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Andy Powell

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Lifting Slabs in Cold Weather

Posted by Andy Powell on Oct 6, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Banner - Lifting Slabs in Cold Weather

Body - Lifting Slabs in Cold WeatherContrary to popular opinion, as a contractor, you don’t have to put up your equipment and rigs due to cold weather. There are many jobs to be done and many ways to keep your material conditioned. Use this season to your advantage and gain valuable business.

Cold Weather Markets

Seasonal attractions such as theme parks are a great place to start looking for winter work. Many of these parks (the ones that aren’t in Orlando) shut down for the winter and this is the time they do maintenance and repairs. Think of all the concrete lifting and leveling that can be done.

Factories can be less active in the winter months with production slowing down in many industries. This is a good time for them to do maintenance and floor repairs as well.

Warehouses typically operate year round, so there is always work available. Warehouse floors are used and abused on a daily basis and will sooner or later need some form of repairs done to keep business running at a steady pace. In addition, many warehouses have dangerous voids beneath their floors that require repair.  

Exterior concrete slabs are still worth considering, even in the cold weather. These slabs experience the most wear and tear from the environment itself (think erosion) and daily traffic. You’ll need to lift concrete slabs before the ground freezes and only after your materials have been thoroughly conditioned.

Conditioning Materials

Your slab lifting equipment probably has built in heaters and a heated hose. Each brand and model of pump has different sized pre-heaters and different ∆T (∆ = Delta and T = Temperature). This sounds complicated, but is actually quite simple.  ∆T is simply the change in temperature.  Let’s say your material has been sitting in a cold trailer all night and the temperature has dropped to 40 degrees F. If the required temperature of your B side material is 120 degrees F, then your pump better be rated with a ∆T of at least 80 degrees. However, if your material is preconditioned to 70 degrees F, then your machine only has to be rated for a ∆T of 50 degrees. As I said, every machine is rated differently based on the size of the heaters. What is important to know is that there are limitations to how much heating your machine can do.

Keeping your materials conditioned in the winter months is a lot easier than it sounds. The main point is to keep your AP Lift products above 60 degrees at all times. Keeping the polyurethane at or above that temperature can be accomplished in a number of ways.

If you have an insulated rig, it should stay around 40 degrees warmer than outside temperatures. Most foam rigs have built in electric heaters that require an extension cord to a power outlet at the job site or at your facility for overnight storage. Alternately, you could buy an electric radiator heater. Other available heating devices include drum band heaters and heated drum mats (be careful not to scorch the polymers by turning band heaters up too high). For a more DIY approach, you could build a hot box around the material storage area in your rig.

Heat Sink

Another consideration when lifting cold slabs is the heat sink factor. AP Lift products come out of the gun hot and get even hotter as they react. However, cold concrete acts as a heat sink and sucks the energy out of the foam as it starts to react. This can slow down the reaction speed of the foam. If you are pumping into a void, it will have little effect because most of the foam is not in contact with the concrete. If you are trying to lift a slab with little void, it will have more of an effect because more of the foam is in contact with the cold concrete and cold soil. More volume = more energy.

Conclusion

Don’t let common preconceptions deter you from slab lifting in cold weather. As noted above, there is no need to shut down completely for the upcoming winter months if you don’t want to. Opportunities still exist and one of them may just be the job you’ve been looking for all year. There are many ways to keep your equipment and materials conditioned to efficiently work in lower temperatures. Have more questions about slab lifting in cold weather? Call us at 404-618-0438.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2018 as Slab Lifting in Cold Weather.

Want more in-depth info on slab lifting?

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Topics: Equipment & Accessories, All Posts, Lift Slabs, Business Tips

Maintaining the Compressed Air System in Your Rig

Posted by Andy Powell on Sep 29, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Banner - Maintaining the Compressed Air System in Your Rig

Body - Maintaining the Compressed Air System in Your RigI don’t know what it is about this time of year but for some reason at the beginning of fall we receive the most tech support phone calls from slab lifting contractors. Some of it is related to the changing weather, but this past week several things happened that made me want to address a specific topic – the compressed air system of the polyurethane foam rig.

