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What a Good Coatings Inspector Needs to Know
Written by William D. Corbett, COO
AMPP Senior Certified Coating Inspector & Certified Protective Coating Specialist
The role of a Coatings Inspector has evolved, and the responsibilities have increased over what used to be a rather straightforward job: to verify that surface preparation and coating application performed by a contractor (or an in-house painting crew) conform to the minimum requirements of the project specification. Decades ago, equipped with the specification and some training on instrument use we set out to watch the contractor sandblast the surface, then mix, thin, and apply the paint (under acceptable conditions) to the correct thickness, then measure the thickness using a magnetic pull-off gage, and be done.
Today there are week-long or multi-week basic and advanced coating inspection training and certification courses; specialty courses that are industry-specific such as bridge, marine, and nuclear power; courses and certifications that are substrate-specific such as concrete coatings inspection; and even coating-specific inspection courses such as inspection of thermal spray coatings. In addition to coatings knowledge gained through course offerings available through associations and private industry, coatings inspectors may also need to be proficient in maintenance and protection of traffic, or worker exposure controls, monitoring of emissions, and waste management processes on hazardous paint removal projects. The value that a well-trained, competent coating inspector (with well-rounded knowledge of various surface preparation methods, coatings, specialty application methods, and industries) brings to a project cannot be overstated. Inspectors can help prevent or reduce rework that adversely impacts schedule and/or results in cost overruns and can help prevent premature coating failure.
Trained and certified coatings inspectors with competency in a variety of coatings, processes, and industries are often expected by the facility owners that hire the individual or the inspection firm. To fulfill this expectation, continuing education has become paramount to stay abreast of new standards and changes to existing ones, new instrumentation, and new coatings technology.
Do we now need a PhD in Coatings Inspection? Not exactly, but this white paper explores the role of a coating inspector as well as the basic skills of a competent coating inspector and the advanced skills that may be expected by facility owners. The goal is to present the roles, responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and attributes of a good coating inspector so that knowledge/experience gaps can be identified, and methods developed (through education, mentoring, and/or experience) to minimize or eliminate those gaps.
The Role and Requirements of a Coating Inspector
The role of a coating inspector is to Observe, Assess, Document and Report (OADR). That is, Observe the work that has been completed at the hold point, Assess whether the work completed meets the minimum requirements of the project specification, Document the results of the inspection, and Report (communicate) the outcomes to the facility/asset owner (for the role of QA inspector) or contractor management (for the role of QC inspector).
Further distinction is required however, in terms of defining the roles of a quality control (QC) inspector versus a quality assurance (QA) inspector. An article posted on KTA University titled,Roles & Responsibilities of Quality Assurance & Quality Control Personnel on a Coatings Project explores the differences. A QC inspector represents the painting contractor and is responsible for the frequent, routine, systematic inspections to verify each phase of the work meets the requirements set forth by the project specification. Since the painting contractor is ultimately responsible for providing quality workmanship and conforming to the specification, they are in fact controlling quality. Conversely, QA inspectors represent the facility/asset owner and may be part of the owner’s staff or be provided by a 3rd party. QA inspectors verify that quality is being controlled and that QC is being performed correctly and conducted at the frequency required by the specification. In many cases, QA inspectors provide the same level inspection as the QC inspector, but the responsibility for quality remains with the contractor and the QC inspector. If the QA inspector is an employee of the facility/asset owner then they have stop-work authority, whereas a 3rd party inspector working under contract to the facility/asset owner does not, since there is no contractual relationship between the 3rd party QA inspector and the contractor. Nonetheless, the “OADR” role does not seem all that complicated until one uncovers what all is involved.
In Chapter 2 of the SSPC publication, The Inspection of Coatings and Linings the author describes the professional and personal requirements of coatings inspectors. It states that while the specific requirements will vary depending on the nature and purpose of the project, generally the requirements include physical ability, training, experience, written and verbal communication skills, and certain character traits. Ideally the inspector is prepared to respond to all quality issues that arise on a given project.
Physical Ability: Physical requirements of a coatings inspector often include the ability to climb, enter confined spaces, good vision (corrected as necessary) as well as the ability to distinguish colors, and manual dexterity. Climbing and entering confined spaces (as well as other conditions) will require proper use of personal protective equipment such as respirators, fall protection (harnesses and lanyards), and coveralls, which can be physically demanding, so an inspector should be physically fit and, when applicable, comfortable working from heights. Manual dexterity is required to properly use/manipulate inspection instruments that are becoming smaller and smaller for portability, which makes them more challenging to manipulate, especially while wearing gloves.
