Archive for April, 2010

PROSOCO R-GUARD Air & Water Resistive Barrier goes up over Densglass structural walls.

We’ve long touted the energy-saving aspect of PROSOCO R-GUARD Air & Water-Resistive Barriers. As proof, we site the study by the National Institute of Standards & Technology, NIST 7238, which found that an effective air barrier can reduce a building’s energy costs by more than 40 percent.

And we know R-GUARD is effective, because it meets the four checkpoints for an effective air barrier — continuous, structural, durable, breathable.

What we haven’t had is a case where someone actually documented their energy costs before and after an R-GUARD installation.

Until now.

I recently learned, via our Great Lakes area Rep Jim Lucas, of a high-end builder who will replace the wood siding on his older home. As part of the project, this gentleman will coat the structural walls with PROSOCO R-GUARD, before putting vinyl siding back on.

Then, he plans to monitor his heating and electrical bills for a year, and compare them to the previous year’s bills, using degree-days of heating and cooling supplied by his energy company. The comparison should give accurate data on savings that can be attributed to R-GUARD.

We’re not donating to this job. This is an actual paying customer.

This is the story I’ve been waiting for, where our claims get put to the test — not in the lab, but in the real world.

more later!


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Energy-saving PROSOCO R-GUARD Air & Water-Resistive Barrier goes on the structural walls of president's house -- the president of PROSOCO, that is.

Ok, it was the president of PROSOCO, not President Obama, who used the PROSOCO R-GUARD Air & Water Resistive Barrier on his new home. With all due respect, however, I think I’m safe in saying PROSOCO’s president, David W. Boyer, knows more about air & water-resistive barriers than the U.S. president.

R-GUARD is a fluid-applied, water-based replacement and improvement on those sheet wraps you so often see torn and fluttering in the wind. R-GUARD cuts energy costs by stopping air leaks through the building envelope. All air barriers are SUPPOSED to do that, but when fabric air barriers rip, or when you put a staple through them, they’re no longer air-tight.

A punctured fabric wrap is no longer air-tight, so can't stop air from leaking out.

Your expensively conditioned inside air leaks into walls through openings like electrical and plumbing penetrations. It finds seams in the plywood, OSB or Densglass structural walls. Then it gets outside through failed mortar joints, weepholes, and other openings.

The route is convoluted and indirect, but it’s a route, and there’s usually more than one. It lets heated and air conditioned air out of your house the same as if you left a door or window open. It’s the air barrier’s job to interrupt that route — a job it can’t do if it’s torn or punctured or flapping in the breeze.

The U.S. Department of Energy commissioned a study a few years ago, in which they tried to find how much energy you could save if you could stop those leaks. The National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted the study, titled NIST 7238 – Investigation of the Impact of Commercial Building Envelope Airtightness on HVAC Energy Use.

The study concluded that air barriers that stop air leaks like they’re supposed to can reduce energy consumption (read BILLS) by more than 40 percent.

Since R-GUARD stops air leaks like an air barrier is supposed to, David used it on his new home. He’s only been in it about a month, and the place is really a lot different from his old house, so it’s probably too soon to tell about bill reduction.

But what David DID do was get the place tested for energy efficiency by Clean, Efficient Energy Company LLC, Leawood, KS. As part of the energy audit, the company blower-door tested the house for air leakage.

The auditor, Rick Jenkins, said the home was the tightest he’d ever seen.

And when Rick submitted the results, the National Association of Home Builder (NAHB) certified David’s house as a Gold Level Green Home.

It also earned certification as an Energy Star Qualified-Home.

While it might be too soon to know what kind of energy bill savings all this energy efficiency might rack up for David, there’s no question the place is energy-efficient. And that’s got to count for something. I bet President Obama would approve.

For a slightly more detailed view on air barriers and energy costs, check out the appropriately titled How air barriers cut energy costs, by yours truly.

A worker seals the seams between structural wall panels with PROSOCO R-GUARD Air & Water Resistive Barrier during construction of our company president's house recently.

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NOT polished. The floor was, however, treated with Consolideck products, and had the living daylights buffed out of it. --photos courtesy Joe Smith, Marblelife of Delaware Valley.

Verizon wanted to reduce their floor-maintenance costs in their facilities in Northeastern U.S. So the company ripped out the VCT floor topping and went with exposed concrete floors. That’s a lot greener, because reduced maintenance costs also mean a reduced waste stream, as in no more spent stripping chemicals, and no more periodic (after this one) sending large amounts of worn-out VCT to the landfill.

Joe Smith of Marblelife of Delaware Valley, Media, Pa., did the work in the office spaces shown here — Verizon’s place in West Norriton Township, Pa.

