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Let’s See What Sticks to the Wall

I want to bring you up-to-date on a couple of items in the works. First is the work being done by Darin Coats of the Technical Services & Information Bureau in Orange, Calif. Darin and many of the drywall contractors in Southern California have been experiencing problems with the primer being used on drywall. The results vary across a wide spectrum. Currently ASTM C840, Standard Specification for Application and Finishing of Gypsum Board, states the following in section 23.Decoration: “23.1 Surfaces finished to Levels 3, 4 or 5 shall be covered with a drywall primer compatible with the final decoration prior to the application of the final decoration. Note 16—It is not the intent of this specification to assign responsibility for performance to specific trades.”

The problem is that “drywall primer” is not defined as to its makeup. This leaves open the question of just what should be specified to produce the desired results in the finished state. It is recognized that the proper primer should contain a high solids content. This high solids content helps to maintain a consistency across the surface of the board by filling in the gaps between the joint compound and the paper producing a seamless surface. Of equal importance is the “Note 16” that follows the priming requirement. This note was inserted in an effort to clarify that the drywall contractor was not necessarily responsible for the application of the drywall primer.

There are many instances in the construction process that the line of demarcation of work is not always clear. This is especially true in the case of finishing drywall. This line of demarcation also is dependent on the geographical location of the work.

One case that I was involved in concerned paint peeling off the wall in random locations. While it was in a house, I think the situation could occur on any project. After discussing the situation with a knowledgeable drywall inspector, we surmised that the drywall finisher had used hot mud in random locations to complete some last-minute touchup work. Apparently the painter was not aware that hot mud had been used, and he did not use a primer that was compatible with the chemical in the hot mud. The result? The paint did not adhere properly.

Another situation involved the use of a standard primer that did not contain high solids. This resulted in the nap of the face paper absorbing the primer and raising the nap and producing visible lines between the finishing compound and the field of the board. Not an acceptable finish.

Darin is working on language to revise ASTM C840, and the revisions will be presented to ASTM subcommittee C11.03 at its next meeting. I’ll keep you posted on the results of the balloting.

The other item to revisit is the question of the International Energy Conservation Code 2010 and how it will transform how we built exterior walls. Again our colleagues in California are at the forefront of this change. According to Michael Logue of the TSIB, the California Energy Commission has adopted the toughest energy code in the country. This new code is very similar to the 2010 IECC, and with its continuous insulation (CI) requirement is a real game-changer. In order to get ahead of the curve, TSIB and the Western Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association have undertaken the task of developing methods to comply with these new requirements.

TSIB and WWCCA have created a brochure with a variety of system options to assist designers and contractors in working with the new code requirements. Michael will present the brochure and expand further on the methods developed during the first meeting of AWCI’s Stucco Energy Task Group in Denver. Even if you do not work with exterior plaster systems, you need to attend this important meeting. The meeting will be held on April 21 at 3 p.m. We allotted two hours for this meeting, and our agenda includes the direction being taken by IECC and the experiences of California contractors with the state’s new energy code. We will also identify needs for design and testing, and then identify the funding required for design and testing.

Our industry is not the only one affected by this change; the window industry also is looking at some significant constraints for future work. I spoke with a representative from AAMA about the ramifications of IECC 2010. While he was not familiar with all of the details, he did state the windows manufacturers were very concerned. The new requirements will reduce the size of windows and will eventually require triple glazing to meet the R-values specified in ASHRAE 90.1. This is a group that I have reached out to because we will have to work together to solve the problems that are bound to come up in the future.

Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. Send your questions to or call him directly at (703) 538.1611.

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