Training/Continuing Education: Formal training is a critical requirement for a coating inspector. Fortunately, there is no shortage of courses from trade organizations such as the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP) and FROSIO, as well as from private companies. These courses are frequently instructed by subject matter experts that have performed coating inspection for years, so they have lived and breathed the information conveyed throughout the course delivery. There are two essential components to inspector training: theory (visual/auditory learning) and hands-on (kinesthetic learning). One without the other is ineffective, which is challenging in today’s on-line/virtual microlearning environments that are expected by younger generations. There are frequently varying levels of training, from basic (introductory) to advanced, and there are now experience requirements before progressing from one level to the next.
However, initial training isn’t enough. Like most any occupation, continuing education is a critical component to a coating inspector’s value. Our world is changing exponentially, and the coatings industry is evolving rapidly. Coating specifications frequently reference industry standards that, once invoked by contract become contractual law. Industry standards change. In fact, most standards-writing organizations will review/revise/update their standards every 5-years or so, and new standards are published intermittently. So, without continuing education, a coating inspector that was trained on a specific inspection standard (e.g., coating thickness measurement) in year 2000 could easily be inspecting coating thickness according to a standard that has been revised/updated four times since they were initially trained.
In a technical paper titled, “Industry Standards: Are You Current?” the author described why and how to remain current, then listed ten common coatings industry standards from SSPC, ASTM, NSBA and others that had been updated in the previous two years. Continuing education, particularly on industry standards, inspection techniques, instrumentation, and safety is a critical responsibility of a coatings inspector and a requirement of the AMPP-SSPC-QP 5 certification program. While AMPP-SSPC-QP 5 certification is applicable to inspection companies and not individual inspectors, it does contain the physical requirements, duties, and the education, certification and experience requirements of coating inspectors that are worth reviewing by any coating inspector, not just those employed by the certified coating and lining inspection company.
Experience: Training without experience and experience without training can result in under- or over-inspection and poor quality. The point is that an inspector needs both to be of value to a facility/ asset owner. How often have we heard, “… now that you’ve completed your basic training hurry up and get 5 years of experience so we can get you to the next level?” Experience takes time, and there is both good and bad experience. In Chapter 2 of SSPC’s The Inspection of Coatings and Linings the author states that on-the-job training is best obtained by working under the supervision of an experienced inspector, and the supervising inspector should monitor the trainee’s work regularly to ensure that standard test procedures and practices are followed. This statement is accurate (and arguably the way the AMPP Coating Inspector Certification levels are intended), but it assumes the supervising inspector has the skills and attributes of a mentor and coach, and not just the technical knowledge. It also assumes project budgets can support two levels of inspectors. Nonetheless, experience is and should remain a requirement of a competent coating inspector, and a formal mentoring/coaching program (post-training) should be in the forefront of any certification program. But easier to say than to implement.
Verbal and Written Communication Skills: Another essential requirement of a competent coating inspector is the ability to clearly and concisely communicate both verbally and in writing. The information provided by an inspector must be professional and impartial. Patient, calm oral communication can be particularly challenging when issues arise (and tempers flare); however, the coating inspector should never be arrogant, rude, or excitable. Their role is to communicate the facts and if asked, offer comments on proposed options for corrective actions with the facility owner, specifier, and contractor superintendent.
Written communication is an art, and the ability to communicate using the written word should be a requirement of a competent inspector. Some will argue that written communication has become a lost art and that even the most educated individuals cannot convey their thoughts in a clear, concise, coherent manner. Despite that potential reality, written documentation is of critical importance on a coatings project and is a key element in resolving disputes or premature failure. While the coating specification reveals what was supposed to be done, an inspector’s documentation reveals what was done. Daily inspection reports contain data acquired using instruments, but a properly constructed narrative gives context to the data and provides the owner and the contractor management with a picture of how the project is progressing. As the demand for the use of electronic inspection reports increases, the importance of narrative is only heightened.
