Charring Station

Charring Station

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In the former articles was explained some of the advantages to be found within these ancient  common methods of charring wood. Historically and within many cultures, there are a myriad of charring modalities. In this article you will find adapted and illustrate one of those methods using a small wood burning flash oven that can effectively provide the charring levels needed without overtly case timber that has been dried too rapidly. This leads to reversed stresses; compression stresses on the shell and tension stresses in the core. This results in unrelieved stress called case hardening.[1]) the wood items placed through it. In this article we explain how our charring station is built and how it works. Charring systems like this one have been commonly found in many cultures and this is an adapted version of several of those [2]. It is adaptable, is easy to operate and runs without the use of gas or special tools. All that is needed are some (fire) bricks and scrap wood for fuel.

Counter-intuitively, charring wood has several astonishing advantages without involving any chemicals or additional energy consumption. The idea is to sear the surface of the wood without combusting the whole piece nor damaging the interstitial aspects of the wood so it will not warp over time. Besides giving the material an interesting and unique look, the process leads to a triple protection, all without the need of repeating the process after some time has past:

fire protection – charring the surface starts a superficial carbonation of the material and thus lowers the thermal conductivity. termite and mold protection – charring wood destroys the wood’s nutritional value to insects and fungi.water protection – the enhanced carbonation gives the charred layer a waterproof resistance, as water slips on burned wood like over an oily surface.

The easiest and most popular way to char wood commonly found today is probably with a blow torch. This can work, but regrettably too often performed without the attention to detail not to stress the wood from within. It’s easy and practical,  especially for small or irregular pieces but has to be performed with caution. But when searing many big wooden pieces it is slow and uses a lot of gas. These searing modalities are not to be confused with traditional Japanese, 焼杉 (Yakisugi) which is often misrepresented as 焼き杉 (aka shou-sugi-ban”) [3] – us included, in our previous articles!.

Yakisugi can only be achieved with a limited range of Cypress species found on the islands of Japan[4] and is a very unique process found within several methods of crafting guilds. The most commonly seen being where three planks of wood get bound together to form a long triangle and a fire is started in the resulting tube. There are several other methods, but they are for very specific formats and within context to only yakisugi and not the charing modalities found within other cultures.This technique works well only when you have similar boards, as it’s complicated to set up when boards have different widths and lengths.

Terunobu Fujimori, Tea House, Barbican. Photo Ben Tynegate

The birth of the charring station

This contemporary oven is based on some of the principles of a rocket stove. The main idea is to create a fire within a brick tube, which will become very concentrated and strong due to the tube-generated draft-effect (for more explanation on this and general information, check our articles on rocket stoves). Just over the burning material, where the fire is very strong, there will be small slots on the opposing sides of the tunnel. The wood, which needs to be seared, can be passed easily through the fire and thus be charred fast and safely.

After this oven was created with commonly available materials which enables us to char planks and boards of different sizes in an effective manner. This oven also allows the operator safety by lowering the risk of burning their hands, while also providing more control of searing the wood and less waste of fuels which is then more environmentally friendly.

How does the charring station work

Author: Melana Jäckels

1 – The main part is a L-shaped tunnel. On the bottom it has an opening on the side, where the air goes in and it flows all the way through the tunnel up to the upper opening.

2 – Right after the curve, the fireplace is based on a second layer. Its bottom has two small gaps for the air to pass and to allow the finer ash to fall.

3 – It is important to have a tunnel that is at least 5 cm wider than the boards you plan to char. If a board fills the whole wide of the tunnel it stops the draft and decreases the fire.

4 – On the same level as the fire is also the stair-like firewood intake. The fire is started and fed from here. It’s important to have a brick to close the firewood intake so it does not disturb the air draft in the moments no wood is inserted.

5 – In the chimney, right above the fire, there are two vertical slots on opposing sides to insert the wood you want to char.

6 – Above the inserting slots the chimney narrows slowly. This is important to not happen in a sudden step, as it otherwise will decrease the draft and create a lot of smoke coming out of every small gap.

Building your own charring station

For our charring station we used 12 big bricks (ca. 29x18x9), around 70 medium-sized, red bricks (ca. 23x10x7) and 5 fireproof bricks (22x10x2). Depending on what is available, numbers and materials might be adjusted. Before starting the building process, it is important to choose a big outside space, which is not too windy and has a relatively leveled ground, with enough space on each side of the station to pass the board through.

Step by step:

First, we made a fire-resistant base which is leveled and flat. For this we used the big bricks

Afterwards we started to build a tunnel for the air intake with dimensions of 90 to 25cm. It is important that it is stable and possible to close with removable bricks on the sides

We covered the tunnel with the red bricks and left two gaps of about 1,5 cm each as seen in the picture.

The fireplace gets covered with fireproof bricks and the next line of bricks is put on all sides

To protect the walls, we also placed fireproof bricks around the fireplace

The next step is to build the J-shaped intake with steps made of bricks, towards the fireplace. It is important to make sure its height will match up with the next row of bricks

Now it is time to create the slots where the to be charred boards will be inserted. For that we put two bricks flat across from each other. This  station works  well for boards with a maximum width of 16 cm. If you plan to use a roller stand, make sure the height of your slots measured from the ground is adapted to the height of the roller stand)

Above the slots we continued building the chimney in the original diameter for a few more rows, but then we start to become narrower by changing the order of the bricks

In this timelapse video you can see how we built up the station in 10 seconds!

How to use the Charring Station

Before starting, make sure to have the right equipment (fire resistant gloves, a mask, a bucket of water / sand, and a fire extinguisher) and enough material to burn! If you want to char a big quantity of wood it is also quite handy to have rolling stands.

Starting the fire works best when you build a little teepee out of dry kidlings and put some sawdust on it, light up the tip of a rolled paper (A4 is enough), and move it slowly into the directions of the teepee. Besides you can put another burning paper over the chimney, to facilitate the draft-effect.

To avoid unnecessary interruptions, it is important to have a constant refilling of firewood. As soon as the fire burns strongly, the opening of the firewood intake can be closed and the boards can be inserted through the slots. Inside, the strong and concentrated fire will char the surface of the wood from below and the sides. The boards should be pushed through the fire in small steps to have a satisfying and regular result. After the first part of a board is charred, it can be taken out and pushed upturned through the fire again until both sides are completely charred. If the results are not satisfying, the pace should be adapted. Depending on the size, form and species of the wood it will take its respective time to finish one piece.

Once the board is charred it should be brushed with a metal brush and oiled. As the charring process dries the wood very rapidly, depending on its nature it might have a tendency to crack. The linseed oil will nurture the wood and compensate for this effect. For more information on this see our article on Natural Wood Protection.


We are using this method for a while now and we are super satisfied with the results. Not only we save time but also we are more independent of gas. The work with the charring station is safe and convenient. The station is easily adaptable and can be modified to different dimensions. We are looking forward to using the station in the future and improving it further.

Check our YouTube video for a step-by-step tutorial how to build up your own station!

We would like to sincerely thank Jay C. White Cloud for his time, valuable input and collaboration on this research.

How to store food outside of the fridge


[1] Wikipedia “Wood drying”, [Online] available at (Last accessed in July 2020)

[2] Jay C. White Cloud [Tosa Tomo Designs]

[3] [4] Nakomoforestry “Yakisugi” Or “Shou Sugi Ban”? Learn What You Should Call It, And Why”, [Online] available at (Last accessed in July 2020)

Picture: Terunobu Fujimori, Tea House, Barbican. Photo Ben Tynegate [Online] available at (Last accessed in July 2020)

The post Charring Station first appeared on Critical Concrete.
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(Urban) Food Forest

(Urban) Food Forest

Agriculture nowadays is one of the most harmful industries in the world. It is estimated that around one quarter of the world’s emissions is coming from this sector (1). If we were able to transform today’s techniques into a mindset and strategy that rather than exploiting the environment even has a positive impact on nature, we would be able to start regenerative processes on a big scale. 

“We have disconnected ourselves from life on the planet, thinking that we are the intelligent ones.
But can’t see that we are just part of an intelligent system.”
from Ernst Götsch


A food forest, also called an edible forest garden, is a cultivation method that is inspired by a natural forest system and inhabits a large number of plants, ranging from vegetables and berry bushes to big fruit trees. Food forests benefit from the symbiotic interplay of the different plants and thus offer a large variety of crops without the need for intensive maintenance.

