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05-25-06 Floor fix needed, but who will pay?

By William Kincaid

  ST. HENRY -- Costs currently are estimated at $294,000 to fix the moisture-damaged floors in the 4-year-old high school.

  Board of education members still do not know who is going to foot the bill, but soon must decide how to fix the problem. The 17,600 square feet of flooring will be torn up Tuesday.

  Treasurer Glenn Miller, Superintendent Rod Moorman and board members unanimously agreed this week to delay purchasing flooring materials until Peter Craig -- an independent concrete specialist hired through Fanning and Howey Associates, Celina, -- makes an official suggestion on what would be the best plan of action.

  Craig, who is at St. Henry this week performing various test, is scheduled to make a recommendation some time next week.

  The two primary options are to either purchase synthetic (vct flooring) or porcelain flooring. However, the significant question is whether a flooring manufacturer would provide a product warranty if the board elects not to use a topical sealer.  A topical sealer, according to Moorman, is many times placed under the flooring tile to form a moisture barrier. But since extensive moisture already is stuck under the floor, a floor sealer would not allow the floor to breathe and thus potentially cause the same problem down the road.

  The synthetic flooring, according to Moorman, is a breathable material that would allow moisture to escape from underneath. But if the flooring manufacturer demands that a topical sealer be implemented before issuing a warranty, the board would have no choice but to yield to the recommendation

  If the board went with synthetic flooring, it would cost nearly $88,000 for the materials, $2.80 a square foot for an underlying agent and around $50,000 for the topical agent.

  Moorman said synthetic flooring is not nearly as durable as porcelain, and already is scuffed in areas of the high school commons.

  If the board would go with porcelain, it would cost $8 a square foot or around $140,000. Porcelain also is breathable, and board members questioned whether it would need a topical sealer in addition to grout.

  The $294,000 total estimate includes materials of whichever floor is chosen, labor, demolition of the current floor and a dehumidification process.

  The dehumidification process is set to begin on June 1 for 45 days to remove all of the moisture. During that time, windows and doors will be closed to prevent humidity and additional moisture from entering the building. Only designated entrances will be available for administrators and those involved in athletic programs.

  The air conditioner will be run within the entire building throughout the summer -- to mandate a 30 percent humidity level at all times.

  Craig recommended a new floor be put down as soon as possible once the dehumidification process is completed. Craig said once the moisture is removed, the ground must have flooring to prevent further invasive moisture.

  But some board members felt strongly against such hasty action. Many felt that in 2001, the moisture problem was partially a result of trying to hard to follow a schedule in order to complete the flooring before school started.

  "We just want it done right," board member Joan Buschur said. "One more year of cement isn't going to hurt us."

  "The most important element is to make sure the drying is adequate," Moorman added, saying not enough testing was done when the floor originally was installed.

  Board member Bruce Miller said flooring manufacturers only made four moisture tests -- that all seemed to be inaccurate -- before giving the green light. But in Parkway, when the school completed a similar process, he said nearly 250 moisture tests were done before installing the floor.

  "Four tests were all wrong," Miller said. "Why did you pour concrete on a puddle?"

  "Why should we have to pay for that?" board member Jerry Huelsman asked.

  Huelsman also asked what would happen if the problem was related to a faulty vapor barrier, which no one seemed to have an answer for.

  The problem results from moisture in the ground that was unaccounted for when the concrete and floor foundations were implemented in the new high school. Peterson Construction of Wapakoneta, according to Moorman, was responsible for all of the contracting work with the floors.

  Moorman said Peterson constructed the floor using the standards of the American Concrete Association, which at the time was to first install a vapor barrier, then a four-inch aggregate and finally the concrete itself on top. The vapor barrier trapped moisture in the floor, and that moisture has been rising toward the surface for the last four years, causing bubbles on the wax seal of the floor.


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