Responsibilities of a Coating Inspector
Once the role of a coating inspector is defined and the requirements to achieve and maintain coating inspector status are understood, the specific responsibilities of an inspector can be described. ASTM D3276 and ASTM D6237 are two common guides. According to their respective scopes, they are designed to aid painting inspectors in carrying out their tasks efficiently. They include the key elements of surface preparation, coatings application, and final approval for both field and shop work.
Common responsibilities of a coating inspector are listed in the Table 1. These responsibilities are generally, but not exclusively, related to inspection of coatings applied to steel; other responsibilities are added when coating concrete or other substrates. As clearly illustrated in the table, the responsibilities are numerous, but not all of them are necessary on a single project. Nonetheless, the competent coating inspector needs to be proficient in all responsibilities of all phases listed in the table. Interestingly, there are nine responsibilities before the project truly begins (“Pre-Project”). The inspection checkpoints denoted with a * are frequently contract specific.
Table 1: Common Coating Inspector Responsibilities by Project Phase
|Pre-Project||Read & comprehend the project specification; issue requests for clarification.|
Read and comprehend the coating manufacturer’s product data sheets (PDS); denote conflicts between the PDS and specifications and seek resolution.
Read the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each hazardous product on the job and know the PPE required.
Attend and participate in the Pre-construction Conference.
Obtain a copy of the Pre-construction Conference minutes and note changes/clarifications to the project specification as appropriate and be current with all Addendums.
Obtain pre-project safety training and/or required medical surveillance.
Obtain PPE compatible with jobsite conditions/rules.
Verify the type of inspection equipment required for the project; verify operation and accuracy as well as currency of calibration.
Prepare an Inspection Plan, as required.
|Materials Receipt/Storage||Verify materials such as cleaners, caulking, abrasive, coatings, thinners, etc. are received and stored correctly.|
Verify the shelf life of materials has not expired.
Record batch numbers of components and thinners.
Monitor storage areas for temperature & humidity*.
Document all information.
|Pre-Surface Preparation||Verify removal of visible grease/oil, etc. per SSPC-SP 1|
Inspect edges, welds, fasteners for coat-ability; verify spatter and lamination removal; inspection of section loss*.
Examine the structure for difficult-to-access areas and bring them to the attention of the owner for resolution (if not already addressed by the specification).
Conduct surface soluble salt contamination testing (may also be required post-preparation) *.
Verify compatibility of surface preparation equipment and expendables (e.g., abrasive) with the specification requirements.
Verify protective covering are in place and secure.
Verify proper lighting*.Document all information.
|Surface Preparation||Measure ambient conditions and surface temperature prior to final surface preparation.|
Inspect indirect requirements of SSPC abrasive blast standards.
Compressed air cleanliness.
Abrasive cleanliness (water-soluble contaminants & oil).
Determine initial condition of the steel (Rust grade).Inspect surface cleanliness per level specified.
Inspect surface profile depth (and peak density*).
Inspect for adequate removal of soluble salts when required after preparation*.
Verify adequate dust removal.
Verify maximum preparation-to-primer time not exceeded.
Document all information.
|Mixing/Thinning||Measure ambient conditions and surface temperature.|
Verify coating components being mixed are correct.
Measure coating material temperature.
Verify correct proportions if mixing of partial kits is allowed.
Verify proper mixing procedures per PDS.
Verify proper type and amount of thinner, if used. Verify induction time per PDS.
Verify mix is applied prior to pot life expiration.
Document all information.
|Coating Application||Verify compatibility of coating application equipment with the PDS.|
Measure ambient conditions and surface temperature throughout application at intervals required.
Verify stripe coating*.
Verify the wet film thickness (WFT) target has been adjusted for thinner amounts added and that applicators are using WFT gages.
Verify recoat times (minimum/maximum).
Verify intercoat cleanliness and watch for amine exudate formation for certain types of epoxy coatings.
Document all information.
|Post-Coating Application||Measure dry film thickness of each coat.|
Perform pinhole/holiday detection*.
Perform hardness/cure testing*.
Perform adhesion testing*.
Document all information.
|Other (project/role-dependent)||Inspecting duplex coating systems.|
Verify proper primer application and curing time to faying surfaces of slip-critical connections (per Test —-Certificate/Essential Variables).
Verify compliance with OSHA worker lead exposure requirements.
Verify containment structure “as built” meets design criteria.
Verify ventilation inside containment.
Verify protection of air, soil, water, and public adjacent to the worksite, including associated monitoring.
Verify waste is segregated, stored, and transported properly.
