Unbridled Truth

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The Quality in Concrete Slabs luncheon at the 2013 World of Concrete focused on moisture issues with concrete slabs and featured an all-star cast of Stott Tarr, Peter Craig, Roland Vierra, Lee Eliseian, and Bill Lepito--all slabs consultants focused on moisture testing and resolving flooring issues. At one point a question was posed to Peter Craig concerning the use of silicates as a moisture mitigation system--to prevent slab moisture from coming through the top of a slab and causing problems with flooring. After first trying to hide under the tablecloth, Craig responded that in his experience silicates are not effective for this purpose. The other panelists agreed in no uncertain terms.


Unfortunately, at least two people in the audience took issue with this. "To actually deride certain aspects of the sealants industry was not only unprofessional, but bordered on defamation," wrote one attendee. "Why would I spend $75 on a mediocre lunch only to have my intelligence insulted by some seemingly distinguished panel members who obviously had self-serving interests at heart and convenient plants in the audience asking questions which directed the conversation to the sales/promotion of specific products/services?"


A second wrote, "The details about specific product categories were totally biased – and the presenters actually made fun of other categories. Not too professional."


I couldn't disagree more. These five panelists have spent cumulatively well over a century studying this problem. None has a commercial interest in any product or product category. The questions were not planted, but spontaneous questions from the audience. "As consultants," responded Scott Tarr, "we actually benefit if people use silicates as moisture mitigation. I suppose we were brutally honest about it but we've all seen them fail so often, we just can't recommend them. We didn't name any products specifically. We said what attendees needed to hear. In fact, I first answered the question by discussing the benefits of silicates as surface hardener/densifiers. They have their place. We simply haven't seen any data showing that silicates are effective at mitigating moisture vapor issues."

 One important purpose of the forums we sponsor at the World of Concrete is to get experts together and hope that they provide attendees with the unbridled truth--what they need to hear, as Scott Tarr puts it. I think they got more than their money’s worth from this program. 



Comments (28 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 3:48 PM Monday, May 05, 2014

    Why would we want to use a test procedure that measures the permeability of liquid water (ASTM D-5084) through soil or porous rock to measure the movement of water vapor through concrete??? There is a big difference between liquid water and water vapor. Systems that are water proof are not necessarily vapor proof... There seems to be a major misunderstanding about this in some of the posts... Similarly, a product that stops the penetration of ice (water in the solid state) wouldn't necessarily stop the penetration of liquid water or, to the next extreme, water vapor. We need to use the correct test. Water vapor is what we need to measure regarding this subject.

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  • Posted by: jfox | Time: 10:52 AM Friday, August 23, 2013

    Seems like a lot of "he said, she said" controversy on the issue. Is anyone aware of a specific position stated by ACI?

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  • Posted by: Illentinc | Time: 1:01 AM Saturday, June 01, 2013

    @JD Grafton, Neither the flooring nor adhesive manufacturer offers any warranty against moisture related failure. Flooring installers do not offer any warranty against moisture related failure. So unless a slab is proactively or re actively mitigated for moisture the owner is taking a risk. The flooring installer not so much. When a concrete slab it mitigated for moisture, it is the mitigation system manufacturer that accepts the liability, not the flooring installer, not the flooring or adhesive manufacturer. (In some cases the flooring manufacturer also supplies or manufactures the mitigation system, that is the only time the flooring manufacturer assumes that liability.) There is not one flooring manufacturer or adhesive manufacturer I am aware of that will offer any such warranty on an unmitigated concrete slab that meets their recommendations for Rh. The reality is the only way the owner gets a GUARANTEE that they will not have a moisture related flooring failure, and is issued a warranty against same, is with the proper application of a quality mitigation system. The warranty comes from the mitigation system manufacturer, NOT the flooring or adhesive manufacturer. With regard to your questions on 5084 testing, while I can not speak for any other manufacturer, I will point out that the product I represent, 5084 is only a part of their extensive testing protocol. You continue to cite concern for warranties that not only do not cover moisture related flooring failure, but are also superseded by, not voided by mitigation systems that do! Since it is the mitigation system that is assuming that liability, and issuing that warranty, it is the mitigation system application instructions and testing protocol that must be followed.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 11:28 AM Thursday, May 16, 2013

    I still have unanswered questions: Is there a single flooring or adhesive manufacturer recognizing a slab tested by ASTM D-5084? And is each pour of a slab actually tested or is there one blanket test that covers all slabs poured? Can a silicate treated slab (topical or integral) be tested using methods recognized by any major flooring or adhesive manufacturer? I ask because when I test slabs treated integrally my MVER tests are higher than the same slab without the admix. And I cannot perform ASTM F-1869 on a topically treated slab without damaging the installation. Therefore these treatment systems are unable to be proven in the field, and as far as I know, unaccepted by the flooring and adhesive manufacturers. That leaves the owner and installer at great risk in the case of a failure. JD Grafton