It’s easy when discussing a trailer or box truck rig setup to focus on what type of plural component machine you are running. We all want to know whether you have a PH-2 or an E30 for example, or maybe an air powered Boss proportioner. What is often overlooked and neglected is the compressed air system in the rig. For a slab lifting contractor, it’s likely your air system is working harder than any other component on your rig. If you have had the joy of standing next to the compressor while it is running, you can’t deny that.
I want to highlight the main components of the compressed air system; describing their purpose and offering a few tips for keeping them running like they’re supposed to.

These components include:

  • Air Compressor
  • Coalescing Filter and Moisture Separator
  • Refrigerated Air Dryer

Air Compressor

The majority of slab lifting rigs we see have reciprocating air compressors, also known as piston air compressors. These are identified by having a tank, and they are in a horizontal or upright configuration. They can be either gasoline or electric powered. There are also rotary screw compressors out there which don’t have a tank but still need to be maintained. If you have a compressor with a tank, that tank needs to be drained of the moisture it collects. Some have automatic drains that pop open after the unit shuts down; others must be drained manually.

Last week we worked with a contractor who had an air powered proportioner. His machine could build up pressure, but once he started injecting poly the flow would slow down to just a trickle. He would then shut off the gun and the proportioner would pressure up again. Turns out the air compressor tank was almost completely full of water so he would exhaust the remaining air supply right away when shooting the foam. A good policy is to drain the tank every day at the end of the shift. If it doesn’t drain automatically then there are typically valves that are easy to access. I actually like to start my compressor up the next shift with the tank valve open because it will always blow some more water out when it fires up. Then I shut the valves and things pressure up per usual.

In addition to draining the tank, you need to check and change the compressor oil per the manufacturer’s guidelines. This is for all compressors. If you don’t have a manual on board the rig to tell you when to change the oil or what oil to put in, this info can easily be found on the internet or hopefully from your rig provider.

Filters and Moisture Separators

You can usually find the moisture filter and separator mounted on the wall, often combined with the regulator and air pressure gauge. These filters have a housing below them that collects moisture that is coming from the air compressor. This is the first line of defense (after the air compressor) from keeping moisture out of your transfer pumps, so make sure to open the little valves at the bottom and drain these filter/separators daily. I do it at the end of the day and once again at the beginning of the shift when I am checking my air pressure upon startup.

Refrigerated Air Dryers

The refrigerated air dryer is the last line of defense before the compressed air is sent over to the transfer pumps. I have seen these mounted in various places in a rig from on the floor to up on the wall. First, do not pile tools and other rig items on top of and around the air dryer. These units work nonstop, and they need airflow to do their job without overheating. Take care not to block them in. Second, I believe most of these air dryers also have filters and coils that need to be cleaned occasionally. Check the manufacturers guidelines for your model and keep those items clean so that your unit can run more efficiently and for a longer life.

Conclusion

Your compressed air system is vital to your plural component machine running on ratio and making good polyurethane foam. Components that remove moisture from the air are critical for keeping your transfer pumps running like they are supposed to without breaking down or losing pressure.

Always keep these critical points in mind:

  • Drain the tank
  • Change the oil
  • Drain the filter/separator units
  • Don’t block in your refrigerated air dryer, and keep the unit clean

These essential maintenance tasks don’t take but a few minutes, and they can save you hours of frustration and head scratching.

Want more information on Geotech material and equipment?

Download the Info-Packed Geotech Product Catalog!

