Archive for May, 2012

photos courtesy MSI General and County Materials

Behold the power of cheese! The new Mars Cheese Castle, Kenosha, Wis., cheese retailer, is protected from the often harsh Wisconsin climate by Sure Klean Weather Seal Blok-Guard & Graffiti Control.

As you’d guess from its name, the Mars Cheese Castle, owned by the Ventura family, and located in Kenosha, Wis., has specialized in selling cheese since its opening in 1947. The cheese retailer and gift shop offers more than 300 cheeses from around the world, along with a bakery and a tavern.

The business, which opened in new medieval-style digs in Spring 2011, now has the architecture to go along with its name.

“We had some fun designing this,” said Project Architect Tony Zulli, MSI General Corporation, Oconomowoc, Wis. “It was an opportunity to investigate a type of architecture you don’t see anymore.

“The corbeled arches near the top of the turret and on the main building, for instance; you might see that in brick work from the 1930s and 40s. We really had to think through how to do that with 8-inch concrete block on a single-wythe wall.”

Not exactly standard in contemporary architecture, corbeled arches made with 8-inch block on single-wyth walls took some “thinking through,” Mr. Zulli said.

Stone would’ve been the ideal material for a castle, Mr. Zulli said. However, staying in budget while taking the castle theme as far as possible was also part of what made the project fun.

County Materials, Marathon, Wis., created a custom-colored split-faced block using a castlerock mold specifically for the Mars Cheese Castle, Mr. Zulli said.

County Materials also supplied the water-repellent for weatherproofing the custom block. Specifying a water-repellent was a necessity, Mr. Zulli said — “We didn’t want any problems with water getting into the block.”

Dick Ciotti, Ruffalo Painting, also of Kenosha — their headquarters is about two miles North of the Cheese Castle — used airless sprayers and a 60-foot lift to apply PROSOCO’s Sure Klean Weather Seal Blok-Guard & Graffiti Control.

While the Cheese Castle’s design and construction took some resourcefulness, Mr. Ciotti said applying Blok Guard & Graffiti Control was problem-free.

Buttressed walls add to the Mars Cheese Castle’s medieval appearance.

“I’ve used it before, mostly on schools,” Mr. Ciotti said. “So I knew it worked fine.”

Applying from bottom to top in swaths about 8 feet wide, Mr. Ciotti started with the castle’s south elevation, then moved to West, North and East.

The silicone-based treatment imparts water-repellency to the block by filling the microscopic masonry pores with water-repellent molecules. Unable to penetrate, water simply beads up and rolls off. However, water already in the block can evaporate out, a characteristic known as “breathability.”

The filled pores also make it hard for graffiti media like spray paint to get a grip on treated surfaces. When paint, ink and other media can’t penetrate, they can be cleaned off much more easily than they could on unprotected surfaces.

Mr. Ciotti said he spent about two to three weeks weatherproofing the building in October 2010, toward the end of construction. Good weather added to the ease of the application, he said. Temperatures stayed in the 50s and 60s, and rain stayed away.

“That’s not always the case,” he added.

Turrets, arches, a drawbridge-style entrance and the castle’s other medieval details weren’t the only things Mr. Zulli said he enjoyed about the project.

“We were lucky enough to have clients who let us do what we wanted, while trusting us to look out for their interests,” he said. “I’m proud of the design. It worked out well for everyone.”

The Wisconsin Masonry Alliance echoed that assessment. At its recent Excellence in Masonry Awards event, the organization named the Mars Cheese Castle “Best of Show,” and “Best of Concrete Masonry” 2012.

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Inside the Mars Cheese Castle, the cheese waits.

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This totally permeable cheesecloth, treated with masonry water-repellent Weather Seal Siloxane PD, illustrates what protective treatments are all about. Liquid water cannot go through the treated cloth, porous as it is, and beads up on the surface. Water vapor can go through, however, as the rising steam shows.

I first learned about penetrating water-repellents for masonry, a PROSOCO specialty, when I arrived here at PROSOCO 13 years ago in July.

These remarkable treatments seemed completely magical to me then, and still do. It’s amazing to me how these substances — many of them water-based themselves — can bar entry of liquid water into the substrate, while permitting water vapor to evaporate out.

Newbie though I was then, I could still see the advantages. Water can’t get in, to freeze and expand, and crack and spall the masonry — or to make a moist environment for mold. Moisture already in isn’t trapped within the microscopic pores and capillaries of the brick, stone or concrete — it can evaporate out.

That characteristic is often referred to as “breathability.”

