family flooring contractors who often supply other services such as kitchens and bathrooms. In addition the manufacturers may be selling direct to the large projects.
For all of the wonderful products and technologies the flooring industry has developed over the last several years and for all the new technology coming down the pike, how can one ask what the industry is lacking? Don't we have beautiful products in both hard and soft surfaces and don't we continue to introduce even more wonderful materials and designs? How can anything be lacking?
Flooring adhesives are challenged far more than ever to perform and provide maximum bond strength for every flooring product made to be glued down. Flooring adhesives are required to perform over wet concrete sub-floors that have elevated pH/Alkali content. Often these issues
far exceed the calcium chloride test levels for moisture vapor emission
specified by flooring manufacturers' and the pH factor of 9.0 as specified in resilient and carpet installation standards.
Flooring product failures, or the interpretation of a flooring failure being the reason for a disappointment, are the cause of most flooring concerns and complaints. The scenario typically follows the planning of a project, the consideration of a flooring material or materials, contemplation of the type or types of flooring to use, consideration of samples presented for use, selection of the flooring materials, the decision on what to use, where to install it, when to install it and the anticipation that it will deliver the performance expected of it. After spending a great deal of time and money the worst feeling is to see the total investment taking a turn for the worst within a short period of time after it is put into use. Why does this happen and how can you take precautions so that you aren’t a victim of a flooring failure?
RH and MVER: Is There a Correlation?
When looking to determine if a concrete slab is dry enough to proceed with a finish, flooring or occupancy, there are several methods commonly specified for testing the relative humidity (or moisture content) of the slab. A dry slab is never at 0% humidity, but determining the level of moisture still held in the concrete can be the difference between a successful flooring installation and a problem-prone floor system.
We track the number of read articles to the subject matter of each issue and this subject, winters effects on floor covering, has been the most popular of any issue of the Commercial Flooring Report so we wanted to print it again, with updated information.
We've had several questions asked about waivers for installation of flooring materials over questionable substrates or in questionable conditions recently. In addition questions have arisen about placing a lien on a building when payment is not made for the installation of flooring materials. We'll address both these issues in simple terms here so that it will make it easy to understand what they mean, how they are used and how or if they can help you when you have a dubious situation.
If you've been reading the Commercial Flooring Report for any length of time you know that I harp on two issues relative to specifying floor covering material. The first is "Get it in the door and keep it on the floor" and the second is to make sure you have the right product for the right application. Both will satisfy your expectations of performance and longevity with whatever floor covering product you select. These mantras are also pertinent to being green and environmentally conscientious and fiscally responsible by selecting the correct product, getting it installed, taking proper care of it and then continuing on with your day to day business without the concern of a failed flooring product or installation.
Flooring installation failures are one of the biggest and most costly problems in the industry, regardless of the cause or who may be at fault. It's not uncommon for a commercial flooring failure to cost 10 times what the original installation did. A flooring installation failure always falls on the shoulders of the installer. This is a case of guilty until proven innocent and even if proven innocent the installers remain the guilty parties branded with a mark of mistrust. Most often an installation failure is based on a lack of understanding of the installation environment, product knowledge or lack of time to get the job done properly. And very often, by the time the flooring is installed, the project is behind schedule, the end user, architect and GC are pushing the flooring contractors and any compliance with industry standards for installing, whatever the flooring material is, may be totally ignored.
Do I have your attention? One of the things that bother me most is ignorance; I can deal with stupidity as you can educate people. Ignorance and those who espouse it as truth, has a tendency to sensationalize issues that when looked at logically don't make sense. Logic is the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference. Often logic and common sense, get lost in sensationalism that would have the unsuspecting believing all statements about whatever are true. It's a reach to make a correlation between the admitted potential harmful effects of plastic nipples and baby bottles on babies to incorporate the entire populace of the world to what some would have you believe are poisonous plastics.
The Hospitality Design show in Las Vegas this year showcased a multitude of new designs in textile floorcovering materials. Never before has there been such a departure from the "normal" offerings of what many would consider high styled carpet and flooring. This move in design can be considered more art than design. These styles cover all means of manufacture of textile and hard surface flooring materials.
