Polished concrete floors seem to work for the Student Union at the University of Wisconsin, Superior Campus, but are they right for your school? Yes -- in some areas, and with some qualifications.
I’m working on this story for American School & Hospital Facility Magazine – “Are concrete floors right for your school?”
PROSOCO manufactures products for finished concrete flooring, which is why Irene, the magazine’s editor contacted us about doing the story. Obviously, we’re a little biased, but in the interest of a credible story, I’m trying to explore the question fairly. And the fact is, that while I know a little about concrete floors, I know a lot less about schools.
To get some perspective on the issue, before I start calling designers and school admninistrators, I called our rep Ron Saunders, Saunders & Associates, of Bluffdale, Utah. Ron’s probably worked on 60 or more schools during his 20-plus years in the construction biz.
Ron tells me polished concrete floors are good for most areas in a school, with a few exceptions, and a few considerations. And there’s a strong environmental aspect to concrete flooring, which is why I’m writing about it in “Green Journey.”
Areas for polished concrete flooring: Classrooms, restrooms, offices, and common areas like lobbies, auditoriums and hallways. A consideration — some might say drawback — is that areas with hard flooring can be noisy. Ron calls noise ricocheting off hard surfaces “sound slap.” He notes that auditoriums usually have “sound-deadening” panels on the walls.
Carpet can also quiet noisy classrooms — it just goes on the walls, not the floors, Ron says. Carpet takes much less of a beating and lasts a lot longer on walls than on floors. Concrete is meant to take a beating, so the classroom floor is a good place for it.
Areas not recommended for concrete floors: Gymnasiums and kitchens. Gym floors are traditionally wood. Concrete is ok for outdoor basketball courts, though. Kitchens are too spill-prone to make concrete a good floor choice. Concrete is porous and soaks up all the stuff that gets spilled on it. Juices, vinegars and even milk can etch the concrete. Protective treatments can afford some protection, but an impermeable surface like glazed clay tile is a better choice. Even then, the grout needs a protective treatment.
Primary benefit: Reduction of maintenance costs. Ron says. You’ll never again have to replace the floor topping as with carpet or VCT. That doesn’t just save schools money; it keeps tons of waste out of the landfill. If you’re getting rid of a wornout floor topping, that concrete subfloor underneath is perfectly good. Just needs cleaning, grinding, polishing, staining, protecting — all of which is easily done by a qualified concrete flooring professional.
After that, you’re done with the costly wax-on/wax off cycle.
Hallway, St. Matthew's Middle School, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada -- "we wanted polished concrete for the ease of care and reduced cost of janitorial work," says Lorne Lemay, the school's assistant maintenance manager.
That’s not to say concrete floors are maintenance-free. Everything that’s walked on gets dirty. But the cleaning is way minimal compared to other flooring choices — Ron says.
Anyway, that’s where I’m going with my “Is concrete right for your school” story. I know it’s not going to be that simple. Hope to find some architects, designers and school officials who’ve worked with concrete flooring, and can share their experiences, good or bad.
If you are such a professional and have something to share on the subject, give me a call toll-free at 800-255-4255, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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