Concrete Moisture Testing Costs - What If We Don't Do It?

what-if-we-dont-test-for-moisture-content

If you don’t test, you have to guess.

Concrete moisture testing is conducted for a single purpose: to determine the amount of moisture in a particular concrete slab. That begs the question then, of why this information might be important. And for anyone involved in the decision-making process around a commercial building, the question is even more specific: why should we spend the money to pay for concrete moisture testing?

To answer that question, we’ll offer a few suggestions or scenarios for consideration about what can happen if you choose not to conduct concrete moisture testing.

#1 What if we don’t test a new concrete slab before installing the flooring?

When installing new flooring, the main factor that will determine the success or failure of the flooring installation is whether the materials are compatible with each other and with the environment. This compatibility is determined by the manufacturer’s guidelines for the specific flooring product, guidelines that suggest the moisture tolerance for the adhesive that should be used with the flooring, and the moisture content the concrete slab can contain.

Without concrete moisture testing, there’s no way to know whether those three elements will work well together. And if you don’t test, you have to guess.

        Assumption A: There isn’t a significant amount of moisture in the concrete.

Based on this assumption, it’s possible to purchase inexpensive adhesives, and hope that they work.

But if that assumption turns out to be incorrect, you won’t know you made a bad decision until after you’ve installed the flooring -- possibly months after. Once the problems appear though, there can be any number of consequences. In the worst case scenario, a badly damaged floor can force the closure of the space, but even if that isn’t the case, a flooring failure will lead to unnecessary headaches and costs.

        Assumption B: There is a significant amount of moisture in the concrete

Based on this assumption, moisture mitigation is necessary. Adding moisture mitigation products to a flooring installation can exponentially increase the total cost of the flooring installation.


Concrete moisture testing leads to informed decision-making and reduced risks.

#2 What if we don’t test before we upgrade to new flooring?

When choosing to remove old flooring and install new flooring, it’s easy to assume that if the current flooring is stable, then the new flooring will be too. It makes sense to think that if the existing flooring has been there for years or even decades, then the concrete moisture isn’t an issue.

But without a test, you have to guess. And here are the reasons why you shouldn’t:

#1: New flooring products have changed significantly, so the flooring that’s in place may not be a good indicator of how the new flooring products will work. Modern day adhesives are water-based, and have less solvents in them, so they may not be as capable of handling the moisture that older adhesives were able to.

#2: A concrete slab can be recharged with moisture. Concrete slabs should be poured over a vapor retarder, but if the vapor retarder isn’t high grade, or has been compromised over time, the concrete will absorb the moisture from the environment. And if there’s no vapor retarder present at all, then it’s very likely the moisture level of the concrete is higher than it should be for a successful flooring installation.

Concrete moisture testing can include a test to determine the placement and quality of a vapor retarder, which can be extremely valuable information in the case of an existing concrete slab.

#3 What if we don’t test before we enter into a lease agreement?

When considering a space for possible tenancy, it’s best to go into it assuming the worst. The failure to test for concrete moisture as part of the due diligence process creates the risk of entering into a lease agreement without having the comprehensive information you need to ensure that you won’t be responsible for a flooring failure.

A concrete moisture test is an essential, but often overlooked, element of a thorough due diligence process. Comprehensive testing lays the foundation for well-researched risks, identified areas of concern, and solutions to potential problems in advance of their occurrence.

Below are two scenarios showing the total added cost to a 20,000 square foot flooring install for both a floor failure and a slab requiring moisture mitigation.


 

Floor Failure

Moisture Mitigation

Proactive Testing

Removal of failed flooring

$1 per sq. ft.

$0 per sq. ft.

15¢ per sq. ft.

Application of moisture mitigation

$4 per sq. ft.

$4 per sq. ft.

 

Installation of new flooring

$4 per sq. ft.

$0 per sq. ft.

 

Total

$180,000

$80,000

$3,000.00


In this sample, a $3,000 moisture test will provide the information you need to make an evidence-based plan of action. If the tests indicate that next step should be to spend an extra $80,000 to mitigate a moisture problem, you can rest assured that the investment will prevent the possibility of a future $180,000 expenditure down the road.


Concrete moisture testing is like going to the doctor for your yearly check-up. It might be a little scary to think you’ll get some bad news, but it’s better to know earlier rather than later, because a proactive approach is always the more effective way to manage any situation.

If you’re interested in speaking with a professional about concrete testing and commercial flooring, call IFTI at (800) 490-3657 for a complimentary consultation.

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IFTI Staff

Written by IFTI Staff