This is an issue that requires some clarification, explanation and information. The tufted weight of any carpet is the weight of the material at the tufting machine or prior to any shearing being done on the pile surface, if a cut pile product. There are tolerances for face weight and other characteristics of commercial carpet which have to be met that allow a variance of 5% + or - according to GSA guidelines. All carpet has a published tufted weight though this issue is particularly critical in the commercial segment of the market. To explain further, the tufted weight is the weight of the carpet as it is set up to be produced on the tufting or weaving machine. In other words, if a carpet is supposed to be 30 ounces a calculation is made by the manufacturer as to how much yarn has to be used to achieve this weight.
What causes planar instability? Planar instability, that which prevents a modular flooring material, hard or soft surface from lying flat, is caused by internal forces generated by materials or layers in the flooring material, that exert forces or stress across or within the material, which create lifting or curling edges. This can occur on all four sides or two sides and is often in the "machine" direction or length, of the material. If, for example, a product is quarter turned the lifted edges will alternate -- North South to East West and vice versa with every other tile. Planar stability is influenced by the forces within the flooring material and by changes in heat or humidity. There are tests to detect or prove the condition exists such as the cycled humidity test for carpet tile.
The last flooring we had didn't do this. We expected it to last longer than this. We didn't expect the colors to run. We didn't expect the carpet to come off the floor. We didn't expect to have to replace it so soon. We expected it to look a lot better than this. We didn't expect it to get dirty so fast. We didn't expect it to fade. We didn't expect it to wear out under the chairs. We didn't expect it to scratch and dent like it has. We didn't expect the edges to curl. We didn't expect it to mat and crush the way it has. We didn't expect it to change colors. We didn't expect it to change in front of the sliding glass doors. We didn't expect.......? You fill in the blanks here because this is what is heard across the country daily from flooring end users who didn't expect you to disappoint them.
This article is by Steve Tolli an LGM Associate based in New York, and for eight years served as the technical director for North America for the world's largest cork flooring manufacturer.
Many cleaning companies offer hard surface care to their customers but are you sure they are maximizing efficiencies to keep your hard surface flooring in as good a shape as is possible? Looking at service plans will keep maintenance techniques as efficient as possible in commercial buildings.
Continuing on with Part III, the conclusion of What to Include in a Flooring Specification with the next item where we left off - Project Meetings.
Continuing on to Part II from our last issue of The Commercial Flooring Report on What to Include in a Flooring Specification with the next item, Product Testing. No product should ever be specified for any project without first undergoing a series of tests. The testing should mirror the tests the manufacturer states the product complies with on their samples and in their specifications. Additional tests should also be conducted to determine the performance levels of the products, the structural integrity and the ability of the product to realistically perform as expected for the application and the use it is going to be subjected to.
We've looked at hundreds of flooring specifications over the years and have found that the information contained in them is very often outdated, poorly researched, and irrelevant to many of the concerns that should be addressed. Not enough thought is given to the downside risks of the project or to the guidelines and pertinent information that should be contained. With the changes that have occurred in the flooring industry over the last few years, which continue at an increasing rate, it is imperative the spec writer be informed and up to date.
Vinyl flooring is being used and specified more and more. Schools, Hospitals and Health Care facilities are the biggest users of vinyl flooring products but it is also being used extensively in businesses, restaurants, and increasingly in mid-tier hotels and even multi-family housing. Vinyl flooring products have become more beautiful, lend themselves to elaborate design elements and, when properly specified, can perform like a Mack truck. Luxury vinyl tile is likely the hottest flooring material on the market right now. Some of the reasons for vinyl's increasing popularity should be obvious. It is extremely durable, when properly specified and cared for. It won't ugly out like carpet due to matting, crushing, soiling, or any of the other inherent performance factors carpet often experiences.
This has been a concern for as long as there has been floor covering.
Old materials consisted of dull and lifeless looking hard surface tiles or sheet goods. The old Battleship linoleums, mostly gray in color or hard surface tiles that were brown, reddish brown, black, gray or various shades of non-brilliant looking, unexciting and definitely not fashion forward flooring. Nothing mattered but the performance of the product and the products were so dull that nothing really affected them except for soil and that was hidden, for the most part, by how bland the product was.
Merchantability for service and fitness for intended purpose of use is a promise, arising by operation of law, that something that is sold will be merchantable and fit for the purpose for which it is sold. An item is deemed merchantable if it is reasonably fit for the ordinary purposes for which such products are manufactured and sold. This is relative in this case to flooring material. The biggest problem in the flooring industry is the wrong product specified or sold for use in the wrong place. All flooring material will not perform satisfactorily in all applications for any number of reasons. Manufacturers and reps don't always know enough about the products and particularly their installation because they don't always know the specific use it is going to be subjected to.
