About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.
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Paul: Hello, everyone, welcome back to the Everything Building Envelope Podcast. Our guest today is Mike Buchholz with Tremco. And we were just talking before the podcast, Tremco is an interesting company because they offer a wide variety of solutions, key points for using them is that they’re a sole source. So we’ll get into that a little bit more. But anyway, welcome Mike.
Mike: Thanks, Paul.
Paul: So thank you for coming on. Before we start getting into our topic, maybe you could tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.
Mike: Sure. I started with Tremco in 2003. So I have been here 14 years now which amazingly isn’t really a long time in Tremco years. Here’s a team that good people come to Tremco and they seem to stick.
But the first six years I was with Tremco, I spent in the fire division and at the time Tremco had a standalone division focused on penetration and joint fire stop. So I started with a short stint in technical service and then Tremco relocated me down to Florida, which is where I am now. And I ran a territory and eventually worked my way up to the national sales manager.
Then in 2009, as we all know, the economy went spinning into the toilet bowl and Tremco folded the fire division to our core commercial sealants and waterproof business. And while my role changed significantly, I was fortunate enough to have a job as a district manager in the CS&W division. And eventually I worked my way up to southeast regional manager with the responsibility for the Carolinas, Florida, and the Caribbean, which is where I’m now.
Paul: I’m sure that many of the listeners are very familiar with Tremco, but maybe you could just talk a little bit about Tremco in particular as it relates to the exterior building envelope.
Mike: Sure. So Tremco can provide a single source solution for the entire building envelope. For a company that’s been around for a hundred years, we’ve got a pretty big bandwidth of products starting from below grade bentonite-type products to vertical below grade or fluid applied systems. And we can work our way up the vertical wall into the air barriers into the glazing pocket into the deck coatings, and tie into your parapet or your rooftop. So we have the ability to provide single source solutions for the entire building envelope but there are a lot of other manufacturers out there in our space making similar claims.
So what makes Tremco’s position unique is that much of our growth is organic. It’s developed in-house, through our [inaudible 00:02:27] buying and bolting on chemistries or components to fill our gaps. So Tremco, like I said, is priming the waterproofing, the coating to the glazing, air vapor barrier segments and we have the ability to drive the single source. And it’s not just because the manufacturer’s names are on the label, but because we design and build our products to work together then test them.
Paul: So I’m gonna be a bad podcast host and start out with throwing you a curve ball if you don’t mind. You’d mentioned the fire division and as we’re recording this podcast, which is in the middle of late June, there was just a lot of news about a building fire in London. And I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter that the exterior facade was actually flammable and it caused a lot of problem. So any insight on that?
Mike: Well, I mean the fire business has evolved so much it really started in my opinion back in the days of the MGM fire out in Vegas. And naturally a lot of different coat changes as far as the sealing of the joints for the perimeter curtain wall and making sure that there wasn’t what they call a stack effect, allowing that fire and the smoke more importantly to travel vertically through the building and in fact in the inhabitant.
I’m not as familiar with the new London fire, I haven’t paid as much attention as perhaps I should admittedly. But there’s been a huge change as far as the exterior facade of the building is concerned as well. We used to test to make sure that the smoke and the fire, when spread from floor to floor with inside that cavity. But then with the changes in the ASTM standards and the NFPA 285 standards for exterior cladding materials including air vapor barrier systems and the flame spread on air vapor barrier systems, it’s gotten a lot more attention as far as the flammability of that exterior skin is.
Paul: Yeah, and I have to admit that I haven’t paid real close attention to it either. Although, I’ve seen, like I say, I’ve seen a lot of chatter going around. My guess is more changes are coming, so they’ll analyze this event and, you know, see some things that they probably want to tighten up. I know the fire code folks have a lot of sway as well they should. And my guess is we’re gonna see…it might take a few years, but we’ll see more building code changes coming to address whatever it was that happened in London.
Mike: And I think you might start to see more NFPA 285 type tests in assemblies and essentially what that is…and this kind of relates to the topic of our whole discussion here regarding single source, but what that does is it really tests the wall assembly and not just the components themselves. So we’re not looking at the flame spread of just the air vapor barrier material, but we’re also looking at how it interacts with the penetrations and the different components of that wall system.
