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Expert Concrete Maintenance | Repair & Restoration

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Polished Concrete: Maintenance Matters Part 1

For years, my company has been deeply involved in the backend operations that I believe really make or break the hard work and investment made in concrete polishing and resurfacing. That is to say, we provide the care and are responsible for the preservation of the finishes polishing contractors apply.

Being an avid reader of Concrete Polishing Magazine, and recognizing how interrelated our disciplines are, I contacted Craig Walton at CPm and told him I wanted to provide a series of articles , that describes Maintaining Polished Concrete Floors. As I learned at our recent meeting at the ISSA, Interclean Expo in Las Vegas, NV, both Craig and Austin Willis have a strong working background in floor maintenance as well as concrete polishing. They both heartily endorsed my article idea and pushing a pen into my hands Craig said, “Great, let’s make it an ongoing series of articles and really get into this.”

A look at “Maintenance Free Floors

Maintenance free floor was a descriptive term used by many concrete polishers early on to promote polished concrete floors. The label was rapidly adopted throughout the concrete industry. Even retailers and commercial accounts embraced the term because it suggested they could now have a floor that looked very nice continually. Best of all this new floor treatment did not require all of the maintenance work and costs related to stripping, waxing and traditional floor upkeep.

Concrete polishing was heralded as a savior of cost, time, labor and upkeep. It promised to give construction managers a way to preview the look and feel of their new floor finishes several weeks before their project site opened. The nature of the floor surface would also give department heads at commercial sites a break.

For example

Purchasing managers (who have the fiscal accountability, but perhaps not the construction expertise to make these process calls and purchases) are often required to make logistical and construction decisions, simple by default. Now with polished concrete, they were no longer saddled with the task of floor surface choice or ordering tile in hopes that it would match an existing motif or provide a good looking durable surface that would last as long as the site itself.

The simplicity of the process of employing polished concrete intrigued operations people. Implementation theoretically was much less time intensive and would be less disruptive to work schedules and business traffic at their locations than many floor installation options. CEO’s and company insurance agents were very pleased to hear of positive initial slip test readings, (a less hazardous workplace is every bosses dream).

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the appeal of a maintenance free floor to the head of building maintenance. They drank from the Kool-Aid of promise and believed that they may finally be free from the shackles of traditional floor care. No more stripping and waxing.

Advantages of concrete polishing

With all of these great advantages concrete polished floors became poster child for the floor of the future. Additional benefits, including the promotion of polished concrete as a great green alternative compared to other flooring choices helped stimulate interest and drive the dream and clearly initially many design and construction people were convinced that this type of floor treatment was an excellent choice for clients everywhere.

Of course there is nothing like a little taste of time to help reset perspective and provide a better understanding. This is still a first rate treatment for many floor surfaces and most of that which was promised can be delivered, but let me tell you what I have discovered though my maintenance business (600 plus ,employees and covering several states).

Over the past several years I have discovered that while polished concrete can be maintained consistently at a much lower cost than many other floor choices, it is definitely NOT maintenance free (nor should it be treated that way). In addition to better understanding how to keep polished concrete in showroom ready state, several years of research and on-site testing has allowed us to actually help some of our clients find ways to better save their existing floors.

Cost savings

I have worked with a number of clients who were ready to switch to polished concrete and helped them realize that they didn’t have to abandon their existing floors to achieve the fresh polished look they wanted for their stores. In fact what many building supervisors and maintenance personnel are discovering is that they can maintain their floors at a major cost savings over implementing a new polished concrete floor.

As long as they have properly trained personnel and the correct equipment and cleaners on hand and apply them in a consistent maintenance program, they are able to attain the look and surface they want without encountering unnecessary resurfacing costs.

Today, we have a true renaissance in the Maintenance Industry. There are now many new equipment manufacturers, tooling manufacturers and chemical companies producing solutions to some of the most difficult challenges maintenance confronts, the kind of challenges that tended to make people want to rip-it-out and start with a whole new floor.

This leapfrog in technology and methodology has made a huge difference in what we can do to help our customers achieve the look and consistency they want for their floors in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Some quotes about the benefits

There are a number of advantages to maintaining properly polished floors and I’m going to cite some of these here. It is important to point out that (as with all industry) the polishing industry has its share of smoke and mirror and false promises. It is my observation that maintaining a polished concrete floor that has been properly polished from the beginning is much easier and less costly than having to first repair a poor polishing job.

As contractors many of you know that in an effort to complete a job on a timeline or to derive the optimum profits from a project bid, some polishing contractors are prone to skip steps that ultimately impact the surface they are trying to produce. This is not only bad for PR for the industry, but it also makes it hard for the best maintenance job to be performed. Worst of all, the people that really loose out because of these shortcuts, are the customers and clients.

Certainly it hurts all of us in the industry when someone receives a poorly executed polish job. It ripples along through networks wow have you seen some of the complaints on YouTube or Facebook? Especially in the information age we live in now, poor performance rocks the boat for the consumer as well as the polishing contractor that didn’t get the job because it was bid higher because the contractor knew what it would take to do the job correctly.

Maintenance companies can be guilty of this as well, and I am not letting them off the hook either. Companies owe it to their customers to provide them with a maintenance program that truly works and fits their maintenance budget requirements.

The difference of polished concrete floors

Polished concrete maintenance is certainly very different than the maintenance used on other types of flooring such as VCT, wood and laminates. Polished concrete delivers a very porous surface and that makes it susceptible to stain and contamination that we need to be mindful of to keep it in the best condition possible.

Concrete polishers as well as maintenance providers all must perform at their best to ensure that the customer gets what he paid for, a great quality floor that looks good and is truly durable. It takes informed workers at all stages to really protect the floor the best we can.

Some of the simplest mishaps can have a huge impact on the long-term look and condition of a floor. It should be common knowledge that spills should never be left on these floors for long periods of time. I have seen workers sweeping a freshly stripped floor spill whole Big Gulps full of Coke , Slur pie on the floors and just continue down the floor sweeping rather than running for a mop and bucket instantly.

Advice on how to fix

Depending on the types of oils or soils left on the surface, leaching can and does occur. Best practices here can prevent an unsightly blemish in the finished floor as well as a potential problem spot where the floor surface may wear out far ahead of the rest of the floor.

Certainly many types of stains can be removed, but this type of spotting requires a lot more attention than daily routine maintenance procedures cover. Stain removal by its nature (and dependent on the stain source) is more costly to the consumer than regular routine maintenance, but that may not be the fault of the maintenance worker.

Our concrete polishing contractor colleagues may have set the problem in motion and that is important to recognize. We need great prep to have a final product that will be an easy keep surface. Prevention is the definitely the best medicine here.

I truly believe that polished concrete does have a bright future (couldn’t resist the pun). Especially if we as manufacturers, suppliers and contractors take responsibility for delivering the proper floor to our customer and then provide them with a truly defined maintenance program that will fit their budget and keep their flooring investment in the best possible condition.

Let’s all do our part to make sure our industry thrives and in my continuing series of articles , I will walk you through my recommendation for a maintenance program that keeps flooring (polished concrete and non-concrete) in the best possible condition.

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