USG recently announced Bill Harrill as the company’s moisture & mold mitigation specialist. Additionally, USG has created the Performance Flooring Team and tapped Phil Ciesiulka to lead it as senior director. We spoke with Harrill and Ciesiulka about their roles and the focus of the Performance Flooring group.

Bill, tell me about your background in the flooring industry and moisture & mold remediation.

Harrill: I got into the industry in the early 1980s. A friend was running a German chemical plant, and hired me to run manufacturing, sales and marketing, and various other things. Some of the new laws that came out of California in the mid ‘80s had a significant impact on coatings and how they behaved on the jobsite level. Most coatings before then were designed to block water in the liquid phase. All of a sudden water in the vapor phase raised its head.

A lot of the materials used in the past were legislated out of existence, and the newer ones didn’t work as well. Right when that got started, the company got sold. So I became a contractor. Then a friend said, “Hey remember all those issues with coatings and flooring? I want to start a company. Are you interested?” I worked with him on a consulting basis for a while, then as technical director for many years.

The industry was just beginning to understand the importance of blocking water in the vapor phase and what it did to flooring. We had to develop standards and get a better understanding of concrete and moisture, and how they all reacted.

What do you think are the major causes of moisture issues in flooring and construction today?

Harrill: Part of it is fast-track construction. Another is changes in how buildings are built. Recycled content has allowed certain things to change in the concrete industry. You get credit for using fly ash, but that causes the concrete to be wetter for a longer period of time, for example. Water stays in the concrete much longer, so it can only come out as a gas.

What should an installer or contractor do to protect themselves, from a legal standpoint, when working with a high-moisture or mold-prone project?

Harrill: The owner has to sign off on it. If the owner doesn’t sign off on it, it could be a real problem. I’ve seen instances where the owner sues because the floor failed and it goes to court. They blame the flooring installer. “You’re a professional; you should have known. Why did you do it anyway?” The contractor needs to hold their ground. Even if you have the contract, they can’t force you into doing something that goes against your better judgment.

Bear in mind, when you’re looking at moisture, you’re looking at something you cannot see. Water in the vapor phase cannot be seen until it condenses out. That water is not neutral. When you mix water with cement it has a higher alkalinity, which will degrade floor coatings and floor adhesives. The most important tools a contractor has at their disposal is moisture testing and due diligence.

Phil, tell me a little more about your background in the industry and your new role with USG.

Ciesiulka: I’ve been with USG about 32 years. I started on the financial side and then went to sales and marketing. The last 15 years I’ve focused on tile and the flooring industry.

Our setup before was we had two separate teams—the multifamily market segment and the other was more on commercial opportunities. We were seeing a lot of overlap, so now we’ve combined those groups and integrated the sales teams, to make sure we have a cohesive approach to the marketplace. We’ve created smaller geographies, where we’ll be better able to service our customers in those geographies. On top of that, we have a wider product offering, so we can give our contractor customer the best solution for whatever the project calls for.

My other responsibility with running the group is leading the team in the implementation of our strategic plan. More focused attention around market opportunities is our goal. There are roughly 15 members of the Performance Flooring group. The group is charged with providing technical support for architects, specifiers and contractors as it relates to underlayment and floor prep products.

How will installers and contractors be able to access the expertise of the Performance Flooring group?

Ciesiulka: We have a technical hotline at (800) USG-4YOU. We have a Twitter account. We have a Facebook page. We’re part of the USG website. There are plenty of ways for people to get in touch with us.

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