The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released comprehensive regulations affecting the exposure of individuals to crystalline silica found in concrete and masonry products. The rules fall into two major categories – construction and general industry. General industry regulations take effect in June 2018 and cover a wide range of industries and applications, including the production of masonry and concrete products.
As a manufacturer of these types of products, Concrete Solutions will be fully complying with the new OSHA rules, so we’d like our customers to know what it all means and how it will affect what we do and how we do it.
First of all, what is crystalline silica? Silica is a common mineral found in almost every type of rock and used extensively as a filler in masonry and concrete, including pre-cast concrete products. It exists in both crystalline and non-crystalline forms, crystalline being extremely hard and chemically inert, making it valuable for a variety of industrial uses. Respirable crystalline silica is the respirable dust fraction of crystalline silica which enters the body by inhalation and has been linked to various illnesses.
Concrete is one of the most popular building materials by far because it’s inexpensive, durable, strong, and can be shaped, colored, and textured in almost unlimited ways. However, it does require proper installation and maintenance for maximum longevity and performance.
Two of the biggest potential problems with concrete are cracking and spalling. Cracking, of course, is exactly what it sounds like. Cracks can appear as the result of exposure to dramatic temperature swings, stress, and impact. Most cracks occur as a result of shrinkage of concrete. Shrinkage is simply a reduction in the volume of concrete as it hardens — if this reduction in volume were unrestricted, then a crack would not occur. However, in reality, ground friction and a number of other things, such as structural connections, prevent or hinder free shrinkage and cause cracks. Of course, not every crack threatens structural safety. In fact, many cracks are merely cosmetic in nature. These cracks are typically seen in flat work such as walkways and curbs.
Many consumers – and even some professionals – use the terms “sealants” and “sealers” interchangeably, but there is a difference. Sealants are typically rubberized coatings or caulks and create an elastic layer on the surface. Sealers, on the other hand, such as acrylics, urethanes, and epoxies, are either film-forming or penetrating, sealing the substrate internally.
There are dozens of products on the market these days which can cause considerable confusion for consumers looking to preserve and protect their interior and exterior concrete or masonry features. To help clear up matters, let’s take a look at the various major categories of sealing and waterproofing products:
Penetrating sealers include silanes, silosanes, silicates, and siliconates and are used primarily on exterior concrete surfaces subject to corrosion and freeze-thaw damage where a natural, matte finish is desired. Most products provide excellent protection against outdoor exposure conditions and are also breathable, enabling moisture vapor to escape.
Acrylics form a thin protective film on the concrete surface and are available in both solvent- and water-based formulations in a wide range of sheen levels. Acrylics provide good protection against water and chloride intrusion, but usually wear faster than polyurethanes and epoxies. Solvent-based acrylics generally perform better and enhance color better than water-based products for outdoor use.
The terms “waterproofer” and “sealer” are often used interchangeably when it comes to concrete and masonry coatings, but they are not the same things. Knowing the difference between the two can help contractors and consumers avoid problems down the road.
Waterproofers are generally made from rubber, plastic or a sealing agent. They’re designed to keep moisture both in and out, penetrating the pores of the masonry and expanding as it dries to become a part of the masonry, creating a continuous film.
A water sealer, however, is a repellent designed to cause water to bead up on a surface while allowing moisture vapor to pass through. Sealers are typically applied in such a way as to permeate the substrate, which is usually very porous, ensuring that the substrate is sufficiently covered. Water sealers can be applied with a brush, roller or sprayer. Only one coat is recommended unless the surface is extremely porous.
The idea that water can wreak havoc on masonry or concrete may sound strange, but constant exposure to water — and especially winter freeze/thaw cycles — can damage or destroy masonry surfaces in a surprisingly short amount of time.
For above-grade brick or masonry surfaces exposed to wind-driven rain or other weather elements but not subjected to hydrostatic pressure (the weight of a body of liquid pressing down on a surface), a water sealer fits the bill nicely. A sealer will satisfactorily protect the surface and maintain its original beauty. Waterproofers, on the other hand, are usually pigmented products that tend to change surface appearance.
Segmental retaining walls have been steadily growing in popularity for a wide range of residential and commercial uses as the variety and quality of building materials has improved over the years.
Their popularity is due in large part to the fact that segmental retaining walls are less expensive than poured-in-place concrete walls and more durable than timber retaining walls. The systems are also easy to install and they don’t require mortar or concrete footings.
If you’re new to masonry products and construction, you may be asking “what is a segmental retaining wall?” Segmental retaining walls consist of modular concrete blocks that interlock with each other. They’re used to hold back a sloping face of soil to provide a solid, vertical front. Without adequate retention, slopes can cave, slump or slide. With the unique construction of segmental retaining walls, higher and steeper walls can be constructed with the ability to retain the force of lateral earth pressure created by the backfill soil.
Patio blocks are useful and decorative landscaping products, typically made out of concrete. There are many styles to choose from, ranging from elegant to downright silly. Patio blocks can be used in a few different ways around the yard, perfect for walkways and garden décor, not just the obvious choice of patio. Here at Concrete Solutions, we offer a selection of top quality, beautiful patio blocks to give your property the elegance you deserve. Continue reading
Come join us on the How-to install retaining walls featuring Keystone retaining walls on June 1st, 2013 from 10:00-12:00.
Join us for a Seminar on the installation of Keystone Retainng Walls.
Complimentary Coffee, Donuts and Soda will be available.
Come join us on the How-to install pavers featuring Pavers By Ideal on May 18th, 2013 from 10:00-12:00.
Come and join us for a demonstration of techniques for installation of walkways and patios.
Complimentary Coffee, Donuts and Soda will be available.
Early spring is the ideal time to plan all your landscaping projects for the upcoming year, so now’s a great time to get started! Projects like these are always easiest when you make plans ahead of time. Measure the area you’re planning on improving. Count the number of paving bricks you’ll need. Knowing the little details means that you’ll be able to make informed decisions instead of dealing with a lot of guesswork. You’ll save money and time in the end. Here are a few reasons to get a jump on spring preparation: Continue reading
For many property owners, shaping the landscape can be a real challenge. Adding retaining walls in strategic locations can be a great solution for challenging landscaping puzzles. Retaining walls are used to hold back soil and shape the land, allowing you to control the slope of your land. Don’t let gravity and Mother Nature dictate where the hills will be on your property. Retaining wall designs must take erosion into account, identify and deal with water sources and use engineering principles for maximum structural integrity.