THE FLOORING DISASTERS: PREVENTION AND RECOVERY webinar, sponsored by Johnsonite, was broadcast on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. The subtitle was: Don't fall victim to a flooring disaster. Keep your floor in top condition with preventative maintenance and create a game plan in case the worst-case scenario strikes.
The Learning Objectives of the webinar were:
- Discover what factors lay the groundwork for an expensive flooring disaster
- Understand necessary maintenance
- Learn proactive strategies to prevent or mitigate potential problems
- Develop a recovery plan to minimize facility downtime if a flooring crisis strikes
We are running this article, with additional information, which was originally posted in April of 2011 because of the sheer number of complaints being received for curling and lifting edges on carpet tile. Too many of these problems are being blamed on everything but the carpet tile and we want to set that straight.
It is with great pride that LGM and Associates congratulates our concrete expert associate, Mr. Peter Craig. Peter is without question the preeminent expert on concrete surface and slab issues that compromise millions of yards of flooring materials and finishes yearly. He has devoted his life's work to testing, teaching and sharing his knowledge of this subject with both the concrete and flooring industries. Peter conducts the LGM Concrete and Moisture seminar and travels the country, nearly non-stop, testing and working on concrete and flooring issues. He is another reason why LGM and Associates are the flooring experts with the answers.
The topic of moisture in substrates may seem like beating a dead horse but I can assure you this horse is far from dead. As a matter of fact it would be better to think of this horse as a thoroughbred making a run at the Triple Crown.
The world isn't ending after all. Business in many parts of the country is picking up. The Boston and Washington, DC markets are seeing steady increases in building as are many other large and small cities in the country. Conversations with clients around the country whether, architects, general contractors or flooring contractors have them seeing a return to where they were before the down turn or up significantly. One general contractor has hired over 100 people in the last year, another over 15 in the last six months, another architectural firm has hired 30 new people. Another general contractor is trying to hire people but can't find any that want to work, which is another dilemma. What's accounting for this and why?
Having problems with flooring materials, sundries and substrates is an everyday occurrence. Some problems are easy to determine but others may be more complex than a simple cursory observation will reveal. For almost every problem that exists, with any flooring material, there is a test which will determine if who's being exhibited is a defect in the product or caused by some other influence. Sometimes it may be that a test will reveal the wrong product was used for a particular application or that, believe it or not, a product was incorrectly pulled and shipped. How are you to know?
In this article, when woven carpet is referred to, we are talking about Axminster and Wilton products. Woven Axminster and Wilton carpet is the Rolls Royce of the carpet industry. It is the oldest form of machine made broadloom carpet.
Our guest contributor this month is Mr. Timothy Vander Heiden J.D. He is currently CEO of SafePath Products and Van Duerr Industries with over 16 years experience in the industry of marketing and manufacturing products for the ADA compliance and specializes in green technology for the architectural market place. The information shared in his article is likely not common knowledge to most of you. We appreciate the opportunity to bring this information to light for you.
In light of past fire related tragedies nationwide, we believe flammability characteristics are extremely important and pertinent issues of discussion for floor covering materials. The lab we work with has seen or overseen about 100,000 flammability tests conducted over the last 22 years and makes us recognize and realize more every day, the importance of burn rates, smoke generation, and flame propagation of floor covering products. Flammability research identified two possible ways in which carpet might become involved in a fire situation.
Successfully installing any type of floor covering material or floor preparation treatments such as leveling and smoothing compounds is challenging enough without impeding their effectiveness with bond inhibiting compounds applied to the surface of the slab.
When ceramic tile or stone tile fails, it doesn't matter whose fault it is, everyone ends up paying — either in money, time or reputation. Typically, ceramic tile and stone failures are a result of not one deficiency, but multiple issues. As an expert consultant I investigate ceramic tile and stone installation failures all over the country, and have for many years.
This article is by Lee Phillips who is the lab manager for Professional Testing Laboratories, the largest and most technologically advanced independent flooring testing lab in the flooring industry. PTL not only tests every type of flooring material and ancillary products but also does the testing for vacuum cleaners, cleaning agents and cleaning systems as well as other products. Lee works with manufacturers and a variety of clients and deals with all types of issues from testing new technologies to addressing product performance concerns from the field.
