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Ugh Diesel to Finish Concrete Slab

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#1 akulapanam

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 09:04 PM

Got a 8x12 concrete slab poured for a new backyard roll off observatory. Noticed when I got home a strong smell so I asked the guy what he used as a finish. To my surprise he uses about a half liter to liter of diesel to finish all his pads. He says this is common practice and doesn’t leave odor or cause damage to nearby vegetation.

Was curious if anyone else had a similar experience? Not sure how to fix this even if wanted? Found a lot of disparate information about how long diesel lasts in the environment or how much could be absorb by plants into their fruit.

#2 Brett Waller

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 09:18 PM

I work in the environmental field and deal with spills of diesel fuel on a regular basis. If you don't have a water well close to your observatory, you don't have anything to worry about.  The most you are likely to see is a slight amount of browning of vegetation around the perimeter of the slab, but diesel is readily biodegradable at low concentrations, so that small of a quantity won't persist long. If you are really concerned about it, take your shovel and remove a small amount of soil around the perimeter of the slab and dispose it.

 

As for the odor, it will persist for a while, particularly in this cold weather. Once the concrete firms up, I'd take a rag and wipe the slab down to remove any remaining free liquid.  I wouldn't recommend trying to wash off the slab, as that will simply mobilize any remaining free product and the water will provide a carrying medium to cause it to migrate to places you don't want it to go.

 

Depending on your state's regulations, what he did may or may not be legal. Since you could be held responsible, I would quietly take care of it, clean up any excess, and finish your build. 

 

Brett


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#3 Travellingbears

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 09:40 PM

I’m from ‘eco’ area (MD has this ‘save the bay’ thing) so using petroleum stuff is frowned upon. Still folk do the motor oil and diesel mix in pump sprayer as ready-made concrete form release solution. Maybe it’s a good night to fire up the grill to mask the petroleum smell from curious neighbors. Good luck with the ROR!

 

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#4 akulapanam

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 09:57 PM

I work in the environmental field and deal with spills of diesel fuel on a regular basis. If you don't have a water well close to your observatory, you don't have anything to worry about. The most you are likely to see is a slight amount of browning of vegetation around the perimeter of the slab, but diesel is readily biodegradable at low concentrations, so that small of a quantity won't persist long. If you are really concerned about it, take your shovel and remove a small amount of soil around the perimeter of the slab and dispose it.

As for the odor, it will persist for a while, particularly in this cold weather. Once the concrete firms up, I'd take a rag and wipe the slab down to remove any remaining free liquid. I wouldn't recommend trying to wash off the slab, as that will simply mobilize any remaining free product and the water will provide a carrying medium to cause it to migrate to places you don't want it to go.

Depending on your state's regulations, what he did may or may not be legal. Since you could be held responsible, I would quietly take care of it, clean up any excess, and finish your build.

Brett


Thanks that’s really helpful. How long would you recommend waiting before wiping it off? Where I’m located I’m seeing 50-60 degrees during the day.

#5 Brett Waller

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 10:33 PM

Thanks that’s really helpful. How long would you recommend waiting before wiping it off? Where I’m located I’m seeing 50-60 degrees during the day.

As soon as the concrete hardens enough to support your weight, and your contractor should have given you some guidance on that. Dawn dishwashing detergent on water will really help, just wring the rag out to get rid of most of the water and wipe over the surface.   Rinse the rag in the bucket,  and repeat. I'd wear a pair or rubber gloves, or otherwise your wife will complain about the odor when you go inside … mine does!!  A few days of bright sunlight will drive off the remaining residue.

 

Good luck!

 

Brett

 

P.S. feel free to message me if you have any questions or run into any snags.



#6 OldManSky

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 10:44 PM

https://www.concrete...il-for-curing_o


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#7 akulapanam

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 11:32 PM

As soon as the concrete hardens enough to support your weight, and your contractor should have given you some guidance on that. Dawn dishwashing detergent on water will really help, just wring the rag out to get rid of most of the water and wipe over the surface.   Rinse the rag in the bucket,  and repeat. I'd wear a pair or rubber gloves, or otherwise your wife will complain about the odor when you go inside … mine does!!  A few days of bright sunlight will drive off the remaining residue.

 

Good luck!

 

Brett

 

P.S. feel free to message me if you have any questions or run into any snags.

Will do and thanks again for the help.  I'm going to have the landscaper do this.  He had said it would be two the three days.

 

Yeah I came across this today.  You have no idea how **** I was that he finished it with diesel but apparently its his normal operating procedure.


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#8 MikiSJ

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 11:41 PM

I have been involved in the construction of over 10,000 houses in my career in residential development and I have NEVER heard of anyone using diesel fuel to finish a concrete slab.

