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Moisture issues are a common problem across all flooring types. Water from spills and floods can damage flooring and so can moisture and moisture vapor that can be driven through concrete slabs and subfloors into flooring, wreaking havoc from the back side of the flooring system and materials.

Not only does water ruin unsealed and unprotected flooring from a visual perspective, but extreme moisture levels could lead to irreparable damage to the subfloor and foundation of the structure.

While managing moisture and regularly checking for signs of damage can prolong the life of your floors, the best solution starts with a comprehensive flooring system with integrated moisture resistance technology, including moisture vapor suppression or mitigation, or waterproofing membranes, depending on the flooring system needs.

Signs of Moisture Issues On Flooring

Every flooring material and substrate react differently to moisture. Many times, when water damage becomes noticeable, it is too late to fix it without ripping up the floors. It is important to take a proactive approach and know the signs of moisture damage so any issues can be taken care of sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the most common signs of moisture issues on various types of flooring.

Wood Flooring

Wood flooring is particularly susceptible to water damage either from too much or too little moisture. The wood may start warping, crowning or cupping as the moisture causes the floorboards to swell and separate from the subfloor.

Another sign of moisture damage is persistent water droplets showing up on the floors with no noticeable source. Water condensation in hardwood flooring may occur when excess moisture in the floorboards is released, resulting in droplets.

Floor discoloration is also a sign of water damage. If sections of the wood floors appear darker, it could indicate too much moisture in the wood.

Moisture damage is more likely in wood that has not been acclimatized to the new environment, so it is important to follow all the necessary steps prior to installation and allow for enough time for the hardwood to adjust.

Concrete

Water is an important component of concrete, but moisture damage can cause serious issues not just to the concrete slab, but to any flooring installed on top of it.

Too much moisture in concrete causes it to expand resulting in pop-outs or fractures. This results in chunks of concrete separating and creating dips in the flooring. Small pieces of the concrete can also start separating in a process called “spalling”. This is usually the result of moisture in the concrete freezing or when the rebar is too wet and starts to rust.

Tile

Tile is typically installed in wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, backsplashes, and laundry rooms for its non-porous properties and water resistance. However, if tile systems have not been properly waterproofed, water can still seep into the subfloor and lead to further damage. 

When a subfloor takes on too much moisture, the adhesive between the subfloor and tile can begin to separate resulting in loose tiles. Mold can also become a dangerous issue in

tiled spaces and can impact your health if not treated promptly and properly.

When a subfloor takes on too much moisture it can warp and deform, causing grout joints or tiles to crack or become loose. Uncontrolled moisture in a tile assembly can lead to efflorescence or mold growth, becoming a dangerous issue in tiled spaces and can impact your health and the indoor air quality of the building if not treated promptly and properly. Selecting a tile system that can address movement, water and moisture concerns, as well as mortars, grouts and sealants that have antimicrobial properties can ensure the long term beauty of your tile project. 

Soft Flooring

Soft flooring is much more susceptible to water than a non-porous material like tile, and many similar signs of water damage may arise like discoloration and musty odors. If too much moisture is present, it can cause the soft flooring to peel up because the adhesive separates from either the flooring or subfloor.

Water also attracts pests like termites and ants, so pest infestations are another common sign of moisture issues in the flooring

How to Manage Moisture On Flooring

If you are concerned about water or moisture vapor affecting your flooring, there are a few ways to help manage a variety of these situations.

  1. Performing regular checks and testing your flooring by using a moisture meter can bring to light a moisture issue before it becomes a larger problem. General maintenance and checks for potential leaks and cracks in pipes can lead to catching any potential issues before they escalate.
  2. If condensation is a consistent problem, increased air circulation will keep air from lingering against the floor and transforming from vapor to liquid.
  3. Practicing good hygiene in wet areas and establishing a regular cleaning routine can help prevent mold, mildew and bacteria growth. Keeping room temperatures within 65° to 70°F and the relative humidity level below 45% also helps prevent mold and mildew from developing.
  4. Hardwood floors are especially vulnerable to moisture. Investing in a dehumidifier to extract moisture from the air and properly sealing windows and doors to help control indoor humidity levels could help prolong the life of the flooring. Keeping the temperature consistent within the home also helps prevent the wood from expanding and contracting.
  5. Specifying a moisture mitigation or vapor suppression membrane, a waterproofing membrane, or an adhesive with moisture blocking technology before starting a project can be an easy way to ensure the longevity of your floor.

How to Prevent Moisture On Flooring

The best way to manage moisture is to take proactive measures aimed at preventing water from accumulating and causing damage. For condensation issues and added protection against spills and harsh cleaners, a sealant can be used on top of the existing hardwood floorboards. Hardwood floors should be resealed and refinished every few years to maintain protection.

If the problem is moisture vapor seeping up from the substrate, a sealant will not be enough. In fact, it could trap moisture and cause more issues.

Preventing moisture vapor damage is best achieved by incorporating a waterproofing membrane and moisture-resistant adhesive into your flooring system. Waterproofing membranes prevent moisture from infiltrating the subfloor and structure of the building. Some waterproofing membranes even offer anti-fracture capabilities to prevent flooring damage due to concrete movement. 

Moisture-resistant adhesives also offer protection from water damage regardless of the flooring materials. These adhesives prevent the floors from separating and coming loose from the subfloor, creating a floating flooring. 

When choosing waterproofing membranes and moisture-resistant flooring adhesives, it is important to take into consideration the environmental impact these products will have. Choosing waterproofing products with low emissions, zero VOCs and no water help protect the indoor air quality and overall environment within the structure.

Bostik Systems Offer High-Quality Solutions

Water damage can quickly escalate into a costly misfortune, but investing in waterproofing materials when installing your flooring will lead to significant savings in the long run. With the right protective measures in place, your flooring, foundation, and overall structure can be safe from moisture-related problems. 

A comprehensive flooring installation system with advanced and innovative technologies will help keep your floors protected and improve their strength, performance and wear resistance regardless of the material.
For further assistance in developing a comprehensive flooring system, check out Bostik’s Wall and Floor Installation Systems and contact customer support today.

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