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Archive for August, 2012

This rotted plywood from a vapor-impermeable peel and stick that trapped moisture is typical of what repair contractor Tatley Grund, Seattle, finds in water-damaged buildings. They found it frustrating to have to repair problems like this with the same kind of materials that caused the damage to begin with, and they wished for something better.

To me, this is an amazing story.

Forensic investigators and repair contractors Ron Tatley and Stacy Grund, Tatley-Grund, Seattle, make a good living repairing buildings damaged by water intrusion, and have since the 1990s. Their investigations show one thing over and over again.

Despite all the codes and industry-recommended products and procedures, water gets into building envelopes and wreaks havoc. A big reason, they found, is that the air and water barriers on damaged buildings are NOT continuous, seamless, durable and vapor-permeable.

To install fabric wrap air barriers, you have to puncture them, which makes them ineffective. Some manufacturers recommend putting a cap of some type over each staple, a recommendation not always followed because it’s time-consuming.

They let inside and outside air, and water from outside leak freely through the walls. On its way through, the air-carried water vapor may condense if it hits a cold enough surface. Wall components get wet. If they can’t dry out again, you get damage, like in that top photo of the vapor-impermeable peel and stick. Water also gets in when wind-driven rain leaks through. Wind-driven rain can get in any place that air can leak.

The short version is that Stacy and Ron got tired of fixing all this water damage with the same kinds of materials that cause the damage to begin with. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything else.

So they hired scientist and product developer Tom Schneider. His job — to invent the ultimate air and water barrier.

Here’s the “wish list” Stacy and Ron gave Tom his first day on the job — though it was really more like a “must have” list:

The air and water barrier must be:

1. Fluid-applied, for ease of installation on complicated details.
2. Bondable to damp surfaces. No one has time to wait while construction sites dry out after rain.
3. 100% solids to avoid shrinkage and accommodate building movement.
4. Super-easy to apply. No one has time for a lot of complicated folding, lapping, hanging and other steps.
5. Immediately waterproof. Can’t let an afternoon rain shower wash it away.
6. Opaque when you reach target thickness, so it’s easy tell if you’ve applied enough.
7. Able to withstand weather-exposure up to six months, in case of construction delays after application.
8. Vapor-permeable. If walls do get wet, they have to be able to dry out again.
9. Easily repaired, because job sites can be rough places.
10. Paint-compatible. No one has time to wait for special blends that work on a particular sealant.
11. Adhesive without a primer. They have to stick hard to the substrate.
12. Able to self-seal around fasteners since you poke a bunch of holes in the air and water barrier when you install the siding.
13. VOC-compliant. No solvents that can cause regulatory or health problems.

Incredibly, Tom did it.

He created what we now call the PROSOCO R-GUARD FastFlash air and waterproof barrier system.

It meets every one of the 13 checkpoints Ron and Stacy handed him that first day. They lab- and field-tested the FastFlash system until they were 100 percent sure it could do what it had to do — in conditions up to and in excess of a simulated category 5 hurricane.

Since then, FastFlash has been used on some of the world’s greenest buildings, and any place designers and owners can’t tolerate water intrusion into buildings.

Now, PROSOCO’s videographer, John Young, has created this outstanding series of short videos. Each video, just a minute or two long, has Tom, Ron and/or Stacy commenting on one of the 13 “wishes” on the list. You hear from the inventors themselves what they were thinking, and see the footage of their vision in action.

Click on the image for Contractors’ Wish List short videos, and to see how wishes became reality. Here, a contractor seals joints and seams with the appropriately named Joint & Seam Filler.

Wishes can come true. The FastFlash air and waterproof barrier system, and this video proves it.

PROSOCO Videographer John Young stalks his next assignment.

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Designed by Holst Architecture, and being built by Hammer & Hand, the Karuna House aims to meet THREE of the world’s most demanding green-building certifications. photo courtesy Holst Achitecture

Construction photos courtesy Hammer and Hand

After extensive research (I googled it) I found that “Karuna,” as in the ultra-green Karuna House currently under construction in Yamhill County Ore., is Sanskrit for “compassion.” One website stated that Karuna translates as “any action taken to diminish the suffering of others.”

How does a house “diminish the suffering of others?” Good question.

Karuna House is designed by Holst Architecture, Portland, to meet some of the toughest environmental standards in the world. Along with shooting for LEED Platinum, the owner is also going for Passivhaus and Minergie-P-ECO certification.

No surprise, the owner, who is using the project as a case study in green construction, is a “leading proponent of smart climate policy and sound land use,” according to GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.

So the point could be made that by demonstrating how to contribute as little as possible to environmental burdens, the house will, at least eventually, “diminish the suffering of others” since an overburdened environment makes us all suffer, at least a little.