Pictures from Silver Leaf Farm, Skala, Greece
© Southern Lights Project

What is a food forest?

Conventional cultivation and gardening methods are exactly the opposite of what make the forest system work. In order to make the harvest easily accessible with large machines, only one species is cultivated in separate rows in each field. All dead organic matter is cleaned up and the missing nutrients are added through fertilizer or chemicals.

Plants disposition in a monoculture orange field
© Southern Lights Project

In a natural forest, plants automatically take up the space that is most suitable for them to receive the resources they need. Doing so, they also create or improve the habitat for other plants. The result is a deeply interwoven network of very different and complementary species benefiting from each other. Organic matter deriving from the plants and the plant’s fruit plays a crucial role in this circle. Left on the ground, it stores humidity and prevents the soil from drying out while it decomposes to nutrient-rich soil. In ideal circumstances, no human measures like additional nutrition or irrigation are required to keep this system working. The idea of ​​a food forest is not to reproduce a natural forest exactly but to have it as a guiding model for creating a resilient and productive structure that is adapted to our needs. This concept shows how the basics of the forestial system can be applied to agriculture. It mimics the main principles of a forest and consists of perennial trees and plants that provide food. They are planted in such a way that the layer they occupy in their original habitat is respected, providing the ideal conditions in regards to sunlight (2). Every operation is done in order to reach an energetic positive balance in the system, so the system regulates itself.

Pictures from Silver Leaf Farm, Skala, Greece
© Southern Lights Project

What are the impacts of a food forest?

On the one hand, a food forest rewards its creators with many advantages. Similar to natural forests, human intervention can be reduced to a minimum because the system is mainly self-regulating. With a well-designed system also the harvesting process is not necessarily more time-intensive than in monoculture. On a smaller scale, where a food forest is mainly used for self-sufficiency, the variety of products supports a healthy and balanced diet. On a larger scale, this variety of products spreads the financial risk across many types of income opportunities by breaking the dependency on one crop only. In addition, the positive impact of cultivation led by food forest principles goes far beyond personal advantages. It does not just enrich the local biodiversity of plants, but by creating a natural habitat it also increases the diversity of animals, especially insects. Farming in a food forest way can kick-start and facilitate processes to save and recreate endangered ecosystems. Furthermore, as the enriched soil, the organic matter, and the plants keep humidity and bring shade, a food forest has an enormous impact on balancing the microclimate. Thinking big, the wide-spread use of food forest principles in agriculture could lead to a considerable effect on the climate.

Lizard Eggs
Pictures from Silver Leaf Farm, Skala, Greece
© Southern Lights Project

The key principles of the food forest

Disposition of plants

The design of a food forest garden requires a long-term mindset with the attitude to look patiently into the future. In fact, the natural system takes some time to strike a balance between the species, the final forms of the plants and their proper growth. Nevertheless, it is possible to get fresh fruit and quick results from the smaller plants since the beginning of the process, as those take a short time to adapt and grow. These plants also help prepare the good soil and habits for larger plants.

A food forest garden is usually made up of layers of different plants that strategically help each other throughout their life. In good conditions, the plants themselves occupy the layer to which they naturally belong. In an agroforestry system, eight layers of plants usually have to be organized:

The Emergent layer is the tree layer that overtops the other trees, forming its crown above them. This shows us that they need maximum sunlight and do not tolerate shade. Usually, trees of this layer have only a few branches on the trunk, concentrating its growth on the crown where the sunlight is. Typical for this layer are the date palm, walnut, and pear trees. 

The Canopy Layer is composed of large fruit trees, nut trees and leguminous species with large crowns that are providing a good amount of shade during the dry and hot period. Plants are not in competition for reaching good soil, but only for capturing sunlight: trees are actually able to adapt their shape and to grow in harmony with other species to reach the best light spot. Examples for plants of this layer are mulberry, olive, fig or apricot trees.

The Understory Layer consists of small fruit trees and nut trees. Species of this layer prefer a good amount of sunlight but tolerate some shade. Examples for this layer are almond, orange, plum, nectarines, pomegranates, and apple.

The Shrubs Layer is composed of trees that need to be protected from direct sun. Plants of this layer are hazelnut, most berry shrubs and bananas.

The Herbs Layer is composed of short herbaceous plants, often annual.

The Groundcover Layer contains grasses, creepers, and low growing plants that protect topsoil from erosion and drought. This layer slows the speed of raindrops to lessen their impact and protects the soil’s dedicated network of roots, sand, organic matter, and hyphae (fungal roots).

The Vertical Layer is composed of climber plants that grow up trunks and branches of the bigger trees. 

The Roots Layer is really important because it pulls up minerals trapped in rocks to the plants: it is composed of tubers, rhizomes and bulbs.

Typical disposition of plants in a food forest system
Infographic: Critical Concrete

Thanks to the layered diversity of species, food-forest projects provide diversification of products over monoculture cultivations: each layer is in fact offering a specific variety of food in different seasons, from fruits and berries to tubers and mushrooms. In contrast to a monoculture, that requires the fixed distance between plants, agroforestry allows us to reach a much higher density of cultivation, as plants overlap in layers.

Pruning & organic matter

As mentioned before, food forests are designed to reproduce a sustainable and working forest system in which external help and additional human activities are limited, except one: pruning. “Chop and drop” is the key activity that provides the quantity of organic matter that becomes compost to fertilize the soil, extremely important to increase root activities and feed the plants. Pruning plants is also essential to help plants to breath, grow more and reach a good amount of sunlight, encouraging chlorophyll photosynthesis. The photosynthesis is pushing the mycorrhizae, a symbiotic association between a fungus and a plant, playing an important role in plant nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry. 

Pictures from Silver Leaf Farm, Skala, Greece
© Southern Lights Project

The fertilization of the soil is constantly influenced by the production of new organic substances: the pruned branches that remained on the ground become water collectors in the rainy season and release moisture and water in dry periods. Following food forest principles is a good way to fight the soil exhaustion on a small or large scale. In fact, the use of different plants determines a symbiotic interplay in the use of the soil and is balancing nutrition resources. Every kind of soil could be defined as a “good” one: what matters is the amount of organic matter that determines the continuous fertilization of the soil. The soil is, also, acting as a sponge being a water and minerals container. Understanding of the importance of organic matter for the water management of the system can be found in the following numbers: If the amount of organic matter in the soil is increased by only 1%, an additional of 175.000 liters per hectare of water can be stored in the soil.

Comparison between an arid soil (left) and good one (right) rich of organic matter
© Southern Lights Project

Interview with Sheila from The Southern Lights Project

Food Forest had been proven a successful phenomenon on a smaller scale on a personal as well as on a commercial base. An amazing example for a prosperous sustainable business is the food forest farm The Southern Lights in Skala, Greece. Based on the organic farm of her father, Sheila introduced food forest features into her place, now cultivating more than 80 crops from which the farm and its employees can have a reliable income. 

What do I need to start a food forest?

“There is no minimum size, you can start a food forest on a spot as little as one square meter. It is helpful to have or gather some knowledge of the plants you want to put, especially their layer. And finally, you need to add a lot of organic matter..”

Are there any plants that are not so suitable for food forest?

Some plants might be not so easy to work with, like for example grains or rice and you will not get too much crop from this. But it is important to know your plants and things that might work out in some other conditions might not work out for yours.“

Should I be afraid of invasive species?

“If a species is invasive in your place, that means something is missing. Actually, those so-called “invasive” or pioneer species prepare the soil with their organic matter for other plants that have higher demands on the soil.”

Can I combine a food forest with animals?

“Animals can be very helpful for your food forest. They help to decompose the organic matter as they eat it and literally poop fertilizer. But I would rather keep my place welcoming to every species that feels comfortable in my place instead of bringing animals from outside.”

How can I know if my soil is good soil?

“Your soil should look like the soil in a forest, meaning you find a lot of organic matter on the ground, even if the very surface is dry, it is humid within deeper layers. And if you can find worms, mycelium and mushrooms it is a very good sign.”

What is the difference between “permaculture” and “food forest”?