Verify acceptability of site housekeeping.
Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes
Roles and responsibilities are related to, but different than knowledge, skills, and attributes, or KSAs of a competent coating inspector. For coating inspectors to perform their duties competently they must have the knowledge of industry standards and instrument use, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge to project-specific situations that invariably crop up on nearly every project. The ability to assess a situation, tap into learned knowledge, industry standards, and common sense, and apply that knowledge to help resolve problems as they occur is arguably one of the most valuable and sought-after attributes of a coating inspector. This comes with experience. For a QA inspector it also presents itself as a fine line between helping to resolve issues and directing the work. That too comes with experience.
Knowledge of Industry Standards: As previously described, most coating specifications reference industry standards (e.g., SSPC-SP 10, Near-White Abrasive Blast Cleaning, SSPC-PA 2, Procedure for Determining Conformance to Dry Coating Thickness Requirements, etc.) And many standards reference other standards. Coating inspectors must know the direct and indirect requirements of industry standards as well as the referenced standards within them. For example, for abrasive blast cleaning, they must know how much, if any, staining can remain on the surface (and how it is evaluated), differences between rust back and staining, what qualifies as a dull putty knife as an inspection tool, use of visual aids, how many surface profile readings to acquire in a location and how many locations to measure, requirements for testing the cleanliness of the compressed air, and how to determine specification conformance based on the data acquired. In the case of coating thickness, the measurements themselves are easy. Acquiring coating thickness data at the correct frequency and processing the data to determine acceptability is the difficult part of inspection.
Further, these standards change over time and new standards are developed. It can become a full-time job simply keeping up with industry standards. But knowingly or unknowingly performing inspections that conflict with the referenced standards can be problematic and even potentially lead to litigation. Access to current industry standards is critical for the inspector. It is just as important as the instruments used to perform the inspections.=
Knowledge of Instrument Use: The successful performance of a protective coating system depends on the quality of the surface preparation and coating system installation. To verify quality and specification compliance, inspectors rely heavily on data generated by inspection instruments and on visual inspections of the prepared and coated surfaces. Without proficiency in instrument use and an understanding of how to navigate through SSPC visual guides, it is nearly impossible to determine specification compliance. That is, you can’t tell how thick the paint is unless you measure it. You don’t know if the measurement is right if you don’t know how to use the gage. The publication, Using Coating Inspection Instruments, was written to assist inspectors, contractors, facility owners, engineers, coating manufacturers and other coating professionals with the proper use of inspection instruments, guides, and test kits. Many standards reference instrument manufacturer’s instructions for proper use; however, if there are differences between the manufacturer’s instructions and an industry standard, the inspector should obtain clarification prior to project start-up.
Many of the inspection checkpoints listed in Table 1 require the use of instruments, visual guides, or test kits, and new instrumentation routinely comes to the marketplace to fill a void, such as abrasive cleanliness test kits. Proficient use of instruments, guides, and test kits remains a critical function of a competent coating inspector. But instrument use is only part of the equation. A competent inspector must also understand the importance and frequency of calibration (and who is accredited to perform calibration) and the procedures for routine verification of instrument accuracy. Use of uncalibrated inspection instruments is considered by AMPP to be a malpractice ethics violation for a certified inspector.
Character Traits: Imagine if coating inspectors were like fast food chain hamburgers… no matter what, they would all be essentially the same consistency and quality. Knowledge, skills, and attributes of inspectors would be equal, and enforcement of the project specification would be completely uniform. What we are describing is an inspector that is devoid of a personality. As long as coating inspection is performed by humans, we have to consider how personality and character traits play a role. That is, knowledge, skills, and attributes of inspectors will not be equal, and enforcement of the project specification won’t be completely uniform, despite how important these items are to a facility/asset owner and contractor. Personality types and traits is a well-published topic, so the focus herein will be on ethics and judgement.
As the author states in Chapter 2 of The Inspection of Coatings and Linings, a coating inspector must have high personal integrity and a strong work ethic to enforce the specification without personal bias. Frequently an analogy is made between the role of a coating inspector and a police officer: enforce the law without personal bias. Like a police officer, a coating inspector does not write the law (the specification) but is charged with enforcing it without imposing personal standards of quality or workmanship. An inspector must remain constantly aware that the criteria for work acceptance is established by the project specification and not their personal viewpoint as to what will provide the best performance, what the specifier meant, or what will work best. Making concessions to maintain or improve the project schedule is never the role of an inspector. Even the most comprehensive, well-written specification cannot address every possible problem/challenge that may arise on a project, so some knowledge-based judgement on the part of the contractor, inspector, and owner will occasionally be required. However, the role of the inspector is not to interpret or modify the specifications without the knowledge of the owner.