My first thought was — if moisture can get out, but not in, wouldn’t the masonry eventually get so dry that it would crumble into dust? However, this dire circumstance has never come to pass. Evidently, the laws of physics don’t work that way.

The opposite problem — too much water getting into unprotected masonry does create dire circumstances.

The black gunk is mold on the (then) 100-year-old limestone of the North elevation of the Douglas County Courthouse here in Lawrence.

One of those problems is biological growth. If you think the preceding photo looks bad, you should’ve seen it in person. Eventually they cleaned the building, using PROSOCO products, natch. The cleaning contractor recommended a penetrating water repellent for the cleaned courthouse, but I don’t know if that ever got done.

North elevation, Douglas County Courthouse after cleaning, with PROSOCO products, natch. But without a water-repellent, the biological staining will come right back.

If it didn’t the biological staining will be back.

Here’s another North elevation shot. This is historic Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, getting cleaned for its 50th b-day in 2005.

Allen Fieldhouse got treated with a masonry-strengthening water repellent Weather Seal H-40, and the black gunk hasn’t returned.

North elevations are particularly susceptible because they seldom see direct sunlight. So once wet, they often stay wet, which is just how mold likes it.

Put a penetrating water repellent on that masonry, and the water can’t soak in to provide a moist environment for mold.

I poured water on this limestone sample after treating three-quarters of it with Natural Stone Treatment, a water-repellent specially made for limestone.

Here’s an example. Water beads up, unable to penetrate this limestone where I treated it with a water-repellent. Mold won’t find that a good place to thrive, because of lack of moisture. The water soaked right into the untreated edge, making it more susceptible to biological growth.

Water penetration has popped the faces off this bark-faced brick. There’s also plenty of dirt and mold.

In the photo below, water penetration has popped off the faces of the bark-faced brick in this retaining wall. The damage could have been caused by freeze-thaw cycling, or by the build-up of salts within the masonry fabric (subflorescence). Water penetration causes both problems, so either way, keeping water out of the masonry prevents the damage, as well as the mold growth.

This graphic shows how penetrating water repellents line the pores of masonry substrates with hydrophobic molecules.

Penetrating water repellents work by soaking in and lining the pores of masonry substrates with water-repellent molecules. Visualize a molecule with an umbrella on top and hooks on the bottom. The hooks chemically bond the water-repellent to the substrate. The net effect of all those little molecular umbrellas is to create a surface tension that keeps liquid out of the pores.

There’s not a thing in the world, however, to stop vapor from evaporating out, if it needs to.

Because the treatment does its job from beneath the surface, there’s seldom, if any, change to the look and feel of the masonry. That’s particularly important to restoration professionals.

They’re right to be concerned. Film-forming water-repellents, which try to protect the masonry by forming an impermeable layer over the masonry, can seriously degrade a building’s appearance.

Here’s a close-up of a failed film-forming protective treatment. The force of the moisture evaporating out caused the coating to debond.

Because they’re not “breathable,” these treatments trap moisture within the substrate until it breaks out. The results are ugly. Where the coating fails, more water gets in. Where the coating stays intact, it traps the additional moisture, so the problem gets worse and worse faster and faster.

The only solution is to remove the failed coating, and replace it with a penetrating water-repellent.

A failed film-forming coating is removed from the orange brick at the historic Folly Theater in Kansas City. Guess which side has yet to be cleaned.

That’s what happened at the historic Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City. You can read the full story here.

Water penteration into masonry and concrete causes plenty of other problems besides mold growth and surface damage. Lime run and efflorescence are two other common problems. As a matter of fact, uncontrolled water causes more damage to buildings than anything else.

Though they’re major components, water-repellents are still only one part of the system for stopping water damage. Expertise, structural integrity and a reliable, tested water repellent all work together. Still looks like magic to me, though.

One of my favorite photos. I treated this brand-new masonry With Weather Seal Siloxane PD, then hit it with the garden hose, then got the photo on a sunny summer day. Love this job!

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Joe Reardon, PROSOCO, sprays new Consolideck Grind-N-Fill on the concrete ahead of the grinder pushed by Mike Tucellie of S & S Concrete during the final stage of metal grinding on a new concrete floor. Grind-N-Fill mixes with the dust to fill pinholes, small voids and pop-outs, micro-cracks and other gaps in the surface with a super-durable cementitious matrix. ~ Stephen Falls photo

I think new Consolideck Grind-N-Fill is kind of cool because it takes a waste product — concrete dust from grinding — and re-purposes it into something useful.

