Infill Alert

Setting up shop in an existing space means planning for flooring problems

By industry estimates, concrete-slab moisture-related floor-covering failures cost retailers, building owners and contractors more than $1 billion every year. But it’s not just new spaces that present a challenge in this regard. With infill the name of the game in retail development, retailers that open stores in existing spaces also need to be on full alert to the potential for flooring problems.

According to Lee Eliseian, president of Concord, Calif.-based Independent Floor Testing & Inspection, infill locations, while attractive on many levels, can potentially present issues that could lead to short-term flooring problems or even long-term flooring failure.

“The obvious advantage to moving into an existing space is that occupancy cost tends to be lower, but sometimes the rent and construction savings can be more than offset by flooring problems due to age, neglect or substandard construction,” Eliseian said. “Any retailer moving into an existing space should take measures to ensure the substrate is in good shape.”

The biggest culprit is concrete-slab moisture, which can wreak havoc on moisture-sensitive flooring finishes. The trick is uncovering the adverse condition in time to mitigate it.

“There are so many unknowns with existing spaces,” Eliseian explained. “The building’s concrete slab could be five years old, or it could be 30 years old. You may not know what it was used for previously, whether it’s been contaminated or how it was constructed.”

To compensate for unknowns, Eliseian recommends surveying the floor in advance of move-in for moisture-related problems, general conditions and new-product compatibility.

“Any time you have early warning about what potential problems may lie ahead, you are better equipped to deal with them in a more cost-effective way,” he said. Moreover, up-front knowledge may deliver negotiating leverage with a landlord, who when presented with documented problems may pay all or part of the tab for the repairs.

The last thing you want to do is uncover flooring problems after a store has opened, Eliseian noted, because not only has leverage with the landlord been lost but it is far more costly and disruptive to repair.

kfield@chainstoreage.com