And it’s tested as a system and you can actually get a rating as a system. So, you know, I think that will perhaps be more sole source, so that we have more consistency in that wall system and that way we know what the performance will actually be versus a handful of perhaps really good components, but components that might not work well together.
Paul: To me that makes perfect sense. Thank you for taking my curve ball and hitting it out of the park there.
Mike: I don’t know if I did, but no problem.
Paul: So let’s go back to the single source that we were talking about and you had mentioned, you know, from below grade to the roof. So maybe you could just kind run through some of the various systems that are used in the exterior building envelope and let’s start with the hole in the ground and work our way up from there.
Mike: Sure. So for the hole in the ground or the under a slab type of waterproofing application, Tremco has a couple different options. But our dominant option is the HDPE with the bentonite on it. So a below grade bentonite system that relies on compaction and it relies on the performance of the HDPE as well as the bentonite, which has been historically a great option for that under slab type application.
And then what we like to do is we go out, we wrap that splitter and turn it up the vertical wall and then we make the transition on the vertical wall actually to a fluid applied waterproofing material. And the reason that we do that, Paul, perhaps, you can speak to this as well, but the reason we do that as we’ve seen that at the grade line, you sometimes have issues with the bentonite system. The bentonite system relies on compaction to make sure that it holds the clay or the bentonite against the wall and it’s hard to get the compaction that you need to make sure that you have an effective system at that grade line.
So we like to transition just above the fodder to our fluid applied system and take that up to the vertical wall and that way, we’re not relying on that compaction for the performance of the waterproofing membrane. So when we have a fully-adhered waterproofing membrane on the wall and then we can transition from that if applicable, it’s not necessary here in Florida or always applicable in Florida, but we can transition that to an air vapor barrier product for our above grade type of applications.
And the unique ability of Tremco to tie, not just the components themselves, but the components into systems and warrant the systems, so that the design professional and everyone involved in the project itself has the ability to transition that liability from just a component system to an actual tested system where the connection is warranted as well between the systems, is a pretty valuable asset to that design and project team.
Paul: So you mentioned warranties and I have mixed emotions about warranties, you know, one part of me says let’s do it right and not need the warranty, which I think is probably a really good theory. But, you know, the warranty is always good to have in case something unanticipated happens. You know, stuff does happen from time to time. So we use different systems from the [inaudible 00:08:59] like Tremco. Do the warranties all blend together or is it a series of separate warranties on separate systems?
Mike: Well, we have the ability to tie the warranties together through the systems. And I understand what you’re saying about relying on the warranties. One of the things that is different about Tremco is that we actually have a test lab. So we have a two-bay test lab which has the ability to run the full gamut of the ASTM prescribed test. We can push and pull air over 250 miles per hour and simulate over 8 inches of rainfall per hour while racking seismic joints in windows, left to right or up and down.
And it allows us to not only push the components that make up the system but focus on the areas we might consider vulnerable such as penetrations or a connection to the adjacent system or structure. And the two-story bay allows us to test multiple systems and their connections one at a time or at one time I should say, including stack and floor joints. So we can stress the components and assemblies beyond the industry requirements to the failure and then we can examine and diagnose the cause of that failure, revise the recommendations if necessary.
And that really gives us the confidence required to provide a tested, proven, warranted defensible recommendation that includes those connection points. And then that full system is eligible for the warranty itself.
Paul: Yes, I was actually gonna ask exactly that, what about the connection? But you answered that and that’s…yeah, that sounds like a compelling solution. Let me ask you another question, just kind of [inaudible 00:10:41] talking about the fluid applied systems. So what’s the current philosophy with fluid applied versus what we, you know, the older sheet materials. How predominant is it getting to be where you’re seeing fluid applied as opposed to sheet materials?
Mike: You know, Tremco’s, while we have sheet applied systems, we also add fluid in it. I think it’s perhaps a bit of a preference. I know there are some consultants out there that appreciate the consistency of a sheet applied membrane, whether it be for an air vapor barrier or a below grade type waterproofing.
Perhaps it’s just the way that I was kind of brought up through Tremco, but I tend to prefer the fluid applied systems simply because you have a fully adhered monolithic waterproofing or air vapor barrier membrane. There aren’t the fish mouths, the overlaps, the fact that you need to make sure that you get the pressure correctly on your roller, priming etc. So you have a fully adhered system.