One should never lose sight that the facility/asset owner, contractor, and coating inspector share a common goal: Provide long term corrosion protection of the structure or asset. Working together to execute the specification should be the mantra. The relationship between the contractor and inspector needn’t be adversarial if each understands the common goal and the pathway to achieve that goal.
The value that a well-trained, competent coating inspector brings to a project cannot be overstated. Inspectors can help prevent or reduce rework that adversely impacts schedule and/or results in cost overruns and can help prevent premature coating failure. Initial training, coaching/ mentoring, continuing education, experience, and both verbal and written communication skills are all key to a competent coating inspector. Complete, thorough knowledge of industry standards and instrument use combined with high personal integrity and a strong work ethic to enforce the specification without personal bias are equally important. When all these KSAs of a competent coating inspector are brought to bear on a coatings project they can help to achieve the common goal: long term corrosion protection of the asset or facility.
|Air & Dew Point Temperature Meter; Relative Humidity Meter||Measure prevailing ambient conditions prior to final surface preparation, prior to coating mixing, and during coating application||ASTM E337|
|Surface Temperature Thermometer||Verify the surface temperature is a minimum of 5°F higher than the dew point temperature (and rising)||SSPC- PA 1|
|Rotating Vane Anemometer||Determine conformance to minimum air flow (ventilation) requirements inside containment||SSPC Guide 6|
|Light Meter||Determine conformance to minimum illumination requirements for the work area as well as surface preparation/coating application and inspection operations||SSPC Guide 12|
|Abrasive Contamination Test Kit||Determine conformance to maximum water-soluble contaminant levels on new and reused abrasive||SSPC Abrasive Standards AB 1, AB 2, AB 3, AB 4|
|Blast Nozzle Orifice Gage||Monitor blast nozzle wear||NA|
|Hypodermic Needle Pressure Gage||Monitor minimum blast nozzle pressure||NA|
|Blotter Paper||Verify compressed air does not contain visible oil or water||ASTM D4285|
|Spring Micrometer or Replica Tape Reader with Replica Tape||Measure the resulting surface profile depth after abrasive blast cleaning||ASTM D4417, Method C|
|Depth Micrometer||Measure the resulting surface profile depth after power tool and/or abrasive blast cleaning||ASTM D4417, Method B; SSPC-SP 15; SSPC-SP 11|
|Surface Contamination Analysis Test (SCAT) Kit||Verify surface salt contamination levels do not exceed acceptable levels, per specification||Per Project Specification|
|SSPC Visual (VIS) Guides||Aid in assessing surface cleanliness||SSPC Surface Preparation Standards|
|Dull Putty Knife||Aid in determining loosely versus tightly adhering materials||SSPC Surface Preparation Standards|
|Wet Film Thickness Gage||Determine the speed and number of spray passes to achieve to correct film build||ASTM D4414|
|Dry Film Thickness Gage||Determine the thickness of individual coating layers||SSPC-PA 2|
|Certified Coated Standards||Verify the accuracy of a dry film thickness gage||ASTM D7091; SSPC-PA 2|
|Wall Thickness Gage||Determine section loss of a material like steel||NA|
|Inspection Mirror||Aid with visual inspection of difficult access areas||NA|
|Low Voltage Pinhole Detector||Detect pinholes/discontinuities in a lining system||ASTM D5162|
|Tape/Knife Adhesion Test Kit||Assess the adhesive/cohesive properties and a coating system||ASTM D3359; D6677|
|Hardness Tester||Determine the cure of a coating prior to service||ASTM D2240|
 The Inspection of Coatings and Linings, SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings Publication 97-07, Chapter 2, Inspection Personnel, Kenneth B. Tator
 W.D. Corbett (2016). Industry Standards: Are You Current? Proceedings of the SSPC National Conference and Exhibition, 2016.
 AMPP-SSPC Qualification Procedure No. 5, Standard Procedure for Evaluating the Qualifications of Coating and Lining Inspection Companies, AMPP: Association for Materials Protection & Performance.
