On the Bubble

Gym floor damaged, school seeks answers

In a time of tight school budgets with no funds to spare, officials got a nasty and potentially costly surprise last week when they discovered a portion of the gym floor at Granville Jr./Sr. High School had swelled out of place.
The swelling, forming a “bubble” near the outside or eastern wall of the gymnasium, rose to nearly 12 inches above the original level of the floor during the weekend leading up to Aug. 23.


The bubble formed by warping boards appeared under the eastern basket opposite the gymnasium doors. It was discovered on the morning of Aug. 23 by volleyball head coach Aris Allen as she prepared for the first day of practice.
“I walked in Monday morning at ten of seven, getting here early to set up the net, and I thought I wasn’t really awake yet. I saw this thing on the floor and I was (stunned),” Allen said as she gestured in the direction of the bubble.
Allen called for a maintenance worker who contacted school officials.
Superintendent Mark Bessen said even as district officials began to look into what to do with the floor they knew they also had to find out what caused the problem in the first place. Engineers visited the school last week to try to determine the root cause of the warping that led to the bubble.
It appears the bubble was created when moisture was trapped under the gymnasium floor, Bessen said. He said it was possible that “weep holes,” or vents for the area between the floor and the foundation that allowed moisture to escape to the atmosphere, became plugged with top soil.
Leveling of the ground outside of the eastern doors of the gymnasium facing the football field apparently blocked the vents with top soil as grass was grown next to the building since the completion of the EXCEL project technology wing.
It’s possible a combination of built-up or recently introduced moisture combined with the plugged vent holes forced the moisture to find another way out, in this case, through the wooden floor. However, the recently refinished floor would not allow the moisture out either, Bessen said, effectively trapping the water and leading to the warping that caused the bubble.
David Sowinski, U.W. Marx assistant project manager for the EXCEL project, said the weep holes were just one of “twenty theories” regarding the warping of the floor. Sowinski said he dug out the area around the weep holes when the possibility was discussed as a cause of the problem, but added he did not think that was the case.
Engineers will examine the plans and conduct tests, but at this point a clear-cut cause has not been identified, he said.
“No one has a clue on the cause yet,” Sowinski said.
Other possibilities include a crack in the roof drain pipe for that portion of the gym, but a number of additional possibilities exist, he said.
Despite a heavy rainstorm that preceded the floor damage, Sowinski said, the rest of the project drained quite well.
While it appears the only thing to change in the area is the work done by EXCEL project contractors, Sowinski said, the source of the moisture had yet to be traced and did not necessarily have to have resulted from the construction.
No dollar value has been placed on the damage at this time, as it is not clear how much damage the floor actually sustained.
By the morning of Aug. 26 a flooring specialist from Servicemaster had arrived in Granville to begin dealing with the problem.
Workers placed a series of fans and dehumidifiers along the external wall to dry up the void under the floor. The fans drew the moist air out and worked in concert with the dehumidifiers that were set up to drain into small garbage cans inside the gym.
Bessen said Servicemaster personnel on site told him they had seen warping similar to this at other schools, including recently at Stillwater, and expected the floor to regain its original position.
After examining the area to seek the root cause for the warping and a solution to the problem, engineers will conduct more tests this week.
Although the blocked weep holes theory has been discussed, Bessen said the engineers have to rule out other possible sources for the moisture.
“We don’t want to have the floor go back down and then be right back in this position next summer,” Bessen said.
It is not yet clear what the main gymnasium will be available for when school begins Sept. 8.
Allen’s volleyball squad relocated practices to the gymnasium at Mary J. Tanner. “Right now we have a good place to practice and we’re hoping not to see all away games,” Allen said.
“I know the athletic department is working hard on this so we’re hoping to have something definitive before the end of next week,” Allen said.

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