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Standards are there to protect, not limit your success

Standards are there to protect, not limit your success
Martin Cummins

Published by Martin Cummins - UK Technical Support Manager, Bostik

Martin has been involved in the industry for over 20 years. He’s passionate about flooring in all its guises, with his particular expertise being in subfloor preparation products and adhesives. Martin is an active member of the CFA manufacturers committee and he sits on the CFA council. He aims to keep abreast of all the changes in the industry and feeds this knowledge back to installers to make sure when floors are laid they perform to their maximum potential.

I think I may have said this before, but it bears reminding that as professional flooring contractors there are British Standard Codes of Practice that should be followed to ensure work is carried out correctly.  These standards are written (and rewritten) by committees rather than individual manufacturers or consultants to make sure there are no vested interests and the outcome serves the industry purpose of maintaining high quality, successful flooring installations.

Of course things change over time and the standards can sometimes lag. When this is the case, seeking written guidance from manufacturers as to the how, when, where their products can be used is essential. It is important to understand what is being claimed as often the product is in isolation of the whole flooring system. Will your entire installation retain its manufacturer warranties if going against British Standards on claims from a specific product, whether this be a smoothing compound, adhesive or floor covering?

As a manufacturer of everything from subfloor preparation products through to adhesives, we always encourage contractors to use the full system. This is to ensure that, if there are any instances where something goes wrong, then there is only a need to call in two technical teams, i.e. the floor covering manufacturer and the manufacturer of the products used underneath. Between the two of us we should be able to understand what has gone wrong and put forward our resolutions.

Not long ago, we had to attend a site issue that involved different manufacturers for the DPM, smoothing compound and adhesive. Along with the floor covering manufacturer, this makes quite a group of people. As the floor covering was bubbling and we supplied the DPM, the assumption was that the failure was due to the DPM’s non-performance. The other manufacturers weren’t even asked to site! Anticipating a bit of a battle as to the reality of the problem, we were ‘fortunate’ in that, in this instance, the issue pointed directly at excessive surface moisture from leaks and shower units. From our investigation the failure had occurred due to a combination of the subfloor now being far in excess of the permitted %RH, with the smoothing compound becoming saturated and the adhesive re-emulsifying.

If there hadn’t been known leaks then it would have been very difficult for the contractor to direct the failure to any single manufacturer as it is the combination of three elements which could have failed. Too much moisture getting through the DPM, or too little smoothing compound, or the inability of the adhesive to dry and build up strength… take your pick!

It’s also the case that some product claims are now exceeding what would be permitted in accordance with British Standards. There are adhesives that are claimed to work at much higher %RH, and floor coverings that are claimed as being capable of performing at higher thresholds. When asking a selection of contractors and manufacturers (including floor coverings manufacturers) what were their thoughts on going against the British Standards and instead following the claims of a single product, the response was overwhelmingly ”what will the product manufacturer guarantee?”

In the case of an adhesive being used in a non-British Standard application, will the manufacturer guarantee all the other aspects of the installation, such as the smoothing compounds, primers and floor covering, or are they only saying their adhesive won’t break down? Floor covering manufacturers concur that it would be up to the adhesive manufacturer to offer assurances in this circumstance, so if all isn’t guaranteed then why risk it?

Now I’m not here to say things aren’t moving forward and in many cases product performances are improving, but we have recognised British Standards including established test methods for moisture which, if ignored, mean that you are installing a floor in a non- standard way. Should things go wrong, you need absolute assurance that the comeback you will receive will be supported both technically and, where appropriate, financially by the manufacturer and that you aren’t left “holding the baby” as they say.

As one of my flooring colleagues says, “If my mate sparky was asked to do an electrical job using a new, better product but it didn’t confirm to British standards, what do you think he would say!!” Fair point?

Most of the failures observed these days are either as a result of ‘builders’ acting as professional flooring contractors and misusing and abusing products, or due to products and systems that are new on the market being used incorrectly . There aren’t many trades like ours where the installation is continually subjected to such rigours as potentially hundreds of people walking over it daily, so we need to be robust and keep the flooring industry professional. Short cuts in life often don’t reap the perceived rewards, so stick with what you know (excuse the pun). We should be proud that our standards are developed collectively with the flooring contractor in mind, rather than to limit their success.