 ASTM D3276 Standard Guide for Painting Inspectors (Metal Substrates), Volume 06.01, ASTM International, Conshohocken, PA USA
 ASTM D6237, Standard Guide for Painting Inspectors (Concrete and Masonry Substrates), Volume 06.01, ASTM International, Conshohocken, PA USA
 Using Coatings Inspection Instruments, 3rd Edition (2012), W.D. Corbett, KTA-Tator, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA USA
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Tools & Techniques for Measuring Coating Quality – Part 2: Moisture Detection
This is Part 2 of a 2-part series describing the instrumentation used to inspect the quality of cleaning and painting. Part 1 described the instruments used for determining the quality of cleaning and paint. Part 2 addresses moisture detection. The moisture content of the concrete should be determined prior to painting. In the author’s experience, moisture within the substrate is a leading cause of coating failures on concrete. If the moisture is elevated, the source(s) should be identified and corrected before paint is applied. One the paint is applied, the continuity of the film should also be determined to confirm that flaws are not present in the applied coating that will allow air, and therefore moisture, to pass through the film, to subsequently dampen the substrate in the future.
A number of instruments and techniques are used to determine the moisture content of concrete substrates. Some (calcium chloride and RH probes) are primarily used on floors, while others (radio frequency, conductivity, electrical impedance, and plastic sheet) are suitable for any concrete substrate. An instrument used to determine that the coating is free of flaws that could lead to future wetting of the substrate is based on creating a pressure differential across the film to locate detects. All of the aforementioned tests and methods are described in this article.
The instrument described below utilizes radio frequency to assess and monitor the relative moisture content in concrete to a depth of ~ 1 inch. It provides readings on a relative scale between 0 – 999. The instrument displays results using both a color and a number. The green zone is from 0 to 145 units and signifies “safe air-dry conditions.” The yellow zone is between 146 and 230 units and signifies “moisture levels are higher than normal but not critical; further investigation is recommended.” The red zone is greater than 230 units and represents “excessive moisture levels.” See Photo 1.
Step 1 – Press the top button to turn the gage on and set the instrument to the prevailing weather conditions by pressing the lower “arrow” button for 3 seconds until the word “nul” shows. Nul will flash and when it disappears, the gage is ready for use under the current ambient conditions. If the instrument is being used on the exterior of a building, but you move to the interior, repeat this step when inside the building.
Step 2 – Hold the instrument (gage) flush to the concrete substrate with your fingers on the black plastic perimeter of the gage body. Do not allow your fingers to extend to the front of the gage beyond the black. The gage requires a firm 2-point contact to take a reading (the front nose of the gage and the protruding rounded base).
Step 3 – The instrument will give an audible signal when the reading stabilizes. Record the value from the digital display and note the color.
Electrical Resistance (Conductivity)
The instrument described below utilizes conductivity to determine moisture content. Two contact pins on the end of the instrument are pushed against the surface to measure the conductivity (relative moisture content) of the material between the pins. Masonry nails can also be driven into the surface about ¼ inch in depth to assess moisture content below the surface. The pins of the probe are touched to the heads of the nails.
Depending on the model, the instrument uses either an analog or digital scale. When using the analog instrument, readings can be taken from 2 scales. The scale for concrete is a relative scale from 0 to 100. See Photo 2.
Caution: When using the analog scale, many users inadvertently record readings from the “wood” scale which is a percentage. The percentage on the wood scale has no relationship to the moisture in concrete. The concrete scale can be interpreted as follows:
- Green <85 units (<2% moisture content)
- Yellow 85 to 95 units (2% to 4% moisture content)
- Red >95 units (>4% moisture content)
Step 1 – Turn the instrument on and check the calibration. For the analog instrument, press the button with the “√.” The needle should read 20 on the wood scale. For the digital model, press the Read Button (a moisture droplet insignia is printed on the button) and the Calibration (check) button simultaneously. It should display 12% (+/- 0.2). If the readings are not in the above ranges, change the battery.
Step 2 – For the digital instrument, press the scale button (*) and set the scale to “2” for concrete. For the analog instrument, nothing needs to be set, but make sure you are using the “reference” scale for concrete. A very common mistake is to read the “wood” scale, which will provide incorrect results.
Step 3 – Press the probe firmly against the surface, making certain that both pins are in intimate contact with the concrete.
