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Archive for the ‘polished concrete floors’ Category

As many PROSOCO staff members are gearing up for the International Living Future Institute’s Unconference this week, May 21-23, in Portland, Ore., we’re busy processing a buncLS-Declare-labelh of certifications and registrations that are relevant for the industry’s sustainable, resilient products crowd.

One of those we just got word on is the ILFI’s Declare label for our Consolideck® LS® lithium silicate concrete treatment. We’re extremely proud to say that this is the first-ever concrete finish to achieve this prestigious mark. Among other attributes, this third-party verification means that Consolideck® LS® is free of the Living Building Challenge v2.2 Red List chemicals of concern.

Consolideck® LS® and LS/CS® were also the first products to achieve third-party certification for indoor air quality performance by SCS Global Services, and they were the first concrete finishes to verify ingredient content through use of the Health Product Declaration open standard.

Since 2008, Consolideck® LS® and LS/CS® have been utilized to harden, dustproof, waterproof and beautify more than 400 million square feet of concrete floors.

Are you going to Living Future 2014 this week? Stop by the PROSOCO booth in the Plaza Foyer to learn more about our products and sustainability achievements, or read about our commitment to sustainability and transparency.

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Seattle's Bullitt Center

Seattle’s Bullitt Center, opening day on Earth Day, April 22, 2013. Photo by John Young

As Earth Day approaches this year, I’m reminded of one of the biggest stories that captured the industry’s attention last year at this time — the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of Seattle’s Bullitt Center. Though I wasn’t personally on staff at PROSOCO back then (I’m a newbie with about 4 months under my belt), the Bullitt Center is a common thread I’ve seen in PROSOCO’s project profiles online, on this blog and in countless industry publications.

For good reason. Anyone involved in this high-profile, high-performance project should be shouting about it from solar-paneled rooftops. Deemed the “world’s greenest commercial building,” the project started off with (and attained) a very ambitious goal — net-zero and Passive House levels of energy efficiency. Design firm Miller Hull Partnership, general contractor Schuchart Corp., and developer Point 32 also called for all products to be free of ingredients found on the Living Building Challenge’s Red List.

PROSOCO is proud of the fact that our own R-GUARD and Consolideck® products helped the Bullitt Center achieve that extreme standard and become an industry icon of energy performance. The R-GUARD FastFlash® system of fluid-applied airtight and waterproof barrier products was used on the building envelope, while our Consolideck® concrete flooring products LS/CS® and LSGuard® were used on about 90% of the center’s concrete floors.

A couple of weeks ago, I checked in with Keith Miller of Final Concrete, whose company was contracted to finish the center’s concrete floors. Keith actually recommended using Consolideck LS/CS® and LSGuard® to the general contractor because he had worked with those products before and knew how effective they were.

“(The general contractor) wanted the best-performing product that we had worked with, and it was a no-brainer,” Miller said.

He added that he had learned about the products’ environmental benefits from other jobs like Kohl’s, and that he “just really enjoyed using the product.”

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photos by Tim Blankenship, Blankenship Concrete Specialties

Blankenship Concrete Specialties created this gleaming concrete finish for the new Nordstrom “Rack” store in Birmingham, Ala., by hardening/densifying, polishing to a 1500 resin grit finish, and burnishing on a glossy, ultra-thin “guard” treatment.

Upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom opened a new “Rack” store in Birmingham, Ala., May 16, with a polished concrete floor installed by Tim Blankenship of Blankenship Concrete Specialties.

Tim used Consolideck LS lithium-silicate hardener/densifier and LSGuard, a glossy ultra-thin sealer, to help get that gleaming finish on 7,000 square feet of the 35,000 square-foot store. Architectural firm Callison, Seattle, specified the products, and Erie, Pa.-based Niagara Machine supplied them from its Charlotte, N.C., location, Tim said.

He kindly shared these photos from just before the grand opening.

Polished concrete accounts for about 7,000 square feet of the 35,000 square-foot store.

Polished concrete accounts for about 7,000 square feet of the 35,000 square-foot store.

Tim created the finish from an existing floor in a space formerly occupied by tenant Linens ‘n Things. He began with a 46 grit metal bond wet grind and took the finish to a 200-grit resin, where he spray-applied LS and spread it with micro-fiber applicators.

The lithium-silicate hardener-densifier penetrates the concrete’s microscopic pores and fills them with rock-hard calcium silicate hydrate. That’s the same ultra-durable material that makes concrete hard as it cures.

Along with dust-proofing the floor, hardening-densifying also makes the floor polish faster, easier and more effectively because it’s less porous.

The floor showed some gloss at 200 grit, but another LS application at 400 grit made the floor even less porous and “popped” the shine, Tim said.

