Archive for September, 2010

Part of the Design Verification Test Chamber, which just arrived at PROSOCO, waits for assembly.

It’s basically a “hurricane in a box.”

It’s official name is the “Transportable (if you have a Mack Truck and 100-foot-long trailer) Design Verification Test Chamber. It weighs 12,000 – 13,000 pounds. It’s 10 feet high, and about 30 feet around. Just shipped in from Florida.

We’re putting it together today. Its “papa,” Ron Tatley, is here to supervise. It’ll probably get its first firing-up at PROSOCO tomorrow.

On one side of the box, you install a wall assembly, such as you might find on a hotel at the beach. The wall has a window, sliding glass door, air conditioner, possibly – everything you might find on such a hotel or beachfront condo.

The outside of that wall faces inside the test chamber.

Inside the box, one side of which is the wall being tested, pressure and water get cranked up to simulate wind-driven rain up to and in excess of a Category 5 hurricane.

The idea is to test how well a typical wall assembly, windows, doors and all, can resist water penetration under such circumstances. The chamber also tests air leakage through the wall and around the window and door — air leakage which wastes valuable energy.

Its inventors, and our partners in the air barrier biz, Building Envelope Innovations (BEI) of Clackamas, Ore., created the chamber so they could help builders create walls that wouldn’t wet-out in extreme, or even ordinary weather conditions.

BEI and an associated construction repair company, Tatley-Grund, Seattle, found they were doing a lot of work to repair this kind of damage. They figured — why repair with the same kind of products and procedures that let the damage happen to begin with?

Why not build new wall assemblies that are tested to withstand weather? Even vicious uber-storm coastal weather. Or, for that matter the often devastating thunderstorms we get here in Mid-Continental America.

So BEI developed products and procedures to do just that — and the means to test them with the Transportable Design Verification Test Chamber.

There’s more to the story, of course, involving saving money, avoiding lawsuits, construction and of course, extreme weather. But the fun part is the gear itself. We’ll be whipping up a Category 5 hurricane tomorrow once the test chamber is assembled and deemed operational.

Don’t worry — I’m confident the Category 5 hurricane won’t get out!

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This “wood” floor is actually polished concrete.

Customers often bow and kneel when they enter the bar area of the Scottish-themed Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery in Louisville, Ky.

They’re not genuflecting to the restaurant’s venerable Celtic decor. They’re checking out the polished concrete floor that looks like waxed wood planks.

Some visitors just can’t help it, says Rob Greenrose, M R Decorative Concrete, Louisville. Is it wood or is it concrete? They have to touch it to make sure.

Part of a Phoenix, Ariz.,-based chain, the Tilted Kilt restaurant marks off the adults-only bar area from the rest of the family restaurant with a wood floor – or at least one that looks like wood.

The Tilted Kilt specification guide calls for a real or imitation wood floor, said Rob, who conceived, designed and installed the floor. The owners called M R Decorative Concrete in for an estimate on creating a stamped overlay made to look like wood.

Rob said he advised against it because it would be hard to maintain. Tiny grooves for simulating grain in the overlay would trap dirt and other contaminants that would be hard to remove.

Instead, Rob and his partner, Mike Stoltz, confidently suggested they could create a polished concrete floor that would meet the spec for looking like a wood floor – even though they’d never done it before.

“I like the challenge of this kind of project,” Rob said. “I’d much rather tackle 500 square feet of something that’s never been done than spend all day working on an ordinary floor.”

Still, before Rob could get to the artistry, he had to take care of the basics. That meant whipping the 30-year-old concrete slab into shape. The slab had previously been covered with carpet and tile during careers as a brewery and a Mexican restaurant floor.

Rob and company began by dry-grinding with 150-grit metals, followed by 100-grit resins to remove most of the marks and imperfections that didn’t fit into Rob’s scheme.

Then he applied the base color with an acetone stain, cut in the plank lines, and applied the grain pattern with a stencil, and black acetone.

Before polishing.

Rob filled the plank line cuts with a cementitious material, and stained them black.
Finding the right material for the stencil was one of the hardest parts of the job, Rob said. It had to be light, durable, cuttable, reusable, and resistant to acetone. He tried several prototypes before meeting success, but won’t say what he finally came up with.

“Trade secret,” Rob says.