One of the things that, and you can probably speak to this as well, but one of the things that we’ve seen is on the sheet applied systems, if there is some sort of a failure, it becomes difficult at times to chase the origin of that failure. With a fluid applied fully adhered system, if there’s a leak, you know, typically it’s in one spot, you can find it fairly easily. So I just prefer the fluid applied. Again, Tremco offers both as alternatives and that can be up to the design professional or the consultant.
Paul: Yes, I don’t know about other consulting firms, but I can speak for my firm, GCI Consultants, and we definitely prefer the fluid applied for all the reasons you said.
And the other thing we like is it’s really easy to see if it has been applied properly because everything’s different color, you know, you can set up color scheme, so that you can tell, you know, if it’s yellow or green or orange or whatever the color is. If you don’t see a sea of green for instance then you know, if it’s spotted or whatever, you know, it wasn’t applied well. So we really like it.
But you mentioned air barriers and you mentioned that they’re not as predominant in Florida. So we see them and concur with that. We see them all over the country and in other applications. And I know architects are very, very interested in all of that. So can you talk a little bit about the air barrier technology and Tremco Systems and how it plays into the market?
Mike: Sure. I mean Tremco has a wide array of air vapor barrier technology. We have permeable and nonpermeable, we have sheet, we have fluid. So pretty much the full gamut of systems available as far as the components are concerned and then we can tie those in actually to your window perimeter and provide the single source connected defensible warranty from your window all the way through your air vapor barrier.
In Florida, we don’t see as many air vapor barriers as perhaps the rest of the country simply because there is direct-applied stucco that often gets put on the concrete, on the outside, then they rely on some sort of an architectural type coating or exterior paint to provide their air vapor barrier.
We have done some buildings where we’ve actually addressed the interior of the concrete walls with an air vapor barrier, because as we all know that concrete will crack and it’s not so much the fact that you get natural water through that crack as much is that you’re getting airborne water or vapor through that crack. And that can get into your wall cavity and of course cause damages, we all know.
Paul: How can Tremco help designers, consultants, whoever is looking at this, with designing and selecting the right system for an application? Because you mentioned vapor barriers and vapor barriers are great if they’re, you know, in the right place and performing in concert with everything else that’s going on in the wall cavity and, you know, just to put a vapor barrier isn’t necessarily gonna help things and it could hurt things.
So, you know, there’s a lot of analysis technology and all that as far as what to put in and where to put it. So can Tremco help with those sorts of issues?
Mike: Yeah sure. We have some technical folks on staff. They’re obviously immersed in the air vapor barrier world’s part of ABAA and different of an organization’s. And so, these folks are highly technical as far as air vapor barriers are concerned. That’s all they deal with and they can help a design professional to determine the location of the air vapor barrier and whether you want to go with a permeable system or nonpermeable and then give them options as far as sheet and fluid applied are concerned.
But there are other modeling software products out there such as WUFI that can also help you determine where the dew point is on your wall, to help determine exactly what type of system that you want to install.
And then of course as I mentioned earlier, Tremco has a test lab at our R&D division in Cleveland with the single and the double-story bays and we can do a full blown mockup and test the system with all the components to verify that you are in fact getting your desired effect.
Paul: So the test facility in Cleveland, is that only for internal testing?
Mike: Yeah, in fact over the years, we’ve tested numerous projects, specific mockups as well as situations driven by consultants such as yourself that might be looking to solve a common problem or condition they find in the field or scientifically validate, maybe a hypothesis that you’ve come up with over the years of experience. So it’s open to pretty much anyone.
Paul: So if one wanted to do that with Tremco, how would they go about organizing it?
Mike: They can start by contacting me or they can contact their local Tremco representative. And once we get an understanding of the condition, we can schedule the project and organize the test menu etc.
Paul: Is there any fees for that?
Mike: No, no fees at all. And depending on the assembly and what we’re testing, there might be some cost associated with constructing the mockup. But as far as the lab testing and the reporting is concerned, it’s free.
Paul: Everybody likes free, I know that, including me.
Mike: Yes, they do. Well, listen, there aren’t too many places that you can actually go with a third party accredited test lab that’s willing to open the doors and, you know, have you install the mockup of your job, your specific project in the components and test it as an assembly to make sure that it’s performing as you anticipate before you actually go out and install it on the project itself. So, it’s a great service, it’s a great value to our customers and our partners.
Paul: So what else is Tremco have going on now that, you know, changes the game?