Energy efficiency is central to any green certification. Karuna House is covering that bet with PROSOCO’s R-GUARD FastFlash air and waterproof barrier system, installed by builders Hammer & Hand, Portland.

Aaron Quint, Hammer and Hand, seals a rough opening with gun and spread R-GUARD FastFlash.

FastFlash is a fluid-applied, instantly waterproof, vapor-permeable system for stopping the unintended passage of air and water through the building envelope. Expensively conditioned air, leaking through seams, joints, pinholes, electrical and plumbing penetrations and other openings in walls can boost energy costs as much as if someone left a door or window open — perpetually!

That kind of waste — typical in many buildings — is a no-no for a building that must meet the world’s most stringent air tightness standards.

The FastFlash system has some other characteristics that came in handy for the Karuna House project, according to Hammer and Hand project manager Skylar Swinford. Among them are FastFlash’s ability to go on damp surfaces, and its vapor-permeability, which lets those damp surfaces dry out, even after being coated with FastFlash products.

Nothing else will do that.

Skylar explained that Oregon’s rainy Spring climate kept the job site saturated while Karuna House’s plywood structural walls went up. By May, there was enough structural framing up to “tent,” so that work could proceed despite the weather.

Karuna House rises. Note the glowering clouds and the jobsite’s straw, for mud remediation.

A tent covers the Karuna House frame, so construction can continue despite bad weather – though naturally it cleared up as soon as the tent was installed.

Even with the tent up, the plywood was still soaked. With any other exterior air and water barrier there would have been delays while waiting for the walls to dry. Installing a vapor-impermeable peel and stick on wet wood throttles the wood’s drying potential and would have slowed the construction process and added cost for mechanical dehumidification,” Skylar said.

Since the house can afford no air leaks period, Hammer and Hand installed the FastFlash system everywhere — even in places it doesn’t usually go, like the roof, and over parapet walls.

“We didn’t want to take any chances with the air-tightness of the building enclosure,” Sklyar said.

Beneath the tent, Aaron Quint, Hammer and Hand, applies R-GUARD Cat 5 primary air and waterproof barrier to a combination roof and deck area of Karuna House. Here, Cat 5 is being used solely for its air barrier properties. A dedicated waterproof membrane will be installed on top. Note the faint pink lines where R-GUARD Joint & Seam Filler has sealed the plywood sheeting seams.

Though Karuna House is a residence, its design includes features found in commercial buildings, such as cantilevered decks, parapet walls and structural steel. There are also plenty of corners, turns, intersections, seams and joints — complexity which would turn peel and stick or fabric wrap installation into a nightmare, even if the walls had a chance to dry out, Skylar said.

In fact, he said, the air barrier installation went faster than planned and took less manpower than expected, even though they installed FastFlash in more places than usual.

The extra effort paid off as a preliminary blower-door test in June demonstrated the house’s air-tightness at 99.9 percent — even though the applicators were still spot-sealing the house’s 14,000 square feet of air barrier surface.

“We pressurized the house to 200 Pascals (about a 40-mile per hour wind load) and filled it with fog from a theatrical fog machine,” Skylar said. “Then we watched to see where the fog escaped the house.”

“There were only two places where we had leaks in the structural sheathing. Both were in areas we had not finished the FastFlash application. Since we hadn’t finished sealing, I was surprised,” he said. “Considering the complexity of the structure, I didn’t think the house would pass the air-tightness test on our first attempt.”

Because Karuna House will be leak-proof and heavily insulated, a little heating and cooling energy will go a long way. That’s less demand on the earth’s resources, as well as less stress on the checkbook.

Now we’re talking compassion.

Here’s Hammer and Hand’s outstanding video on achieving an air- and water-tight building enclosure.

This rough opening is sealed tight with waterproof but vapor-permeable gun and spread FastFlash liquid flashing. Beneath the coating, joints and seams have been filled with the appropriately named “Joint and Seam Filler. The plywood structural walls are still exposed, awaiting installation of Cat 5 primary air and waterproof barrier.”

This closeup of an inside corner on the rough opening in the above photo shows Cat 5 primary air and waterproof barrier applied to the structural wall. This kind of seamless, continuous, waterproof, well-adhered installation is impossible to achieve with fabric wraps and peel and sticks — but is a must for energy-efficient buildings.

Not wanting to take a chance on even the slightest air or water leak through the building envelope, Hammer and Hand installed the FastFlash air and waterproof barrier system even in places it usually isn’t used, like the underside of this cantilevered deck.

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This 45,000 s/f Harley Davidson of Erie dealership went from abandoned grocery store to gleaming motorcycle emporium in just 80 days, including the polished concrete floors. photos courtesy Cori Sutton, Diamond Designer Concrete

“We’re used to horrible old floors,” said Cori Sutton, Diamond Designer Concrete, Erie, Pa. “It wasn’t a big deal. We knew what to expect.”

