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Moisture barriers act as effective moisture mitigation solution

In the last few years, the brick-and-mortar retail landscape has changed drastically. To keep up with online shopping and the ever-changing desires of the modern consumer, retailers are spending billions of dollars redesigning their stores, shifting to an adaptable retail experience. For instance, Target has reimagined hundreds of their stores with its next-generation store design. The focus is customization, including areas that showcase trends and seasonal products. And during most of their remodels, their stores stay open for business. Many retailers have also adopted “pop-up shops,” constructing temporary spaces to quickly take advantage of new or seasonal trends.

With all of these rapid changes happening in the retail environment, the approach to remodels and new construction of stores is vital. Flooring in particular is a key component of retail redesign and new construction.

Retailers are dealing with multiple challenges when it comes to flooring replacement.

First, the timeframe to complete a store remodel is limited and many retailers keep their stores open during redesigns, so the flooring installation needs to be clean and efficient.

In new construction, the timeline is equally constrained due to aggressive deadlines. Second, since retailers need the ability to quickly change layouts and add in pop-up shops or new sections, the flooring needs to adhere to these new demands and be easily modifiable.

Overcoming Time Constraints
In today’s retail construction, contractors want floor installation done overnight. This causes concerns, particularly when the concrete slab is damp and moisture mitigation is needed. If not properly addressed, excess moisture in the concrete slab can result in serious flooring failures. Recent technologies can help speed up the installation of moisture mitigation solutions. Previously, the approach to moisture mitigation was to use a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, creating a substrate that was ready to accept finish flooring materials. While effective, this method requires surface preparation, multiple steps and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.

An alternative approach is to use a proven moisture mitigation solution, such as Kovara moisture barriers, prior to installing the finished flooring. Moisture barriers are sheet membranes that serve as a protection layer. They are designed to be laid down above the concrete slab but underneath floor coverings such as carpet, vinyl or ceramic tile. When working on a retail renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring.

These sheet membranes offer significant advantages compared to epoxy technologies. Epoxy involves a time-consuming, manual application process, and no other work can take place during installation and the subsequent lengthy curing process. This halt in a project schedule represents an expenditure of time and money for the retailer and contractors alike. Unlike epoxy, these moisture barriers can be installed in a single night, so the store can be back in business the next morning. This allows a retail store to shut its doors in the evening, renovate its flooring overnight and then return to business the next day.

The other advantage is that retailers have the flexibility to stay open if the flooring is being installed during the day. Unlike epoxy, these moisture barriers can be installed without a specialized crew of trained applicators; it does not require the use of noisy shot-blasting. It can be installed in up to half the time compared to epoxy solutions. Just roll onto the surface, tape the seams, cut in and you're done. This allows stores to stay open with customers walking right by the active installation, without any mess or dust. And the flooring can be installed right around the displays, without unstocking and restocking the shelves.

Modifiable Flooring
Retail establishments are working hard to keep their environments on trend for their customers. Today, retailers are consistently removing flooring for new décor and design changes as well as to add in popular branded pop-ups and seasonal sections. And, for stores that utilize short-term leases, they are responsible for restoring the rental space back to its original condition, which includes the finished flooring, once the lease is complete.

A solution to this challenge is to install a moisture barrier under the initial finished flooring. This means all that needs to be done to change the floor to a new design is to pull up the existing tile and the membrane, then replace with a new layer, followed by the finished flooring. They can be removed easily, allowing retailers to replace their flooring time and again, without ever needing to disrupt the old flooring underneath.

Moisture barriers such as Kovara can also be installed over existing tile that is smooth, flat and well bonded to the substrate. Next, simply install the new finished flooring over it. This is extremely useful when stores want to install a pop-up shop or other temporary space. The membranes can also be used as a loose lay underlayment, which is not adhered to the substrate at all, allowing removal as soon as desired, without damage to the permanent flooring. This is particularly useful for flooring that is designed to be there for a very limited time, such as for a shopping season.

Curtis Colegrove and Dan DeRenzo are technical services representatives, GCP Applied Technologies, makers of the Kovara (formerly VersaShield) floor moisture barrier.
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