Flooring Moisture Test

Saturday December 20, 2008
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When installing flooring over concrete subfloors, it is important that you do a moisture test prior to installation to ensure that there is no excess moisture being emitted from the concrete floor. Moisture can cause adhesive failure, swelling of hardwood, cork, laminate, or bamboo, mold in carpet, and other disastrous flooring problems. Don’t fret. Performing moisture tests on concrete subfloors does not necessarily require the purchase of instruments or the hiring of a professional, though both of those options may be chosen for increased accuracy.

You can create a home-made moisture test (commonly known as a Polyethylene Moisture Test) with two simple items that you probably have lying around your house: A clear garbage bag or a large piece of clear plastic sheeting and duct tape. Note that the concrete slab should be at least 30 days old to perform this test.

First, cut the clear plastic into several square foot pieces (12" x 12"). Next, use the duct tape to tape these down in various spots on your concrete subfloor well enough so that no air can escape around the edges. After 24-48 hours, check the plastic for condensation and for a darkening of the concrete floor where the plastic was taped. Either of these results indicates a problem with moisture in your concrete subfloor meaning that it is unsuitable for flooring installation until the problem is taken care of. If this is the case, I recommend that you contact a professional flooring installer to identify and fix the issue before you even bring your new flooring into the installation area. For a list of flooring installers in your area, use the flooring professionals locator tool on FindAnyFloor’s home page to search by your zip code.

To get a more exact test, I recommend the calcium chloride test that you can purchase online by Googling "calcium chloride." This test take a bit longer to perform and will cost between $50 to $150, but it will give you a more precise moisture reading. Even though concrete sealers, moisture barriers, and other underlayments can protect your new floor from moisture, it is never a good idea to place flooring on concrete that is still emitting a high level of moisture.

For more information on sub-floor moisture testing, visit the hardwood flooring installation instructions.

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