Permaculture is a design technique, which can be applied to any kind of context. Its main ideas are Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share achieved through many principles, for example, to observe and interact or integrate rather than segregate. A food forest is a good example showing this principle being applied.”

Extract from her lecture, to see the whole presentation check our YouTube Channel

How to bring these principles to a larger scale?

A common prejudice concerning the adoption of the food forest concept to a larger scale might be the assumption that due to its unregulated structure, a forest-inspired agriculture might not be workable with large machines. But projects started and inspired by Ernst Götsch, a swiss botanist working in Brazil, had shown that large scale agriculture and the principles of a forest can go astonishingly well together.

He developed the concept of syntropic farming [Gr. syn, together with, trepein, to turn.]: usually, a minimum of 30 different species will be planted, taking into consideration their suitability to the local conditions, their ecophysiological function, their lifetime as well as the farmer’s productive goals. To make it workable with bigger machines and tools, most of the plants are cultivated in rows. In contrast to traditional farming, these rows not only consist of one single species, set apart for a few meters but follow the principles of agroforestry and food forests. These means, companion plants and trees from different layers are densely combined together to facilitate the supporting networks. Mostly fast-growing support species (like eucalyptus or mulberry) are mixed with income-generating fruit-bearing plants and trees. Natural processes are accelerated through heavy pruning of the support species in order to generate vast amounts of organic matter which will decompose to nutritious soil for the fruit trees and plants.

What all of them have in common is that the harvest is a side-effect of ecosystem regeneration, and vice versa – ecosystem regeneration is a side-effect of the efforts to produce a harvest.”
from Ernst Götsch

Bringing food forest to urban contexts

In view of the many advantages of a food forest, the question arises, how this principle could be brought into the urban context. Similar to existing gardening projects, food forests can contribute to make cities greener, bring communities together and reduce food transportation. The benefit of a food forest is that also perennial species are used. This means, once the structure of the food forest is in place, less work will be required than it may be the case with the replanting of annual vegetables. “Upgrade” existing urban gardening projects is a good start to bring the principles of a food forest into the urban environment, but also introducing it to the yards and gardens of school and kindergartens has been proven to be a good starting point so far. 

But the most practical way to bring a food forest into the city is by starting one of our own! Thanks to the introduction to the concept and the following workshop from Sheila Darmos from The Southern Lights, our very own little food forest is growing in our workshop’s backyard.

dog laying near a box of flowers

Samuel Ciantar taking pictures

girls painting food forest wall

Critical Concrete Food Forest, Porto, January 2020In this video she will guide you through the planting of the different layers to set up your own edible forest.


(1) [Hannah Ritchie, Max Roser] “Environmental impacts of food production”, January 2020, online available at: (Last accessed in June 2020).

[Sheila Darmos] “The Southern Lights Project”, lectures and workshop, January 2020, online available at: (Last accessed in June 2020).

[Ernst Götsch] “Syntropic Farm Project”, online available at: (Last accessed in June 2020).

The post (Urban) Food Forest first appeared on Critical Concrete.
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What Can External Waterproofing Membrane Failure Teach Architects about Sustainable Construction?

What Can External Waterproofing Membrane Failure Teach Architects about Sustainable Construction?

No matter your experience with waterproofing membrane failure, waterproofing breaches are not so easy to spot. In fact, according to one article in The Construction Specifier, the most minor-looking of leaks could be a sign. Depending on where and how the waterproofing was installed, that can lead to costly excavation work for basements, vaults, tunnels, and water features. It can also lead to full removal or replacement of fixtures and finishes in certain spaces, such as commercial kitchens and lobbies.

Still, that’s why envelope engineers or other professionals conduct site visits before construction is completed, right? They make sure the external waterproofing membrane is placed properly and effectively to mitigate the risk and damage of a breach as much as possible.

That can certainly lead to a relatively long-lasting waterproof structure. But it’s neither the most risk-free nor the most sustainable solution. But what does that mean for your architectural work? What does the risk and reality of external waterproofing membrane failure mean for you?

It’s Not Always Better to Stick with Technology You’re Comfortable With

Many architects like yourself are very familiar with external membranes. You know how to inspect and install them. You can physically see and touch them to sort them out before they’re covered. In short, there’s a sort of reassurance that comes with external membranes. You know they are actually there, and you know exactly what to do if any issues come up.

That comfort can be a detriment at times, however.

No Matter Your Comfort with Them, Membranes Are Still High-Risk

Sure, you can see the external membrane and know the ins and outs of it. But that doesn’t mitigate the risk of the membrane failing. If anything, too much confidence in it can stop you from trying out a less liable waterproofing system.

And even if you are able to physically check a membrane that’s been applied to the positive side of a structure and felt comfortable with that inspection, that doesn’t mean the membrane will stay that way. For instance, the backfilling process can easily tear the membrane. That can fail the whole waterproofing system right there as there is often no opportunity to excavate the membrane to repair it. As a result, builders often turn to epoxy injections to attempt to fix cracks and leaks that show up in accessible areas of a concrete’s surface. That still leaves water outside of those areas to continue passing through the concrete, threatening its structural integrity.

Too Much Confidence in Membranes Can Lead to Poor Concrete Construction

While we have talked about the risk that comes with membranes so far, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in construction. They certainly can be used effectively. But when they’re relied on to function perfectly by themselves and project stakeholders haven’t weighed the risks of their application realistically, it can negatively impact the quality of concrete construction.

Take the crack-bridging ability that some membranes have, for instance. Often, stakeholders in a project have full trust in this ability to cover cracks in concrete and prevent water from reaching those cracks. They make the assumption that this ability won’t fail. As a result, they feel less worried about having to face the consequences if concrete does crack. That leads them to care less about how concrete placement, curing, and control joints are handled.

Compounding this fact, stakeholders also highly regard the diversity of membranes available on the market. There are enough choices available that membranes seemingly come with an infinite number of different accessories to mitigate risks. But even with those accessories, membrane failure is still a possibility. Once that happens, those accessories aren’t going to stop a construction team from a long, costly repair process.

A membrane’s accessories might make that last situation seem highly unlikely. But unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

Patches of a waterproofing membrane have come away from the structure they were protecting.

In Fact, External Waterproofing Membrane Failure Is Incredibly Common

As the Australian Institute of Waterproofing member Wet-seal notes, waterproofing makes up 80% of complaints during construction. It’s an impressive statistic considering waterproofing does not take up a huge chunk of the cost to construct a structure. Waterproofing typically only takes up 1% to 2% of that cost. So why are complaints so high?

A big reason for that is likely how easy it is for external waterproofing membranes to fail. It’s a pervasive enough issue that water intrusion is the cause for around 70% of construction lawsuits.

So, how does external waterproofing membrane failure get to be that big of a concern? Let’s look at the three most common reasons why.

One of the Main Culprits for This Is Simply Poor Preparation and Installation

At least 90% of waterproofing failures come from poor handiwork.

It’s not hard to see why either. Despite not being as costly as other parts of construction, waterproofing is no less complex. There are lots of factors to consider for it, and if one aspect isn’t considered carefully enough, a failure could be waiting around the corner.

A clock rests on top of a blueprint at a worksite next to other blueprint tools.

Poor Preparation Is Often Due to a Lack of Time

Builders need to make sure the surface of the substrate they want to apply a membrane to has the following qualities:

A smooth and clean exteriorFalls for drainageA space absent of formwork distortions, voids, and protrusions

To achieve these qualities, they need to spend time and attention on looking to see if the substrate surface has been spoiled by debris and residue and whether they need to scrape and vacuum it. Otherwise, without a pristine substrate surface, it is likely that a waterproofing application will not be successful.

An external membrane has fallen away from the concrete foundation it was applied to.

Poor Installation Is No Different

Builders have multiple items to install to ensure that a structure has an effective and thorough waterproofing system. Depending on the structure, that might mean knowing the correct installation procedure and executing it for the following products:

Waterstop anglesPerimeter flashingsVertical flashing anglesPressure strip flashingsChased drop flashingsControl jointsDrainage flangesCavity flashing downturnsReinforcing at junctionsOverflow devicesLinear strip drainsSlip joints

Not having the time to properly install even just one of these items can weaken the overall waterproofing system they’re a part of, making it more vulnerable to leaks.

