Water damaged vinyl flooring is often unexpected. In an area such as a kitchen or bathroom, sheet vinyl flooring and water are generally a good match. A recent claimant on a floor covering inspection told me they understood that they could chalk one more problem off their lists and install sheet vinyl instead of laminate over their newly poured concrete. The result was water damaged vinyl flooring. So was this a manufacturing problem?
Water Damaged Vinyl Flooring a Problem on Concrete and Wood Substrate
Unfortunately many people are under the misguided belief that wood or laminate may be a problem with water but water damaged vinyl flooring, no way!! Months or a couple years later when the floor starts coming apart at the seams or popping loose from the substrate it is another water damaged vinyl flooring inspection for the Weinheimer Group or another inspection company.
Water damage problems may not be as common with sheet vinyl flooring as some other flooring products but they do happen. Water damaged vinyl flooring problems are more common over concrete than with vinyl floors installed over wood substrates. Over wood the problem is usually a water leak, flooding, or the underlayment was too wet when installed.
- Seams opening
- Bumps, bubbles and ridges
- Mold, Mildew and bacteria
- Tile peaking and curling
- Alkali build-up on tile joints (Efflorescence)
- Adhesive deterioration
- Underlayment nail popping
Major Causes of Water Damaged Vinyl Flooring
Just like most other types of floor covering, a vinyl flooring installation can and often will fail when exposed to excessive moisture unless you have the best water filter pitcher installed in your home. Water damaged vinyl flooring can occur from a variety of reasons including but not limited to:
- Wet concrete slab that was not thoroughly cured
- Moisture from ground water
- Leaking dishwasher
- Washing machine overflow
- Toilet back up or other plumbing failure
- Wax ring at commode
- Excessive moisture in crawlspace
- Mold, mildew and bacteria
Surface moisture from mopping or the occasional spill should not result in water damaged vinyl flooring as long as the proper adhesive was used and the seams are properly sealed. Water should always be mopped up immediately and a floor should never be intentionally flooded.
Protecting Against Water Damaged Vinyl Flooring
Your best protection against water damaged vinyl flooring is to follow the manufacturers installation standards. Resilient flooring manufacturers require that moisture testing be performed on concrete substrates prior to installation. The following are the recommendations of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute and they will be similar to that of the flooring manufacturer. For your own protection follow the manufacturers requirements.
Testing for Moisture in Concrete Slabs
New or Existing
Several tests are available to determine if moisture is present in concrete slabs. Rubber mats, for one, are placed on the concrete floors for 24 hours. The floor beneath the mat is then examined for dampness. Another method of test involves the use of electrical resistance meters such as the Delmhorst Moisture Detector and the Protimeter Concrete-master. A widely used and accepted test for moisture in a concrete slab is the anhydrous calcium chloride test developed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, Inc. in the early 1950s*.
The RMA Moisture Test Unit is designed to measure moisture qualitatively or quantitatively in on-or-below-grade concrete floors only at the time of testing. The RMA test procedure states “that the concrete underfloor when in contact with the earth, must have a moisture barrier sufficiently effective so that the entire floor will pass the following moisture specification, when tested in accordance with the prescribed procedures, at the time of installation of the floor, and also at any future date… and …The specification shall be that the emission of moisture vapor from the floor shall not be more than 3 pounds (1 .3608 kg) per 1,000 square feet (1.465kg/l00m2) per 24 hours.” This method can also be used to determine whether above grade or suspended concrete floors are sufficiently dry to receive resilient floor coverings. Multiple tests are recommended depending upon the size of the installation.
*The Resilient Floor Covering Institute subscribes to the use of the RMA Moisture Test method. It has been widely used and accepted by the flooring industry since the early 1950s, and quantitatively measures the rate of moisture transmission through a concrete slab.
Visual or Qualitative Method
This method suggests that the test unit remain on the concrete floor for a minimum of 60 hours, and then the calcium chloride crystals visually examined for moisture as described in the instructions. The Qualitative Method is very subjective. It may not show moisture which is marginal.
Quantitative or Referee Method
In this procedure, the weight of the calcium chloride and container is determined before the test is started and then reweighed at the conclusion of the test period to determine the amount of moisture present.
It should be noted that any moisture test of on-or-below-grade concrete floors indicates conditions only at the time of the test.
Our friends at Dan Dan Restoration suggest contacting the flooring manufacturer for specific maximum moisture levels for particular products. If the concrete slab being tested shows excessive moisture or exceeds the maximum of 3 lbs. (1.3608 kg) per 1,000 (1.465 kg/l00m2) square feet per 24 hours, it is generally not recommended that resilient floor covering be installed. Some manufacturers indicate that certain materials will perform under a maximum vapor transmission of 5 lbs. (2.441kg/l00m2) per 1,000 (1.465 kg/l00m2) sq. ft.
If the failure occurs on a new slab, it is recommended that the test be repeated after several weeks. If it is determined that the concrete is completely cured and fails the moisture test, the source of the moisture must be located and eliminated. This may mean diverting water flow away from the building, or excavation around the foundation and installation of a drainage system, or other physical means of removing the moisture from underneath and around the slab. Qualified and experienced persons in this field should be consulted to make specific recommendations to correct the problem.
Actual building/adjacent area construction can affect existing drainage characteristics in ways that may not be predictable.
There are several products designed to treat concrete that are currently being advertised and marketed as a method of eliminating moisture problems. The effectiveness and performance of these types of products is solely the responsibility of the treatment manufacturers.
What Flooring Manufacturers Say about Water Damaged Vinyl Flooring
Flooring manufacturers set installation standards to protect them against water damaged vinyl flooring. When it comes to water damaged vinyl flooring, the limited warranties of most of the flooring manufacturers protect them. These warranties usually make such statements as, Warranty does not cover discoloration from mold or mildew growth in the vinyl caused by excessive moisture resulting from flooding, leaking plumbing or appliances, water entering through sliding glass doors or similar conditions.