You probably know the positive correlation between humidity and mould, dust mites and the risk of health problems such as respiratory problems. Consumers are already very well educated and aware of moisture-related health problems. But are they equally informed about the damage that moisture can cause to a floor? Find out why and understand why a moisture problem does not bode well for a floor.
Define moisture problems.
First of all, be aware that soil is a common source of moisture, but not the only one. On the other hand, moisture from the soil is usually the most problematic or damaging.In the case of a moisture problem and your floor covering, it is important to know that moisture problems come from the ground level or below. So if you have a moisture problem, know that the initial source of moisture probably comes from the concrete slab on which your house is built, which was built below or directly at ground level. This is why moisture problems are generally found in basements. This being said, you should know that it is also possible that your concrete slab was poured over a vapour barrier that will help limit possible moisture problems. However, it is very difficult to know if this is the case.
So how do you know if your house or basement has a moisture problem? First of all, it is possible to do a test to detect a moisture problem. This test consists of measuring moisture evaporation in pounds per square inch per hour. It is not a very complex test, but it requires a lot of precision in its execution. In addition, it is often expensive and may not reflect reality. In fact, the time of year you perform the test can affect the accuracy of the results. For example, if you perform the test during spring snowmelt, the soil may be more waterlogged than in the summer. This means that more moisture may evaporate from the soil at that time. All in all, this is a very good test, but be aware that there is another way to detect a moisture problem at a lower cost: use your common sense. Specifically, look for the warning signs that your home may have a moisture problem. Do you smell dampness in your basement? Does your subpump leave often (how often)? If you have a dehumidifier, does it need to be emptied every day, twice a day? Is your home near a body of water? You may have a water table under the house and therefore a waterlogged floor. Another way to find out is to look to see if a fixed piece of furniture (that has been placed on the concrete slab for some time) has left a ring under it when you move it.If there is a darker ring or circle, it is a sign of a potential moisture problem since moisture trying to get out of the ground can leave marks on the concrete slab.
What can cause a moisture problem in your home? It is important to know that a moisture problem is often related to previous water damage or simply to the fact that there is no vapour barrier membrane, which means that moisture is trying to escape from the slab at all times.
The consequences of humidity on floor
Now that the table has been set on moisture problems, let's get to the heart of the matter: the reaction of floor coverings to a moisture problem. Since each typeof floor covering is made of different components and requires different installation products, there is no doubt that they will react differently to a moisture problem. Here's how each type of flooring can react to a moisture problem.
Despite what you may think, just because ceramic is one of the hardest floor coverings does not mean that it is insensitive to moisture. Several problems can occur, including efflorescence, or bleaching of the joints. In a case of high humidity, it is also possible that water drops will come out of the joints and then create small puddles all over your floor. It is also possible that the grout will crack and that the joints will crumble due to the movement of the tile and finally result in a completely loose tile. One of the most extreme cases is called "tenting" and as the name suggests, the ceramic tiles lift off the floor to form a tent like appearance due to the excessive amount of moisture pressure trying to get out of the floor. This kind of situation is quite rare as it requires an immense amount of moisture to be able to push the tiles off the floor by pressure alone.
Moisture problems with vinyl floors are also possible. For example, the most common problem with vinyl sheeting (the prepaste) is finding mould underneath the product. This type of problem can be easily suspected by the smell of mould under the floor covering or by the discolouration of the product. It is also possible to see air bubbles everywhere under the starter strip or a warping due to moisture trying to get out from under the floor covering. As for vinyl strips and tiles, a moisture problem can cause the product to peel off. Moisture will try to work its way through the easiest way, i.e. the joints. If you notice that the joints of your vinyl flooring strips or tiles are gradually starting to peel off, you may have a moisture problem. Another indication of a moisture problem is oozing adhesive. If you notice that the glue is coming out of the joints, ask yourself questions as this is not normal.
Laminate flooring is no exception to the rule since it too can react to moisture problems. In this situation, moisture can cause the laminate floor to deform due to swelling of the joints. Since the base of the laminate flooring is made partly of wood, it will gorge itself with moisture (water) and swell the joints which will put pressure on each other. The more the joints swell, the more the boards will be exposed to opposite pressure which will cause them to deform. It is also possible that the boards will separate from each other or that the boards will undergo a convexity deformation more commonly known as the bulging effect. Be aware that it is just as likely that you will hear creaking noises when you walk on your floor.
Carpet is the floor covering with which a moisture problem is rather rare since carpet materials allow moisture to evaporate more easily than other types of floor coverings. That being said, carpet is not immune to moisture problems. If such a problem exists, be aware that the carpet can peel off the substrate.
In short, as every problem has a solution, so does floor covering. If you want to avoid a possible moisture problem, consider installing a vapour barrier membrane when preparing your subfloor. This will limit the risk of future problems. You can also install a decoupling membrane, since it blocks the rise of humidity and neutralizes movement stresses and avoids putting pressure directly on the floor covering. There is a suitable membrane for every type of floor covering. It is also possible to opt for a false floor that will allow air clearance under the floor covering and thus prevent moisture from growing directly on the floor. As you can see, humidity can be the worst enemy of your floor covering and that is why it is important to check if you have a problem before installing your new floor covering. Don't hesitate to ask for help from flooring specialists such as our in-store advisors.