In short, standing in the way of both proper waterproofing preparation and installation is time. Construction projects tend to run on tight schedules, so it can be tempting to skimp on the smaller details. Whether that’s quickly getting through backfilling and tearing a membrane unintentionally in the process or limiting quality assurance processes for faster work, it’s all done to help save what little time a project has. And while it might speed up a project in the short-term, the following repairs that result from this work will add up in the long-term to the project’s expenses.

The Second Culprit Is a Failure to Prime Areas Effectively

Waterproofing membranes, even self-adhering ones, require a primer during their application process. After all, builders want to ensure that their membranes remain bonded to a substrate for the life of the structure they’re waterproofing. And using a primer to prepare the surface of a substrate helps to enhance the adhesiveness of a membrane. It does so by reducing the porosity, dusting, air entrapment, and high-residual moisture of a substrate.

But it will only impart those qualities if builders prime the substrate surface effectively.

This is also an area that runs into issues with timing. When constructing homes, for example, a builder may not always accurately estimate how long it will take to prime the surface. As a result, they might schedule in tiling to be done in a bathroom and expect that the priming will only take a day or so. However, priming could take longer depending on the membrane, temperature, and weather conditions.

If the schedule is too tight, that could lead to a substrate surface with no priming, insufficient priming, or the wrong primer entirely. All of which can cause the membrane to debond. That creates gaps in the membrane system, leaving room for moisture to penetrate the substrate and weaken its structural integrity.

The Last Is a Lack of Insight into the Substrate’s Residual Moisture

Unsurprisingly, out of the top three common causes of external waterproofing membrane failure, moisture remains one of the bigger obstacles. All it takes is poor preparation, installation, or priming for moisture to enter the structure and wreak havoc.

But what if moisture was already surrounding the structure but had gone unnoticed? As you might have guessed by now, that’s a pretty common situation. And it likely stems from a lack of awareness at how much moisture content a substrate has.

Without an accurate estimate of moisture content using a tool like a moisture meter, there is a high chance that the substrate still has residual moisture. When left alone, that moisture can interfere with a membrane’s ability to bond to a substrate, causing structural weakness to occur.

A construction worker is waterproofing a flat roof with a bitumen-sealing membrane.

That Puts Membranes in an Awkward Spot When It Comes to Sustainability

Because it is so easy to damage membranes through application alone and because that damage can have severe consequences for a structure, membranes should not be considered the ideal sustainable solution. After all, you can’t call something sustainable if it can’t be upheld safely in an environment for a long time.

Though, it is true that not all membranes are going to fail immediately during application or afterwards. What about those then? Would we call the ones that can last without wear and don’t hurt their environment sustainable?  It’s debatable, but in this instance, the answer would still likely be no. And that’s because many membranes come with a short life span of around one to 10 years before they deteriorate.

After that, they need to be replaced. If they aren’t, then water damage is a more likely possibility. And if they are, then the building’s maintenance team needs to use up monetary and construction resources to get the same waterproofing protection.

All in all, it’s a very short-term version of sustainability that is draining resources at regular periods unnecessarily as there are long-term forms of waterproofing out there.

A tanker truck is driving through a foggy road.

Even Worse, Acquiring External Membranes Is Also Not That Sustainable

Even if you still want to stick with specifying and using external membranes, you may find it increasingly difficult to do so.

For One, There Is a Global Materials Shortage That May Hinder That

Between the ongoing pandemic, the past Suez Canal blockage, delayed and pricier shipping, and the mass blackouts in Texas that led to chemical plant shutdowns, there is a significant materials shortage going on.

And waterproofing membranes have not gone unscathed. Often made with plastics and other materials that typically require crude oil, membranes have been hit in both areas. Plastics are hard enough to get that companies like Acer and Dell are starting to create products with recycled plastic instead. Meanwhile, crude oil is in a different sticky situation. Instead of a shortage of the product itself, there’s a shortage of tanker truck drivers in the United States of America. At least 50,000 more drivers are needed. With the two materials harder to supply, that is going to make waterproofing membranes also harder to supply and will likely increase their costs as demand goes up for that shorter supply.

The general perception is that this might get better sometime in 2022 or a little later. But does that mean you should wait it out?

Even Without a Shortage, Membranes Will Still Be Non-Eco-Friendly

While only some membranes use plastic, almost all require crude oil in their manufacturing. And that doesn’t bode well for the environment. According to the University of Calgary’s energy education team, whether drilling for oil, transporting it, refining it, or using it otherwise, there is always an environmental impact. Extracting it, for example, destroys the land around it. And other oil industry activities can end up producing chemicals that contribute to smog or creating greenhouse gases that increase the effects of global warming. Moreover, if during any part of that process, the oil spills, it can impact the plants, soil, and well-being of animals, making the environment wholly toxic.

All of which is definitely not a way to maintain human well-being either, making membranes even less ideal for sustainability.

A construction worker is throwing a pulpable bag of KIM into ready-mix concrete.

Nowadays, There Are Better Alternatives Out There

And they come in the form of crystalline waterproofing admixtures.

To apply these products, builders have one step and that’s it. There’s no detailed handiwork or long time period required. All builders have to do is add your specified admixture into the concrete mix. From there, the mix will have the waterproofing properties it needs. It’s a short and sweet process that should permanently waterproof a concrete structure without the risk of application error.

The only real challenge you’ll come across is finding which crystalline admixture is right for you.

Just Look Up Your Options for Concrete Waterproofing Admixtures

The American Concrete Institute has classified these products under two categories: permeability-reducing admixtures for non-hydrostatic conditions (PRAN) and permeability-reducing admixtures for hydrostatic conditions (PRAH).

The first of the two we recommend for low-risk use. PRANs, as their name implies, are not meant to handle heavy water pressure. Instead, they are more designed to repel water. To that end, they often use water-repellant chemicals. These might involve soaps, vegetable oils, or even petroleum. Such materials work to leave a layer alongside concrete pores that repels water while still leaving the pores themselves open. However, PRANs can also make use of chemically active or inert fillers, which act as densifiers to limit how much water gets into concrete pores. In either case, you don’t get watertight waterproofing with them.

What you do get is a solid dampproofing solution. So you could use PRANs for projects that will encounter a little moisture ingress. That might involve using them to repel rain off a structure or  to minimize the structure’s dampness.

So, what about PRAHs?

Now, these are what you should really keep an eye out for. These are recommended for long-term waterproofing against heavy water pressure. They tend to use a hydrophilic polymer plug or crystal technology. And that creates waterproofing that is impervious to damage or deterioration and capable of bridging cracks in concrete.

It makes PRAHs a perfect option for watertight waterproofing in any concrete structure.

(For even more details on these waterproofing admixtures and more, get our free e-book on the topic!)

We Recommend Krystol Internal Membrane
(KIM) for Thorough, Sustainable PRAH Waterproofing

If you want a specific PRAH recommendation, we suggest KIM.

When you specify it, KIM gets added to the concrete mix where it disperses Krystol technology throughout the entire mix. That way, once the concrete cures, the technology will rest dormant throughout the slab until it encounters water. Once that happens, the technology will activate and react to the water and nearby unhydrated cement particles to create interlocking crystals (which you can visibly see react in a sample via time-lapse here!). These crystals go on to fill up capillary pores and micro-cracks in the concrete. That blocks the water from passing through.

And it does that for the entire life of the concrete as KIM remains within concrete permanently.

So you get lifetime waterproofing for the simple act of adding KIM to a mix. There’s less labor involved and no installation risks, which will save your construction team time and money, expediting their work in the process. There are no shortage issues. And even better, KIM comes with several sustainable advantages:

Reducing site disturbance by eliminating the need for excavationEliminating any possible waste it has by coming in custom-size pulpable bagsContaining no volatile organic compoundsHaving NSF certification for safe use with potable waterEnsuring KIM-treated concrete can be recycled post-demolition

So when you use KIM, you can earn LEED points while also benefitting from less labor-intensive and time-consuming permanent, tear-free waterproofing.

Las Vegas' CityCenter

Waterproofing Membrane Failure Is a Sign to Revolutionize Your Design

When you think about external waterproofing membrane failure and how common it is, consider what the alternatives are. There are many concrete waterproofing admixtures out there that could better solve the issues that come with membranes. And if you want one that gives you an edge in the LEED sustainability framework, you don’t have to look farther than KIM. It will revolutionize your architectural design and help it become the green watertight structure you’re looking for.