With the color down, Rob increased concrete durability and prepped for polishing by applying Consolideck® LS® (lithium silicate) hardener/densifier. Spread with micro-fiber applicators, the hardener/densifier fills the concrete pores with tough calcium silicate hydrate converted from soft calcium hydroxide leftover from curing.

The result is a more durable, less porous concrete surface. Along with additional stain-repellency, the increased abrasion-resistance actually makes the floor faster and easier to polish.

Polishing was the next step. Rob brought an almost mirror-like shine to the floor, polishing with 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-grit resins.

He protected the finish and increased the shine with a spray- and microfiber pad-application of Consolideck® LSGuard®. The lithium-silicate protective coating adds to the hardening/densifying effect, while creating a shiny micro-thin protective shield.

Rob used a Consolideck® HEAT pad to power-buff the LSGuard®. Friction from the HEAT pad raises the floor temperature to 93 degrees – the temperature required to liquefy and meld the dry LSGuard® into the concrete pores.

The advantage is that you get a glossy coating that’s practically part of the floor and never needs stripping. If the finish appears to dull from traffic, it’s simply re-burnished, or revitalized with a new coat.

“I did some research before I chose the Consolideck® products,” Rob said. “It paid off; they worked great. And we got excellent support from the PROSOCO Manufacturer’s Rep Mark Williams.”

After 18 hours, Rob put the finishing touches on his masterpiece by burnishing up the shine even further with a 3,000 grit resin.

While many of the procedures Rob used to create the floor are common practice, the stencil is what’s unique, and he’s keeping that info under his hat. He offered one clue – if you look closely at the floor, and then at the lacquered wooden bar top, you might begin to figure it out.

The bar top at the Tilted Kilt holds a clue as to how he created the concrete wood floor, Rob says.

Meanwhile, Rob and M R Decorative Concrete are up for new challenges.

“Caricatures, natural stone, we can make concrete floors look like whatever you want,” he said.


Rob laughed. “We’re willing to give it a shot,” he said.
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Proud of the Pedalers

Our PROSOCO Pedalers cycling team and crew pose for a photo before tackling the 2010 Bike MS Kansas City Bike Ride. They\'ve raised nearly $6,000 to combat Multiple Sclerosis.

I’m really proud of my co-workers.

Representatives of every department in the company have banded together to raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis as the PROSOCO Pedalers cycling team.

They’ve raised $5,825.20 so far through pledges from supporters, and fundraising events. As the culminating act of this effort, the Pedalers will join Bike MS Mid-America Chapter for a two-day ride from Kansas City to Sedalia, MO.

The team’s advanced cyclists will complete 182 miles over the two days, with the first day being a full century. But everyone is set to go at least 30 miles, in the name of battling MS.

For more info on this fun, challenging and worthy event, visit the Bike MS website.

Woo hoo! Go Pedalers!

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Acidic juice from a jar of pickles that shattered on the polished concrete floor created this nasty etch.

I got this e-mail Sept. 8:

Do you have any product that will protect grocery store polished concrete from acids in pickles, fruits and the like?
Thanks, in advance.

The above photo shows the kind of damage this gentleman was asking about. Pickle juice DID cause that damage, by a curious coincindence. Pickle juice is basically vinegar, which is very acidic. Other liquids you find in a grocery store that can that can harm concrete include orange juice (ascorbic acid) and milk (lactic acid).

Restaurants with polished concrete floors need the same kind of protection. So do hair salons. Yes, there are products people put on their hair that can etch concrete.

The fact is, there are no treatments that let you leave spills on floors indefinitely. Protective treatments are your first line of defense, but thorough cleaning (with the right products), as fast as possible, is always your best bet to keep polished concrete looking great. Protective treatments are designed to give you a window of time to get the spill up, since some contaminants — like acids — can go to work immediately.

Until now, there’s been three things you could try to protect concrete floors from spills of acidic liquid, while maintaining a high-gloss.

1. Solvent-based chemical-resistant products: These products will get the job done and protect concrete from acid. Unfortunately, their solvent chemistry means they run afoul of increasingly strict state and federal volatile organic content (VOC) regulations. Many states don’t permit their sale or use.

2. Water-based protective treatments: These products meet the regulations, but don’t stand up to acid. The floor in the photo above was protected by such a treatment. These treatments can protect against many kinds of stains, but were never meant to shield concrete from acid — even mild acid like that in milk or soda pop.

