Why Contractors LOVE Fluid-Applied Air and Water Barriers (PODCAST)

It's easier, faster and is designed to be used in the field

In this episode of PROTalks, we discuss the origins of fluid-applied air and water barriers and how the products were built from the ground up to address specific job-site conditions. It's no wonder contractors love using this stuff. Join host Dave Pennington, and Stace Grund of Tatley-Grund Construction as they deep dive into what makes STPE technology so special. New episodes of PROTalks will be published monthly. Also, be sure to check out episode 1 here


Dave Pennington (00:11):

Hello, welcome to PROSOCO talks or pro talks as we like to call it here. I'm Dave Pennington. I'm the building envelope group manager for PROSOCO. Today I have with me Stace Grund who is the fifth-generation owner of Grund painting, the oldest painting contractor in Seattle. He is also the owner of Tatley-Grund, which is a restoration contracting company that was founded in 1991 with Stace and his partner, Ron Tatley. Stace and Tatley-Grund were the origins of the STPE products that we manufacture today at PROSOCO. They are partners with us in that. But theywere the people that put that product chemistry together for the application of building envelope work. So, what I'd like to do is send it over to Stace and let him kind of tell us why these products were created. Stace, would you like to take it?

Stace Grund (01:24):

Sure. Thanks, Dave. So yeah, just kind of going in the way back machine - history. So, Tatley-Grund was started, as Dave said, in 1991. We specifically are designed to be primarily a self-performing general contractor, in building envelope repairs and maintenance and effective construction. By '95, we really got into quite a bit of water damage in the Seattle marketplace, water damage, construction defect repair. By the mid-to-late nineties, Ron Tatley and I were really starting to analyze the details that we were asked to kind of put building envelopes back together again. So, we would do fixed frame scaffold, put an enclosure, and then we'd be taking off three to five stories of a stucco cladding or an EIFS cladding, or a vinyl siding, wood siding, because there was significant rot, damage to the sheathing, exterior sheathing, a lot of times OSB or plywood.

Stace Grund (02:31):

And then also wall cavity in the stud cavity, this was kind of before rain screen cladding assemblies really became to be specified and used a lot more in North America. So the details we were just asked to put back quite, quite similar to what we were just pulling apart. And so we were concerned about it from almost a, defective construction on ours, even if we did it right. Some of those details that we, we thought were maybe, quite frankly, kind of suspect as far as keeping water out of the building. So we started, we built our own test chamber in 2000, just as a contractor. And we just wanted to kind of determine, you know, what's going on, understand the performance characteristics of some of the materials and some of the details. And so we did that and we focused on windows early on.

Stace Grund (03:26):

We do quite a bit of multi-family apartments and condominium work. The window to wall ratio was high in multi-family. So, we started in installing windows in different details and used quite a bit of peel and stick at the time. That's what we were using. And we found the performance was quite lacking on that. So we looked out on the marketplace to try to come up with a better way, to install windows primarily. With windows, as many of us know, the windows themselves can leak, the installation or the penetration wrap can leak, neither of them or both of them can leak. And so we really wanted to come up with a system that could waterproof the window into the rough opening and also account for a current or future leaking window, if that happens. So after a year or two of looking out on the marketplace, we couldn't find anything.

Stace Grund (04:23):

We did work with one well known large construction material manufacturer, in North America that showed some interest in that. We ultimately, they were silicone, a hundred percent silicone based technology. And one of the main things we were looking for was for liquid applied membrane to be able to bond a wet substrate. So ultimately that wasn't gonna be it with a hundred percent silicone technology. So kind of fast forward to 2005, and we just couldn't find anything out on the marketplace. So, a couple of goofballs, Ron Tatley and I, at the time we decided to hire a chemist, and make our own product. Um, so we did that. The chemist had a formulation and initial product within about six months after we'd hired him. It was a Silyl-Terminated Polether based product. STPE that he had had some private previous experience with. So he came on board, in 2005 and by the end of 2005, we were using it on our restoration repair projects.

Dave Pennington (05:36):

That's great. That's really interesting. Two things, actually, Stace. You talked about how you guys put together your own test chambers, you know, for the audience,I would point out that those test chambers were no joke. They were not a wood frame structure or plastic wrapped around them. They were welded aluminumthat could do, you know, over 200 mile an hour positive, negative pressure, and introduce water and, and all sorts of things and have really evolved over the years to the point where we've had principles from the air barrier association of America, we've had principles from Oak Ridge national labs come in, we've had, a lot of people check 'em out and, and we're very impressed. So as a contractor, you know, you glossed over it, but testing your details and testing your products was very critical to what you guys did.