Here’s how it works. You’re grinding a floor. Maybe you just want to smooth it out and get rid of the scuffs and scrapes. Maybe you’re taking it all the way to a polished finish. Doesn’t matter.

Just spray and spread Grind-N-Fill in front of the grinder, and grind over it. The dust mixes with Grind-N-Fill to create a slurry-like liquid that fills pinholes, small voids, pop-outs and micro-cracks in the floor. The liquid filler dries just as hard as the concrete. You get a smoother, more monolithic surface. It’s easier to polish, and it’s easier to keep clean because all those little nooks and crannies are filled.

Here’s a close-up of the “slurry” Grind-N-Fill creates — and some nice work boots. ~ photo by Bruce Ferrell

The great thing is that you made the job go faster, because you’re not hooked up to a clunky electric vacuum. You also don’t have to dispose of dust by the pound. Here’s the official press release, by the way:

New treatment uses concrete grinding dust to automatically fill gaps in floors
PROSOCO’s new Consolideck® Grind-N-Fill uses the dust created while grinding concrete floors to automatically fill pinholes, small voids and pop-outs, micro-cracks and other gaps in the surface with a super-durable cementitious matrix.
Low-odor, VOC-compliant Grind-N-Fill creates a monolithic surface that polishes faster, easier and more effectively. With gaps, micro-cracks and imperfections filled, floors accept hardener/densifiers, protective treatments, color-stains and color-hardeners more evenly.
By eliminating nooks and crannies that trap and accumulate soil and other contaminants, Grind-N-Fill makes floors easier and more economical to maintain.
The simple-to-apply treatment dries fast and is suitable for any concrete floor undergoing grinding, from warehouse-industrial to highly polished-aesthetic floors.
For more information, contact Gary Henry at 785-830-7343 or e-mail gary.henry@prosoco.com.

Kevin Sigourney (L) and Joe Reardon administer the “hand-test” to a section of Grind-N-Filled concrete floor. You probably can’t feel any real difference as a result of the Grind-N-Fill, but the grinding itself makes quite a bit of difference in the smoothness of the concrete. Stephen Falls photo

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Polished concrete floor at the University of Wisconsin, Superior Campus.

Despite plenty of information to the contrary in the marketplace, two wrong ideas about polished concrete floors persist:

1. Polished concrete floors don’t need regular maintenance cleaning.
2. If you do clean your polished concrete floors, any old cleaner will do.

Let’s take number one first ~ it’s the easiest. Obviously, everything gets dirty. Dirt tracked in from outside needs to be swept up. If left on the floor, the tiny grains of dirt act like sandpaper to degrade the shine.

In the sense that it needs periodic cleaning, a floor is no different from a dog, a kid, you, a gun, a car, your teeth or anything else. Everything gets dirty. Everything needs regular maintenance cleaning.

Polished concrete floors must be cleaned regularly to keep their appearance — whether they look like they need cleaning or not — to get up tiny amounts of dirt, dust, grease and other contaminants before they build up enough to degrade the floor’s appearance.

This floor doesn’t look like it needs cleaning, does it? That’s how it’s supposed to look. Correct maintenance cleaning products and procedures never let a polished concrete floor get dirty to begin with.

Note in the photo how clean and shiny the floor already looks. That’s the secret to effective maintenance ~ not letting the floor get dull or dirty to begin with.
That takes us to misconception #2 — that any old cleaner will do.

Any old cleaner WON’T do. Cleaners that are acidic can attack the concrete. Harsh chemicals made for cleaning waxed floors can eat away at surface protective treatments. There are cleaners on the market made specifically for polished concrete floors. Using them following the manufacturer’s instructions will prevent a lot of problems from happening to begin with.

“Following manufacturer’s instructions” is just as important as using the right cleaner. For example, not diluting a cleaner properly with water can leave a haze on the floor.

Use the right products the right way and you can count on polished concrete floors that keep their shine until the building is abandoned or destroyed. And that includes no stripping, waxing, replacing or landfilling.

This damage ocurred when someone dropped a glass jar of pickles on the floor. The acidic pickle juice, left too long, etched the polished concrete floor. Incorrect removal technique — wiping instead of blotting — compounded the damage.

Of course, you also need a good spill-remediation program in place. Regularly scheduled maintenance cleaning isn’t enough to rescue floors from spills. Spills must be cleaned up right away. Food and drink especially can ruin a polished floor’s shine, especially if it’s acidic, like soda pop, orange juice, or milk (yes, milk – lactic acid).

And there’s a right way and wrong way to remove spills.

But that’s another story.

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