Topics: Equipment & Accessories, All Posts, Lift Slabs, Deep Lift

Polyurethane Seawall Repair in Florida

Posted by Andy Powell on Aug 27, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Banner - AS - Polyurethane Seawall Repair in Florida

Body - AS - Polyurethane Seawall Repair in FloridaWith 1,350 miles of coastline, Florida is home to countless seawalls.  If you're a property owner or manager in the Sunshine State, you have landed in the right place. Alchemy-Spetec provides environmentally safe seawall repair polyurethane materials to contractors covering all of Florida. (These seawall repair foams are NSF approved for contact with potable water.) If you have a seawall requiring evaluation, we'd be happy to refer you to an experienced contractor covering your area. Call us now at 404-618-0438.

If you're still in research mode, we have plenty of information for you on this website about polyurethane seawall repair. Visit the Seawall Repair Overview Page for a brief explanatory video, product info and a complete list of seawall repair blog articles at the bottom.

In a previous blog post, Polyurethane Seawall Repair Explained, we reviewed the benefits of repairing with polyurethane...

Why Use Polyurethane for Seawall Repair?

Non-Intrusive Application
Polyurethane can be injected through pipes directly into voids and loose sandy soil using small portable equipment.

Proven Solution
Seawall repair resins are used extensively seal cracks, voids and defects as well as for filling voids and stabilizing the soil.

Creates an Impermeable Mass
Polyurethane seals leaks along the wall, fills the voids that have occurred, and mixes with the soil to form a solid, impermeable mass.

What Are the Results of Polyurethane Seawall Repair?

Long Lasting Solution
Alchemy-Spetec seawall repair resins cure to a strength greater than crystalline bedrock. Combined with proper drainage, this method can greatly extend the life of your seawall.

Water Tight Seawall
The resin reacts with water or moisture in the soil and expands to fill voids while it permeates sandy soil to form a solid, strong, watertight mass.

Click here to read the rest of Polyurethane Seawall Repair Explained.

Property owners and managers in Florida can rest assured.  If you have seawall problems, we have you covered.  Contact us at 404-618-0438 for a referral to a contractor near you.  

Want more information on seawall repair with polyurethane?

Download an Info-Packed Seawall Repair Brochure!

Topics: Repair Seawalls, All Posts

AP Fill 700 Polyurethane Foam vs Cement Grout for Soil Stabilization

Posted by Andy Powell on Aug 13, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Banner - AP-Fill-700-vs-Cement-Grout-for-Soil-Stabilization

Body - AP-Fill-700-vs-Cement-Grout-for-Soil-StabilizationOne request we often receive is to explain the difference between AP Fill 700 polyurethane foam and cement grout for soil stabilization. When you're asked a question repeatedly, it's probably a sign that the answer(s) would make a good blog post. So here they are...

AP Fill 700 is a one-component, water activated, hydrophobic, low viscosity, closed cell foam. It adds no weight to the soil, has a quicker set time, resists erosion, and displaces groundwater, and expands during installation - penetrating small soil gaps in the process. AP Fill 700 can also be adjusted to work in flowing water and installed in any climate. These are all very beneficial characteristics for soil stabilization. As you'll see in the comparison table below, the characteristics of cement grout are not exactly the same.

Comparing AP Fill 700 & Cement Grout for Soil Stabilization

AP-Fill-700-vs-Cement-Grout-for-Soil-Stabilization-1

Environmentally Safe

AP Fill 700 is NSF approved for contact with potable water, ensuring compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA) and guaranteeing peace of mind for in-the-field stakeholders on soil stabilization projects.

Want more information on soil stabilization with polyurethane?

Download an Info-Packed Soil Stabilization Brochure!

Topics: All Posts, Stabilize Soil

Introducing the Jack Attack System

Posted by Andy Powell on Jun 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Banner-Introducing the Jack Attack System

Body Graphic-Introducing Jack Attack SystemThe AP Jack Attack System provides leverage for positioning small to medium slabs into place while lifting or stabilizing with polyurethane. Easy for one person to operate. Triangular steel frame.