Mike: Five years or so ago, we recognized that the variables outside our control, but affecting the performance of our waterproofing membrane seemed to be escalating. So simply we found that some of the concrete admixtures have changed and that the water reducers or superplasticizers were having an impact on the concrete [inaudible 00:18:21] and actually have an impact on how our membranes reacted when applied in [inaudible 00:18:28].
Additionally, we recognize that in restoration, once that cement piece that’s left on top during the finishing process is removed through either shop blasting, hydro demolition, grinding or whatever means they choose to use, they will leave the aggregate exposed and it’s often fractured. So we’re dealing with a whole bunch of potentially unpredictable substrates and conditions.
So in Florida, we actually introduced or developed the regional field technical specialists role and we armed that individual with the latest equipment to technically evaluate everything from the least invasive testing being an infrared imaging down to in situ testing with sensor probes inserted into the concrete matrix to map changes in relative humidity and GPP throughout the day as the temperature and UV rise.
So therefore, if we suspect something might require attention, we can proactively test the substrate to put science and data behind our recommendations, which minimizes surprises, liability, and cost to our partners on the project. And this approach has become consistent throughout North America with the regional field tech reps in most of major cities at this point.
Paul: So that started in Florida and it has basically spread to other areas now?
Mike: Yeah, it has, it has. We did the pilot program here and it has grown legs and worked its way across the country. And at this point, we have, well I think we have five or six guys that are just focused on this type of testing and it’s highly technical. And like I said it really allows us to validate our recommendations and put science behind our recommendation.
Paul: Yeah, it makes sense because as you said there’s a lot of variables and no two situations are necessarily the same.
Paul: So Tremco obviously gets involved in other parts of the exterior building envelope, for instance, the glazing industry. So what’s Tremco’s role with the window and door industry?
Mike: Well, you know, it’s interesting because Tremco has been prime in the glazing industry for a number of years. And it’s interesting, because even if you were to go to a large organization like a [inaudible 00:20:48] or a YKK, some people might not think of it. But oftentimes if you look in their fabrication centers, you can find extruded EPDM, silicone gasket, setting blocks, and internal seals all from Tremco.
Paul: Yeah, it’s funny you say that and I don’t want to admit my age, but I remember when I was an installer many, many, many years ago, there were a lot of Tremco’s stuff kicking around even back then. I’ll say late ’70s and into the ’80s. Yeah I don’t even think about it myself but they’re a big player in that market, aren’t they?
Mike: Yeah, we’re a huge player in that market for the extruded products, but then in addition to that of course we’ve got our full line of wet silicones for structural glazing. So we have two component silicone such as our Proglaze II, we have a single component Proglaze SSG, and again we have our full line of spectrum silicones.
So we have the ability to essentially take everything within the window pocket including the setting blocks, the spacers, and the extruded gaskets all the way out to the perimeter seals to fluid or sheet applied flashing material that would go around that opening, tied into the air vapor barrier system and then down to the vertical wall as you mentioned before with the below grade fluid and then right underneath the slab itself with a bentonite type system.
Paul: So I know from experience, Tremco is also involved in the impact glazing systems in Florida and structural silicones and whatnot. So let’s talk a little bit about Tremco’s capabilities, involvements in that market.
Mike: Sure. So as I mentioned, you know, we have the ability where Tremco is prime in the rubber parts business. So we have the extruded EPDM or silicone gasket, the setting block, the internal seals. And then the fluid applied system in our silicone sealants have been installed and performing locally on monumental projects, around Florida anyway, such as Eden Rock or the W Hotels, St. Regis, Panorama and many of the hospitals and educational buildings.
And then globally, large projects like the Sydney Opera House or the Burj Al Arab Tower in Dubai. And for the last 20 plus years, we’ve been catering and prime in this market. In addition, we aren’t just focused on that glazing pocket or the perimeter seal. We look at the whole system and take our approach a step further to include the connection of the glazing specimen to the structure with our fluid or sheet applied, flashing materials.
And all these components can be purchased individually at market price. But if they’re used together in a comprehensive system, our proven track record, testing and history, allows us to offer a unique extended warranty for the whole assembly at no additional cost. So by doing so, we reduce the risk and potential liability to the entire design and construction team as well as the owner itself. And that’s just new construction or full window replacements, we also have a pretty unique approach in restoration. We don’t just offer the common wet glazing and extruded silicone sheet.
