What is all the talk about “Polished Concrete Floors?” Polishing and grinding concrete floors has been a topic of discussion over the past few years, and I’ve been asked so many times what it’s all about, that I decided to write this article. Hard surface floors have been around since the time of the Roman Empire. It took an enormous amount of labor, and a lot of ingenuity to split large stones, and hone them down to make slabs suitable for flooring in buildings. To get more specific than that is mind boggling, kind of like, “How did they build the Pyramids in Egypt? ” My answer is, “I sort of know how they did it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do the work”.
Fast forward a little, and we come to more recent times when people discovered that you could mix Portland (a clay substance) with sand, stone and water, to make the first concrete. The mixtures have been tweaked over the years, but the process has virtually remained the same. Contractors have used different curing agents, have implemented the use of steel bar to hopefully prevent concrete from cracking, and have implemented different types of moisture barriers to improve on the finished product.
Building owners have wanted different types of flooring over the concrete to give a building a warmer, and cleaner feel. In industrial facilities they have used tile, rolled linoleum, floor paint, or epoxy to give a building a more desirable appearance, and make it easier to clean than bare concrete. That works for a while, but everyone of those products eventually wears out and requires replacement. That brings us up to the present time.
Since early in the twentieth century, scientist experimented with different compositions to come up with a flooring products that would last for a long period of time. Some tile products were made up of an asphalt base. Some were made more durable by adding asbestos to the mixture. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good product, and after 40 years in the business, I’ve seen some asbestos tile that goes back at least 60 years, and is still in nice condition. The problem is that asbestos is a Carcinogen, and once the tile is broken, or disturbed, you can very Herringbone flooring easily be exposing yourself to cancer causing agents, in the air. Guess who arrives on the seen when something like that is reported? You got it! The Guys with White Hats Riding on White Horses. Now it’s time for the asbestos abatement crews. Can you say, BIG BUCKS?
Abatement is a tedious, and time consuming process, but it has to be done, before you can begin the process of restoring the concrete floor underneath. You cannot do it yourself! Asbestos Abatement requires countless hours of training, certification, annual re-certification, special equipment, and people who are crazy enough to want to do it. Just kidding! Luckily, there are people who enjoy that type of work, and take pride in providing an excellent finished product.
I, much prefer coming in after the cleanup has been completed. Concrete grinding equipment has been in the development stage for over 70 years. Changes with some companies especially over the last 5-10 years have been dramatic. Why? Because, the government has determined that there are enough floors out there, that are wearing out or damaged, that they need to step in with some requirements for removal, since many of these floors are in public buildings. So what are my options as a facilities or building manager? First, you need to go on-line, and find a very reputable asbestos abatement firm, and get an estimate. Second, you need to find reputable Concrete Restoration firm to give you the options at their disposal. Next, you are going to have to put together a budget for the completion of the work, so that you, your board of directors, or your school board is not shocked by the cost of the completed project. And finally, you are going to have to schedule the work.
Due to the cost of the abatement, and the fact that they will need to tent off areas while the abatement is going on, there will be some need for some logistical planning. What you don’t want to do is put it off, hoping the problem will cure itself, or go away. That’s not going to happen. It doesn’t happen that often, but I have seen instances where the inspectors come in and demand that the problem is corrected before the building can be used again. That’s ugly!
Do you know the definition of the word, “Problem”? It ‘s a situation that you don’t deal with. There are currently thousands of floors in public and private schools, colleges, universities, court houses, and other public buildings who have been fore warned that they need to get rid of asbestos floors.
Over the past five to ten years, they have continually been given an extension, or given a “pass”, due to the fact that “They don’t have money in their BUDGET”. Actually, the first time I heard that was 1981, and the budget has gotten tighter every year. This has lead to the advent of equipment and grinding pads for “The Do It Yourself”, types. Guess what? They don’t work.
If you want your custodian, to spend hundreds of hours with a 250 RPM swing buffer, grinding grooves in your beautiful eighty year old Terrazzo, or Marble floor, by all means, GO FOR IT.
THEN WHO SHOULD I TALK TO?
You can hire a very reputable Concrete Grinding and Polishing professional, who only does floors, for a lot less money than you would expect. They can grind, polish, seal, dye, or apply one of hundreds of products to your floor for the same or less money than re-applying tile which doesn’t have the same resiliency, and longevity as the previous asbestos tile products.
You can install carpet which typically has no more than 5-7 year life expectancy. Or you can go with a dyed floor that will outlast all of us. The options are endless, but you need to find a contractor that you can trust, and do a little homework before making your decision. Some may suggest products that you would call floor paint or epoxy. What are the advantages or disadvantages of that type of product? There’s probably nothing wrong with that, but you need a few facts before making your decision.
Floor paint that you would typically buy in a home improvement or hardware store is fairly easy to use, but generally will not hold up to much traffic, either tires or foot traffic. And in order to get the best results you still need to do most of the prep that would be necessary for the other products. Epoxy is more durable once it is cured, but can be damaged if exposed to some abuse before it is completely cured. (Two days for foot traffic) and (Up to thirty days for wheel traffic). If you can’t live with that, then you need to consider other options.