Dave Pennington (06:34):

And I think a lot of the reason why PROSOCO was attracted to the partnership. But also the performance and the characteristics of the chemistry, the STPE. If you wouldn't mind, I know that you went through a lot of consideration about what you were looking for in a product and why you gravitated to this particular chemistry. Can you give us a little bit of the things you were looking for the wishlist, so to speak, of characteristics and why these matter to contractors?

Stace Grund (07:16):

Yeah. So not only what we learned, by testing again, the, at the time, it still might be with some manufacturers window manufacturers, window and door, you know, was a fairly complicated. Peel and stick building paper type wrap, multiple layers in there with flanged or flangeless, windows and doors. Again, we tested that we were really concerned about the, the consistency on the performance of that to keep water out. And so that was a big driver was just, uh, quality control for one. It, similarly, we, we think that we, you know, have good crews, good men and women working in the field for us and well trained, but really to get that right consistently really kind of, quite frankly, it scared us even with good crews, the mockup that we did to test, was done by our best guy and it failed.

Stace Grund (08:16):

And so we really thought about that saying, gosh, what's gonna happen out on the job site when we're installing, you know, a thousand windows on one project, on a defective construction repair project. So it was really a quality control was what was the main driver on that. Ease of installation, and kind of low, low level of training in the level of technical ability to be able to install. As you had mentioned, Dave, we came up with a wishlist. We had 27 items that we wanted on there. And those are, you know, a single component membrane that you can either paint on or trowel on, into the rough opening, um, that it was, um, can bond to wet substrates that it's moisture cured. And in the Northwest, a lot of times we protect areas.

Stace Grund (09:09):

Sometimes we can't. And we wanted the flexibility of being able to work year round with a membrane that could bond right to wet substrates, and even in a light rain that you can do it. Aou can't apply it to standing water, but you can brush the water off and essentially apply the membrane and it will cure out. Even in pretty saturated substrates like wood, it can cure out and do fine over time. So those part of the 27 items that we were looking for a lot of our work, all of it is an occupied building. So we wanted no odor, a lot of the products that we do work with they're, they're problematic inside buildings, different urethane deck coatings, things like that. From different smells, were problematic. So that was one of the 27 items. So really that's what we gave the chemist.

Stace Grund (09:57):

When we hired him, we said this is really the product that we want, that fits our niche in the construction industry, that that will take care of everything that we're concerned about. From a quality control standpoint, we wanted it to be, reach opacity or that it's, opaque-does not see through- once it hits the desired mil film thickness. From a quality control standpoint [the product] was able to do that. Another big issue back when we were looking at this in the early 2000's was vapor permeability. That has always been our approach from the test chamber and what learn from the test chamber, you know, we need to be waterproof. We want to be an air barrier from an energy standpoint, but we want to be vapor permeable, and we're not going to try to out guess mother nature.

Stace Grund (10:48):

And so what's right in Seattle in December is not what's right in Florida in December. What's right in Seattle in December doesn't work for Seattle in August. And what's right for Seattle in August at 2:00 AM, might not be what's best in Seattle, in August at 2:00 PM. So there's just all kinds of different variables that can happen with vapor drive, the building HVAC system, exterior pressures that are happening. So let's just make it vapor permeable and not try to out guess what's happening. So that was a huge one that we did. And so that, that was really kind of a major breakthrough to get a vapor permeable, but an air barrier in a waterproof coating all at the same time.

Dave Pennington (11:33):

Yeah, that's, that's great. And that's a lot of consideration. Quite frankly, I find it fascinating that you were able to identify a chemistry that can hit all those markers, you know, the benefits of which, just as an applicator, as a contractor are tremendous. Is there a good project that maybe you could share with us where any, or all of these specific attributes have helped you do something that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to do?

Stace Grund (12:09):

Yeah. You know, not one in particular, but basically hundreds or even thousands of projects that I can think of that that really help us out. You know, from irregular openings. So if you have a window that maybe has a semi-circle top on it to think about that, of how you're going to do peel and stick wrap in that opening or building paper, or wrap the Tyvec in, and then really any penetration through the cladding. So if you're thinking about a hose bib, penetration through there. [It's] tough to kind of flash, a circular item that comes through. And when you're liquid applied, it fits every opening every time, and being a brushed on or rolled on location, it could be an electrical penetration. For years, we were making our own, we had our own sheet metal shop where we were making kind of custom flashing pieces.

Stace Grund (13:10):

And if you think about a vertical wall with a horizontal, with a deck coming out, horizontal deck on a four story, you know, condominium or apartment building, that deck to wall interface and getting that happening. And a lot of people will just kind of run the deck coating up the wall, but if it's on the outside edge of that deck on the corner, where that meets the building, you actually have multiple interfaces that are happening there. So we would make a sheet metal boot and then run the deck coating over that. Well, when we came up with these products, we basically took our sheet metal shop and put it outta business, because we went to liquid applied for flashing everything. It's faster. Fromf a labor savings, that was the other one of our 27 items that was really important to us was also. You know, labor savings as opposed to making, you know, custom sheet metal interface boots or stainless steel type boots where appropriate.