Essentially every manufacturer that participates in the commercial carpet market has at least one modular carpet — also known as carpet tile – product in their offering. Each of these manufacturers has discovered (sometimes painfully) that modular carpet — if it is to be successful – is not simply broadloom carpet cut into pieces but rather must be engineered literally from the floor up to be a modular product.
Not to belabor the point but there's more information I want to share with you regarding substrate issues particularly the condition of concrete and especially cracking. Cracking in concrete is inevitable. It's been said that with every truck load of concrete four cracks arrive with it. Unless there is control joints that allow for concrete slab movement the cracks will occur in a random fashion.
We've had several calls and emails over the last two months regarding the use of solvents to remove old adhesive, particularly the black asphaltic cut back type, used for old vinyl asbestos tiles. These tiles are present in many older buildings, many of them schools. When asbestos abatement initiatives are undertaken in these buildings, one of the materials removed and abated are the vinyl asbestos tiles and the cut back adhesive used to install them.
Color is arguably the most important part of a carpet. It certainly is the most important factor a designer looks at when trying to assemble the interior furnishings of a commercial space. It's also the first part of the carpet anyone sees when entering a space reflecting the first impression. So when something's wrong that affects the color it will generate an immediate response.
Each year approximately 5 billion pounds of old carpet is removed from residential and commercial buildings and sent to landfills across the United States. This disposal of carpet contributes to the loss of landfill space, as well as the loss of valuable natural resources for ours and future generations.
This subject may seem absurd to some people, it certainly has garnered responses of "you're nuts" when being brought up as a cause for flooring material and installation failures, but rest assured, it is a legitimate issue. It becomes a bigger issue when you consider the green movement and it's implications on start up of HVAC systems in new buildings. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg, in my opinion, on this issue.
For this issue we've asked Dean Thompson, President of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, to share with you the new Sustainability Standard for Resilient Flooring. The relevance of this issue to the "greening" of flooring products is something anyone involved in resilient flooring needs to know. Resilient flooring is one of the bright spots in the flooring industry. It is used extensively in hospitals, health care and schools which is still a lively market. We'll also share with you the EnviroStix installation system developed for resilient flooring and hard backed carpet tile products. The significance of this installation system is that it can eliminate the concerns for installing hard backed products on moisture sensitive floors that are failing at an epidemic rate.
The last two issues of the Commercial Flooring Report (May and June 2010) dealt with floor covering failures relative to the products themselves, installation and specification. In this issue I've asked Dave Gobis, LGM's ceramic tile consultant and expert troubleshooter, to share with us some of the more specific issues dealing with ceramic flooring complaints, problems and failures. This is a category of flooring that very few know much about. I consider Dave the most knowledgeable guy in the business. You'll see by his credentials at the end of his article how true that is.
SUBSTRATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS WHICH AFFECT FAILURES
In my opinion, substrate issues are one of the biggest bones of contention today. With installation after installation failing in all types of environments, the question is continually asked, "Wha's different today than years ago when we never had these types of problems?" First and foremost – today we want instant gratification, and that means, "Get the job finished as fast as possible at all costs and we'll worry about the consequences later!" Not only is this a crazy way to think and act, but it's totally irresponsible in many ways. We'll touch on why this is insane in a bit, but first let's look at some of the types of problems we're experiencing.
The primary business of LGM & Associates has to do with floor covering failures in the commercial market whether it is the product itself, the installation, substrate influences or some other factor. Another segment we serve has to do with lawsuits or legal actions involving floor covering issues in a variety of situations. No two cases relative to failures in any area serviced are ever exactly the same. It is for this reason that the following information is being provided to help prevent you from having to endure the pain of a floor covering failure.
The Question of Gross v. Net:
The question of what is right, correct, or "industry standard" in charging for flooring products and installation just keeps coming up. As a former dealer and flooring contractor with retail, commercial, and government work experience over 22 years, I'd like to offer an answer ...
When does the use of carpet on walls constitute wall covering or cove base? Why should it matter and what's the difference in the two and how is it determined? These questions were asked of us by one of the industry's largest commercial carpet manufacturers. If they don't know the answers it was certain none of our readers did either. The questions actually were, "How far can carpet come up a wall before it is considered wall carpet and not cove base which would put it in a different flammability category? Does the Carpet and Rug Institute have a position on this or is there a standard?"
