Carl Bredl has been in the flooring industry for 35 years and the depth of his experience is impressive. Beginning as a union installer in 1985, he started with carpet, and eventually ventured into hard surfaces, including vinyls, rubber, wood, laminate, concrete repair, epoxy mitigation systems, and resinous flooring. He’s known as “The Moisture Testing Guy” and has been inspecting commercial floors since the mid 1990’s. Even with over three decades of industry expertise, Carl humbly admits, “I still learn something new every day. I’m always meeting new people, and learning something new about what we do and how we do things.” He adds, “It’s why I get up every morning.”
Stay on Top of Flooring Issues from the Start.
As an inspector, Carl typically gets called after an installation when something has gone wrong with a floor. More and more customers, however, have started asking for his expertise at the beginning of a project. Carl credits that change to what the industry as a whole is doing to provide relevant, timely, and valuable information to customers.
He notes, “As they become better educated, they also become more proactive.”
Carl believes recognizing subfloor issues should start with salespeople and project managers by having them perform on-site walk throughs before bidding on jobs. Discovering problems at this stage benefits everyone involved, from the GC down to the end user. It can also save time, labor, money, and a lot of frustration.
Prior to and during the flooring installation, Carl notes it’s important to maintain consistent indoor environmental conditions to achieve a successful outcome. Situations like not having windows installed or not having HVAC units up and running are missteps that can lead to problems with the floor in the future. “We all get caught up in checking off a box and moving on, taking care of one thing and moving on to the next.”
But, as he states, “While that cycle has become the norm, it can lead to missing a lot of the details, especially in the long term and that can get you into trouble.”
Carl also offers this advice: take a thermo-hygrometer, surface temperature gauge and pH paper to all job sites when you’re making a site visit. There’s always a chance that you can identify or remedy something you may have missed on a previous visit. You should always closely monitor the job when the conditions can vary.
Pictures are Priceless.
If problems do arise on a flooring project and you need a professional to help you troubleshoot, photos are key. Carl recommends using the HDR setting on your phone when taking pictures and making certain there’s good lighting. He also advises taking pictures of the back of the flooring material along with the corresponding surface underneath. Lastly, he suggests including a point of reference. “If you are trying to show a certain anomaly on size, throw a quarter down or your car keys, to represent the size or magnitude of the issue.”
We asked Carl to identify and describe the causes of some flooring issues which are commonly, and mistakenly, attributed to improper maintenance.
In our first example, VCT tiles in a hallway are gapping and cupping.
The first thing Carl notices is that the tile was removed in one piece. He indicates, “Tile should come up in little pieces if it’s well bonded.” In the second photo, there’s no glue visible and Carl points out that’s a sign that this was a moisture issue. He continues, “Moisture and pH are related. Moisture is the ‘freeway’ in how pH gets to the surface. Typically when you have a lower reading it takes a lot longer for the problem to manifest. The higher the reading, the faster it takes place.” He suggests the floor may have also been previously abated chemically which can cause issues when the instructions aren’t followed carefully.
Our second set of photos show alkaline burn on VCT.
Carl explains that vinyl composition tile is about 85% limestone and 15% PVC, the vinyl component, which holds the limestone together. He points out, “This is a result of moisture coming through cracks or joints, efflorescence starts to develop and strips the plasticizers from the vinyl. This solution is usually highly alkaline, 12-13 pH. Carl suggests, “pH paper or a pH meter is going to be your friend here. Pull up a tile, clean the surface, and do your pH test in accordance with ASTM F 710.”
Our last example shows fractures in VCT at the joints.
Carl is quick to note that this is a problem that’s been going on for some time. He points out the discoloration around the tile which typically happens from the burning of the pad as techs maintain the floor. “Anything that’s above the normal plane is going to be burned from friction.” He also notes the number of layers of fractures going back from the tile joint. He explains, “Efflorescence forms in crystalline formations that are based on their particular chemical make up. The initial problem is a result of a higher vapor emission rate over time.” He concludes, “As the efflorescence slowly builds up, it progressively gets worse, similar to growth rings in wood.”
Education for the Professionals.
For those who’ve been in the industry for some time, Carl believes it’s important for you to pass your knowledge on to those who are just getting started. “I have learned so much about concrete. A lot of these ‘rules of thumb’ have been lost, and they are very important in what we do in floor covering.” He continues, “When I bring them up to newer concrete workers or flooring installers, they’ve never heard of it. You can go back and look the subject up under the ACI guidelines, it’s actually in there. Sometimes you’ll have to dive deep to really understand what they are trying to convey.” Industry learning, however, shouldn’t stop with the newcomers. Carl encourages, ”Try to take an hour a week to read something about the industry, at least one thing to make yourself better at what you do. Whether it’s how to better deal with people, how to better handle certain situations, or how to do your job better or be more efficient. ” He concludes, “That’s what motivates me. I think that’s a step in the right direction. Gotta keep moving the ball forward.”