First, he opened the floor up by grinding it to a 200-grit finish. Then he hardened, densified and colored the floor with Consolideck ColorHard. ColorHard is a water-based pigment. You mix it with (also water-based) Consolideck LS (lithium silicate) Hardener-Densifier, 4 ounces to a gallon of LS. Then you coat the floor with it, with a pump-up sprayer and microfiber pad.

This stuff is so easy to use, I’m using it on a floor in my basement.

Anyway, after hardening, densifying and coloring, Joe buffed the heck out of the floor with a series of diamond impregnated pads. The harder and denser concrete is, the easier it buffs up.

Once Joe got a nice shine, he pump-up-sprayed a micro-thin coat of Consolideck LSGuard lithium-silicate protective treatment. He burnished the LSGuard with a propane burnisher at 3,000 rpm, using a Consolideck HEAT burnishing pad. At 3,000 rpm, friction from the HEAT pad brings the surface temperature to 92.5 F, which melds the LSGuard into the concrete pores for total adhesion and gloss.

Looks polished — but isn’t.

Here’s a hallway shot.

Verizon went to exposed concrete floors to reduce their floor-maintenance costs. It's a move toward sustainability, because it also reduces the waste stream.

More later. And remember to pick up some litter or do something else “green” tomorrow — it’s Earth Day!


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Show biz

PROSOCO Multimedia Specialist John Young takes aim at a demo Consolideck ColorHard application.

I got to stand in as still photographer today for our Graphic Designer Stephen Falls, who usually does the shooting around here.

We’re making a video about Consolideck ColorHard application on outside concrete flatwork. ColorHard is a water-based colorant for concrete flatwork indoors and out — concrete that’s not going to be polished. You mix 4 ounces of it with a gallon of Consolideck LS (lithium-silicate) Hardener/Densifier, to make a treatment that hardens, densifies and colors your indoor floor or outdoor flatwork in one easy step.

So I’m guessing it’s going to be a short video.

Joe Reardon, from our Concrete Products Group; and Lab guys Tom Stalnaker, Chris Moore and Brad Oleneck performed as cast and crew, while our multimedia specialist John Young captured it all on digital video.

I’m writing about this in “Green Journey,” because ColorHard and LS are environmentally friendly, and LS promotes sustainability by making concrete more durable and longer-lasting. In addition to being water-based, they’re low-odor and non-toxic.

“What if you get it on your hands?” I asked Tom Stalnaker, our Lab Manager. He shrugged. “Wash it off,” he said. “It won’t hurt you.”

And imho, concrete itself is just another way to spell “sustainable.”

Chris Moore brooms out the ColorHard as Joe Reardon applies it with a pump-up sprayer. It's one of our "coffee-themed" colors -- Light Roast.

They applied ColorHard — one of our “coffee-themed” colors, Light Roast — to a raw-materials delivery area in back of the plant. Joe Reardon used a pump-up sprayer to put the ColorHard down, while Chris Moore broomed it out for uniformity. They did two coats, separated by an hour’s dry-time. Joe was miked-up and did some narration while they worked.

Courtney Murdock, our project testing director, came out to watch and enjoy the pleasant weather, so I got her to display a 4-ounce packet of ColorHard.

Courtney Murdock, our Project Testing Director, shows off a 4-ounce packet of ColorHard.

Cast and crew critique the first ColorHard coat.

Here's a closeup of Light Roast hardened, densified and colored concrete next to a section of untreated concrete.

Right after the second coat dried, the guys treated the flatwork with Consolideck Saltguard WB (water-based). Saltguard WB is a breathable, penetrating water and salt repellent that adds to the sustainability of concrete. Our climate offers plenty of potential for destructive freeze-thaw and wet-dry cycling. But if you can keep the water out, you keep out the problems water carries.

That includes the problem of water-carried de-icing salt. Water carries salt down through the concrete to the rebar. The salt corrodes the rebar, which makes it expand, stressing the surrounding concrete. In a climate like this one, in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the mighty Jayhawks, unprotected concrete can have its service life cut by two-thirds.

John shoots Tom applying protective treatment Consolideck Saltguard WB to the colored concrete.

But between the hardening-densifying from the ColorHard application, and the water- and salt-repellent, I think our concrete is going to last — which is what sustainability is all about.

John says the video will probably be up on U-Tube in a few weeks.

More later!


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Polished concrete floors seem to work for the Student Union at the University of Wisconsin, Superior Campus, but are they right for your school? Yes -- in some areas, and with some qualifications.

I’m working on this story for American School & Hospital Facility Magazine — “Are concrete floors right for your school?”

PROSOCO manufactures products for finished concrete flooring, which is why Irene, the magazine’s editor contacted us about doing the story. Obviously, we’re a little biased, but in the interest of a credible story, I’m trying to explore the question fairly. And the fact is, that while I know a little about concrete floors, I know a lot less about schools.

