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Testing and Inspection for Moisture

There are many knowledgeable individuals and organizations that specialize in field, laboratory, and forensic floor testing and inspection. Unfortunately, most projects forego a standard test protocol on projects prior to installation citing budget constraints. However, when a floor failure occurs, the certified testing experts are called in to assess why. This is often more costly, as a deeper analysis is required in addition to the cost of remediation. Many times failures can be avoided by performing the proper testing and/or evaluation prior to floor installation.

Testing is conducted both in the lab and the field. Product manufacturers perform a multitude of tests to determine anticipated lifecycle, product duty rating, performance values, and compatibility characteristics. Field testing is employed to evaluate moisture and pH conditions, tolerances, application problems, contaminants, perform failure analysis, and many other installation related inspections. This field test can be performed with a moistures meter.

Project Considerations

Testing and inspection can be implemented in the field in one of two ways. Testing is often performed prior to flooring installations to verify the suitability of the substrate for product installation. Tests commonly performed would include moisture and alkalinity testing, flatness tolerance, mineralogy analysis of cores for contaminants, and property analysis of concrete. Pre-installation testing can prevent the need for forensic analysis and reduce the risk of floor failures.

Forensic analysis is the most common form of post installation testing and is usually commissioned in the event of a floor failure. In the event of a floor failure such as blistering, surface delamination, cracking, or any form of surface degradation, forensic analysis is employed. Failure analysis testing may likely include most of the pre-installation tests outlined above. Failure to evaluate the surface condition is a common occurrence in floor failures. Additionally, forensic inspectors may also employ adhesion testing, core analysis, and laboratory testing procedures from the constituent components of failed floor covering materials/system to determine the mode and means of the failure.

Application Process

Each test has its own unique equipment, procedures, and requirements. Most testing procedures are established by an independent organization and are accepted throughout the industry as recognized testing guidelines. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established many of the guidelines which govern the testing procedures most commonly used in the industry. In addition, individual industry associations that work in a specific field generally have established guidelines that identify the Best Practice Standards for that trade. Some of the more common tests that are employed within the flooring industry include:

ASTM F1869-04 Standard Test Method for Measuring Moisture Vapor Emission Rate of Concrete Subfloors Using Anhydrous Calcium Chloride is used to determine concrete moisture vapor emission rate (MVER)

ASTM F2170-02 Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity in Concrete Floor Slabs Using In-Situ Probes is used to measure the relative humidity in concrete floor slabs

ASTM F2420-05 Standard Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity on the Surface of Concrete Floor Slabs Using Relative Humidity Probe Measurement and Insulated Hood is used to measure the relative humidity on the surface of concrete floor slabs

ASTM F710-03 Standard Practice for Preparing Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring specifies that the surface of concrete slabs be tested for alkalinity before installing a floor covering and is used to measure the alkalinity/pH level on the surface of concrete floor slabs

ASTM D4541-02 Standard Test Method for Pull-Off Strength of Coatings Using Portable Adhesion Testers is used to determine the bond strength of coatings on the surface of substrates

Refer to product manufacturer’s requirements, governing industry installation and testing standards, and approved testing and material methods to insure the proper evaluation of projects. Pre-installation and post-installation testing can be a valuable means to prevent, limit, and mitigate flooring related problems.

Benefits and Limitations

All floor systems have specific requirements for successful installation. It is important to verify that the product manufacturer’s written guidelines govern the installation process. Adherence to instructions is critical for maintaining the manufacturer’s warranty; neglecting them will almost certainly void the warranty. Proper product selection based on end use, appropriate scheduling with other trades, testing and compliance to product moisture requirements, and installation per industry Best Practice methods are the keys to a quality flooring installation.

Testing that is performed should be in accordance with the product guidelines, manufacturers recommendations, and recognized industry standards.


Regular maintenance is vital to the long term welfare of all floors. There is not a surface available that can be used without cleaning and maintenance and remain in optimum condition. The floor is subjected to the most abuse in any normal business. Keeping the floor in good condition takes a little forethought and a consistent effort. The first key to maintaining floors is preventing as much soil, debris, and potential damaging agents from being introduced to the environment in the first place. Interior and exterior walk-off mats can minimize the amount of sand, water, and foreign matter that are tracked onto the floor. Limiting contaminants will simplify the maintenance process.

There are tests that can be performed as part of an annual evaluation of a floor’s safety and maintenance records, such as slip co-efficient tests which determine compliance with ADA slip resistance requirements.