Free e-book! Download it today to learn about the four aspects to consider when specifying crystalline waterproofing admixtures.

The post What Can External Waterproofing Membrane Failure Teach Architects about Sustainable Construction? appeared first on Kryton.

5 Benefits of Using Precast Concrete in Large Scale Projects

5 Benefits of Using Precast Concrete in Large Scale Projects

Precast concrete is one of the most popular construction materials used in large-scale construction projects. 

It’s durable, comes in any desired shade or color, and can be manufactured into virtually any shape. 

But the benefits don’t stop there. 

There are several other advantages of this special type of concrete, including: 

1. Longer shelf life than other types of concrete

Precast concrete has a longer shelf life than other types of concrete like traditional ready mix

This is because precast concrete is mixed, poured into molds, and allowed to dry inside the mold before transporting. 

The longer it stays fresh and dry before being used in your project, the longer it will remain strong and beautiful.

2. Low maintenance costs

Precast concrete structures are generally easy to clean. 

This is because they don’t have the same porous issues that other types of construction materials might experience when exposed to water or weathering over time.

Concrete’s smooth, solid surface doesn’t hold onto dirt and grime like sandstone or brick pavers do for instance, so it’s easier to keep clean. 

As a result, you won’t have to worry about spending money on labor costs for ongoing cleaning projects or hiring a professional company every year.

3. Reusability for future projects

Although precast concrete is extremely durable and long-lasting, there are certain companies that can take it apart or break it down if needed. 

This allows you to save money by reusing the material for future construction projects.

When working on a large-scale project, this can significantly lighten your financial burden. 

Precast concrete can be repurposed into a variety of different forms when designing large-scale projects, including piers, columns, structural frames for buildings, and beams. 

You’ll have the ability to customize your project based on your specific needs or desired aesthetics in order to achieve that perfect look with precast concrete components.

4. Sustainability

Using eco-friendly, recyclable construction materials like precast concrete is a great way to be more sustainable. 

Because it’s easier on the environment, it will result in lower levels of pollution over time. This helps benefit everyone involved, including people who live or work near your building site.

5. High quality

One thing you’ll notice about using precast concrete from Port Aggregates is its high quality.

Because it’s durable and long-lasting, it can be used for a variety of different purposes, withstanding harsh weather in any environment. 

Along with its high quality, precast concrete is also very cost effective and its design can be customized based on your specific needs or desired aesthetics. 

At Port Aggregates, all of our concrete products are made with the highest quality materials. It’s why we’ve been trusted for over 40 years! Contact us today to request a quote for your next large scale project.

The post 5 Benefits of Using Precast Concrete in Large Scale Projects appeared first on Port Aggregates.

Compost Toilet : Our response to water scarcity?

Compost Toilet : Our response to water scarcity?

Let us introduce the newest addition to our production center in Porto: the compost toilet! Although human waste is a taboo subject, we will be talking about poop a lot in this article. After all, if you refuse to address a topic, how can you challenge the conventional and unsustainable systems that surround it?

One unsustainable aspect of conventional toilets is water. Most toilets in wealthy countries use potable water to flush toilets, but water is a resource that is becoming scarce amid rising global temperatures. [1] [2] Even if this were not the case, the fact we contaminate drinking water on purpose reflects a dire need to challenge this convention. Human excrement, ironically, is a valuable resource. It can be used as a source of food for bacteria. Sewage, as well as diseases linked with fecal contamination of the environment, can be eliminated when composting is adopted as a sanitation method.[9]

In our phytodepuration article, we explored one alternative method for wastewater treatment. It consists of a marsh-like condition, in which greywater and blackwater are filtered and purified using plants. Compost toilets are the inverse; they require no water and use dead plants rather than living ones. Essentially, microbes break the waste down into humus, a completely decomposed organic material. Besides feces, the other necessary ingredients for composting are straw, sawdust, dead leaves, or wood chips. These carbon-rich materials are known in the composting world as “browns,” while the nitrogen-rich feces make up “The Greens.” The balance of browns and greens is crucial to successful decomposition; a composting toilet without carbon-rich material would not result in compost and would be a health hazard. Additionally, the browns act as a cover material to expunge smells.

Across the world, different prototypes of compost toilets are being tested within diverse capacities and contexts. One such example is the project Mobile Dry Diversion Toilet in Lagos developed by FABULOUS URBAN with several partners since 2017. The project targets families in low-income communities who do not have access to domestic sanitation. This prototype separates the urine and feces into different compartments, which finally facilitates the process of composting. [4] The urea present in urine degrades into ammonia while not only has an off putting smell but also is the reason for the extermination of the bacteria that would otherwise break down the waste.[5] For further explanation, you may follow the link to the original article. Mobile Dry Diversion Toilet

Mock-up prototype being constructed to be tested for the project Mobile Dry Diversion Toilet Photo. © FABULOUS URBAN

Public acceptance, regulations, and a lack of expertise and experience in composting toilet design and operation are all obstacles to the use of composting toilets in urban environments [3].

We have been testing our system here at the Critical Concrete office.


a large compost pilea toilet chambera bucket within the chambera seat for the chamber

The assembly of components of the our compost toiletTo use the compost toilet, users cover their poop with a layer of carbon-rich material. In our case, this is mostly sawdust because it is a waste material that we always have on hand. Once the collection bucket in the toilet is full, we empty it into the outdoor compost pile dedicated solely to the compost toilet. The fresh layer of waste is covered with more sawdust, which immediately removes the smell and wards away flies. We then rinse the bucket, pour the rinsing water on the compost pile to help moisten the compost pile, and cover the compost pile again with fresh sawdust.

Our compost pile setup

We use our compost primarily for feces as we are an office which means the usage of this toilet for urine will be more than feces. The imbalance of the proportion of urine and feces could result in a slower composting process. A low level of urine is not an issue for the decomposition, but with our compost pile located near our living space, we want to avoid the smell that it can cause. In the active compost pile, the waste completes its conversion into humus. The temperature at the core of the active compost pile can reach upto approximately 650C. The covering material such as saw dust, hay, weeds, straw is referred as biological sponge in the figure on the right. Once the compost pile is high enough, we leave it to cure for oneyear, after which it is safe to use for gardening. The curing time for compost containing human waste is longer than most compost piles, but it ensures the extermination of pathogens present in the feces before its use.

Section through the compost pile © The Humanure Handbook: shit in a nutshell

Temperature reading from our active compost pile

Making a functional compost toilet can be challenging, so of course, we had to manage some difficulties.  First, the volume of our waste output is disproportionate to our available yard space. After just three months of using the toilet, the compost pile is half-full. Since the active compost pile still needs to be cured once it is ample, we may have to pause our use of the compost toilet at that point. If we had unlimited space in our yard, we would have had the chance to start a new compost pile. But in an urban setting like ours, that is not an option. Our second challenge is that our active compost pile is dry because we use a lot of sawdust. In order to create a hospitable environment for the suitable bacteria to break down our waste, we need to add moisture to the pile. At this point having some levels of urine present in the compost pile would help but, we use some greywater from washing dishes instead in order to avoid washing drinking water and unpleasant smell of urine. It will be also good to mention that according to “the Humanure Handbook: shit in a nutshell” by Joseph Jenkins for a household the separating urine and feces is not necessary.[9]

Rich fertile compost

Even though there are some obstacles to using a compost toilet, especially in an urban environment, the system is quite simple overall. For us, it is a way to transition from relying on a flush toilet and better our water usage while producing garden material. We will update our progress on this blog and our social media as we adapt to this new and improved option for human waste management in our headquarters.

Do’s and Don’ts © The Humanure Handbook: shit in a nutshell



[1] United Nations, “Scarcity | UN-Water,” UN-Water, 2011.

[2] E. Saner, “The no-flush movement: the unexpected rise of the composting toilet,” The Guardian, Dec. 09, 2019.

[3] C. K. Anand and D. S. Apul, “Composting toilets as a sustainable alternative to urban sanitation – A review,” Waste Management, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 329–343, Feb. 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2013.10.006.

[4] “Mobile Dry Diversion Toilet FABULOUS URBAN,” Swiss-Architects. (accessed Oct. 06, 2021).

