Floor Prep: LVT growth is supported by a range of compatible floor-prep materials - Jan 2018
By Darius Helm
LVT’s rapid growth in both the residential and commercial markets has fundamentally changed the floorcovering landscape, already accounting for about 8% of flooring sales and likely to soar much higher before reaching some sort of equilibrium. Producers of everything from self-leveling products to adhesives have stepped up their game, supplying the industry with a variety of systems to ensure successful LVT installations. In some cases, these products are designed specifically for LVT, while others work with a wider range of floorcoverings.
The self-leveling category has been particularly busy. Like sheet goods, LVT telegraphs, contouring to the shape of the subfloor and as such revealing subfloor imperfections on its surface. The same effect is not found in carpet, hardwood, ceramic tile or laminate flooring. Yet another reason for the increased importance of self-leveling products is the shift away from new construction in many commercial sectors. This means more work on existing, and often damaged, concrete slab, requiring self-leveling product and other materials.
Many floor prep providers have been broadening their offerings, looking to provide comprehensive solutions for installations of not just LVT but of most flooring categories.
Bostik, for instance, bought XL Brands from Textile Rubber & Chemical Company late last year. Bostik, a global firm headquartered in Paris, France, is part of Arkema, a publicly traded company on the Paris Exchange. In the flooring industry, Bostik is best known for its hardwood adhesives, while XL Brands is a leader in adhesives for resilient flooring and carpet as well as floor prep products. And last May the firm purchased CMP Specialty Products, which makes leveling compounds, primers and surface preparation repair patches, focused on the commercial market.
XL Brands manufactures all of its products at its facility in Dalton, Georgia, including adhesives, seam sealers, floor prep products and cove base adhesives customized for the products of specific manufacturers. In fact, it has over 600 private label products.
For LVT, it offers adhesives that can be troweled, sprayed or applied with a roller under the Stix and Dyna-Stix brands. Its acrylic-based floor prep products-all of which are rolled on-include Prelude, a primer that improves the bonding surface of substrates and protects adhesives from alkalinity; TriSeal, an acrylic polymer compound used to encapsulate adhesive residue; and DriSeal 95, a penetrating concrete sealer.
In 2017, XL Brands came out with HydraStix DS99, a moisture vapor reduction system that is applied by trowel over porous concrete and radiant heated floor. The high-performance product can protect against moisture up to 99% relative humidity (RH) in high alkaline environments up to 12 pH, essentially preventing conditions that enable plasticizer from vinyl products to leach into the adhesive. The product seeks its own level and forms an impermeable elastic membrane.
Another provider of comprehensive floor prep solutions is Florence, Alabama’s HPS Schönox North America, the exclusive purveyor of Schönox products on the continent. Founded in 2011, the firm has been a subsidiary of TMT America, a holding company owned by Thomas Trissl, since 2013. Trissl is the founder of LVT manufacturer Centiva, now part of Tarkett.
The most prominent offering HPS Schönox first brought to the North American market was its product line made of patented synthetic gypsum. Schönox, a German firm, used to be part of AkzoNobel, the inventor of synthetic gypsum, until AkzoNobel sold its building adhesives business to Sika in 2013. Synthetic gypsum is created by capturing waste sulfur dioxide, a byproduct of cleaning coal stacks in Europe, and converting it with limestone and water into gypsum, which is calcium sulfate dihydrate. The process yields gypsum in two forms, an alpha particle with a hexagonal profile and a beta particle with a more amorphous shape, like a cotton ball. Schönox uses the alpha particle, which compresses into a much denser material than the beta particle, to make its two synthetic gypsum self-leveling compounds, Schönox AP and Schönox APF, and its Schönox AST fast-drying smoothing and patching compound.
Synthetic gypsum has none of the performance problems of mined gypsum, and it’s not caustic like cementitious compounds. And it makes dense and durable floors. Schönox AP is rated at 5,800 PSI, and APF, which is fiber reinforced, at 6,200 PSI. The firm also offers several cementitious self-leveling compounds.
While HPS Schönox’s unique synthetic gypsum products are still a huge growth engine for the firm, it has added an arsenal of floor prep tools, including adhesives, underlayments and products for moisture mitigation and waterproofing. In terms of adhesives for LVT, the firm offers Roll and Go, a roller-applied acrylic product; a bucket and trowel system called EMI Classic; HPS 92, which works with VCT and vinyl tile; and a two-component polyurethane, PU 900, that can handle applications subject to heavy rolling loads.
For LVT, Schönox also offers moisture mitigation systems for various applications and budgets, including two-component, fast-drying epoxies called EPA and EPA Rapid with drying times of four to five hours and two to three hours, respectively.
Another firm that has been steadily increasing the breadth of its floor prep products is Laticrete, which is best known for its ceramic tile installation products. In fact, the founder of the company, Henry Rothberg, Sr., invented thinset adhesive about 60 years ago, and Laticrete was the original name of the product (Laticrete 4237 Latex Thin-Set Additive). That was the firm’s first product, and it was followed by grouts, adhesives, membranes, waterproofing materials and much more.
The firm got into the self-leveling business with its acquisition of Drytek Flooring Solutions in 2011. And in 2012, it formed a joint venture (JV) with Supercap, which had not only self-leveling products but also pump truck technology. The JV turned into Laticrete Supercap, a system that mixes the low-alkali, cementitious, self-leveling compound in a specialized truck (which holds up to 28,000 pounds of material) and pumps it directly up to the jobsite, which can be up to 50 stories above ground. And it can do 50,000 square feet in a single day.