To get some perspective on the issue, before I start calling designers and school admninistrators, I called our rep Ron Saunders, Saunders & Associates, of Bluffdale, Utah. Ron’s probably worked on 60 or more schools during his 20-plus years in the construction biz.

Ron tells me polished concrete floors are good for most areas in a school, with a few exceptions, and a few considerations. And there’s a strong environmental aspect to concrete flooring, which is why I’m writing about it in “Green Journey.”

Areas for polished concrete flooring: Classrooms, restrooms, offices, and common areas like lobbies, auditoriums and hallways. A consideration — some might say drawback — is that areas with hard flooring can be noisy. Ron calls noise ricocheting off hard surfaces “sound slap.” He notes that auditoriums usually have “sound-deadening” panels on the walls.

Carpet can also quiet noisy classrooms — it just goes on the walls, not the floors, Ron says. Carpet takes much less of a beating and lasts a lot longer on walls than on floors. Concrete is meant to take a beating, so the classroom floor is a good place for it.

Areas not recommended for concrete floors: Gymnasiums and kitchens. Gym floors are traditionally wood. Concrete is ok for outdoor basketball courts, though. Kitchens are too spill-prone to make concrete a good floor choice. Concrete is porous and soaks up all the stuff that gets spilled on it. Juices, vinegars and even milk can etch the concrete. Protective treatments can afford some protection, but an impermeable surface like glazed clay tile is a better choice. Even then, the grout needs a protective treatment.

Primary benefit: Reduction of maintenance costs. Ron says. You’ll never again have to replace the floor topping as with carpet or VCT. That doesn’t just save schools money; it keeps tons of waste out of the landfill. If you’re getting rid of a wornout floor topping, that concrete subfloor underneath is perfectly good. Just needs cleaning, grinding, polishing, staining, protecting — all of which is easily done by a qualified concrete flooring professional.

After that, you’re done with the costly wax-on/wax off cycle.

Hallway, St. Matthew's Middle School, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada -- "we wanted polished concrete for the ease of care and reduced cost of janitorial work," says Lorne Lemay, the school's assistant maintenance manager.

That’s not to say concrete floors are maintenance-free. Everything that’s walked on gets dirty. But the cleaning is way minimal compared to other flooring choices — Ron says.

Anyway, that’s where I’m going with my “Is concrete right for your school” story. I know it’s not going to be that simple. Hope to find some architects, designers and school officials who’ve worked with concrete flooring, and can share their experiences, good or bad.

If you are such a professional and have something to share on the subject, give me a call toll-free at 800-255-4255, or e-mail me at gary.henry@prosoco.com.

more later!


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My boss, Director of Marketing Scott Buscher, wants me to write an article about how to cut home energy bills — one that subtly references PROSOCO products, of course. So I’m on it. I’m starting with the very easiest, absolutely cheapest things you can do.

Now one great way to save some money is to rip out all your windows, then replace them using our new PROSOCO R-GUARD Fast Flash and Air Dam products. They’re part of our air- and water-resistive/waterproof barrier system. I count that as easy because, if it were me, I’d hire someone to do it, and let my  spouse Karen supervise, while I went running, or took the dogs to the dog park.

A technician applies PROSOCO R-GUARD Fast Flash to a rough opening in a new home's structural wall, as part of an overall air and water resistive/waterproof system. photo courtesy of BEI.

Stopping the air leakage around all the windows will cut energy costs way down, but alas, the installation would probably cost something, so doesn’t qualify for “absolute cheapest,” by which I mean “costs nothing.”

Another handy way to reduce home energy costs is to build a new home equipped with a PROSOCO R-GUARD air- and water-resistive/waterproof barrier. I know several people, one of them an architect, who’ve actually done this for themselves. Again unfortunately, doesn’t meet the criteria of easy and free. Well, R-GUARD application actually is easy — it’s one of  the product selling points — but as I understand it, home construction can be kind of an ordeal sometimes.

Todd Scrimpsher, AIA, buiilt this home for himself and his family near San Antonio, Texas. To help keep energy bills down, he installed a water-based, fluid-applied PROSOCO R-GUARD Air-and Water-Resistive Barrier. That's the red coating you see on the structural walls. photo courtesy Todd Scrimpsher

So here’s what I’ve got:

Turn lights off when you don’t need them. Seems obvious, but in our house we have a poltergeist that keeps turning lights on when we’re not looking. So I’m constantly turning them back off. Also, turn the computer off when you’re not going to use it for awhile.

Speaking of computers, I learned that a laptop draws about 1/10th as much wattage as a desktop computer. So next time you’re in the market, maybe a laptop?