[5] N. Rogers, “Composting toilets could be the way of the future,” ABC News, Jun. 24, 2019.

[6] T. Avellán, “The world needs more toilets – but not ones that flush,” The Conversation, Mar. 21, 2017. (accessed Oct. 07, 2021).

[7] “Saving water in the home,” nidirect, Oct. 20, 2015.

[8] N. Hancock, “Safe Drinking Water Foundation,” Safe Drinking Water Foundation, Nov. 30, 2016.

[9] J. C. Jenkins, HUMANURE HANDBOOK : shit in a nutshell. S.L.: Chelsea Green, 2019.


The post Compost Toilet : Our response to water scarcity? appeared first on Critical Concrete.

Concrete Abrasion Resistance: The Bad, the Good, and the Better (Interview Part 3)

Concrete Abrasion Resistance: The Bad, the Good, and the Better (Interview Part 3)

Last time in this interview series, we looked at just how effective Hard-Cem is as a solution for increasing concrete abrasion resistance. (For a recap, take a look at our first part and second part in this interview series!)

Unlike conventional surface-applied products, Hard-Cem has a worry-free application process. And on top of that, it has been proven to be effective through third-party testing. Part of that testing involved a modified ASTM C627 test, which showed just how resistant Hard-Cem made concrete to abrasive forces.

However, that’s not all it has going for it. Hard-Cem can also help construction professionals with their sustainability efforts. To see how, we asked Kryton Technical Director Jeff Bowman for more insight.

First, why don’t we review the environmental concerns surrounding concrete?

I’m sure many people are aware that roughly, for every 1 ton of Portland cement that’s manufactured, 1 ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. But of course, we don’t make buildings out of cement. We make them out of concrete. So I think it’s more useful to look at the final carbon load of the concrete itself.

Where can we learn about the final carbon load of concrete?

Now, there are many industry resources for this. The one that I’d like to draw from today is the Canadian Ready-Mixed Concrete Association’s environmental product declaration. It has a wide range of information and breaks concrete down by strength class. It also publishes industry benchmarks for each strength class.

But for just a broad view of the information displayed, you can see that depending on the concrete strength and many other factors, the carbon load of that concrete is normally going to range about 250 kg to 500 kg of CO2 per cubic meter of concrete.

That’s a significant environmental investment. So you really want to make sure your concrete is going to be durable and last a long time with minimal maintenance.

How does Hard-Cem help mitigate this carbon issue?

Well, first of all, just by having Hard-Cem reduce the wear and tear of abrasion on a concrete slab, you’re reducing, delaying, and often preventing some of that maintenance activity you’d otherwise need to do to replace that concrete or grind it down and resurface it. You can avoid using more concrete to fix it at a later time.

Hard-Cem-treated concrete (as seen on the right) can get double the wear life and an increased resistance to abrasion and erosion compared to regular concrete (as seen on the left).
Hard-Cem can also help you make more efficient choices with your concrete. Sometimes, the structural requirements of a project are satisfied with a typical mid-strength concrete.

But to ensure good abrasion resistance, a higher strength concrete is used instead. This increases the carbon footprint and is an inefficient use of resources. Hard-Cem may allow the lower strength option to be used instead while still designing for abrasion resistance. This can allow the use of more environmentally efficient concrete without sacrificing abrasion performance.

So, Hard-Cem can help reduce the carbon footprint now and down the road?

Yes, it can.

Remember, depending on the application, oftentimes, a higher strength concrete may introduce some problems that are actually detrimental to the overall performance of the job, such as increased shrinkage, cracking, and curling.

So using a more conventional mix with Hard-Cem can help you avoid these problems while still achieving excellent abrasion durability.

To get high-strength concrete, builders can add more silica fume or cement. However, silica fume’s maximum abrasion resistance increase is 13%. And to double that resistance with cement, builders would need 80% more cement content.

What about Hard-Cem’s carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint of Hard-Cem is very small. It’s only a percentage or two of the overall mix. As we often see with admixtures, it gives you very good performance value relative to its environmental impact.

What does all that mean for the lifetime carbon footprint of a structure?

Being able to produce a sustainable mix now is a very worthy goal. But it’s true that it’s also important to take a look at the lifetime carbon footprint of that structure. Depending on the maintenance and replacement cycle, the lifetime carbon footprint can be much higher than the original construction cost.

Now, we have a really interesting case study on this: the New Afton Mine. This is near Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, and was built in 2011.

In the ore collection and processing area, within three years, the mine had so much wear and tear just from the mining equipment. And with the ore on the ground being pressed into the concrete and ground between those wheels, the owners had to replace, not just resurface but replace, the concrete in that area within only three years. So they were set on a three-year replacement interval, which is not very sustainable.

But in 2014, they replaced it with Hard-Cem concrete, and that concrete is still performing today. So what you can see here is that by investing in durability, they’ve been able to skip at least two replacement events. And they’re actually partway through what would have been their third.

Ever since Hard-Cem was added into replacement concrete for the mine, the mine has provided six continuous years of service without the need for more concrete replacement work.

In short, Hard-Cem has reduced the lifetime carbon footprint by almost 50%. And that’s just so far.

Thank you for all that detail, Jeff! It seems that Hard-Cem really will protect concrete against abrasion better than traditional methods. It’s also easy to install and doesn’t change a concrete mix’s properties. And on top of that, it reduces your carbon footprint, increases the durability and life cycle of your concrete, and has been in successful performance for years. What more could you ask for from a concrete hardening solution!

Finding the best product to increase concrete wear life isn't hard. It's Hard-Cem. Click here to learn more.

The post Concrete Abrasion Resistance: The Bad, the Good, and the Better (Interview Part 3) appeared first on Kryton.

4 Benefits of Using Concrete for Your Commercial Flooring

4 Benefits of Using Concrete for Your Commercial Flooring

When it comes to commercial flooring, concrete is one of the most popular choices.

For both creative and practical reasons, many businesses typically choose concrete floors for their stores, patios, and walkways. 

On top of being durable and easy to install, this type of flooring also offers an array of other benefits, including:

1. Infinite design possibilities

Concrete flooring is available in a wide range of colors and patterns. Any hue can be created to accent your commercial property’s interior.

In addition to picking from an array of beautiful colors, you can also create a unique custom design. For example, you may want a pattern or logo that matches the branding of your business. Some concrete contractors are even capable of creating specialty textures with stamped concrete that replicate wood grain or natural stone materials.

2. Easy to clean

If you have a high volume of foot traffic in your commercial property, concrete is the perfect flooring option. Not only does it withstand heavy use and wear and tear, but concrete floors don’t absorb dirt or moisture, making spills much easier to spot and wipe up. All you need is a mop or broom

Concrete floors are also more resistant to water damage, so your property is better protected against leaks and spills that can cause significant damage otherwise.

This type of flooring also doesn’t harbor allergens or bacteria, so it’s perfect for high-traffic facilities like hospitals where many people may be affected by dust particles and other allergens that accumulate in carpets or rugs.

3. Reduces noise pollution and energy costs

Concrete offers a high degree of sound insulation, which can be especially useful in the workplace.

If you work in an environment where there’s a lot of phone conversations and meetings taking place throughout the day, concrete floors will act as an effective barrier against the noise, rather than amplifying it like carpet does.

Additionally, concrete floors will also help keep your energy bill down in the long term because they offer a high degree of thermal insulation. This means that you won’t have to adjust your heating and cooling system as much throughout the winter or summer months.

4. Lasts up to 40 years

Concrete floors can last for decades (up to 40 years) as long as they’re properly maintained and installed.

With this type of flooring, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of replacing materials every few years, saving you time and money in the long term. However, it’s important to note that concrete isn’t perfect; you will likely need to repair a few cracks here and there as time goes on. Otherwise, these imperfections will compromise the integrity of your flooring and make it susceptible to further damage.

Fortunately, these types of repairs are relatively minor and can be completed in a matter of hours by a professional contractor without too much trouble. 

While there are many distinct advantages to using concrete for your commercial flooring, the success or failure of your project ultimately depends on picking the right contractor. Our professionals at Port Aggregates are highly skilled in creating beautiful, precise pours every time. Contact us today to request a quote

The post 4 Benefits of Using Concrete for Your Commercial Flooring appeared first on Port Aggregates.