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  • Posted by: Illentinc | Time: 10:54 AM Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    @eaadams-The topically applied systems, the quality systems that are properly applied are not surface treatments. That is where the entire issue lies with these systems. One hears "topical" and one assumes it is meant to stay on the surface. Just the opposite is true. There are quality proven systems that when properly applied perform as claimed. Even on a topically applied system, the solution is integral to the slab, NOT on the surface. Just because something is sprayed on does not mean it is supposed to remain on the surface to be effective. This is one of the few points in the Kanare paper that has been cited here that I agree with.... “We provide this information as general background on the state of knowledge regarding these materials. Each commercial product should be evaluated based on the manufacturer's specific claims, service history, and supporting evidence.” I caution all of you to NOT make the mistake of dismissing a technology as a whole but to heed Mr Kanare's suggestion in the first paragraph of his paper, a paragraph that is often overlooked or outright ignored. Ed Grabinski-Illiana Enterprises Inc. Representing Vapor Lock by Specialty Products Group

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  • Posted by: Illentinc | Time: 8:55 AM Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    E-96 vs D5084, the answer to this question is simple. You have to use the appropriate test for the technology. E-96 is used for : 1.1 These test methods cover the determination of water vapor transmission (WVT) of materials through which the passage of water vapor may be of importance, such as paper, plastic films, other sheet materials, fiberboards, gypsum and plaster products, wood products, and plastics. The test methods are limited to specimens not over 11/4 in. (32 mm) in thickness Last time I looked concrete slabs are typically at a minimum 4" thick. ASTM E-96 is an appropriate test for your topically applied barriers (epoxy). ASTM D 5084 is the correct test to evaluate the permeability of a concrete slab enhanced with Water Vapor Reducing Admixture technology such as Vapor Lock 20/20. ASTM E 96 is appropriate for vapor barriers and epoxies. ASTM D 5084 is appropriate for concrete slabs. That is the simplest explanation I can provide.

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 2:26 PM Sunday, March 17, 2013

    @Anonymous I think you make a good point. "CRUCIAL to distinguish between a rolled-on surface applied and an integral admixture"

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 2:24 PM Sunday, March 17, 2013

    @Anonymous Why is ASTM D5084 to be used over the ASTM E96? Please educate us why some use E96 but some insist on D5084? And also why that is valid. http://www.personal.psu.edu/szw138/Rock%20Mechanics%20Lab/Other%20ASTM/D5084-2.pdf Here is the Barrier1 warranty that points to ASTM D5084: http://www.barrierone.com/downloads/admix_warranty.pdf

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 2:13 PM Sunday, March 17, 2013

    @Anonymous "on their last 3 projects" I do not believe it was the GC who insisted on the silicate. I think it was the CM. Perhaps you should get your facts straight. I know the architect doesn't use it anymore. In any way shape or form.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:53 PM Thursday, March 14, 2013

    http://www.jdtechnical.com/Documents/CTL_Comments_on_silicates.pdf As far as this article....really??? This was a "hatchet job" from Kanare against Richard Koon at B-1 years ago....plain and simple. The mix CTL performed years gone by was a 0.38 w/cm ratio....please! Use a 0.45 w/cm mix and perform ASTM 5084....and you'll be buying me lunch next time!

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:48 PM Thursday, March 14, 2013

    ....and yeah....that general contractor in Bakersfield that got stung on that "topical silicate" system on the gymnasium floor....is using an integral "silicate" admixture on their last 3 projects to great success! Not Koster or Ardex.... ; )

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:41 PM Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Very interesting dialouge....make no mistake gentlemen....Craig, Kanare and the like ALL have positions with companies involved in this situation. In regards to "silicates", it is CRUCIAL to distinguish between a rolled-on surface applied and an integral admixture. If anyone can site one failure with Barrier-1 or Vapor Lock over the last 7 years....I have the keys to Porsche Turbo for you!!!

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 10:44 AM Monday, March 04, 2013

    we here at ess resin tch do alot of epoxy flooring and have had many problems over the years with moisture. wehave had great success with concrete that has had an admixture added to it at the batch plants . as to the none has a commericl interest in any product peter craig has a long standing stego . also as to the topical epoxy treatments for moisture when they do have a failure they always have a way out i know this because we will stand behind our work and it has cost us over the last 10 years over 100k in warranty work just from moisture. does any body remember world of concrete that peter stood side by side with the rep from aridus . and then you have the u tube vid from koster with peter and terry bradshaw ? you look at it any way you want . all i know is what we found that works and we will stick with it . i invite comments as to what i've written and yes we have been in bussiness for 29 years and i agree with the statement that the best cure for concrete is wet as we also polish concrete . brent

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:23 AM Monday, March 04, 2013

    My reference to the sf pricing of products did not include costs for prep and application. I should have clarified.

