Concrete RH Testing: The New Standard in Australia

Major Consulting Firm Discusses the New Australian Carpet and Tile Standard

IKW Consulting Group delivers world-class floor covering solutions to its clients in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. Don Considine, Director of Consulting, is considered one of the floor covering industry’s most respected analysts.

IKW has consulted to some of the largest projects in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and Rialto Towers. Don has played a major role in promoting in situ relative humidity (RH) testing for concrete in Australia. In recent years the use of in situ RH testing has grown dramatically and it’s now a part of the Australian carpet and carpet tile standards for the first time.

Wagner Meters (WM) recently spoke with Don (DC) about moisture testing and standards for carpet and carpet tile in Australia. Some of the things we talked about were:

  • IKW Consulting Group – Carpet and tile expertise across the Pacific Rim
  • Some of IKW’s biggest projects in the Canberra, Melbourne area
  • The most common concrete moisture tests used in Australia
  • How much the Australian flooring industry uses in situ RH testing
  • Advice for US flooring professionals

IKW Group – Carpet and Tile Expertise Across the Pacific Rim

WM: Who is the IKW Group?

DC: We’re an independent consultancy. It was started about twenty-five years ago. I took over around 11 years ago. We work all around the country, New Zealand and Asia as well. We do project management, we do tender specifications, we do defects inspections – pretty much anything to do with carpet, resilient flooring, carpet tile, subfloor preparation, moisture testing, screeds, timber. We’re touching on ceramic tiles now. Most of the manufacturers use us for inspections or moisture testing, or just to understand what’s going on with their products.

I’ve been in the industry for 40 years. I started with a family business. My parents had a carpet and vinyl shop so I was in installation for 14 years, went into carpet manufacturing for 15 years, and then took over IKW 11 years ago. There’s only a handful of consultants in Australia and most of us have been around for a long time. I’m on the Australian standards carpet and carpet tile standards committee and also the resilient flooring standards committee. The carpet and carpet tile standard just changed as you know. June 2019 is the updated version, and the resilient standard we’re working on currently, so that’s probably 6 to 12 months away.

Major Projects: From Opera to Treasury

WM: What are some of the biggest projects you’ve had in the Canberra, Melbourne area?

DC: At the moment, I’m the consultant on the Sydney Opera House, so we’re writing the carpet specifications. In Melbourne, we look after Rialto Towers which is the largest commercial building in Australia so I’ve been looking after their floor covering requirements for 11 years. So I go in and ascertain what needs to be done – I’ll organize contractors, tender out the works. In Canberra, I’ve done the R.G. Casey Building, which is 36,000 m² of carpet tile. I wrote the original specification for the job to tender out, and then they engaged me to project manage the job and go in and do defects at the end of the job. That job actually extended for a long time because there was an issue with the carpet tiles and they had to remake them. Then there’s the Defence Plaza in Melbourne, Treasury Building in Canberra, Regis Age Care…

Most Common Concrete Moisture Tests in Australia

WM: What are the most common tests used down under?

DC: The carpet standard is AS 2455.1 and then you have the carpet tile standard which is AS 2455.2. The carpet standard covers far more detail on floor preparation and moisture testing than the carpet tile standard does but the carpet tile standard then relates back to the other one for the floor prep. So in 2007 the standards were written and the only method for concrete moisture testing allowed was the hood test, but with everything that’s happened with the American hood test standard being withdrawn, some of us wanted to withdraw the hood test here, others didn’t. So the new carpet standard that’s just come out has hood testing and in situ RH testing for the first time ever in a carpet and carpet tile standard.

Now in saying that I’ve been using in situ RH testing for about the last seven or eight years and even though it wasn’t an Australian standard, the Australian standard said, “electronic hygrometer,” and the Wagner product does conform to that. So the current standard has hood testing and in situ RH testing. Either one is allowed. We don’t mention which standard they have to test to. That was a decision made by the majority of the committee because some of the biggest manufacturers wanted the hood test as their predominant test, and there are times when you can’t do in situ RH testing, like with hydronic heating and cabling in the floor.

However, with the changes to the standard now, the in situ RH test is a much faster test than the hood test so I really can’t see many hood tests being done. I only use the Wagner equipment for concrete moisture testing. For me, they’re dear because I lose the probes in the hole but I don’t have to wait after 24 hours or how long it is to take the reading. Plus the fact that calibration is a pain, so by using the Wagner you don’t have to get them calibrated. I just find the Wagner easier to use and more robust. And look, the support is great. Jason will always come back to me normally within a day, or if he’s away, a couple of days.

In Situ RH Testing in Australia

Rapid RH L6 Total Reader Reading Sensor in Concrete Slab

WM: How much does the Australian flooring industry utilize in situ RH testing?

DC: Look, they’re getting better. The biggest difficulty here is still getting people to test. In the last seven or eight years, I might’ve done three or four hundred complaints with moisture. From those, I could count there would be a handful that actually either tested or tested properly. So our biggest push is trying to get people to understand why you need to moisture test. It’s an insurance policy, that’s what I tell everyone. Yeah, the slab might be dry now, but if something happens on-site and the slab is wet in 6 months’ time, 12 months’ time, two years’ time, and you don’t have that insurance policy in place telling you that the slab was dry when you laid the flooring, well you’re going to be held accountable. It only takes one job for 20, 30, 100 thousand dollars to sink a business potentially bankrupt. I know people hate doing it, it takes a bit of time, but it’s just an insurance policy. And now that the F2170 standard is 24 hours and not 72, there’s really no reason not to do it.

WM: Are there any situations that favor in situ RH testing above the others?

DC: We’re going through this with resilient at the moment and we’ve come back with really, the in situ RH test is the only real quantitative test in our opinion. The in situ probe is more protected against the environment, it just seems to be a more robust test, so we’re pushing that as the number one test, and any surface testing as a minor test. The issue with any surface testing – be it hood or calcium chloride – is it all relies on surface preparation. They’re sitting on top of the slab so when you’re in a commercial building they can get damaged, they can get destroyed. So contractors have probably been using in situ testing more and more over the last three or four years. But it wasn’t popular to start with because it was different, whereas now it’s definitely the go-to method in Australia for floor coverings.

Advice for US Flooring Professionals

WM: Do you have any advice for U.S. flooring professionals?

DC: Don’t think moisture testing is a chore. It’s an insurance policy. It’s there to protect you. Yes, the builders hate it because it could mean a potential variation of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But if you’re a flooring contractor it’s your business and you want to protect it. So by moisture testing it and photographing it, it’s protecting you.

WM: Thanks, Don.

DC: No worries. Thanks very much.

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