Wear sweaters in winter with the thermostat down. Go easy on the AC in summer. I’m sure you knew this already, but it’s easy and free, so I included it.

Now here’s something interesting. The Natural Resources Defense Council says you can save up to $10 on the monthly electric bill by unplugging as many electric items as you can, when not in use. Things like chargers, spare refrigerators, entertainment systems. Evidently, all that stuff draws power while plugged in, even when turned off. They’re sometimes referred to as “energy vampires.”

Cecil Adams - "fighting ignorance since 1973 - it's taking longer than we thought."

On the other hand the self-described “World’s Smartest Human” Cecil Adams, in his blog “The Straight Dope” claims that phantom energy costs are really closer to about $10 per year. He based that on an investigation by his assistant Una, a licensed professional engineer. Una found that while the house she investigated had a lot of stuff plugged in, most leaked so little power the meter wouldn’t display it.

In my researches I came upon an interesting gizmo called “The Energy Detective,” or TED. TED is an electrical power meter that  plugs into your circuit breaker panel and gives you immediate feedback on your electric power usage on an LCD display. It comes with data-logging software for your computer (PC only, it looks like) for trend-spotting and other fun.

Reviews were generally good. The models start at about $119 and go up to around $450 for the fancier items. You have to be an advanced DIYer (I’m not) to install, otherwise get someone who is, or an electrician.

More later!


TED, The Energy Detective, is an electrical power meter for consumers. It lets you monitor your usage second-to second. Got pretty good reviews online.

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This story starts  a year or two ago with gardening, which I hate, but my spouse, Karen, loves.

The Big K was mucking about in the garden on the house’s south side when she found plastic sheeting from a previous owner under the dirt. Karen thought it was for weed-prevention (it wasn’t), and was outraged. She immediately pulled it out. Big mistake.

The sheet was to keep water from soaking through the dirt and leaking into our basement. We usually don’t get enough rain for that to be a problem, but every couple years we get a multi-day deluge. Last year we got it.

Without grass or shrubbery to soak up the water like on the other sides of our house — and NO PLASTIC SHEET for protection, the water seeped down and drenched the old carpet in one of the basement rooms. We tried to dry the carpet out, but alas, in just a day it had that smell.

Out the carpet went, leaving a floor covered in  hideous yellow mastic, hard as math. Getting a 900-pound grinder into the basement wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to use messy chemicals to get the stuff up either. So I forgot about it until earlier this month, when I accidentally spilled some water on the mastic.

Too my surprise, the nasty stuff immediately softened to where I could remove it with a metal scraper.

Too my surprise, the nasty stuff immediately softened to where I could remove it with a metal scraper.

I still didn’t want to stain and polish, because I didn’t want to mess with heavy grinding and polishing equipment. But lucky me, PROSOCO had just launched Consolideck ColorHard at World of Concrete last February. It’s for concrete floors, even some exterior flatwork, where there’s NO POLISHING.

And it’s easy, which is a prime requirement for any Gary-DIY. You just mix 4 ounces of the ColorHard pigment with a gallon of Consolideck LS (lithium-silicate) Hardener/Densifier for concrete floors, and rub it on with a microfiber cloth. It’s all water-based; third-party certified for indoor air quality; makes the floor last the lifetime of the building, so it’s sustainable, which is why I’m writing about it in the “Green Journeys” blog.

I decided to test it, to see if a ColorHard floor would be better than replacement carpet or tile, which is what we have in the rest of the basement. Here’s what I did:

1. Scraped up some mastic to expose  a little concrete.

2. Washed the exposed concrete with a mildly acidic cleaner called Consolideck SafEtch. That cleaned the floor and opened up the concrete pores a little, for better ColorHard penetration.

3. Mixed up a sample of Rose Quartz ColorHard which I got from Customer Care. Karen picked the color off the color chart.

4. Rubbed it on pretty lightly, as per instructions. Went a little heavier on the right side of the test panel than on the left, to see if I could get a more vivid color.The Big K liked it — anything’s better than the mastic. But she was surprised it let the mottling of the old concrete show through. I explained that was actually a good thing. It makes the floor more interesting looking. ColorHard is translucent after all — it’s not a color coating.

Here's my Rose Quartz test panel amid the horrible mastic. I think Karen expected something more paint-like.

I also tested the hardness of the concrete, before and after, with some hardness picks I got from the Lab. The ColorHard treatment increased the concrete hardness from 3 to 4 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. That’s from soft to semi-hard, according to rocksforkids.com.

Rose Quartz the stone is actually 7 on the scale.

Next step is to try one of our glossy protective coatings over the test panel. I think Stand Off Gloss ‘N Guard WB (water based).

More later!


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