Step 4 – For the analog instrument, press the button with the “moisture droplet” insignia and record the number from the “reference” scale. For the digital instrument, push the “moisture droplet” button and a digital reading will be displayed.
Step 5 – To obtain readings below the surface, drive concrete nails into the surface and hold the pins of the instrument probe on the nail heads (1 pin on each nail head).
The instrument described below utilizes electrical impedance to determine moisture content to a depth of ~1 inch. The electrical impedance is measured by creating a low frequency electrical field between the electrodes on the bottom of the unit. The moisture readings are displayed on a moving coil meter ranging from 0% to 6%. See Photo 3.
Step 1 – Press the on/off button to power up the instrument. The lower LED will flash. If both lights flash, replace the battery.
Step 2 –Hold the instrument flush to the concrete substrate. All of the spring loaded feet of the gage should be in full contact with the surface.
Step 3 – Read the percentage from the top 0 to 6% scale.
Plastic Sheet Test
The plastic sheet test is a qualitative method for determining the presence of moisture within the substrate. The test is addressed in ASTM D4263-83 (2012), Standard Test Method for Indicating Moisture in Concrete by the Plastic Sheet Method.
Step 1 – Cut a sheet of clear plastic approximately 18 in x 18 in size. Note that when used on concrete block (CMU), in order to get a good seal with tape in Step 2, it may be necessary to cut the plastic in the shape of the block(s) so that the outside perimeter falls onto mortar joints.
Step 2 – Firmly tape the perimeter of the plastic to the surface to create a continuous seal.
Step 3 – Allow the plastic to remain in place for a minimum of 16 hours.
Step 4 – At the end of the exposure time, examine the underside of the sheet and surface of the concrete for the presence of moisture. See Photo 4.
This method is addressed in ASTM F1869-11, Standard Test Method for Measuring Moisture Vapor Emission Rate of Concrete Subfloor Using Anhydrous Calcium Chloride. The test requires exposing the concrete slab to anhydrous calcium chloride for a given length of time (Photo 5). The results are expressed as the moisture vapor emission rate (MVER), reported in pounds of moisture over a 1,000 square foot area during a 24-hour period.
The testing should be conducted at the same temperature and humidity that is expected during normal use. If this is not possible, the ambient conditions should be controlled to 75°F ± 10°F and 50% ± 10 % relative humidity for 48 hours prior to testing and during the test. An exception to testing at the expected service temperature/relative humidity involves floors that operate at temperature or humidity extremes (e.g., cold storage rooms). In these cases, the temperature/humidity criteria listed above should be maintained.
ASTM F1869 recommends a test frequency of 3 locations for the first 1,000 square feet, with an additional test location for each 1,000 square feet of floor area, or fraction thereof.
Step 1 – Lightly abrade a 20 in x 20 section of the concrete surface by grinding to produce a slight profile equal to ICRI CSP-1 to CSP-2 and to remove the thin layer of finished concrete, but not exposing large aggregate. If floor coverings or coatings were removed in the test area, the concrete must be exposed for 24 hours after grinding before initiating the test. If the concrete was not covered, or the coverings have been removed for more than 30 days, testing can begin immediately after grinding and clean up. The 24 hour waiting period is not required.
Step 2 – Remove all dust from the surface.
Step 3 – Weigh the sealed plastic container containing the anhydrous calcium chloride to the nearest 0.1 gram.
Step 4 – Place the container on the prepared concrete and carefully remove the tape and lid to expose the calcium chloride. Store the lid and tape for reuse when the test is complete.
Step 5 – Cover the container of calcium chloride with the transparent dome provided by the manufacturer. Press firmly to complete seal the gasket material to the concrete around the perimeter of the dome.
Step 6 – Allow the container to remain in place for no less than 60 hours, nor longer than 72 hours.
Step 7 – At the completion of the test period, place the lid on the container and firmly tape it in place with the same tape that was originally on the container.
Step 8 – Reweigh the container using the same scale used for the pre-test weighing.
Step 9 – Insert the pre and post weights and exposure time into the formula supplied with the test kit to determine the MVER, reported as pounds/1000 sq ft/24 hours.
This method is addressed in ASTM F2170-11, Standard Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity in Concrete Floor Slabs Using in situ Probes. This is a destructive test that requires drilling small holes in the slab, inserting hollow sleeves, and after a given waiting period, inserting probes into the sleeves to determine the relative humidity. The results are directly displayed as relative humidity; no conversions are needed (see Photo 6).