The advantages of Laticrete Supercap over traditional systems are numerous, from virtually eliminating the release of silica dust from the project site to completing the project in half the time. And the firm now offers ready mix delivery, where clients only pay for what comes out of the hose, which will help reduce costs for smaller projects. And it also enables smaller flooring contractors to bid on jobs previously out of their reach.
There are currently 18 trucks in operation-six of which operate in Manhattan, running six days a week. Laticrete operates most of them, but some are owned by contractors. And the firm is building more specialized pump trucks as quickly as it can.
Stauf Adhesives, founded in 1828 by a German tanner, Eberhard Stauf, who started selling waste remnants of his hides to glue makers to survive an economic depression, is still run by the Stauf family, now in its sixth generation. After World War II, the firm started inventing synthetic adhesives, first for hardwood flooring and now for just about every type of floorcovering on the market-and it also makes primers, sealers and self-leveling compounds. Stauf USA, with offices in Lexington, Tennessee, was established in 2002.
Stauf has developed an adhesive specifically for luxury vinyl tile and plank installation. LVP-777 Pro-Lux can be used as either a wet-lay or pressure-sensitive adhesive, and it also works well with non-absorbent subfloors and moisture barriers.
Stauf also offers a two-component, self-leveling urethane compound, ULC-500 LevelSeal, that cures in under four hours. It creates a moisture barrier up to 97% RH. SLC-540 Self Leveling Compound also works for LVT installations. The high-strength compound dries in less than two hours and cures in 12 hours.
Taylor, which is headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, with manufacturing both in Dalton and in Fontana, California, offers adhesives and moisture mitigation products for flooring installation projects. The growth of LVT over the last decade or so, along with gains by glass-backed sheet vinyl (which is a misnomer, since these types of products are actually vinyl top and bottom, sandwiching a fiberglass scrim) has driven demand for adhesives that are plasticizer resistant.
Taylor’s most well-established adhesive for LVT as well as vinyl-backed sheet goods, rubber flooring and stair treads, is Pinnacle, a pressure-sensitive adhesive that goes from releasable to hard and waterproof, with moisture resistance up to 95% RH. And about two years ago, Taylor came out with Dynamic, with moisture resistance up to 97% RH and a longer window for installation-12 hours, compared to three hours for Pinnacle.
The Ardex Group-originally founded in 1949 as Norwag-Werke in Witten, Germany-is made up of 15 brands serving markets across the world. In the U.S., the core brands are Ardex and Henry-Ardex acquired W.W. Henry Co., a leading adhesives producer, from Armstrong World Industries in 2000 for $86 million.
When it comes to adhesives designed for LVT, Henry offers 622 VinylBond, a high-strength product with enhanced plasticizer migration resistance. It can be used as a wet-set or pressure-sensitive adhesive. And 640 VinylLock is a pressure-sensitive adhesive for LVT and vinyl-backed sheet goods that can also be used as a wet-set adhesive, and it is moisture and alkali resistant. Both products offer moisture resistance up to 90% RH.
The Ardex brand offers self-leveling products, including Ardex K 60 Arditex, a rapid-setting, latex smoothing and leveling compound; and Ardex V 1200, its everyday workhorse product.
Taylor also offers Resolute, a multi-function adhesive for resilient flooring-it used to be called MS Plus Resilient. Resolute is a modified-silane product that self levels, correcting minor subfloor imperfections, and also has a vapor barrier. And SoundLevel is a self-leveling underlayment and sound-reducing system for floating floor systems, including rigid LVT products.
Uzin Utz, a German producer of mostly cementitious products, started U.S. production in October 2015 in its facility in Dover, Delaware as Uzin-Utz USA. When it comes to subfloor preparation, Uzin-Utz offers two cementitious products and one synthetic gypsum with unique self-leveling characteristics developed by the firm in 2009 and called Level Plus Effect and Level Plus Effect S.
The product most often selected to go under LVT installations is NC 150, a standard cementitious self-leveling compound with a 24-hour dry time. NC 170 LevelStar cuts that to six to 15 hours, and it features Level Plus Effect S. And NC 172 BiTurbo with Level Plus Effect is ready for installation of LVT products in about an hour.
Uzin Utz offers a universal adhesive that works for all floorcoverings, called KE 2000 S, with good plasticizer resistance. It can be used as a pressure-sensitive or wet-set adhesive. Another is KE 66, a highly shear-resistant adhesive for vinyl and rubber products. The fiber-reinforced wet-set adhesive offers substantial dimensional stability.
The firm offers warranties on projects-tied directly to a job-specific address-covering the entire flooring system, including the floorcovering. Later this month, it plans on offering a limited ten-year warranty online.
Rigid LVT, the fastest growing flooring product on the market right now, is marketed as a waterproof resilient product with a rigid profile that eliminates the need for a perfectly flat and level subfloor, since its inflexibility prevents telegraphing, a common problem in sheet vinyl and standard LVT. What also distinguishes this class of products is that they have click systems for floating floor installations.
However, industry experts like Lew Migliore warn that imperfect subfloors can still cause flooring failures, even with rigid LVT. “The flooring material shouldn’t be the leveling component,” says Migliore. In fact, an unlevel subfloor can compromise the integrity of a rigid product-for instance, rolling loads can more easily damage the click systems holding the floor together. At best, any empty space beneath rigid LVT will echo when walked on.
So, while it may be tempting to save a chunk of money by installing these products without putting down a self-leveling layer first, it’s worth remembering that a flooring failure will cost a lot more.
Copyright 2018 Floor Focus