LEED which is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design specifies what is necessary to comply with achieving a green building rating in new or renovation building projects. What we are beginning to see relative to this is disturbing as compliance to LEED protocols may lead to compromises in floor covering installation.
Certainly not every section of the country suffers from the harsh effects of winter weather and related conditions on flooring materials but enough of you do business in those regions that you should know what the flooring will be subjected to.
At CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION's first Industry Trends Roundtable in June 2002, the hot topic was moisture coming out of concrete floors and delaminating vinyl flooring, tile, and coatings. During the CEO Forum that followed, recognition of this multimillion-dollar problem led American Society of Concrete Contractors' members to contribute $40,000 to a special fund to address floor moisture and pH.
Modular Carpet also known as carpet tile — is probably the least difficult soft flooring product to actually handle and install. That being said, the chemistries involved in most of the modular carpet backing systems that are in general use today can create serious and occasionally catastrophic issues that WILL land squarely on the shoulders of the flooring contractor if the correct steps have not been taken.
More and more hospitals, health care facilities and schools are using homogeneous sheet vinyl flooring with welded seams in areas requiring an aseptic or clean environment, such as operating rooms, emergency rooms and pharmacies. It is also used in corridors of schools or dialysis rooms of health care facilities. This product is used for its clean, uncluttered look and finish. In addition this homogeneous material lends itself to all kinds of creative design elements such as artistic insets, borders and free flowing patterns. Just like any other flooring material not understanding this product, the environmental conditions required for installing it, substrate conditions and how to install it properly with great emphasis on welding the seams can result in massive headaches, exorbitant costs and strained relationships, not to mention the failure of the installation.
It was evident, and no surprise, that Neocon's attendance was adversely affected by the economy. My guess from roaming the halls for two days is that attendance was off nearly 40%, those I've spoken with felt the same. That having been said, we've seen this slowdown at all the flooring trades shows this year. Those who did attend were serious about doing business. An entire entourage was not to be seen but key people from firms were there, and business was in fact being done.
THE HOSPITALITY DESIGN SHOW
The Hospitality Design Show held in Las Vegas on May 12th through 15th is one of my favorite trade shows. In my opinion HD is one of the classiest exhibitions there is for floor covering and it's a dress up event. It's nice to see people dressed as professionals when they attend this event. It reflects the significance of the hospitality market and the position it occupies that of high fashion and cutting edge design. This is where you'll see the most highly styled, eye popping high end floor covering products displayed by the sharpest manufacturers in the industry.
PROFESSIONAL TESTING LABORATORY
THE CSI LABORATORY FOR THE FLOOR COVERING INDUSTRY
Professional Testing Laboratory, Inc., is the CSI Laboratory for floor covering. PTL does the day to day testing for manufacturers, the Federal Government, and large corporations but they also do investigative analysis to figure out mystery problems, defects and complaint and concern issues. Following are two interesting cases PTL solved.
The most popular method of installing carpet in the hospitality market is the double stick method but it is also used extensively in all commercial environments. Double stick refers to installing a carpet cushion, whether it is slab rubber, densified polyurethane, needle punched synthetic fiber or rebond, by gluing it to the substrate and then gluing the carpet onto the cushion. This installation method can be compromised in a number of ways resulting in obscenely expensive monetary losses and business interruption which can be incalculable for a hotel or business.
The challenges of 2008 have not vanished with the passage into a new year and, in my opinion; the difficult times are going to be here for awhile. The commercial market is seeing a slow down right now with less work in the pipeline for 2009, from the latest figures on average 15 to 20%. With projects put on hold due to fear of releasing funds or tight credit, falling tax revenues and an overall slow down in business, everyone is affected. Even if a project is funded it may be shelved because of the psychological effects the economic conditions have on entities and individuals.
In this issue we'll cover a couple of subjects. Since sustainability is one of the hottest buzz words lately and being green the ultimate objective of every manufacturer for every product known to man, we'll talk about the most sustainable carpet fiber. We'll also take a look at the absurdity of bidding a commercial flooring installation without knowing the product specified and to be installed. How this can be an acceptable practice and why it's done is, in my opinion, insane.