The slab should be at service temperature and the occupied air space above the floor should be at the service temperature and relative humidity for at least 48 hours prior to testing. The hole depth for the probes is based on a percentage of the slab thickness. If the slab is drying from the top only (e.g., slab on grade, or slab on a metal deck), the hole is drilled to a depth of 40% of the total thickness of the slab. For a 4 inch thick slab, the hole depth is approximately 1.5 inches. If the slab dries from both the top and bottom (e.g., elevated reinforced slab not on a metal deck), the hole is drilled to a depth of 20% of the total thickness of the slab. For a 4 inch thick slab, the hole depth is approximately 0.75 inches.
ASTM F2170 recommends a test frequency of 3 locations for the first 1,000 square feet, with an additional location for each 1,000 square feet of floor area, or fraction thereof. For on-grade and below-grade slabs, one location is to be within 3 feet of each exterior wall.
Step 1 – Drill the hole using a hammer drill and drill bit (dry). The diameter of the hole is established by the manufacturer.
Step 2 – Vacuum the dust from the hole, use a round wire brush sized to the hole diameter to thoroughly scour the hole to remove any loose material and vacuum again.
Step 3 – Some manufacturers require the insertion of a sleeve in the hole or a sensor. In both cases, the hole containing the sleeve or sensor is capped and allowed to remain undisturbed for 72 hours prior to testing to achieve equilibrium.
Step 4 – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to obtain a reading. First allow the instrument to reach equilibrium in the test environment. Depending on the instrument being used a probe attached to an RH gage is inserted into the sleeved hole to obtain a reading, or a reader is attached to the pre-installed sensor to obtain a reading.
Paint Film Continuity – Air Leak Detector
ASTM E1186, Air Leakage Site Detection in Building Envelopes and Air Barrier Systems, describes a number of methods that are used to determine whether air barriers installed on buildings are effective. Some of the methods test the entire enclosure, while others test specific locations, such as coatings, joints, penetrations, and junctions. The instrument described below (Photo 7) is used to test specific locations on a structure to determine if the surface is properly sealed. While the instrument can be used during commissioning, it should be used during construction to confirm that the installation practices are creating an effective non-leaking air barrier. Random areas are tested to confirm that the paint application techniques are suitable for creating a continuous film.
Step 1 – Adjust the leak detector to the specified pressure differential limit and rate of depressurization. The common test parameters are 500Pa and 25 Pa/sec, respectively.
Step 2 – Clean the area around the detail to be tested.
Step 3 – Apply a specially formulated liquid test solution to the surface.
Step 4 – Place the test chamber over the test area.
Step 5 – Start the instrument and carefully observe the test area for the formation of bubbles. Bubbles indicate the presence of a leak and poor film continuity. If not bubbles are present, the test area is free of air leaks.
Step 6 – Clean the test area to remove the test solution.
While inspections to confirm the quality of surface preparation and paint application are the most visible and obvious part of the painting process, an equally important aspect of the process involves the detection of moisture within the substrate and continuity of the film. These aspects are often “invisible” and therefore not fully appreciated. Common methods for detecting moisture and film continuity have been discussed in this article. See Part 1 of this Series for a discussion of instruments used for cleaning and painting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenneth Trimber is the president of KTA-Tator, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is an SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist, is certified at a Level III coating inspection capability in accordance with ANSI N45.2.6, is a NACE-certified Coating Inspector and an SSPC-C3 Competent Person.Trimber has more than 40 years of experience in the industrial painting field, is a past president of SSPC, chairman of the Committee on Surface Preparation, chairman of the Visual Standards Committee, chairman of the Task Group on Containment and chairman of the SSPC Commercial Coatings Committee. He is also past chairman of the ASTM D1 Committee on Paints and Related Coatings, Materials, and Applications.Trimber authored The Industrial Lead Paint Removal Handbook and co-authored Volume 2 of the handbook, Project Design. He was the recipient of the John D. Keane Award of Merit at the SSPC National Conference in 1990 and is a former technical editor of JPCL. In 2009 and 2012 he was named by JPCL as one of the 25 Top Thinkers in the coatings and linings industry and in 2015 was the recipient of the SSPC Honorary Life Member Award.