Don’t learn about Concrete the HARD way
This is my first post in a new series about moisture related issues in flooring. I know, I know, riveting right? Well if you found this blog then you are likely living in Florida and are interested in flooring, and if that’s true then you need to go make a cup of coffee and read on because this is important stuff. In all the problems that I have seen with flooring, I can safely say that 80% of them have to do with some type of moisture intrusion into the floors. Moisture is either going to come from the surface or it is going to come from underneath. I’m going to start with the underneath scenario because it is the biggest portion, and the primary culprit of sub floor moisture issues is quite often, you guessed it…the subfloor!
But first the disclaimer! I sell floors for a living. I am not an installer, I am not a concrete expert, I am not a moisture mitigator or any other type of expert in the field. I am just a dude who is around this stuff a lot and is offering his unprofessional, neighborly advice. If you are currently having problems or are a lawyer looking for an expert or something please contact the kind folks at the Carpet and Rug institute who will be happy to help you.
(sheesh, sorry about that, the times we live in, ya know?)
Okay, let’s talk about concrete. Because we live in Florida, and in most parts of the state you can dig down six feet and hit an aquifer, a vast majority of our houses are built upon a concrete slab on grade – nope, no basements down here for the most part. here is my “something I betcha didn’t know” #1- All concrete is not the same. Concrete consists of sand, an aggregate, and cement. The aggregate is the key ingredient – it is the rocks and pebbles that give it structure and strength. Due to the fact that rocks and pebbles weigh a bunch, most concrete manufacturers source their aggregate locally. Up in Illinois, they use granite for aggregate. Guess what we Floridians get? Yup, coral stone. This highly porous and very soft rock is what makes our slabs here in Florida the laughing stock of the country. This type of slab can be very absorbent, much like a sponge, and can draw up moisture from its surroundings and then transmit them into your flooring. Here are a few of your prime suspects – cracks in the foundation, a poorly installed moisture barrier under the slab (or none at all), a poorly positioned sprinkler head, a gutter downspout draining too close to the house, poorly installed doors windows and sliders, cracked water lines in the slab, leaking sewer pipes, (breath, whew!) and last but not least the ever popular culprit – Hydrostatic pressure. This is the one that gets thrown around a lot, but in actuality it is pretty rare. Basically it means that some dummy builder built the house in a “bowl”, you are the lowest house in the neighborhood and everything around you is draining to you – when the pressure builds the water seeks egress, usually up….through your slab.
Now any one of these scenarios can cause you to have varying degrees of moisture intrusion into your flooring, causing varying degrees of problems. Carpet actually handles this pretty well; the combination of spongy padding with the loosely tufted carpet itself allows the slab to “breath” and get rid of most water vapor it is emitting. Tile? As long as a high quality multi purpose thinset was used in sufficient quantity you usually never have a problem. okay, What about the increasingly popular hardwood and laminate? That’s another story and deserving of a post all of its own. I’ll try and get it done quick, but in the meantime how about a comment or two? A question maybe? Lemme know what you think.