Chelonian

Dust Control in a Barn

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About a month ago I moved my forging setup into a barn, which has been a huge improvement over what I had previously been doing. The biggest drawback for me currently is airborne dust. The floor consists of a mixture of sand, dirt, and fine particulate matter (this is what causes the dust). Just walking back and forth from the forge to the anvil kicks up significant amounts of dust.

What would be a good way to reduce the dust as much as possible? I'd really rather avoid having to wear a dust mask while I'm forging, if at all possible. I considered wetting down the floor a bit, but I'm worried the increase in moisture might not be good for the old beams that the barn is made of. Perhaps I could make some type of wet-filter setup? Currently I'm thinking about something along the lines of a box fan (I already have an old nasty one that would be a great candidate for this) blowing air at a wet rag, capturing the dust in the rag. Or would simply having the fan circulating air out of the barn be more effective?

Anyways, I'd love to hear any ideas you may have. Thanks!

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Crushed limestone fines tend to be cheap in places where they quarry limestone---not so cheap if they have to truck it in from out of state...

Is there a county extension agent around?  They should be able to make suggestions on doing a barn floor in your area.  Are the fines powdered manure? in which case they could be a fire danger if disseminated in air.

I mixed clay with the sand/gravel I dug out of the arroyo and wetted it down 1 time about 10 years ago; probably time for another one. I harvested the clay by collecting the mud crack plates that form after we get water in the arroyo.

Of course making a brick floor will deal with the problem as well if you can find a source of cheap/free brick

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You don't have to worry about the beams in the barn unless it is virtually airtight. 

One of the reasons barns last so long is that both the inside and the outside are subject to the same atmospheric conditions. 

Furthermore you should only need to wet down a small area, not enough to cause an issue, unless, again the barn is virtually air tight. 

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You may want to consider using a vacuum to clean all interior surfaces, especially any horizontal surfaces such as the top of beams.  A slight breeze can stir any accumulated dust up and it can rain down upon everything in the barn.   

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A good power washing to knock down the dirt and dust, then put a fan to blow through the window/ cut out an opening to the outside same concept as when spray painting , to blow the over spray out.  A one time washing will not hurt the wood beams.

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I checked with a local stone and gravel company, and they didn't seem to have any crushed limestone, so it may not be mined here.

Thomas, I'm not really sure exactly what the fines are. I assumed they were just fine sand or something, but it is possible that it's partially manure, since there are goats and chickens on the other side of the barn. I doubt there is ever enough dust in the air to become a combustion hazard though. I'll see if I can find any information about a county extension agent.

Arftist, the barn is somewhat well sealed when the doors are closed, because three of the four walls are stacked rock walls with dirt behind them (this is kind of the basement of the barn), but it's still not a perfect seal, and the large doors are open during the day.

Glenn, that may help somewhat, so I will try it, but I think most of the dust comes from the ground, which I can't really vacuum.

Thanks for the ideas!

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You can call a company that builds or maintains dirt roads and ask how they stabilize the driving surface. There are a number, but I don't recommend some. I wouldn't oil stabilize the soil, even if you don't use one on the haz mat list folk will hate it anyway.  Emulsified asphalt  works well but can be difficult to apply and might get grief from folk who don't know that much about it.

Calcium Chloride works well by keeping the soil damp as it's hydrophilic but it's only a little less corrosive than table salt. Sodium Sulphate is less corrosive and works but is harder to apply.  

Cement stabilized works well, isn't corrosive and isn't too difficult to apply. How much you'd need depends on area of course and depth. Depth depends on how solid the soil is. If it's good and hard then a surface layer a couple/few inches thick will encapsulate the dust particles and not check. If it's not so hard you might need to go deeper and actually make it structural.

In my DOT days I got to deal and test all these methods, by then spraying roads with waste oil for dust control had been outlawed but got to test the results anyway. In general you'll want to stir up the top couple few inches, however deep you need stabilization. Then you need to mix the stabilizer thoroughly and compact it HARD.

Calcium chloride can be mixed as the granules or pellets dry and it'll do it's stuff by absorbing moisture from the air. This avoids the probability you'll use TOO MUCH water compacting it and not achieve max hardness. 

Sodium Sulphate is mixed as a saturated solution and used to compact the soil, when it dries it cements the particles together. It's not so hydrophilic but it's still a Sodium salt. 

Cement stabilization is about the easiest, you mix it thoroughly with the top layer, compact it hard and it draws the necessary moisture from the soil and air. IF you wet it down while compacting it you'll turn it into low grade, crumbly concrete and defeat the purpose of a GOOD floor. It'll probably hold the dust down but it won't be such a good surface.

Cement stabilization works best with sandy clayey soils as does Sodium Sulphate. 

The above are ALL dust control.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Mr. Chel... ,

The state or federal geology arm of their respective governments will know if there are limestone extraction operations nearby.

limestone, CaCO3 is  o.k. . Have you considered crushed dolomite CaMg (CO3)2? It may prove superior for your purposes.

Both minerals are used to de-acidify soils. So landscaper companies may know where to get either,  crushed rock.

Organic fines could be toxic or harbor disease. Constant inhaling of same could cause problems given enough time.  