 

I can't even give you a method to clean up the mess this finisher made. If he used a solvent to cleanup the diesel then you are left with the smell of the solvent. Additionally, I would suspect that trying to add an epoxy finish to the slab might be impossible due to the oiliness of the diesel.

 

I would make this finisher supply you with documentation that gives him some expertise to use the diesel fuel. I believe the finisher used the diesel because it made troweling the finish easier. If he can't give you a best practices document then I would ask him to remove the slab and start over.

 

Might be time to consider a small claims action.


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#9 akulapanam

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 12:36 AM

I have been involved in the construction of over 10,000 houses in my career in residential development and I have NEVER heard of anyone using diesel fuel to finish a concrete slab.

I can't even give you a method to clean up the mess this finisher made. If he used a solvent to cleanup the diesel then you are left with the smell of the solvent. Additionally, I would suspect that trying to add an epoxy finish to the slab might be impossible due to the oiliness of the diesel.

I would make this finisher supply you with documentation that gives him some expertise to use the diesel fuel. I believe the finisher used the diesel because it made troweling the finish easier. If he can't give you a best practices document then I would ask him to remove the slab and start over.

Might be time to consider a small claims action.


I’m definitely considering making him do it over. Has anyone removed a slab early in the cure process?
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#10 iwannabswiss

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 09:54 AM

I have been involved in the construction of over 10,000 houses in my career in residential development and I have NEVER heard of anyone using diesel fuel to finish a concrete slab.

 

I'm not in the construction business, and I've also never heard of using diesel fuel. I did a quick online search, and the only thing I came up with, is using it as a release agent for the forms. I get the use of a release agent, but I still don't understand how diesel would be the option.



#11 Lola Bruce

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 02:26 PM

Don't jump to action to quickly. Left to open air the diesel actually degrades fairly quickly. I would mop up any standing liquid but I doubt there is any and then let it cure out for a few days or weeks if possible. After cure I would mop with a de greaser like Dawn, Tide, Simple Green, or your favorite and then dry mop up the results. Pine Sol makes it smell nice. At this point you are good to go unless you want to epoxy or seal the slab, personally I would not seal the slab until fall.

 

The diesel acts as a release agent for the finishing tools and works very well. In this small quantity left outdoors first the liquid flashes of then the small residue is degraded by sun, and weather. This is not an environmental disaster, if it was all the asphalt in the world would need to be removed and shot into space.

 

Relax and enjoy Bruce



#12 MikiSJ

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 03:25 PM

I know that diesel fuel is used as a release agent for concrete forms. It is cheaper than other forms of release agents but does not do as well as other agents.

 

As to the question of the difficulty in breaking up a new slab: concrete cures to its maximum strength in 28 days. This does not mean that a newly poured concrete structure (your slab) is easily broken up in a day or week after it's poured. My concern is what is the strength of the concrete used in the slab. I would like to see the invoice from the concrete supplier as to what PSI was delivered to your site - it should have been at least 2,500 PSI or what is commonly called '5 sack concrete'.

 

The method that most concrete contractors use to cure concrete is to keep it wet. Concrete will cure even if it is totally submerged in water. Curing concrete is a chemical process and generates heat and excessive heat may cause the concrete to crack early or in the worst case - fail. The best way I have seen to cure a slab is to lay old carpet pieces over the concrete and soak the carpet. Unfortunately this is cumbersome and not often used. Another method is to use a garden lawn sprayer, but this is also cumbersome as it can waste water if not monitored.


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#13 akulapanam

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 02:45 AM

As an update. Smell has gone down considerably. Only noticeable standing right next too it, compared to 5 or 6 ft yesterday, and less than you would smell pumping gas. I did take a sponge mop to it this afternoon to see if there was an free product and it came back only minimally damp. My plan is right now for the landscaper to take a rags or mops to it as suggested above. If that doesn’t work and any odor persists then I’ll have them rip it out. Still pretty **** about the whole situation though.

Edited by akulapanam, 13 January 2020 - 02:53 AM.


#14 Travellingbears

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 08:02 AM

(hate to ask since you’ve already had unexpected issues) but is same contractor involved with actual/remaining construction of your observatory (or just slab)? For your planned observatory, did you already had pre-set pier area that you’d utilized and this was just ‘expansion’ to enclose? Just curious if doing fixed pier with deeper foundation and isolated pier foundation from general slab pour. If not separate pier foundation/slab areas, how thick/deep is slab itself (rebar used)? Were you just going to drill/epoxy bolts into slab to mount pier? 
 

Dave



#15 akulapanam

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 11:07 AM

(hate to ask since you’ve already had unexpected issues) but is same contractor involved with actual/remaining construction of your observatory (or just slab)? For your planned observatory, did you already had pre-set pier area that you’d utilized and this was just ‘expansion’ to enclose? Just curious if doing fixed pier with deeper foundation and isolated pier foundation from general slab pour. If not separate pier foundation/slab areas, how thick/deep is slab itself (rebar used)? Were you just going to drill/epoxy bolts into slab to mount pier?

