Division 9 Flooring Specs: Let’s Get Specific, Please.
Make Soft Flooring Specs More Complete

Current guidelines for writing soft flooring specifications leave room for interpretation, from each user and the personal network of experts they consult for answers. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) developed the 4-C’s (see the Construction Product Representation Practice Guide) to ensure effective communication of any specification. If a spec is truly “Clear, Concise, Correct and Complete*,” contractors have the best opportunity for installing an efficient, effective job – whether estimating, bidding, planning, buying, inspecting, installing, etc. Unfortunately, specifications for commercial resilient and carpet flooring installation materials often fall short in fulfilling the critical “Complete” element of the 4-C’s.


In most commercial resilient and carpet flooring specifications in Division 9, the Part 2 Products Section does not provide the physical requirements or brand/product names for the flooring adhesives or the trowelable leveling/patching compounds. See the wording from Division 9, Section 2.4 in the box below. By adding physical requirements and specific product names, the spec writer makes the specification more Complete, eliminates interpretation and demonstrates to the user that all aspects of the soft flooring installation have been carefully considered.


Division 9 Section


A. Trowelable Leveling and Patching Compounds: latex-modified, Portland cement
based or blended hydraulic-cement-based formulation provided or approved by floor
tile manufacturer for applications indicated.

B. Adhesives: Water-resistant type recommended by floor tile and adhesive
manufacturers to suit floor tile and substrate conditions indicated.


Take flooring adhesives for instance, the specifier can add the maximum RH percentage, heavy foot traffic time, requirement for single source manufacturer system warranties or LEED VOC emissions testing to Resilient/Carpet flooring section specs. In the specification for trowelable leveling/patching compounds, a specifier can include the fast setting time limits, compressive strength and feather edge capabilities needed. Adding brand and product names as well as the physical requirements should be a “best practice” in spec writing.


The goal of any specification, whether it is written using Performance, Prescriptive, or Proprietary wording, is to provide sufficient detail to ensure the right product is chosen and installed correctly for the specific use. However, the Division 9 descriptors (as underlined in the box above) are not specific enough and shift the responsibility of the product’s fitness-for-the-job to the flooring’s manufacturer. In addition, many flooring manufacturers offer their own line of private label adhesives, which may or may not include the best product choice for the installation. The specifier should be evaluating and including the best installation product options for the flooring in the spec and not simply whatever adhesive a manufacturer recommends or approves. It is interesting to note that for ceramic tile systems, typical specifications include brand/product names and product physical requirements for the product categories e.g. mortar/grout/sealants, waterproofing membranes and crack isolation. Unlike the soft flooring sub sections, the ceramic tile specifications do not simply state that mortars and grouts must be approved/recommended by the ceramic tile manufacturer.

To achieve more Complete specifications and to allow for healthy competition on flooring adhesives and leveling/patching compounds, the recommendation is to list the physical requirements for each product type in the system and list at least three brands/product names (if writing Proprietary specifications). Consider updating your future Division 9 soft flooring sections with the additional information recommended. You’ll gain greater impact on the success of the installation, and your construction partners will benefit from receiving the Complete information.


Contact me to help update these specifications.

Chris Burns, CSI, CDT, CCPR, LEED Green Associate, SCIP Sponsor 
North American Architectural Manager 
HB Fuller Construction Products | Wholesale Flooring 

Posted by
Chris Burns, CSI, CDT, CCPR, LEED GA

North American Architectural Manager