Did you miss our previous article…

Interview: Why Krytonite™ Is the Unsung Hero of Construction Joint Waterproofing

Interview: Why Krytonite™ Is the Unsung Hero of Construction Joint Waterproofing

When you think of general concrete waterproofing, you probably envision membranes or crystalline waterproofing admixtures. But those aren’t the only aspects you need to consider for waterproofing. In fact, you should think of them as part of a more holistic approach to waterproofing. With only membranes or concrete admixtures, you’re not protecting your entire structure from water ingress. You’re missing out on protection for areas like tie holes, pipe penetrations, construction joints, and control joints.

It only takes one of those areas to remain exposed to water for there to be a water ingress problem. After all, as the Construction Waterproofing Handbook notes, 90% of water ingress issues happen within only 1% of the total structure’s surface.

That’s why you need solutions like our Krytonite
Swelling Waterstop, which seals concrete construction joints, protecting them from water. Such solutions, however, aren’t always given the attention they deserve.

To see why that is and why changing that in favor of Krytonite and more is better, we’ve turned to our territory manager for the Eastern United States, Christian Warren. With over 13 years of technical territory sales and operations management experience in concrete waterproofing construction and a background in ready-mix quality control, Christian knows just how valuable it is to give each concrete detail its due. And it’s why he’ll be discussing the value of Krytonite with us today.

Thank you for joining us here, Christian. While all aspects of waterproofing are necessary, waterstops like Krytonite are not often the first part to come to mind for builders. Why is that?

Thanks for inviting me.

As you mentioned, waterstops tend to not get the spotlight that’s needed. As they’re encased inside concrete, it becomes easy to forget about them (it’s like the old saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”). That’s the case for both waterproofing successes and failures.

Successes tend to be attributed to the whole waterproofing system. And failures are no different. In either situation, it’s difficult to diagnose the waterstop’s successful contribution to the waterproofing system because it takes destructive techniques to the concrete joint to even see the waterstop’s condition.

What about Krytonite itself? What makes it stand out from the other waterstops on the market?

While the installation of Krytonite will be familiar to those who have installed bentonite or other swelling waterstops, the performance of the product is top-level.

For performance comparison, bentonite waterstops offer entry-level capabilities. They’re often inexpensive and mostly ineffective, even in low-risk applications. Part of that is due to their uncontrolled swelling and inability to hold up through wet-dry cycles. Because of that, there is a risk of the concrete blowing out due to high internal pressures, damaging the structure and incurring high maintenance costs as bentonite waterstops deteriorate quickly due to their clay-based composition.

Meanwhile, Krytonite offers greater performance. It’s designed with advanced elastomeric hydrophilic polymers, which is a superior form of technology to that of bentonite. As a result, Krytonite offers better compression sealing, stability, and longevity.

For compression sealing, Krytonite can swell more than 10x its original size. That is up to 4x more than competitors. And with its unique trapezoid shape, Krytonite can minimize the possibility of voids in the concrete.

For stability, Krytonite takes advantage of controlled swelling that allows for proper concrete strength development. It also ensures that Krytonite will never blow out the concrete due to unchecked internal pressures.

And for longevity, Krytonite is made to be cohesive, remaining intact for the life of the concrete structure. It’s a stark contrast to bentonite waterstops, as those are expected to disintegrate eventually, especially under extreme conditions and constant wet-dry cycling.

Of course, the greater value with Krytonite is not just the top-level performance but its cost and warranty. How Kryton has priced it and given it a 10-year limited warranty makes this waterstop a huge value add. It ensures that contractors can get guaranteed top-level performance for entry-level pricing with Krytonite.

So, Krytonite comes with great performance and value. A significant factor for the performance side of things seems to be the product’s superior swelling. Just how does that work? And for how long?

So, Krytonite will swell only in the presence of water. Depending on that water’s source and where the Krytonite is situated, contractors will see variations in that swelling. For instance, to see Krytonite swell up to 1,000% of its size, the waterstop would have to be unconstrained and come into contact with clean water. But when it’s placed within a joint, Krytonite will only expand as much as necessary. So that means expanding until it has enough pressure to stop the flow of water.

Krytonite will stay that way so long as there is water present.

Can it seal more than just construction joints with this ability?

Yes, you can use Krytonite to seal around other items fully embedded in concrete. These might be pipes, studs, or tie rod sleeves.

Is it able to withstand water contaminated with salts, acid, or hydrocarbons?

Whether the water has salt, acid, or hydrocarbon contamination, Krytonite will still be able to activate and operate as normal. It’s all thanks to its unique synthetic rubber technology. Because of the technology’s cohesive properties, Krytonite will not deteriorate if it encounters contaminated water.

Still, to maintain quality, I recommend that contractors confirm the Krytonite’s stability with Kryton’s technical department if the contaminated water levels are particularly high.

How do you get Krytonite to adhere to concrete? Does it matter if the surface is damp?

To get Krytonite to adhere to concrete, you should first apply Krytonite Adhesive along the center of the construction joint. Then, press the Krytonite into the adhesive. When doing this, you should have enough adhesive on the surface that it comes out the sides of the pressed Krytonite.

This is the most optimal way of making sure that Krytonite stays firmly attached to the concrete surface.

That remains the case even if the concrete surface is damp as the adhesive can keep Krytonite up off the damp surface enough for the Krytonite to bond properly. That only works, however, if the surface is not too wet and is free from debris and pooling water.

Of course, if you’re set on using a different adhesive, the next best option is a one-component polyurethane construction adhesive.

Once applied, will it need protection?

Yes. It is possible for Krytonite to tolerate some early water exposure, but you should still take care to protect it from as much rain and moisture as possible before pouring concrete. Otherwise, the Krytonite could end up debonding.

To prevent that from happening, make sure the Krytonite is fully shielded from weather and moisture. A way to accomplish that might involve covering it with plastic to put a barrier between it and any possible water ingress.

Is there anything you’d recommend adding with Krytonite to waterproof construction joints and details?

While Krytonite will do an excellent job at protecting concrete construction joints and other small details, it works best with the KrystolWaterstop System. Under that system, you have Krytonite as well as Krystol Waterstop Treatment
, Krystol Waterstop Grout
, and Crack Inducing Waterstop.

When used in varying combinations, they can offer contractors a robust waterproof jointing system that’s available for low- and high-risk areas.

For low-risk areas, contractors can bring their concrete to a saturated surface-dry (SSD) condition and then coat it with the Krystol Waterstop Treatment. The Krystol technology in that treatment will react to water and unhydrated cement particles to form crystals that stop water from passing through. Then, the contractor can install the Krytonite to the concrete, further sealing the joint from water.

That acts as double protection for a structure that isn’t expecting to see a heavy amount of water ingress.

For higher risk areas, this system offers triple protection. That requires the same SSD condition and the same Krystol Waterstop Treatment and Krytonite application. But after that, contractors can apply Krystol Waterstop Grout to a keyway that’s formed with the help of the Crack Inducing Waterstop, adding extra Krystol technology protection.

All of that builds redundancy into the waterproofing system, giving it better protection from possible installation and material failures and from water ingress.

If I were interested in installing Krytonite and the rest of the Krystol Waterstop System, who should I go to?

We have territory managers and distributors all around the world who can help you. To find out who’s nearest to you, just send your request to Kryton on our contact us page or call Kryton’s headquarters anytime at 800-267-8280. There is always someone ready to help. And of course, if you happen to be in the eastern area of the USA, I am always happy to talk with you to see how Krytonite and the Krystol Waterstop System can best serve your concrete waterproofing needs.

Thanks again for chatting with us, Christian! We’re glad to see just how valuable Krytonite and the Krystol Waterstop System can be.

The post Interview: Why Krytonite™ Is the Unsung Hero of Construction Joint Waterproofing appeared first on Kryton.

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4 Advantages of Polished Concrete Flooring

4 Advantages of Polished Concrete Flooring

Polished concrete flooring has gained popularity in recent years for its durability, low maintenance, and affordability. If you’re thinking about getting your floors redone but haven’t narrowed down your choice of material just yet, continue reading.