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  • Posted by: james@axiomnw.com | Time: 7:13 PM Saturday, March 02, 2013

    I have used Concuresytems Admix in all of my DaVita slabs since 2005 (16) and have had zero failures The topical may be flashy but the admix is where it's at. I also have my flooring scheduled sometimes right at day 29 after my pour on my faster schedules or critical path areas. All this "clucking" by so called experts and grown men just make laugh. Gotta go pour some mud.

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 1:30 PM Saturday, March 02, 2013

    Spray n Pray Silicates now go for $1 s/f installed in California. I don't know of any systems in the $2 s/f. Even the latex cut epoxy systems go for more. For me, the low perm 100% solid epoxies go for $3.50 - $4.25 depending on variables. Would love to know what system goes for $2 & if it is legitimate with E96 testing.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:42 AM Saturday, March 02, 2013

    Ask a flooring contractor or GC whose installing $500,000 worth of heat welded sheet goods in a new hospital with high RH readings. Do you want to mitigate with a product type endorsed by manufacurers of the flooring and well recognized experts,that may cost $2 per sf, or use a mitigation product type rarely seen in specs that costs .65 cents per sf? Who cares if they both have 20 year warranties? I'm putting my money on the old saying that you get what you pay for. And if the hospital wants to save the money, they're signing off on the use of the other stuff, or I'm walking. A failure of that magnitude at a hopspital would put me out of business.

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 12:00 PM Thursday, February 28, 2013

    Further, re: naming failures. I have three+ but you and I both know that on failure the lawsuit happens and on settlement each party has to sign a doc saying we can't talk details or even disclose there was a settlement. But one of mine had one of the panelists as consultants for the prosecution and who would have thunk it.... the silicate corp settled. But Bill Palmer can certainly ask Peter Craig about a gym he consulted on in Bakersfield CA. Most well studied gym slab in the country with over $20,000 spent on analysis. After two+ years it is still performing after we repaired it with Koster VAP & a spec written by Howard Kanare @ CTL. Now that silicate is not allowed under ANY of my floors anymore. I will RFI even before I have a contract to avoid that poison. Perhaps we could convince Concrete Construction to contact the architect & owner to publish info and what they learned on that project.

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  • Posted by: eaadams | Time: 11:47 AM Thursday, February 28, 2013

    This is easy to resolve. I am sure we could get the Koster's, Ardex's, Advanced Construction Tech's, Mapei's, and Aquafin's to test their products vs. the silicates. Do the testing at CTL or SGH or other *reputable* firm or even better an accredited research university. (CalPolly, Chico, MIT, UCLA, UC Davis) Or how about one of these ACI people: http://www.concrete.org/STUDENTS/st_graduate.htm Do the testing per ASTM E96 & whatever ASTM ACI standards people claim work. Publish said results in a peer reviewed research publication. And lets have at it. Get it out there for the whole world to be sold on the magic spray on monkey blood that stops vapor, stops ph buildup, and even somehow seals concrete micro cracks with just a hudson sprayer. I think Stego did their part for the vapor membrane industry with this study: http://www.concreteconstruction.net/commercial-projects/keeping-moisture-out-of-slabs.aspx Perhaps if the silicate people think their products can perform with the above mentioned quality products they would like to pay for such a study, double blind, and reviewed. Perhaps this is the test regimen to use? http://assets.ctlgroup.com/9447d966-36b4-453e-a0d5-ad4e794527c2.pdf I will say, regarding the lunch, everyone likes to point fingers. A lot of fingers at that lunch were pointed at designers, architects, engineers, and even flooring people. Rolland asked at the lunch "how many flooring people are here?" I was the only flooring person. I asked how many architects/designers were at the lunch & no one raised a hand. It rests on the concrete people who are licensed to do concrete work to deal with and be responsible for concrete moisture issues. Stop using blotter layers, stop doing work 'per specs' even when you know it is wrong. Look at what is below and what will be above your product and do it right. Stop passing the buck back at overworked architects and flooring people who usually don't even have a signed contract when you pour that slab.