Nordstrom Rack stores are the “off price” locations for Nordstrom, billed as where “style meets savings.” The Seattle-based chain counts 231 stores in 31 states, according to Wikipedia. Rack stores account for 110 of them.

Nordstrom Rack stores are the “off price” locations for Nordstrom, billed as where “style meets savings.” The Seattle-based chain counts 231 stores in 31 states, according to Wikipedia. Rack stores account for 110 of them.

From a 400-grit resin finish, Tim polished the hardened/densified floor to a 1500 resin grit finish in successive stages. He burnished on a micro-thin coating of LSGuard for increased protection against stains and abrasion. LSGuard has “LS” in its name because it contains lithium silicate for an added hardening/densifying effect.

Though LSGuard can be re-burnished or refreshed with additional coats if required, it never needs stripping or replacing. That can amount to an enormous savings in maintenance costs over time.

Tim and his crew completed the work over three weeks in March and April. The most challenging part, he said, was working around all the other trades who were also trying to get their work done in time for the May 16 opening.

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Clothing waits for shoppers like low-hanging fruit along a polished concrete aisle

Clothing waits for shoppers like low-hanging fruit along a polished concrete aisle

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Gray concrete floors can be gorgeous, but aren't the only color choice.

Gray concrete floors can be gorgeous, but aren’t the only color choice.

A pearly gray polished concrete floor can be a thing of beauty. But the days of gray-only for concrete floors are long gone. Now, the color choices for concrete are unlimited as dreams and imagination.

Particularly when used with concrete polishing, coloring can provide translucent, almost gem-like effects.

Color offers almost gemlike effects when used with concrete polishing.

Color offers almost gemlike effects when used with concrete polishing.

 Here are the 6 most common ways to color horizontal concrete.

1. Integral coloring

Colorant added to concrete during mixing produces uniform color throughout the slab.

integral color

integral color

The colorant may be liquid or powder. Integral color is for new installations only, and usually only for large monochrome areas, since the main application device is a ready mix truck.  Integral colors are expensive because you are coloring the entire depth of the slab.

2. Shake-on colors

Shake-on color consists of finely-ground pigments and dry cement that is “broadcast” onto freshly placed concrete. The powder gets worked into the concrete during bullfloating.

Shake-on color

Shake-on color

Bleed water from the plastic concrete wets the cement powder, causing it and the pigments to bond to the exposed surface. Because the pigments are concentrated in the top layer, grinding and polishing will remove the color.  Since shake-on colors rely on water from freshly placed concrete, they are only suitable for use on freshly placed concrete.

3. Acid Stains

Acid stains are formulas of acid, metallic salts and water. The acid chemically reacts with minerals in the concrete, creating a unique, mottled color effect that’s as durable as the wear zone of the concrete it’s applied to. Acid stains are hazardous materials and require all the safety precautions common to acidic products.

Acid stains

Acid stains

 Concrete floors that have been acid stained must be neutralized and rinsed thoroughly to remove any excess acid.  You must be careful when handling acid stains, also, because spills, sloshes and drips instantly create permanent “features” in the floor. Acid stains can be used for retrofits or new installations.

4. Acetone dyes

The benefits of fast-drying solvent-based dyes are often overshadowed by the risks inherent with using highly flammable reduction solvents.  Acetone – one of the most common reduction solvents, has a flash point of 4 degrees F and an odor and toxicity that makes it impractical to use in most occupied spaces. The color usually is applied after the floor has been polished with a 400-grit resin.

Acetone dye

Acetone dye

Though solvent-based dyes can impart vivid colors, they aren’t UV-stable. Sunlight, through a window or skylight can fade the colors. Most require a topical protective treatment to lock the color in.  Respirators and explosion-proof ventilation are required when installing solvent based dyes on new or existing concrete floors.

5.  Water-based dyes

Water-based stains and dyes have several advantages. They are odorless, safe and easy to apply, and dry quickly. Different colors can be easily mixed and matched, creating striking patterns and effects in areas large or small. Combined with hardening, densifying and polishing, water-based stains can create a translucent, gemlike effect. However, water-based stains must be used with protective coatings to lock in the color. Like acetone dyes, they are not UV-stable and will fade in direct sunlight. Water-based dyes can be used for new installations or retrofits. 

Water-based colors were used to create a Navajo Wedding Basket design in the entryway of this elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

Water-based colors were used to create a Navajo Wedding Basket design in the entryway of this elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

Water-based colors are easily applied with pump-up or airless sprayer, followed by spreading with a microfiber pad. The color usually goes on before the floor has been hardened and densified.

6. Color hardener/densifiers

Color hardener/densifiers are a recent innovation in which fine pigments suspended in water are blended by the applicator with a lithium-silicate hardener/densifier. This lets you harden/densify and color in one step. Apply color hardener/densifiers to concrete floors ground no finer than with a 200-grit resin pad.