Polished concrete floors are perfect for both homes and businesses. They can be used in a variety of spaces, including kitchens and garages. Some of the biggest advantages of this type of flooring include:

1. Extreme durability

Concrete can last for decades without needing to be repaired or maintained. It doesn’t peel, scratch, or fade over time like most other types of flooring. This makes it a particularly great choice for cat or dog owners whose pets tend to scratch up the floors. Not to mention, it will save you money in the long run by reducing repair or replacement costs.

2. Requires very little maintenance

In addition to being extremely durable, polished concrete flooring is also easy to clean and maintain when compared with other types of flooring. Pet stains and spills come up easily and can be swiftly cleaned away without the need for special and expensive cleaners. This makes polished concrete a great choice if you’re looking for flooring that will stay beautiful without requiring time-consuming care and maintenance. 

3. Endless color options 

Contrary to popular belief, concrete doesn’t have to be gray and dreary. Polished concrete comes in an array of beautiful colors, including both classic and modern choices that will blend seamlessly with your existing décor, giving your home or business an entirely new look.

4.  Affordability

One of the biggest advantages of polished concrete floors is the low cost. This flooring is an excellent choice for homeowners and business owners who want to install new flooring but can’t afford pricey wood or marble. 

While there are many distinct advantages to polished concrete, the success or failure of your flooring project ultimately depends on picking the right contractor. Our professionals at Port Aggregates are highly skilled in creating beautiful, precise pours every time. Contact us today to request a quote for your next project!

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Why Maturix® Is Leading the Concrete Sensor Market with Next-Gen Tech

Why Maturix® Is Leading the Concrete Sensor Market with Next-Gen Tech

Technology is always evolving. That hasn’t been any less true for the concrete monitoring field. Not long ago, contractors were relying solely on field-cured concrete cylinders to understand the compressive strength development of their concrete. It was a time-consuming process with room for error. After all, field-cured cylinders cure at a different rate than concrete placed en masse. And they need to be transported for testing off-site. But now, there are many concrete sensors available on the market to simplify this process and provide more accurate insight into concrete strength.

One in particular has drawn attention over the past year or so. That would be the Maturix Smart Concrete Sensors. These next-gen sensors are helping to lead the sensor market, drawing interest from all over, and we’re here to explain why that is and why you should join the excitement.


Maturix Sensors Offer Award-Winning Concrete Monitoring

These heavy-duty sensors transmit concrete temperature data directly to a cloud-based platform and calculate concrete strength from there on a regular basis each day. That process allows them to provide builders with real-time remote concrete monitoring.

Their setup is relatively simple too. It starts with our Maturix expert creating an online account for builders. So all builders need to do is log in when ready. From there, they attach a cost-effective thermocouple wire to rebar. That in turn gets plugged into Maturix’s transmitting sensor, which is located outside the concrete placement. Builders can then start or refine the monitoring start time remotely through any device that can access a web browser.

That way, contractors can eliminate the time, labor, and money required to physically go to the worksite to collect data on concrete placements. Instead, they can easily access their concrete data 24/7 through the Maturix platform. They can also receive online alerts through Maturix software. That lets them know exactly when their concrete’s temperature has exceeded critical thresholds or fallen out of spec and when their concrete’s compressive strength has been met. For concrete strength validation in particular, that can save up to three days per pour.

Due to Maturix’s ability to streamline concrete monitoring in such a cost-effective way, the sensors earned a Most Innovative Product Award in 2020. And it wasn’t long after that when they garnered additional attention. Soon, they starred in an article about the future of concrete sensor technology, already showing just how much of an impact these sensors made.

A Maturix Sensor is angled to face the left without its cable.

On Top of That, They Are Built to Last Long

To add to their award-winning appeal, the Maturix Sensors have been redesigned. They can now withstand the harshest construction and precast manufacturing environments.

Given a durable casing that increases their resistance to both water and dust, these sensors will last for more than the entirety of one project. And unlike other sensors, Maturix Sensors are not gone after a single use. Instead, the thermocouple wires attached to the sensors are disposable. That way, the sensors can be used for as many pours as a contractor likes. That makes them ideal for those who are looking for a streamlined cost-effective solution on monitoring concrete temperature, maturity, and strength.

A builder is holding and looking at a smart phone in his right hand while holding a clipboard in his other hand.

Both These Features Help to Ease Worksite Information Sharing

With the ability to provide instant updates on concrete development and remain operational for many pours, Maturix Sensors make it easier to share information. There’s no concern about needing to replace them, after all. So contractors can instead focus on what’s important: the data surrounding their concrete’s development.

Because that data is received instantaneously, contractors can remain fully aware of any potential issues that might develop. Whether there’s a need to manage the mass concrete differential, cold weather, or hot weather, Maturix Sensors can ensure contractors know about it before it becomes a problem.

However, that doesn’t have to benefit just contractors. If other worksite team members need to know this information, a contractor only has to send that data in the form of a report with the press of a button through the Maturix cloud-based platform. That report will then be transmitted digitally to whoever needs it, expediting report work and worksite approvals in the process with very little effort required.

Contractors don’t have to worry about losing that report data either. The Maturix platform ensures that all data is logged and backed up, so contractors and their team have documentation associated with their project, which can help reduce liability.

A bridge has been partially constructed by the general contracting firm Kruse Smith.

ll of Which Has Helped Create a Number of Success Stories

After hearing about Maturix and trying it out for themselves, many contractor companies were happy to report their own success stories with Maturix features.

They’ve Helped The Walsh Group Ltd. Streamline the Monitoring of Multiple Wall Placements

In an interview with our Maturix specialist, Kris Till, Tanner Santo, a superintendent for The Walsh Group Ltd., stated that there were “a lot of moving parts and challenging logistics” to constructing the Southeast Treatment Plant in San Francisco. The company had to determine how to monitor 300 to 400 wall placements. And they had to determine how to minimize any downtime while doing so.

Their original process for this would have been time-consuming and costly. They would need to take multiple concrete cylinder samples, which would add on to the cost of the work. And they would also need to wait for a testing lab to determine when the concrete had reached minimum strength. Without the testing lab’s go-ahead, they would have to wait to remove the formwork, prolonging the progress of their work.

To expedite this process, The Walsh Group Ltd. decided to add Maturix. That streamlined their monitoring significantly. Santo was able to receive notifications on his cell phone, letting him know when the concrete reached minimal strength. As a result, he and his team did not have to take additional concrete samples or wait for a go-ahead and could safely strip formwork, knowing just when the concrete had hit minimal strength.

nd They’ve Improved the Documentation and Quality Control Processes for Kruse Smith

Hoping to innovate technologically and improve their on-site performance, the Norwegian contractor Kruse Smith also chose to work with Maturix. They made this decision with their work on the E39 highway project in mind specifically.

One of their biggest concerns surrounding this work was dealing with the weather. They would be working in freezing temperatures with lots of ice and snow. So they had to protect their concrete from freezing before it cured.

For previous projects, they kept an eye on this concern with manual data loggers. They were digital, but they didn’t transmit data online. As a result, Kruse Smith had to send out workers to physically check their concrete placements individually to collect temperature data. Then, the workers would have to do analytical work based on the information they recorded to get any insight from that data.

With Maturix during their E39 project, however, they received that information instantaneously through an Internet-connected device, which came with generated graphs and analysis already there. So there was less work involved for faster, more accurate results.

In turn, that allowed them to focus more on better active documentation and quality control. They could bring that data up in meetings with team members and their client to discuss the progress of their work and what they could improve. It created a lot of transparency and trust. And it made it easier to spot any possible issues with temperature drops or a slower concrete curing process.

A coffee cup on a light-brown wooden table rests in the background as a builder holds a tablet in their left hand looking at sensor data in the foreground.

That Just Proves How Reliable and Cost-Effective Maturix Is in the Long Run

In just a short while, Maturix has won an award for its technology and has proven itself out in the field as a reliable tool for saving contractors time and money when they monitor concrete. From streamlining the monitoring of around 300 to 400 concrete wall placements for The Walsh Group Ltd. to enhancing Kruse Smith’s active documentation and quality control, Maturix Sensors show that it’s possible to simplify concrete monitoring and cut costs without losing the quality and accuracy contractors are looking for in a worksite.

Convenient. Cost-Effective. Remote. Concrete monitoring with Maturix. Book a demo today!

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