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  • Posted by: DennisFyfe-Concure | Time: 11:02 PM Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    There is only one guy here who has the guts to name himself. If the rest are privey to failures I challenge you to come forward with job name, product used , architect and GC. If not please have the courtesy to cease as without facts it is nothing more than tabloid journalism. Please feel free to email me as we'd like to engage in dialogue in the name of professionalism and good business practice. I look forward to hearing from you!

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:48 PM Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    No product has a 100% success rate. Has Bone Dry ever paid out on a warranty claim beyond sending more Bone Dry?

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  • Posted by: BillPalmer | Time: 5:16 PM Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    In addition to the comments here, I also received a couple of e-mails arguing that silicates can indeed effectively prevent moisture vapor from coming up through a slab. I am more than willing to listen to other viewpoints on this issue and if I'm wrong I will be more than willing to admit it. This seems like an issue that should be given a thorough debate.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:43 AM Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    I thought the door on silicates was closed long ago-- http://www.jdtechnical.com/Documents/CTL_Comments_on_silicates.pdf

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 10:37 PM Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Here in Hawaii we have some horrible slabs that have clouds of sulfates blooming on the surface of the concrete and wet spots that won't go away even when exposed to air. Silicates worked in some of these cases but not all. The best way to prevent moisture problems is to properly wet cure the concrete. This will solve 99.9% of all flooring failures due to vapor emission.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:52 PM Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    "We simply haven't seen any data showing that silicates are effective at mitigating moisture vapor issues." Well that is because you haven't looked for it, or ignored it. If you are not ignoring it, where may I send it? Ed Grabinski Illiana Enterprises Inc info@illianaenterprises.com

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:46 PM Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    When the question was asked about silicates it was coming from the owner of Stego barrier products who is also now promoting the concrete wannabe product because his new miracle concrete is competing with silicates. A pathetic setup. Not too smooth when those in the audience realized he set up the distinguished panelists so they looked like they were being taken advantage of by this guy in the blue suede shoes. I like the consultants. They sell lots of my products. Even though they don't like all silicates. I've also been on many job sites where "certified" consultants have performed tests improperly but that doesn't make me say that Peter and Scott and "all" of the consultants are idiots. Therefore, making a comment about "silicates" not working properly may be showing a bit of inexperience in the world of products that may have silicates, but also other proprietary parts of the formula to make it work. Can ours stop moisture or water? Yes. One hundred percent moisture vapor? Maybe not. But enought to prevent failure.I know this better than other so called silicate "snake oil" salesman as I also manufacture wood flooring for retail store chains and have over 2300 wood floors installed on concrete throughout North America on top of my products without a failure. Also, thousands of other vinyl floors and carpet tile floors with contractors and professionals without a failure. Our product has more anecdotal evidence then any other in the industry and I would appreciate a call from any or all of the panelists to discuss a floor failure they know of installed on concrete treated with Bone Dry penetrating concrete sealer. I look forward to hearing from anyone that can show me limitations of our product so we can, as always, continue to work on making it even better then it already has been for almost 40 years. And Bill, I welcome and invite your call also. And please keep the seminars from becoming infomercials. I used to promote Stego but have switched to Raven barriers made in the USA. As have all of our sales people. With no compensation. I look forward to hearing from you Bill. The WOC was a great show and I enjoyed seeing the new and innovative products. Jim Gourley President Bone Dry Products, Inc. 262-694-9748 direct

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 4:22 PM Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Well said, Bill.

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  • Posted by: PJM | Time: 4:22 PM Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    When asked by the NYC SCA to provide a system that would allow VCT to be placed over lightweight topping slabs in as little as 7 days it was a silicate that allowed this to be done. I must say that over a 3 year period for numerous schools there was not one delamination of a tile. While this is new concrete it clearly points out that moisture is not the culprit.

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About the Blogger

Bill Palmer

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Bill Palmer is Editorial Director for Hanley Wood’s Commercial Construction Group, which includes the magazines, websites, e-newsletters, and webcast initiatives for Concrete Construction, Concrete Surfaces, The Concrete Producer, Public Works, and Concrete Construction Products. Palmer is a professional engineer, writer, editor, and program developer with more than 25 years of experience in the construction industry, specializing in concrete, masonry, building design, and public works. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado (1980) and a master’s from the University of Iowa (1982). He is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan and Colorado.

Palmer worked for the American Concrete Institute for 10 years as engineering editor on Concrete International and as director of ACI’s educational programs. While at ACI, he was also executive vice president of the American Society of Concrete Contractors for two years. Following that, he spent four years as executive director of The Masonry Society—a technical organization that develops educational programs and resources for masonry designers and contractors.

Palmer is an active member and Fellow of the American Concrete Institute, where he is a member of the Educational Activities Committee and Certification Programs Committee. He lives in Lyons, Colo.

Follow @WmPalmer on Twitter.