Even with the largest polyurethane rigs on the market, manipulating small slabs can be very tedious. It would be nice if all slabs settled evenly but that is rarely the case. Often slabs settle unevenly, making it nearly impossible to lift and rotate back into place with foam alone. It will lift for sure but it won’t rotate back into place.

For these small to medium slabs we recommend the Jack Attack System. This super-easy leverage system can be attached to a slab with concrete screw-in anchors. Then the integrated 8000 lb (3628.74 kg) jack can apply the leverage necessary to make the slab rotate back into place while the lifting process takes place. It is good practice to leave the slab 1/8”-1/4” (3-6mm) under-level to allow the foam to create optimal strength as it performs the final lift to level. It makes even the most troublesome sidewalk slab a piece of cake and you will use less foam as well.

Jack-Attack-2

This photo is from a job in which the front porch settled away from the home causing columns to separate from the roof line. On one end the slab had actually cracked in two and was settled away from the home as well as parallel to the home. You can see the triangle-shaped Jack Attack System holding the slab in place as foam is injected underneath.

Want more info on Alchemy-Spetec Geotech products?

Download the Info-Packed Geotech Product Catalog!

Topics: All Posts, Lift Slabs

Deep Soil Stabilization with Polyurethane - A Case Study

Posted by Andy Powell on Feb 28, 2020 3:08:30 PM

1.Banner-Deep-Soil-Stabilization

2.Body-Deep-Soil-StabilizationI'd like to share a case study from a recent job that I consulted on with one of our contractor customers.

A two-story residential house in North Carolina was built on poorly compacted fill dirt. After about 20 years, it began showing evidence of settling. Interior cracks appeared in the sheetrock and some of the floors were no longer level (indicating that the footings were slowly sinking). These symptoms of unstable soil were caused by about 1 inch of settling. The engineer on the project determined that the problem was not severe enough to require helical piers. The contractor was called in to stop the sinking and reinforce the soil via deep soil polyurethane injection.

Powerful Polymer

Among the most dependable products for geotech applications, AP Lift 440 structural foam provides an exceptional DOT grade solution for these types of situations. This 4 lb. density, high-strength, hydro-insensitive structural polyurethane foam is perfect for densifying soil and stabilizing foundations (as well as lifting).

Painless Procedure

I worked with the contractor to draw up a plan, indicating exactly where the injection points would be located. The engineer reviewed the plan for feasibility. The contractor installed 18 injection tubes to a depth of 7 feet. 50 lbs of foam were administered through each tube, split between two different depths: 7 feet and 3.5 feet below grade. First, they injected from outside the house, installing foam beneath the exterior footings. Next, they injected from inside the house, installing foam beneath the load bearing interior walls. Spacing between injection points was approximately 5 feet.

Rapid Result

The deep soil stabilization process densified the soil and stopped the settlement. In addition, the contractors achieved a half inch lift from the exterior injections and another half inch lift from the interior injection sequence. The customer was extremely happy with the results. The engineer was impressed as well and said he would recommend this procedure in similar future scenarios.

Want more information on soil stabilization?

Download an Info-Packed Soil Stabilization Brochure!

Topics: All Posts, Stabilize Soil

Learn How to Clean a MixMaster Gun at World of Concrete 2020

Posted by Andy Powell on Jan 23, 2020 10:35:12 AM

Learn How to Clean a MixMaster Gun at World of Concrete 2020

Learn How to Clean a MixMaster Gun at World of Concrete 2020

The MixMaster Pro slab lifting gun was designed based on years of feedback from slab lifting contractors working in the field. Every known point of frustration and difficulty has been addressed in this sturdy, single-purpose gun. Further benefits include a lower cost of consumables (you can reuse ports with this gun), beefy check valves designed to handle the back pressure, and a short 10-minutes or less breakdown/cleaning session at the end of each day.

This gun is also is a production BEAST - no leaky port connections, no fumbling with clamps. Watch your man hours on each project shrink accordingly. Did we mention you’ll have less replacement part orders? There are only a few inexpensive replacement parts on this gun - PERIOD.