3. Two-component treatments: Epoxies and urethanes that you mix together can give you a glossy acid-resistant shield that meets VOC regulations. But they are hard to use, not the least because of their short pot-life. They can stiffen into unusability before you’re a quarter of the way through your job.

So that leaves a big gap in the applicator’s tool box: There hasn’t been a durable, easy-to-use, VOC-compliant, glossy protective treatment that can stand up to all stains — including the dreaded pickle juice!

Tom Stalnaker, Lab Manager and Formulations Chemist, headed up PROSOCO’s effort to develop a treatment that fills the bill. As it turned out, he came up with two — one for inside, Consolideck PolishGuard; and one for outdoor flatwork Consolideck GuardEXT (exterior).

And that’s when I got that e-mail from the gent I’ll call “Larry.” When I e-mailed him back that we did have such a product, he was excited, but skeptical. He wanted to know if we had laboratory test results.

“No, but we will soon,” I wrote him back. “Tom isn’t ready to release the results.”

Then Larry wanted to know if we had photos. Alas, the answer was again nyet, and I fully realized I sounded like a snake-oil salesman. That was the last I heard from Larry.

So I sought out Tom for help getting some photos, and told him about my exchange with Larry. Tom agreed to set up the following test, which our Graphic Designer and Chief Photographer Stephen Falls could shoot. John Young the videographer also shot it, but the video isn’t ready yet.

Anyway, here’s what Tom did.

He got two samples of polished concrete — one untreated and one treated with PolishGuard. Then he got some muriatic acid, diluted 1 part acid to 10 parts water. The diluted acid is safer for handling and testing than full-strength, but still a lot more aggressive than even the feared pickle juice.

Tom’s thinking, he said, was that if the PolishGuard could stand up to the diluted muriatic acid solution, it sure as heck could stand up to pickle juice, orange juice or milk.

He poured some of the clear liquid onto the untreated sample. Then a similar amount onto the PolishGuard sample. Then John, Stephen, Tom and I talked about football for 15 minutes while we gave the acid a chance to work. Was the Chief’s win over the Chargers Monday night a fluke, or are they the real deal?

Acid turns green and fizzes on the untreated sample, but stays clear and quiet on the PolishGuard sample.

As we talked, the acid on the untreated sample bubbled and turned green. The acid on the PolishGuard sample didn’t do anything.

When 15 minutes had passed, Tom washed the acid from both samples and put them back down for Stephen and John to photo and video. The etch on the untreated sample was plain to see. But the acid hadn’t been able to do a thing to the PolishGuard sample.

Fifteen minutes and a water-rinse later, the unprotected sample has a nice etch, and the PolishGuard sample still has a nice polish.

That seemed exciting to me, but Tom offered some perspective.

No matter what kind of protective coating you have on the floor, you have to clean up spills as quick as you can. Acids — or any liquid — may eventually find tiny pinholes and work their way through. The idea of protective treatments is not to make floors stain- or etch-proof, but just to give you a window of time to clean up the spill before the inevitable happens.

That said, I’m e-mailing a link to this blog post to “Larry.”

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Principal Galen Havner, Central Park Elementary School, Bentonville, Ark. photo by John Young

Obviously I think so. That’s because I work for PROSOCO, a maker of products for creating, protecting and maintaining finished concrete floors.

Here, however, is the unvarnished opinion of a school principal — a guy who has to live with flooring choices. Galen Havner has been a principal for 30 years, and has some definite opinions. Currently, he’s principal at Central Park Elementary School, Bentonville, Ark.

Our videographer, John Young, was filming some work at the school for a video he’s making. John caught up to Mr. Havner to get his opinion — are concrete floors right or wrong for schools?

Here’s Mr. Havner on video, telling it like it is.

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That’s because it’s NOT wood. It’s polished concrete.

photo courtesy Mike Stoltz, M R Decorative Concrete

That’s right, polished concrete. No trees were harmed in this production.

M R Decorative Concrete, Louisville, Ky., created this work of art for the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Louisville. They used Consolideck LS (lithium-silicate) Hardener/Densifier and LSGuard high-gloss protective finish in creating the distinctive concrete floor.

Working on scheduling an interview so I can get the story. Especially want to find out if M R has any plans for concrete floors that look like carpet!

More later!


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