A couple months ago, we were called in to take a look at some issues our client was having with sheet vinyl lifting at the seams in their restrooms. It had been installed years prior by another flooring contractor, so we performed our due diligence by examining the site conditions to figure out the possible cause and whether we could simply repair the seams or if a complete overhaul would be necessary.
After inspecting the floors, we determined that there was an 1/8” gap at the seams, indicating that the sheet vinyl shrank dramatically over time. When installing sheet vinyl, it’s very important that the seams be tight in order for the heat-weld or seam sealer to remain intact and function properly, which unfortunately was not the case in this scenario. Sheet vinyl, like many flooring materials, needs adequate time to acclimate to its environment prior to install. Our best guess is that this sheet vinyl had not been properly acclimated. Perhaps it was brought on site after sitting outside in the sun to a climate-controlled area and installed that same day – as the material “cooled off”, it slowly began to shrink. On top of that, there was no glue remaining on the floor, which means water was likely seeping through the seams, breaking down the flooring adhesive and making it that much easier for the material to continue shrinking. It’s important to note that the reverse can also occur if transferring material from a cold environment to a warmer climate-controlled area in which the material expands over time…also causing the installation to fail.
We recommend always following the manufacturer’s specific temperature requirements and acclimation instructions as they can vary slightly from product to product, but typically acclimating resilient material for a minimum of 48 hours in a temperature-controlled environment (ie. enclosed building with an operating HVAC) before starting the install is a good rule of thumb. We did just that for this project, since the existing material could not be repaired. Once we removed the old material, acclimated the new and installed it with heat-welded seams, there was no lifting in sight and it’s performing exactly as it should!