Do’s and Don’ts of Hardwood Floor Maintenance
"Etiquette and tipping experts agree that tipping a contractor and his employees isn't expected because contractors offer to do a job for you at a specific price. Any extra money they would want would be built into their bid. Also, it's a business relationship rather than one where they are performing a personal service for you like a waiter or a maid. But if the employees do extra jobs around the house, then experts say it is appropriate to tip a cash amount equivalent to the task; "tip gifts" such as cookies and drinks can count. "The key to tipping is whether or not it was outside the scope of what was normally expected," says Mark Brenner, author of "Tipping for Success!"
My opinion is that a little bit of courtesy (snacks, drinks, expression of appreciation etc.) goes a long way and upon completion of their work you feel compelled by a job well done to offer a little extra in the form of a tip - go for it, but do not feel obligated.
I agree with Ben, as usual. First, test your slab - put a sheet of plastic over it, at least 3 feet square, taped down to the slab all around - leave for 3 days. If the slab darkens with moisture, or there is any condensation drops on the underside of the plastic, you have a damp slab. If you have visible moisture or moisture discoloration at any time during the course of the seasons with exposed concrete slab, then you have a wet slab. Even just a damp slab can put several quarts of moisture passingfrom the ground through the concrete into the air per day, and a wet basement slab in contact with wster at its base can generate as much as 10 gallons a day of air moisture - which means that pretty much anything placed on it WILL get damp enough to mildew or mold.
For a wet slab, a polished concrete or epoxy/polyurea surface is your best bet. Any other surfacing you put over it is likely to mold. Ceramic tile with waterproofing additives in the mortar mix can work if the surface is properly prepared for good bonding, and you use "plastic" thinset and grout rather than cement based grout. Basically has to be done the same way as for a gymnasium shower floor or pool deck to work right.
For a damp slab, assuming it NEVER actually gets wet either from high water table under it in wet season, or from surface flooding from foundation leakage, then you have several options:
1) As Ben says, Pergo and others make totally plastic flooring material in a variety of surfaces that can be put down on a smooth slab over a vapor barrier and totally inorganic plastic padding - looks like bubble wrap commonly. Does not guarantee mold will not form between the vapor barrier and the concrete. IF you use a snap flooring version, can be taken up if it gets saturated and dried, then put back in. Not so with glued or nailed versions. Some people also use snap or interlock together rubber or foam flooring over a vapor barrier, particularly in rec rooms, which can be taken up easily in event of flood.
2) A vapor barrier under an inorganic pad as above, overlain with an open-weave backing synthetic fiber (nylon, rayon) carpet with NO natural materials in it, which has lots of breathing space in the weave can work. I have used open-weave backing short-pile 100% nylon carpet from Armstrong in my basement for about 30 years, with vapor-barrier floor paint but no plastic sheet vapor barrier or padding and never a mildew problem, even though the plastic sheet test did show a minor amount of condensation. The key is a breathable carpet and decent airflow in the basement.
3) Any other type of flooring - laminate, vinyl, hardwood, etc will act to xxxx vapor evaporation, so risk mildew/mold under them. You can put down a sealer on the concrete and a vapor barrier and frequently get satisfactory service in a low moisture slab - generally only ones that are at or above surrounding ground level, but you always have the risk of mildew, and if ever flooded are pretty much trash. If you use a sheet product, use plastic, not organic - so vinyl, not linoleum, for instance. I have successfully done asphaltic based vinyl tiles and vinyl sheet using asphalt adhesive - the 1970's method - on damp flooring without trouble, but you have to make sure the concrete is VERY well sealed first with multiple penetrating coats of sealant placed on ground concrete surface so there is open voids for the sealant to penetrate, then let sit a week or more untouched and unwalked on before putting down the asphaltic-bonded tiles or sheet. The key is to make sure the concrete is less permeable to moisture than the overlying material. If you use a non-asphaltic adhesive (because of smell issues or allergies), then I would recommend full-adhesion waterproof mastic, not spot-adhered or glueless, so there are no air gaps under the sheet to accumualte moisture and mildew.
4) Of course, in new construction, if a full edge-bonded heavy duty plastic liner is put in the bedding sand layer UNDER the slab, that can turn a potentially wet or damp situation into a basically dry one, allowing almost any type of flooring to be used, though I NEVER recommend hardwood over below- or on-grade slabs. Of course, in a basement, one should probably assume that at some point it will get at least partially flooded from foundstion leak or pipe failure, so polished or stained or coated concrete, tile, or removeable flooring is the most likely to survive that.
5) Another option, in pretty much either case if your ventilation system removes the vapor as fast as the concrete can supply it, is padless thick open-weave area rug with a "Miller Weave", "Open Back", "Berber" or "Rag Rug" construction - which have lots of air holes in the rug and backing to let the moisture through. Then if getting damp or floods, just roll up and take out to garage and drape over some elevated 2x4's across sawhorses to dry out. Again, start with good concrete sealing first - preferably deep sealant with compatible epoxy surface coat to minimize water transmission.
I get so many calls from customers that were talked into a "cheaper" way to do something only to find the work very sub-par. The sad part is they are out the money they spent in the first place along with the additional amount I have to charge just to undo what the first contractor did before I can do it right. This floor could end up costing you double what it should if it's not done right.
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