We could, you and I, perhaps on a separate podcast, could discuss the pitfalls of the traditionally accepted cut the head off a gasket that’s on the window and go ahead and recaulk it in another podcast. But Tremco has expertise and in-house engineering with the extruded seals.
We also have a vacuum mold, we can vacuum mold custom profiles that bridge and eliminate the existing leaky gaskets or framing. And I’m sure if you’ve ever had or been on a project with a leaky skyway, you can probably recognize that the traditional method of just slapping a bunch of goop on the problem areas is temporary and usually not a warranted fix.
But that’s not quite the case of how Tremco’s more comprehensive solution for these concerns are leading the space. So if you’re interested in that, you should check out our YouTube video. We’ve got a great YouTube video on the Puerto Rico Convention Center and gives you a better understanding of those extruded overlays that were just mentioned.
Paul: So I for one, I am not a big fan of slopping goop on anything. So yes that would be an interesting…that could be a separate subject in itself for a podcast.
Paul: You see, I think my theory right now is that over half the commercial buildings in America have goop on them, wet seals and what not. Sometimes wet seals work great, by the way, and I shouldn’t knock them.
Mike: They do, yeah.
Paul: But a lot of times, there’s just the tendency to go straight to the wet seal rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem and possibly solve it in a better way. It would be real interesting to hear some of the other solutions that are out there and available.
So Mike this is really interesting stuff. What’s the future entail for Tremco and the waterproofing industry? Can you give us any insight on what’s coming?
Mike: Sure. You know, I think that a lot of what we’re doing right now is going to continue. I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. Obviously, we’ll evolve more products and deliver more price in the market which will hopefully save time and make it easier for contractors to install that will be durable, that will have great longevity. But I think that our proven, tested, warranted, connected defensible type approach to the market is valuable.
The fact that we can help shoulder some of that liability with the contractor, with the design professional, with the consultant, with the owner is appealing to the market. And I think that we’ll continue to deliver that idea that it’s not just about the components that you’re installing into your wall, or your below grade application, but it’s actually the whole assembly itself and it operates as a system.
And without those integral connection points, which I think we all agree are perhaps the most risk potential, without those incorporated and included under a single source type tested, defensible, warranted to system, without those included, there really is a lot of room for interpretation in trying to figure out who’s responsible. And I think that the design professionals, the community, and the owners have gotten smarter and realized that it doesn’t do them any good to have multiple components installed for one type of application.
Paul: Hear, hear. So is there anything I forgot to ask you or anything else you want to add before we wrap things up?
Mike: Well it’s just that, you know, I appreciate what GCI is doing in the market. Over the years we’ve run across or I’ve run across what I would say two types of consultants in our business. There seems to be the consultants that are interested in catching contractors doing something wrong and trying to bully us as a manufacturer into questionable recommendations in order to drive cost down and it’s usually by trying to have us accept less than desirable conditions.
And these are the kind of people that they know there is a right way but then they know there’s every other way and they seem to try to drive it towards the every other way, quick fix approach. And these ambulance chasing litigious black cat type consultants are bad for our business and our industry and they often falsely create more issues than they solve.
Then there’s the white hat guys, right? The quality organizations like a GCI, [inaudible 00:28:48] Plus and others in our market that are proactive. The guys like you that work is an integral part of the team to recognize and address problems before they occur, then they help to develop solutions without cutting those corners. And the white hat guys simply want the best project they can deliver and they value the partners that can help them get there and I appreciate what you folks are doing in our market.
Paul: Thank you for that Mike and thank you very much for coming on the show. It’s really interesting topics and we’ll have you back and talk about some of the other things that we just touched on. If anybody wants to get a hold of you, how can they do that?
Mike: They can reach me via my mobile, 407-702-5618 or they can send me an email which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul:And obviously tremcoinc.com is the Tremco website for anybody who wants to check out the whole world of Tremco.
Mike: Yep, it’s tremcosealants.com is actually, the website that they’ll be looking for.
Paul: Got it. Well thank you again, Mike, for coming on.
Mike: Absolutely, thank you, Paul. Appreciate you having me.
Paul: Yeah, so really interesting topic today and that concludes another episode of the Everything Building Envelope Podcast. Until next time, this is Paul Beers, saying, so long.