Ensuring the longevity and beauty of your flooring starts with a solid foundation. This comprehensive guide debunks common myths about concrete moisture testing. It also provides the essential knowledge and steps to accurately test concrete floors for humidity. By understanding and implementing these practices, you can safeguard your projects against warping, bubbling, and expensive repairs. This ultimately ensures a flawless finish.

Dispelling the Myths of Concrete Dryness

As we discussed previously, many fallacies about concrete moisture can lead to severe flooring issues. Understanding these myths is the first step to prevention:

28-Day Cure Myth

True, concrete gains strength in 28 days, but this period doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dry and ready for flooring. Curing and drying are not the same thing!

Age Equals Dryness

Don’t be deceived; older slabs can conceal moisture, which can manifest as flooring failures in the future. Be especially aware of older slabs that were never covered with flooring, such as a warehouse being converted to occupied space. These slabs almost never have a vapor retarder beneath them, so moisture from the ground can flow freely right through the concrete.

Above-Grade Immunity

Slabs above ground are not invulnerable. They’re still susceptible to environmental humidity and leaks. That’s not to mention the fact that concrete is often pumped to move it to those upper floors, and/or can be mixed using lightweight aggregate. In both cases, the concrete has more water in the mix, so it takes much longer to dry than a standard mix placed at ground level.

Resilient Flooring Misconception

Regardless of the flooring type, whether carpet, wood, laminate, or tile, moisture testing is imperative. Many of the practices and test methods for concrete subfloors have been developed by ASTM Committee F.06 on Resilient Flooring; but these methods are used on all types of flooring projects and referenced by manufacturers across all flooring categories.

The Importance of Moisture Testing

Moisture testing isn’t just a checklist item; it’s an investment in your success, and it’s mandatory according to every flooring manufacturer and the industry standard, ASTM F710, which states All concrete floors shall be tested for moisture regardless of age of grade level. Moisture testing protects your reputation by preventing the embarrassment and cost of fixing moisture-related disasters. It saves you time, money, and rework by catching problems early. And importantly, it keeps you compliant with codes and standards, making you a pro, not a penalty case.

Responsibility for Moisture testing

It’s often assumed that the flooring contractor bears the responsibility for concrete moisture testing, but that is not specified in the standard.   Independent Floor testing agencies may be preferred so that the owner and General Contractor have a certified unbiased report of the condition of the concrete and the job site. The responsivity needs to be clearly understood before the project begins.

The Science of Concrete Moisture

Moisture is not just an issue for new concrete, which has a great deal of water in the mix that must evaporate before the slab is ready to cover. Think of concrete of any age as a sponge. Concrete absorbs water vapor from various sources. It also traps this moisture under your flooring which is like inviting chaos to your party. Warped planks and uneven tiles become unwelcome guests, adhesives fail, leading to blistering and delamination, and damp environments become breeding grounds for mold, a health hazard and aesthetic nightmare.

Precision Testing Methods for Reliable Results

The ASTM F2170 Relative Humidity test stands out as the industry benchmark.  Strategically drill, insert sensors to measure internal moisture levels, and after 24 hours, unveil the truth: is your slab ready for your flooring masterpiece?  It’s very scientific but not as hard as you may think.  RH test kits are available that contain the tools needed for the test, even the right drill bit! There is also Floorcloud technology that allows you to monitor site conditions and concrete moisture levels from your phone or computer without frequent trips to the job site.
Don’t forget pH! High alkalinity can damage adhesives over time, so include pH testing to ensure your concrete and flooring match ideally.

The Critical Role of pH Testing

Ignoring the pH levels in concrete can be detrimental to your flooring. High alkalinity can compromise the integrity of adhesives. Include pH testing to ensure your concrete’s pH level matches your chosen flooring material.

Solutions for High Moisture or pH Levels

So, what happens when the moisture or pH readings are not within acceptable ranges?  We often receive inquiries like this, and it is not always an easy answer. The options are; wait for the concrete to dry, change to a more moisture tolerant adhesive, treat the concrete with a moisture mitigation system, or other options that depend on the specific situation. Your Spartan Surfaces rep can help in this regard by consulting with our in-house Sales Support team and or our manufacturer partners to address these concerns and make recommendations that will lead to a successful project.

Moisture testing isn’t just a technicality; it’s the foundation of success. Embrace a “test, assess, and build” mindset. By taking control of this crucial step, you pave the way for stunning, long-lasting floors, cost-effective projects, and industry hero status. Impress clients and colleagues with meticulous attention to detail and leave a legacy of flawless floors, one project at a time.

Moisture testing isn’t merely a recommendation; it’s the cornerstone of successful, durable flooring. By adopting a no-assumption policy and rigorously testing every slab, you not only adhere to industry best practices but also build a foundation that ensures the beauty and longevity of your flooring. Embrace the mindset of ‘test, assess, and excel’ to navigate away from potential pitfalls and towards enduring impeccable floors.

About Spartan

Spartan Surfaces, a subsidiary of Floor & Decor, is a specialty flooring supplier headquartered in Bel Air, MD. Employing over 150 team members, Spartan holds warehousing and offices in Maryland and Minnesota with showrooms in D.C. and Chicago.  Its geography encompasses eighty-five percent of the United States, with continued expansion on the horizon. Using a human-centered approach, Spartan prides itself on great people dedicated to great products, families, friendships, and happiness. Whatever you’re working on, we’ve got you covered!