Los Angeles World Airports is the airport oversight and operations department for the city of Los Angeles, California, with headquarters on the grounds of Los Angeles International Airport. Known as LAX, the massive complex opened in 1930 and has been expanded many times since.
While the airport’s fanciest and most visible assets are often updated, a few of LAX’s concrete parking structures had recently begun to slip through the cracks! “I think they were built in the 1960s,” said Shaun Geiger, CEO of deck coatings contractor Angelus Waterproofing & Restoration, Inc., referring to the airport’s own parking decks. “They were already upgrading all their elevators at these structures, and they noticed the concrete was starting to degrade.”
In all, four main parking areas had failing deck coatings, among other issues. Once recognizing the extent of the problem, the airport operator opted for an upgrade, including removal of the existing failing deck coating and the installation of a new waterproofing system.
Though the concrete upgrade might not be quite as noticeable to airport visitors as the original elevator job scope, the high visibility of each deck meant any failure would be readily apparent. “It looks like a horseshoe when you walk out [of the airport] with all those parking decks,” Geiger said. “You drive around them when you loop around the airport.”
The general contractor leading the elevator work and other assorted LAX upgrades was W.E. O’Neil Construction, with whom Angelus already had a relationship with from a prior deck job about a year before. So when W.E. O’Neil spotted issues with the decks in early 2017 while working on the elevators, they knew just who to call.
“We’ve worked for them for years,” Geiger said of the general contractor. “On this one in particular, they were comfortable going with us because we had done another deck a year before. We had never really done a parking deck for O’Neil before that, and we did a really good job. So they wrote this one into a change order.”
Given the importance of each parking structure to airport customers, the coatings crew flew straight to the jobsite — where it was all systems go from the outset. After all, for LAX, time is money! “We were under time constraints throughout, since the airport had to shut down revenue producing parking areas and take away large amounts of parking,” Geiger said. “Each deck was big, so it had to be broken down into sections. We were under the gun the entire time.”
Preparing for Takeoff
Just as prior relationships proved critical in Angelus landing the job, they also were essential for the 10-person crew to execute it upon arriving at the jobsite. For each area of the 425,000-square-foot (39,483.8 m2) project, the surface had to be prepared by achieving the International Concrete Repair Institute’s Concrete Surface Profile (CSP) 5 standard for a medium/heavy blast. However, that wasn’t something Angelus had expertise doing themselves, so they turned to Extreme Pressure Systems as a subcontractor for the coating removal and shot blasting work.
“Nearly all deck coating companies sub it out, and they’re our go-to guys,” Geiger said. “We’ve worked a lot with them, so we’re confident in their abilities. They’re like our primary surface prep specialist. They’ve got the big blasters.”
While Extreme was blasting each area to achieve the CSP-5 standard, the Angelus crew was removing failing expansion joints and installing new joints. “While the subs are coming in, we’re working on the caulking,” Geiger explained. To prepare each area, the crew used Bosch grinders in tandem with Blastrac vacuums, with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters attached to all grinding equipment. “That was to get the caulking out and prepped,” Geiger said. From there, BASF’s MasterSeal NP 2 sealant was applied to keep the moving joints weathertight.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) gear was essential to the crew during this phase and throughout the project, and included N95 respirators, hard hats, and gloves. And working in an area with so much public exposure, the crew had to be mindful of not just themselves but also the public. Thus, utilizing flag men to re-route traffic proved essential.
Once each segmented area was prepared, a new, four-layer deck coating system could usually be installed within two days. However, to make that work and stay on schedule, the crew quickly learned that it couldn’t be a 9-to-5 job.
“Working so close to the Pacific Ocean, we were battling fog and moisture on a daily basis,” Geiger said. “The inspector on site would not let us coat when the humidity and moisture readings were outside of the manufacturer’s recommendations, so we had a lot of coordination and weather watching in order to get the project completed.” The crew was relatively lucky over the course of the four-month project in that it was a dry season and year in Southern California. However, rain wasn’t the only consideration. “There were days the fog prevented it from drying until later, so we’d have to stay late and work some OT [overtime],” Geiger explained.
Once it was dry enough to coat, the Angelus crew essentially had a two-step system for two days. Using 18-inch (45.7 cm) squeegees and backrolling, “day one” consisted of initially applying BASF’s MasterSeal 350 epoxy overlay at an average of 20 mils (508.0 microns) of dry film thickness (DFT) with a full sand broadcast. They would then let that cure for a couple hours before applying the MasterSeal M 265 as the basecoat at an average of 23 mils (584.2 microns) DFT.
Subsequently, each “day two” began by squeegeeing and backrolling the MasterSeal TC 275 aromatic polyurethane topcoat at an average of 16 mils (406.4 microns) DFT with another full sand broadcast, followed by the final MasterSeal TC 295 waterproofing topcoat in gray at an average of 21 mils (533.4 microns) DFT. “We had a couple guys mixing and running material,” Geiger said of his crew. “Then we had a couple guys squeegeeing, and the rest were backrollers.”
The crew diligently completed each area over the course of four months, and thanks to the client’s oversight, there weren’t many questions as to the quality. “We had [the client’s] inspectors out there every day, and they really inspected our work,” Geiger said. “They took mil thickness readings. They watched us and knew everything was done correctly. We couldn’t go from one coat to the next, if we hadn’t done so. We didn’t have any rejections on our inspections, though. It went smoothly. Once a full deck was completed, we’d move onto the next.”
Cleared for Departure
Thanks in large part to the crew’s intricately planned work, the entire job scope was finished early. “They were happy,” Geiger said of the client’s response. “They were actually finished ahead of schedule. We finished early, and O’Neil [the general contractor] finished early with the elevators. They were real big on not losing any additional revenue!”
Ultimately, Geiger said the crew’s related experience played a key role in managing the time crunch. “The time constraints were definitely a little stressful for the guys,” he conceded. “But we do this all the time. We’re doing a bunch of parking decks right now, it’s one of the biggest things we do here. It’s all about staying on schedule and making sure they’re hitting their targets every day.”
By summertime, they were cleared for departure from LAX and jetting off to the next jobsite. There was no extra baggage with this crew!