Ask about the quick 10-minutes or less breakdown/cleaning session on the MixMaster Pro at our World of Concrete 2020!  Drop by to see us at our Geotech Exhibit Space - # O40551 in the Silver Lots (same location we were in last year). 

There will be a LOT to see and do at our Geotech space this year: 

Read more about our separate Leak Seal and Geotech exhibits for WOC 2020.

Want more information on the MixMaster Pro?

Download an Info-Packed MixMaster Pro Brochure!

Topics: All Posts, Lift Slabs, Stabilize Soil, Deep Lift

See a Live Slab Lifting Demo at World of Concrete 2020

Posted by Andy Powell on Jan 14, 2020 1:30:41 PM

See a Live Slab Lifting Demo at World of Concrete 2020

See a Live Slab Lifting Demo at World of Concrete 2020World of Concrete 2020 is scheduled for February 4th - 7th, 2020 in Las Vegas, NV.  Alchemy-Spetec will feature the Leak Seal Division & Product Line in the South Hall at location S11307 and the Geotech Division & Product Line in the Silver Lots at location O40551.

Live Slab Lifting Demos

The Geotech exhibit area features a fully equipped 20-foot lifting rig, a Polybadger compact slab lifting system, and a row of concrete slabs for live lifting.  Look for the following educational activities:

  • Slab Lifting Demos
  • Lifting Foam Product Mixing Demos
  • MixMaster Gun Cleaning Demos
  • Fully Equipped Rig Tours
  • Polybadger Demos

The live slab lifting demos provide a chance for you to see Alchemy-Spetec's concrete leveling foam and equipment in action.  Technical experts will be on hand to answer all of your questions.

We look forward to seeing you there!  If you haven't already, click here to Register for World of Concrete 2020 now. 

Want more information on Alchemy-Spetec slab lifting products?

Download an Info-Packed Slab Lift Brochure!

Topics: All Posts, Lift Slabs

How to Avoid Using More Lifting Foam Than Estimated

Posted by Andy Powell on Jan 7, 2020 4:35:54 PM

How to Avoid Using More Lifting Foam Than Estimated

How to Avoid Using More Lifting Foam Than EstimatedEvery once in a while, we will get a call from a frustrated contractor who has had a few jobs in a row where they used more foam than estimated.  Extra foam also means extra time on the job site so it's a serious concern with financial consequences.  

Although it's easy to think it might be the polyurethane not working right, that's usually not the case because formulations generally remain unchanged year after year.  Once a certain formula is dialed in and has gone through various approvals; it is unlikely to be changed.  So, what could be happening?

Site Evaluation Issues

I have been on more than a few jobs where the operator runs into a problem because the salesperson has missed something.  In cases where more foam than predicted is used it is usually because there is a big void that was not initially identified or there is very poor soil compaction.

When doing a proper site evaluation, you should start with bringing the right tools.  Bring a golf club or a piece of rebar to tap on the concrete and listen for voids.  Concrete makes a distinctly different "hollow" sound when there is a void beneath it.  Tap around the area to determine the extent of the void and then take measurements.  

I also like to have a cordless hammer drill with a 3/8" bit and a 1/2" bit.  If the customer will give you permission, ask to drill a small hole through the slab to check the void.  Make a mark on your drill bit when you break through the slab so you can determine the thickness of the slab.  Then I like to use a fiberglass driveway marker to stick through the hole and measure the amount of void.  If my drill bit is breaking through at 4" and my driveway marker goes in 7" before contacting the ground, then I know I have a 3" void.  When in contact with the ground, try to push the probe further into the ground to get an idea of compaction. If you can bury the probe by hand, then you know the ground is super soft or saturated and you need to account for more foam being used.

If you bring a borescope camera, you can drill a 1/2" hole in the slab and then insert the camera to have a look.  A good borescope will allow you to turn the camera head 90 degrees to have a look under the slab in a horizontal position.  These cameras plug into your smart phone or tablet so you can record video or take still shots.  This can be very compelling evidence to show a property owner and it also indicates that you know what you're doing.