Hope that helps,

SLAG

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Building lime is cheaper than cement, typically one will apply a 1/4” of powder on top of tilled soil, and till it again (yes garden tiller) a plate compactor is a lot faster but hand compaction to 90% works just fine. This will give you a 3-4” hard bed. This is dependent on having 10+% clay. Less clay will require cement powder. This isn’t as scientific as Frosty was doing but it’s proven seat of your pants. But brick and cement pavers work well to. 

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Thank you all for the very good information and recommendations!

Earlier today I did go around with a shop vac per Glenn's suggestion, and removed quite a bit of dust from the tops of beams and in the stacked rock walls (this is where there was quite a lot of dust, because each rock is basically a shelf for dust to accumulate on, and there are thousands of them). I'm guessing that getting rid of some of that dust will help quite a bit.

Is the purpose of these different crushed materials just to act as gravel? Would any type of gravel work similarly well? Would just putting down some compacted regular dirt help? The dirt where I live is not very dusty, even when dried.

Trying to till the ground would be futile. As soon at you go down about an inch the ground is all rocks. I'm not sure if this was from a collapsed previous building or what.

Also, on a perhaps related note, I have noticed that is some places, the rocks in the ground are glued together with a tar-like substance (very much like asphalt). Perhaps this was an attempt by someone a long time ago to reduce dust as well?

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Wait till a real windy day and use a backpack blower to encourage the light stuff to go see the world?  Is that layer you mention smooth enough to use as a floor if you removed the overburden?

As I recall New England is known for it's granites like Indiana and Ohio are known for  their limestones and Georgia for it's red clay.

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I might be able to try something along those lines once the weather is nice enough to put all the animals outside. I've never tried removing the top layer, I'll try removing it with a broom when I have a chance.

Thanks!

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I tried removing the top layer with a broom. The rocks beneath are pretty large, irregular, and bumpy, I think I'd be tripping constantly if I left it without the dirt/dust layer.

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Check with the road construction companies/dept of transportation for ground asphalt. Around here there are piles of it from highway repaving. It is the top layer that they grind off before they apply the new top layer. Put a layer down and tamp it down. Old barns/shops back home had dirt floors that were smooth from being oil soaked.  I work outside and used a bunch of railroad tie plates turned upside down as flooring tiles. My Dad got them free years ago from a rail crew near where he worked.

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On 3/23/2019 at 6:33 PM, Chelonian said:

Is the purpose of these different crushed materials just to act as gravel? Would any type of gravel work similarly well? Would just putting down some compacted regular dirt help? The dirt where I live is not very dusty, even when dried.

Once compacted, the "road grade" mixtures like CA6 or CA9 are better than gravel.  They form a solid layer after getting wet and being compacted, whereas gravel tends to still be a bit loose.

I've had mixed results with the ground asphalt (which we call "millings" here).  If it is a clean grind then it will sometimes bind back into an asphalt layer, especially if heated and doused with a little diesel fuel or kerosene.  If there is a lot of dirt in it then it tends to be more like gravel.

There is a steel foundry not too far from us and we sometimes use the crushed slag as a parking lot or driveway material as well.

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There are road dust control products in approximately gallon containers that can be purchased retail (even available on amazon-  just saw $ 60 for a 5 gallon pail of pellets to spread).  One common ingredient is calcium chloride, which can be liquified in water and sprayed on using a simple sprayer like one you use for garden spraying.  Others have fancier ingredients like cellulose polymers.  Typically they tend to agglomerate the dust particles as you walk or drive over them (more traffic = better dust control)--I have customers who use them in volume in their dirt parking lots.  Visually you can't even tell it's on there after it dries for an hour.

Anyway..might be a path to look into for a dirt/gravel floor situation because it's so easy to apply...and seems that about $ 60 USD would be enough to last the typical user years.

The dust in my barn is so fine and powdery that just about anything will send it air-born.  I guess I should consider a topical application too.  

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Seeing that reference to dust control on roads reminded me of the old DOT sign i have

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On 3/23/2019 at 9:11 AM, Chelonian said:

I checked with a local stone and gravel company, and they didn't seem to have any crushed limestone, so it may not be mined here. 

You should be able to find "decomposed granite" in New England.  It should work as well.  Doesn't pack down as well as limestone fines, but should cut the dust.

FYI, limestone fines is a mixture of limestone gravel and dust from the quarrying process - usually the dust is washed off to get "gravel".  Different parts of the country call it road base, flex base, crusher run, et al.

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I'll add mag chloride to Frosty's  calcium chloride suggestion. That's what the county road crews use around here to wet the roads and for dust control.  

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If you are near a coal fired power plant you might try "fly ash."  When water is added it forms sort of a poor man's concrete.  County and private road crews use it around here for dust suppression.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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I don't know of any coal power plants, but is fly ash the same thing as the ash that is produced from burning coal in a forge? Does wood ash have similar properties?

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No fly ash is different.  You can try a concrete/masonry supply store or farm supply.  Farmers in the Midwest use ash to set corner posts. Usually pretty reasonable.  Not finding that you could use a bag of Portland.  This should be available about anywhere building material are sold.  You spread it out over the floor area an then mix with the floor material and then wet it down.  You might be surprised how hard it will get and how long it will last.  Protect your lungs with either option as neither is good for you.

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