Contributed by Chris Maskell
Is there a problem with flooring glued to concrete with a high fly ash content? Fly ash is the finely divided residue that results from the combustion of ground or powdered coal and that is transported by flue gasses. It is used as a replacement for Portland cement in concrete and in some cases can add to the final strength, increase its chemical resistance and durability and can significantly improve the workability of concrete.
If you talk to enough flooring professionals on the subject of site preparation and related issues, eventually the question of concrete, high fly ash content and adhesive bond failure will crop up.
I've heard the question from all corners of the commercial flooring industry, and there are many concerns, but few definitive answers. As a result, many commercial flooring contractors are not warrantying their installations over such concrete. Instead, they add a disclaimer in their 'terms and conditions’ stating that no installation warranty is offered when a certain percentage level of fly ash in the concrete mix is exceeded. Some say 15%, others 20 to 25%, some say more. Such disclaimers won't protect the flooring contractor if there is a failure and things turn nasty.
Concrete with a high fly ash content results in a denser, less porous product. This in turn can interfere with the flooring adhesive’s (or hydraulic cement underlayment's) ability to mechanically bond. Hard troweling of the concrete surface to a super smooth finish adds to the problem, and introduces the need for shot blasting. Shot blasting requires time and money, both of which are in short supply at the end of the project when the flooring is scheduled.
As concrete mixes are proprietary to the concrete supplier, it can be difficult to confirm exactly how much fly ash is present in any one mix. If this is the case or where the concrete is super smooth, unusual in color, or if you are just not sure, then perform a water absorbency test in accordance with ASTM F-3191 and/or a bond test prior to installation.
Place dime sized droplets of water on the cleaned concrete surface, if they are not absorbed after 60 seconds (or in accordance with ASTM F-3191), you could be facing an adhesive bond issue. If this is the case then you need to shot blast to a concrete surface profile (CSP) of 1 or 2, or per adhesive manufacturers’ requirements depending on the floor covering to be installed. (A CSP 2 for example, is similar to 60 grit sandpaper)
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
(Editor's Note: It should be noted that the skilled trades gap has been a long time coming, and this post was originally written by Liz over seven years ago on her blog that you can find here)
I have great respect for people who work hard and are good at their work.
Many people consider hard work and skill to be respect-worthy. However, the same people who respect hard-working and successful doctors, actors, and software engineers, often have little or no respect for hard-working, successful construction tradespeople.
This lack of respect may partially stem from a lack of understanding of what is involved in the work of tradespeople. Sometimes we do a little fix-it work around our own homes and figure that it’s not that hard. We watch tradespeople on TV who make their work look easy, and think, “Oh, well I could do that.” But it actually only looks easy, and that’s because they know what they’re doing!
I suspect that there’s actually a deeper and broader pattern of thinking that’s at work here, and it needs to change, soon.
There is a lack of respect for the construction trades because of the push by schools to get kids to college. Somehow, attaining a 4-year college degree has become the only respected post-high-school option for many kids. It may be the only avenue they hear about from their guidance counselors and parents.
In the Denver Post on February 20, 2011, a guest writer, high school teacher Michael Mazenko wrote:
“…schools keep pushing the college-for-all mentality. The education system should promote the trades and skilled labor as much as it does academics and bachelor’s degrees, and education at all levels should become more experiential and skill-based.”
“This conclusion is supported by the recently released Harvard study that concluded not all kids should go to college – or at least not a four-year university in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. The aptly titled report ‘Pathways to Prosperity’ recommends a new direction for education reform, based on the practical needs of students and the economy.”
Not every teenager really wants to have a career that requires a 4-year-college diploma. But there is pressure from society to go get that college diploma, or else he may be considered to be not smart, or to be an underachiever. Sometimes it works out, and the college student thrives, and ends up taking a career path that did require that college degree. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, the student struggles or hates college, or just wonders why he’s there, AND has student loan debt to deal with after the inevitable drop out of college.
Contributed by Brian Stroik
That was cool - the Crash Test Dummies have done their job again! The automotive industry found a way to ensure the safety performance for their deliverable for all manufacturers to owners (us), through testing and validation. Yet when we approach the subject of performance mockups within the building community, people seemed shocked at the suggestion. After all, it might cost something to make sure it gets done right the first time – heaven forbid!