So, what if you have all the cameras and probes, and you know how to sound out a piece of concrete with your piece of rebar; does that guarantee you won't go over on foam usage?  The answer to that is "No" because you may know how to check for a void, but you may not know where to check.  

Take, for example, a driveway slab that is down 2" from the garage slab.  It's easy for a salesperson to come out and measure the driveway slab, check for voids, and put together an estimate.  The experienced salesperson will also ask to go in the garage or carport to check for voids under that slab.  Polyurethane foam always tries to find the easiest path to travel when it is expanding.  If there is a washout under the driveway caused by a misplaced downspout; there is a good chance the void continues up under the garage as well.  Check the garage slab for cracking and tap on it with steel to listen for voids.  The point is to not get so focused on the obvious and take a look at the bigger picture.

Foam Issues

As I mentioned earlier, it's typically not going to be an issue with the foam unless you are using the wrong foam or sub-par foam in the first place.  However, you can still make a poor-quality finished foam with perfectly good raw materials and that will definitely affect the yield and the amount of foam that you will use on a job.  

Because Alchemy-Spetec does not use recycled materials in our formulations, the B-side is almost clear in color and the A side is always the color of weak coffee.  A quick test shot of our foam will let you know right away if it's on ratio because it will be a nice off-white color with a smooth skin forming as it expands.  If there is too much A side the foam will look more yellow and the texture will be crunchy.  If there is too much B side the foam will be pale white and soft.  It will take longer to cure and, in both cases, it will take more product to get the job done.

Besides doing an occasional test shot to check for color and foam curing speed, it's also important to watch the pressure gauges on the machine to make sure they are equal.  Also make note if you are going through a drum set and you consistently have too much A or too much B left over while the other drum is empty.  It could be an adjustment needs to be made at the machine itself.

Want more information on Alchemy-Spetec slab lifting solutions?

Download an Info-Packed Slab Lift Brochure!

Topics: All Posts, Lift Slabs, Business Tips

Give the Gift of Safety

Posted by Andy Powell on Dec 19, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Give the Gift of Safety

Give the Gift of SafetyIn what is becoming an annual tradition, we are re-posting this classic Christmas blog from our Southeast Regional Manager, Andy Powell.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us here at Alchemy-Spetec.

This time of year, most people will spend a little extra time with their loved ones.  It is also a time to reflect on the loved ones we miss that are no longer with us.  Like most of us, I know people who have either been lost or have suffered through a loss.  In those cases there was nothing that could have been done to stop it.  However, there are things that we can do to guard against job related safety hazards.

I've been fortunate enough to spend time in an OSHA safety training class.  It was required in order to be present supervising a project at a chemical facility.  Signing in at 6 AM, I’ll admit I was not looking forward to spending all day there.  By the end of the day I was glad that I went.

In an intro video, the narrator said that every morning when you kiss your loved one goodbye before you go to work, keep in mind that someone, somewhere will not come home from work that day.  Workplace accidents are almost entirely preventable.  Investigations typically find the cause quite easily. 

The class I attended contained a dozen or so modules, each one with a video case study followed by the teaching.  Every case study module covered a different accident where people didn’t come home from work that day.  All of them could have been prevented.  I learned about fire, electrical and chemical safety; as well as confined space, ladders, scaffolds, and working in trenches.  I have worked in the construction industry since my teenage years, so it was sobering to look back and think about some of the close calls I had.

If you're a contractor or industry related business owner looking for a good investment, send your employees to one of these classes.  It’s an excellent opportunity for them to learn safety principles that can protect you, your other employees, and your business from being lost.  It’s a gift that will keep on giving.  You don’t need Christmas as a reason to do this, but in the spirit of the season, you may want to make it the reason.  

Click here to find an OSHA safety class near you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Topics: All Posts, Business Tips