Stace Grund (14:06):

There's certainly there's some through wall flashing pieces that makes a lot more sense to be, you know, a metal or a stainless than, than it does liquid applied. But for so many of 'em, it makes sense. You know, you think about it, if you've got a four or five or, you know, eight story building, maybe not a commercial building curtain wall system, but where you're gonna have a cladding or a siding think about, you know, kind of reinforcing and waterproofing the inside and outside corners. That's where the liquid applied comes in perfect as opposed to trying to use some other type waterproofing product on inside or outside corners. So really it is all of our projects, you know, from installing in inclement weather to those unusual circumstances. You know, again, all of our products are in our projects are on occupied buildings. So again, being low, no odor essentially, and relatively easy to install, you know, the current labor market. In my opinion, the average skill level is less than 10 years ago or 20 years ago. And so being really easy to install in an easy system to master, this is really helping us out even moving forward in the current labor market as far as just from a training and becoming really proficient with the products.

Dave Pennington (15:28):

Yeah, that's, that's awesome. I find that the thing that gets forgotten too, is that fluids, you know, , you learn this early on when you're in the industry, and we've both been in for a long time, but fluids have a way of well, if you look at every substrate it's porous, right? And so you've got peaks and valleys, if you will, if you were to magnify any substrate, even glass and metal, uh, there's peaks and valleys. And so when you have a tape or a peeling stick, you're adhering to the high points of the peaks, so to speak. But when you have a fluid, they get into the peaks and the valleys and they become part of the structure. So you really have a well adhered system that's protecting your substrate all the way around.

Dave Pennington (16:20):

And then when you look at the chemistry, the STPE chemistry, of the systems that you guys have developed, and we manufacture now, you've got similar chemistry working together. Whereas, in most systems out there are a hodgepodge of dissimilar types of products. You know, you've got different types of coatings with a different peel and stick with that requires a different primer that, you know, you've got so much going on. And even when the contractor is being perfect, it still might not work. So, it's really neat and it's really fun to watch people be successful with these very intuitive products that have been developed. One of the things honestly, Stace, that, you know, I have to tell you is that we really enjoy our partnership with you guys. You guys are the pinnacle of professionalism.

Dave Pennington (17:18):

And we have a great relationship today, because I think we all kind of are on the same page. And I love that. But one of the things that's really neat is that coming out with this chemistry for this application back in when we started the partnership, it was the lone ranger, right?There was no one like that. And if imitation is a form of flattery, you have to look around the competitive landscape today in manufacturing and look at the number of people who have had, who have some sort of STPE coating, or some STPE detailing product, to get in onwhat they realize is very intuitive and very advanced chemistry for this application. So that, that's pretty cool too, to see that what you guys created so long ago has been so groundbreaking for the industry. And it's just fun to be part of it, man. And I really enjoy our relationship and working with you guys. So, you know, that's what I have, for you guys today. Stace, do you have any closing comments?

Stace Grund (18:37):

No. I just echo what you said. Kind of wrapping up the history. So [we] took the product to market, decided we had something at the end of 2005. So again, I didn't know anything about manufacturing, distribution or sales. So, we had a toll producer in the middle of the country making the product for us, and then we took the product to market and had some momentum in Seattle. And then in Florida, is where, kind of our focus was. Coastal areas, and then and down kind of the west coast. And then, the east coast had a number of companies kind of knock on our door. Big manufacturers that were starting to be a little bit interested, but again, it was pretty early on. And then we got introduced, had an opportunity to get introduced to the PROSOCO team at the end of 2009 and into 2010. Interesting time for all of us in construction during the great recession.

Stace Grund (19:35):

That's when the relationship really got forged with PROSOCO and just things aligned really right. You know, a fourth generation, 85 year old manufacturer in the US, really focused and motivated to do it correctly and to produce a quality end product to the customer and to support the contractors and the architects engineer specs along the way. And so we didn't have that sense or feeling with the few other companies that kind of knocked on our door. And so, here we are 12 years later and is great. The relationship is, is going strong, and I couldn't be happier about it, and it'd probably be one of the defining things in, in my career that I can say that in part, we kind of bettered the construction industry, to an extent, in in the US and in North America, with introducing these products. So, yeah, it's great.

Dave Pennington (20:35):

Awesome. Well, thank you Stace, thanks for your time today and thank you for listening to PROTalks.

Stace Grund (20:42):

Right. Thanks, Dave.



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