These issues – and the terms are somewhat synonymous in their meaning – continue to plague carpet manufacturers. Pooling, Watermarking, Pile Reversal and Shading are manifested in different ways but primarily give the appearance of water having been spilled on a carpet causing irregularly shaped light and dark areas in or out of the traffic lanes of carpet.
Problems with new floor covering products, whatever they may be, don't necessarily mean the product has to be replaced. Carpet in particular can be made so it doesn't get shipped with defects and, depending on what defects may be in it, it is often possible to make repairs. Color shade issues, surface irregularities from shearing, stop marks from tufting and minor flaws can very often be repaired in place. The most prudent move however is to make sure these problems don't occur by being proactive rather than reactive — the former being much less expensive.
In this issue of the Commercial Flooring Report we've got several guest articles. Part II of Jeff Bishops article on commercial carpet care and cleaning, an article on correcting side match shade variation by Mike Currin and another installment from Lance Wallach on your financial well being for commercial entrepreneurs.
I've also written a small piece on walk off mats; their use and safety. All of this has to do with protecting the end users investments and you as a business person.
Cleaning and maintaining commercial flooring, especially carpet, is as important as selecting the right carpet construction, color and installation procedures. It is the one thing that will make the difference between a long healthy life for the flooring material or a short ugly one. For this issue we've asked Jeff Bishop, head of Clean Care Seminars whom I consider the Guru of the cleaning industry, to share information with you regarding commercial carpet cleaning. This is the first of two parts.
In the last issue of the Commercial Flooring Report I wrote an article about fly ash content in concrete and the issues this material presents relative to installation and in particular its relevance to gaining LEED credits for new buildings. The article prompted a response from David Goss the Executive Director of the American Coal Ash Association, which resulted in us pening a very fruitful dialogue. Following is a response from the American Coal Ash Association prompted by my article. At the end of the response I'll provide you with the outcome of our conversations and phone conference meeting we had with several participants and the resultant benefits this new relationship will bring to the floor covering industry.
The commercial flooring business is fraught with danger much of it perpetrated by ignorance. This is not to cast aspersions on those in the industry as being dumb but it is in reference to people not knowing or sometimes, dangerously, not caring or worse yet taking matters into their own hands when they think they know and really don't.
Carpet tile use is growing dramatically but at the expense of broadloom carpet. There is no question carpet tile is the fastest growing textile floor covering material on the market but its growth is coming at the expense of broadloom. The ease of installation, design capabilities, structural integrity, performance characteristics and versatility of carpet tile, along with new innovative backing systems, many of them the result of recycling efforts, make carpet tile the hot property that it is.
There are a number of myths about carpet that many believe to be true when in fact they are not. The myths uncovered here are from Werner Braun, President of the Carpet and Rug Institute, from his presentation at the annual CRI Meeting held on November 13, 2007 and my subsequent interview of Werner.
I've added my own commentary to these categories based on 37 years of experience. The carpet industry is one of the most responsible industry's there is regarding addressing issues that are erroneous and putting forth information that benefits the consuming public.
This has been a scare of late particularly with products imported from China and it relates to carpet in particular, especially with one case we have. This carpet was installed in a public venue and after a short period of time there was a question of wear. This instigated the end users and flooring contractors questioning of the carpet itself and its quality. Further examination of the carpet revealed that there were three different backings supplied with the product which raised even more concerns about how reliable this product and its manufacturing supplier were.
Floor covering is an installed product and until it is installed and installed properly, it has no value to anyone; it';s simply ballast. Installation has been said to be the bane of the floor covering industry for years. Complaints about the installers' attitude, skill level, training, pricing, reliability and professionalism have created rifts between manufacturers and flooring contractors for longer than anyone wants to admit. Installers and installation have often been viewed as a necessary evil — not exactly the best situation to have for any installed product.
To say NEOCON was a rousing success would be an understatement. Of the carpet exhibitors we spoke to the traffic was voluminous. In the first day attendees far outpaced last years show, that is, there were as many people entering exhibit spaces on the first day as all three days of last year, 2006. Not only does this indicate an interest in flooring products it proves the contract market is still alive and well and booming.
There are significant advances in the commercial flooring market which impact everyone involved with the product. There have been so many changes in face fiber, backing materials styling, recycling and "Green Issues," that it's difficult for the most ardent observer to keep it all in order. This is a brief commentary and a simplistic representation of what's going on in each of the following categories and how it impacts the product.