The newly exposed concrete floor at the Harley-Davidson of Erie dealership met the expectations for “horrible” of Cori, her older brother and partner Matt Maya, and their crew when they arrived on the job site in May.

The 45,000 square-foot facility had been a grocery store, abandoned for five years to birds and dust. It fell to Cori and a host of other trades to fast-track the forgotten facility into its second life as a high-powered Harley dealership. They had to do it by July and the looming, legendary “Roar on the Shore” biker rally for charity. The annual rally brings up to 80,000 bikers into town for three days of rides, parades, bands and other special events.

As a major sponsor of “Roar,” dealership owners Kelly and Susan Lapping were set to be at ground-zero. More than anything, they wanted a beautiful, spacious and completed setting in which to play host and display their Harleys to the incoming crowds.

First, Cori, Matt and crew had to whip 17,245 square feet of old concrete into shape.

The GC, award-winning Odyssey Builders, Erie, took the VCT tiles off, presenting the Diamond Designer Concrete team with a floor that hadn’t seen daylight since it was poured.

“It was in really bad shape,” Cori recalled.

Trench repairs for plumbing, both old and new, spanned the floor. Pitted, cracked, chipped, and spalled concrete stretched from wall to wall, still covered in patches of rock-hard, ages-old adhesive from the torn-up tiles.

“The adhesive made the floor horribly rough,” Cori said. “We had to grind it off.” In addition, the floor was uneven and wave-like. “We didn’t measure the difference between the high spots and low spots,” Cori said, “but it was significant.”

Diamond Designer Concrete brought two grinders, each weighing nearly half-a-ton, to flatten and smooth the craggy, uneven surface. Removing the glue was rough and bumpy said Cori, who did her time running the thousand-pounders along with her brother and their crew. But that was just the start.

The Diamond Designer Concrete team worked against deadline to repair countless cracks, spalls and other defects in the floor with products and procedures from Metzger/McGuire, Concord, N.H.

Metzger/McGuire is a manufacturer of joint fillers and repair materials for retail and industrial concrete flooring.

Metzger/McGuire field rep Matt Rizzo, who visited the site, said their work impressed him.

“That floor looked like a jigsaw puzzle, it had so much random cracking,” Rizzo said. “They could’ve done less, but they went the extra step.”

A “grid pattern” from years of VCT tile covering heightens the floor’s “industrial” look. Repairs to countless, cracks, spalls and boltholes are harder to spot.

Despite the looming deadline, Cori, Matt and company took pains to make sure the joints were perfectly sanded and defects filled with the right repair materials the right way, Matt said. “I can tell just from looking at the photos,” he added.

“One of the biggest problems was that there were many parts to the old floor,” Cori said. “It wasn’t just one pour. Every section had a different strength of concrete; sometimes hard, sometimes soft.”

That meant an additional drain on the team’s already scarce time as they changed diamonds to match varied floor conditions. Repeated grinds at ever finer grits of metal bond diamonds gradually smoothed and flattened the floor, making the job faster and easier. After their final grind and before beginning polishing, Cori’s team colored the floor with Consolideck GemTone Stains “Espresso.”

This part of the job went quickly, Cori said. They applied the water-based color with pump-up sprayers and micro-fiber applicators, smoothing it out into a rich brown translucent tint. As soon as the floor dried, about 20 – 60 minutes, the crew followed the same procedure to harden and densify the floor with Consolideck LS lithium-silicate hardener/densifier.

Hardening/densifying offers several benefits for polished concrete floors, and their installers and owners.

LS converts soft calcium hydroxide into rock-hard calcium silicate hydrate — the same substance that makes concrete hard to begin with. Without hardening/densifying, unreacted calcium hydroxide quickly turns into concrete “dust,” the bane of concrete floors.

Hardening/densifying eliminates dusting.

The reaction fills microscopic pores in the concrete with calcium silicate hydrate. It creates a harder, denser, more monolithic surface that polishes faster, easier and with better results.

After a sub-60-minute dry time, The Diamond Designer Concrete team began polishing. They took the finish in stages to a mirror-like 1,500 grit finish. Propane burnishing melded an ultra-thin coat of Consolideck LSGuard into the floor, locking in the water-based color and increasing the floor’s already considerable gloss and stain- and abrasion-resistance.

“It wasn’t in the best of shape,” says co-owner Kelly Lapping with a chuckle, recalling the floor before Diamond Designer Concrete got to it. “Cori and her group did a fantastic job, and they got it done with two weeks to spare before ‘Roar’.

“We absolutely love it,” he said.

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Bikes reflect in the polished concrete floor created by Diamond Designer Concrete, with products from PROSOCO and Metzger/McGuire.

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