Dave


No they are not. The observatory is a prefab one (more details soon and this is really going to be a test location). I followed the instructions that Backyard Observatories gave me (who will probably end up doing a build at the final location). They said for imaging, where someone wasn’t going to be in the observatory and in a location where the ground doesn’t freeze an 8-12” slab is sufficient. This ended up being a little over 9” because they hit caliche which is effectively natural concrete anyways. Not positive I’m going to use unground piers anyways, may end up using tri-piers from pier tech.

#16 555aaa

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 11:36 AM

I use vegetable oil as a release agent. Never heard of using oil for finishing. I do use a little to keep my masonry tools rust free.

#17 speedster

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 03:46 PM

Amazing.  Hopefully he finished the concrete and and THEN put the Diesel on.  In that case, he thinks it is a liquid membrane curing compound.  Curing compounds are great and many do smell like hydrocarbons but they are nothing like Diesel.  If he applied it with a sprayer AFTER he finished the slab, I wouldn't worry about it.  It will evaporate.  If he applied it as he finished and troweled it in, I suspect the surface may spall over time.  Curing compounds are used to retain moisture in the slab.  It's seldom convenient to keep a slab wet by flooding but very easy to apply a curing compound which then weathers away over a few months.



#18 akulapanam

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 09:02 PM

Amazing. Hopefully he finished the concrete and and THEN put the Diesel on. In that case, he thinks it is a liquid membrane curing compound. Curing compounds are great and many do smell like hydrocarbons but they are nothing like Diesel. If he applied it with a sprayer AFTER he finished the slab, I wouldn't worry about it. It will evaporate. If he applied it as he finished and troweled it in, I suspect the surface may spall over time. Curing compounds are used to retain moisture in the slab. It's seldom convenient to keep a slab wet by flooding but very easy to apply a curing compound which then weathers away over a few months.


I’m 80% sure it was after he finished and trawled it. I left after he had poured and trawled it but before he brushed it. There aren’t many references online. There is the one above about using it as a membrane, there is this one on using it to break the bond to help brushing https://www.concrete...ushed-finishes/ , there is a patient about a diesel and rosin as a curing agent https://patents.goog...t/US4475952A/en , and then there are a bunch about using it to remove forms. There are also a bunch about diesel, mineral oil, or kerosine with linseed oil on forums but nothing official.

#19 SteveGR

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 03:17 PM

I hope the smell goes away.  I've been around diesel most of my life to one degree or other and I hate it with a passion. 



#20 T-Rexs

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 11:39 PM

I'm a concrete guy, and stamp concrete, been around finishing concrete for years. never heard of using diesel for finishing concrete, but being in this business we have used diesel in past for form release, so concrete doesn't stick to forms, if that's the case no big deal, but if he used it to finish concrete, not good... Maybe you need to find out what exactly he used Diesel for....


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#21 WoodyEnd

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 12:03 AM

That guy is an idiot.  There are curing compounds made for concrete but diesel is not one of them.  I suspect there might be long term issues if he applied it before the concrete was fully set.  There is nothing you can do how but try to wash the diesel off.



#22 nmoushon

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 01:59 PM

Call a local architect or engineer and see if they have ever heard of this practice being used locally. If you are going to take them to claims court or make him rip it out (at his expense) you are going to want professional recommendations on this. Otherwise its your word vs his and he is the "professional" in this case and odds are you would loose your claim against him and end up paying him even more.

 

With that said, I'm an architect, and have NEVER heard of this being used on any of the projects I've worked on over the years. Though I've only ever done residential so no one in their right might would do that for a house slab (other that for form release agent I would guess).



#23 WoodyEnd

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 03:22 PM

Your state contractors licensing board might be interested in this case.  I don't think they would approve of this at all.


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#24 akulapanam

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 04:03 PM

Yeah I intend to call a concrete company and some other local contractors if I have it ripped out. I’m a bit concerned that while there isn’t a lot on google there is enough particularly the concrete magazine article that I posted above that may make it difficult.

With that said I’m more optimistic that I won’t need to do that for a couple reasons. The smell has completely dissipated, I also verified that he used this as the very last step after he had trolled and it had set.

My plan now is to have them mop/rag it off. Then I’m going to take some Dawn to it in a couple weeks for good measure. Hopefully this will lead to a long term smell free pad and prevent residue from getting elsewhere in the yard.

Edited by akulapanam, 15 January 2020 - 04:07 PM.


#25 nmoushon

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 04:12 PM

Is this pad going to stay open air or is it getting an enclosed building on top of it? If it is going to be enclosed that smell could come back. You just cant notice it now because its open to the outside and the fumes dont get concentrated. 




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