Understanding Moisture Mitigation - The Nature of the Beast!

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016

Did you know that concrete breathes?

And, not only does it breathe, but its breathing can create massive problems for your industrial or commercial flooring if it’s not understood and controlled.

As with almost every aspect of facility management and maintenance, the key is it be educated and aware of the potential risks and your options for practical solutions. With that said, let’s dive into a closer look at moisture transmission, its causes, and your options for eliminating a problem before it has a chance to bubble to the surface.

At Kaloutas's industrial flooring division, we’re big fans of working smarter and skipping headaches whenever possible, and we’re guessing you are too.

An Inconvenient Truth - How and Why Dangerous Moisture Levels Occur in Your Concrete Slab

Behind almost every great flooring failure is a moisture issue. It’s true. An excess of moisture is the #1 contributor to floor system breakdowns.

How does it happen?

Well, as we mentioned above, concrete breathes. It may feel solid but it’s actually porous, and riddled with capillaries. The naturally-occurring moisture in the ground (thanks to the presence of groundwater) seeps its way up through the microscopic network of passages in your concrete, and eventually will make its presence known on the surface.

Your concrete is also made with water, of course; it’s a primary ingredient. In fact, builders will often add even more water than is necessary to make it easier to work with. Once it’s poured, it doesn’t fully dry out for years - roughly one year per inch of thickness, to be more specific. This means that in addition to groundwater working its way up, you also have a moisture-laden flooring surface slowly releasing water vapor for years.

Concrete needs to breathe; it’s the nature of the beast. The key is found in controlling that breathing.

How Do You Know If You Have a Moisture Problem In Your Concrete Slab?

Here are a few warning signs to watch for:

  • Blisters on a seamless epoxy floor
  • Delamination of tiles
  • Stains on bare concrete
  • Testing! We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have your slab tested for elevated moisture levels, even if there are no immediate signs of an issue (why wait?)

Another red flag is a concrete slab that was poured prior to the year 2000. Vapor barriers became more of an industry standard at the turn of the millennium, but older buildings likely will not have any sort of barrier in place. This is important to keep in mind!

Can You Install a Vapor Barrier for an Older Concrete Slab?

Absolutely! It’s not too late.

A qualified, expert flooring professional can determine and install the right moisture mitigation system for your facility. These systems will slow or completely inhibit the vapor transmission, and recent advances have made them more effective than ever before.

Can You Have a Moisture Issue Even If You Do Have a Vapor Barrier?

Not all vapor mitigation systems are created equal, and neither is the quality of the installation. And, as we mentioned above, newer concrete floors are continuing to dispel the excess of moisture that is trapped within the substrate during the mixing and pouring process.

To compound the issue, most modern industrial facilities are well sealed and have some sort of HVAC system to keep the air flowing and control the interior temperature, like air conditioning. This is where that pesky science gets in the way once again… As your AC runs, it dehumidies the environment, and, in so doing, the vapor pressure within the concrete begins to fluctuate. The two naturally-occurring forces then try to equalize (the vapor pressure in the floor and the air pressure in the environment).

Why does this matter?

Well, as the pressures try to equalize themselves, even more vapor is drawn from the slab. In short, a moisture issue can be created despite having a well-sealed, modern facility with a like-new concrete floor and cutting-edge HVAC system.

Whether your property is brand new or a century old, moisture still finds a way inside through your floor.

The Tangible Value of a Moisture Mitigation System

As we mentioned above, we’re big believers in getting ahead of a problem before it really ruins your day (or maintenance budget). The very best move you can make is to proactively identify the moisture levels in your slab, and ensure that a mitigation system is in place that will effectively regulate just how much moisture is making its way through.

Aligning yourself with a trustworthy and reputable industrial flooring expert is essential. They can help guide you through the process and thoroughly understand the solutions available to you.

Kaloutas is New England's premier contractor for commercial & industrial painting, flooring, and related services. Established in 1987, Kaloutas has become a trusted resource for general contractors, facilities managers, and building owners from Connecticut to Maine. Our team prides itself on high quality workmanship, jobs done on time & budget, and tackling complex projects that other contractors don't have the experience or resources to handle. Contact us today for a painting or flooring estimate, or give us a call at 978-532-1414 to learn more.

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