Now, consider this: buildings today utilize thousands of products, from hundreds of manufacturers, with thousands of different chemical compositions, being installed by a group with a known labor shortage, managed by groups with all different delivery methods. Try and figure out that matrix of possible outcomes. Add in the fact that very few architectural schools teach building physics to students for the understanding of heat, air, and moisture transfer, and it is no wonder insurance claims and litigation from moisture and water issues in construction is a billion-dollar industry annually.
Let’s also ask the question: how many architectural firms have chemists or research and development labs or full-scale testing facilities? Very few. But as an industry, we are asking the architect to provide product choices in specifications and properly designed and detailed projects, with the full knowledge that no single person or firm could possibly know or understand all the technologies available for all six sides of the enclosure. So…how can the Owner be assured his building is being properly built? Use the building industry’s “Crash Test Dummy” – the performance mockup.
The performance mockup is used to validate the design, product selection, and proper installation of materials, prior to the final installation on the building. Would you build a car in your backyard for your 16-year-old to drive on the expressway at 70 MPH? If you answered no, then why would you expect a unique combination of design, materials, and installers to be able to successfully provide an Owner with a leak-free building on their first try? Remember…. every building is UNIQUE. Even if you use the exact same design from project to project, you must add in the experience, or lack thereof, of the installers for each building. So, consider even if you design and select the exact same materials for two identical buildings, there is no feasible way they could be built in the exact same weather conditions, with the exact same labor force. It is impossible!
The performance mockup can be built and tested in a myriad of configurations and at all levels of cost. The most important part is that they are tested - for water leakage, air leakage, thermal concerns and durability. Make sure people installing the mockup are also going to be working on the project. What good does it do the project if the knowledge gained by the mockup is not available for the actual construction of the project? Let’s do it right on the building the first time and aim to get the lawyers and litigation out of construction.
This is the first in a four-part series on performance mockups. Stay tuned for more information.
• Types of Mockups
• Testing of Performance Mockups
• Transferring knowledge from the Performance Mockup
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
Recently, I was preparing a masonry architectural specification section for a remodel project. The project has an existing CMU wall which is to receive a small area of new CMU infill. It’s an exterior structural wall, and the architectural drawings indicate that the infill CMU is to be grouted solid.
I asked the structural engineer if we need reinforcing bars (rebar) in the cores of the CMU. I told him that I would delete rebar from the spec section if we don’t need rebar, so that the Contractor knows he doesn’t need to provide it.
The engineer said, “You can just leave it in the specs. If the rebar isn’t on the Drawings, they’ll know they don’t need it.”
Drawings and Specifications are complementary and what is called for by one shall be as binding as if called for by both.”
This is according to the General Conditions of the Contract for this project. This is a typical provision in construction contracts. (1)
So, if rebar isn’t required for that wall, there should be no rebar in the spec or on the drawings. If rebar is in the specs, even if it’s not on the drawings, rebar is required by the contract. If rebar is on the drawings, even if it’s not in the specs, rebar is required by the contract.
Design professionals need to completely comprehend this concept, and for some unknown reason, many don’t. Contractors need to completely comprehend this requirement, and for an understandable reason (it’s not in their best interest at times) they don’t always seem to grasp this.
The lead design professional on the project, the entity who is performing construction contract administration, is the party who must enforce the contract documents, including the specifications. This party has to understand the relationships among contract documents before he or she can properly enforce them. If the specifications and drawings have been prepared to be complementary, and are clear, concise, correct, and complete, they will be easy to understand (for all parties) and easy to enforce.
Contributed by Chris Maskell
The flooring industry is constantly challenged by the same repeating issues. Installing too early, wet concrete, non-flat sub-floors, sub-floor surface not prepared, heat not on, windows not in and lack of installer training and certification. In fact, as construction speeds up to meet demands for faster build times and with the threat of an increase in the cost of borrowing money lurking in the economic wings, the provision of acceptable conditions for the flooring contractor is becoming less likely.
This raises the importance of supporting those in the construction team (Building Owner, Construction Manager, General Contractor, Design Authority, and Flooring Contractor) with good, timely information that helps all involved plan ahead for the floor covering installation. As one of the last significant trades onsite, the flooring contractor needs certain conditions, that if not planned for in advance, will be next to impossible for the Construction Manager/General Contractor to provide without extra time and/or extra money: two things in short supply at the end of a build or renovation.
Change is possible, but requires a few things to be understood and acted on in advance.
There is a generic Canadian floor covering industry reference manual available for specification, which supports all construction parties, and when included in the Division 09 section of the construction documents, means correct flooring processes and supportive language is available to guide the floor installation and all the points listed below.
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