UV-stable color hardener/densifiers outside the elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

UV-stable color hardener/densifiers outside an elementary school in Monument Valley, Utah. Scot Zimmerman photo

The pigments in these products are similar to shake-on colors in that they are  surface treatments, so polishing after application removes the color. Also like shake-on colors, most are UV stable and suitable for exterior application. While a protective treatment to “lock in” the color isn’t needed, strictly speaking, protective treatments are always a good idea for horizontal concrete, inside or out.

Which is right for your project?

The answer is… it depends. If it’s a new installation, any of these products will work. If it’s a refit or restoration, you’re limited to acid-stains, water-based dyes, acetone dyes or colored hardener/densifiers.

If it’s polished concrete and uniform color you’re after, acetone or water-based dyes are your best bet. The difference? For safety and environmental concerns, choose water-based dyes. For slightly more vivid colors, acetone may be the product you want.

For the mottled, antique look without polishing, consider acid-staining.

Shake-ons are best for small, simple jobs, when there’s not going to be any grinding. Since shake-ons are surface treatments, grinding will take the color off. Consider integral color for large areas where you want uniform color.You can grind  these installations aggressively if, for example, you want to expose aggregate.

And though your standard gray concrete isn’t the only color option any more — it can still look pretty good.

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Believe it or not, this floor suffered a muriatic acid spill and other indignities from being unprotected during the building’s construction. The floor had to be ground, polished, colored and protected all over again.


This is a true story. Happened about four years ago in Canada.

Finished concrete flooring applicator Clint Buswell, of Concrete by Design, Red Deer, Alberta, installed a beautiful, multi-colored polished concrete floor in the under-construction headquarters of an Alberta trucking company.

The floor gleamed in colors of deep walnut, cream, coffee and old leather.

A few months later, Clint got a call to come back in and give the floor a cleaning.

His jaw dropped, he told me, when he arrived back at the site and saw the floor. The contractor had left the finished floor completely unprotected and exposed to construction traffic. The beautiful floor was covered with ground-in grime. A constant parade of dirty workboots had scratched away much of the shine.

Peering closer, Clint saw that it got worse.

A serious etch hid beneath the filth. Clint soon got the story. Someone had spilled muriatic acid on the floor. This was not a cleaning job, Clint told the contractor and owners.

It was a rescue.

Fortunately, Clint had the equipment, the skills and the products (PROSOCO, natch) to save the day. I never did find out who paid — the contractor is my best guess. Whoever footed the bill, the floor looks as good now as it did before.

The moral of the story, as I’m sure that contractor has figured out — Protect that slab!

Seems like common sense to me. On the other hand, if it’s not your floor or your work — and it IS concrete, for gosh sakes — shouldn’t you be able to walk and drive and drag heavy things all over it?

NO!

Sadly, Clint’s story is all too common. So our finished concrete flooring experts here at PROSOCO developed 10 nifty rules for protecting the floor in the construction environment — before or after it’s been polished.

Those 10 rules are highlighted on this poster for display at the job site.

Hanging this poster at the jobsite can help protect concrete floors, but in the end, it takes buy-in from everyone on the site.

If you want one of these posters, give me a holler. I’ll send you one FREE, just for saying you read the blog post.

The truth is, protecting that floor will take more than just hanging up this poster, great as it is. It’ll take buy-in from the top, watchfulness from the supervisors, and care from every person on that job site.

That’s a small price to pay and a reasonable one to expect, compared to the unneccesary expense of repairs and do-overs.

Even the best of plans, precautions and intentions can go awry, however. Should the unexpected happen – an inadvertant oil spill, or rust stains from a pile of pipes – PROSOCO has products and expertise that can help with almost any concrete flooring problem.

But that’s another post.

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This 45,000 s/f Harley Davidson of Erie dealership went from abandoned grocery store to gleaming motorcycle emporium in just 80 days, including the polished concrete floors. photos courtesy Cori Sutton, Diamond Designer Concrete

“We’re used to horrible old floors,” said Cori Sutton, Diamond Designer Concrete, Erie, Pa. “It wasn’t a big deal. We knew what to expect.”

The newly exposed concrete floor at the Harley-Davidson of Erie dealership met the expectations for “horrible” of Cori, her older brother and partner Matt Maya, and their crew when they arrived on the job site in May.

The 45,000 square-foot facility had been a grocery store, abandoned for five years to birds and dust. It fell to Cori and a host of other trades to fast-track the forgotten facility into its second life as a high-powered Harley dealership. They had to do it by July and the looming, legendary “Roar on the Shore” biker rally for charity. The annual rally brings up to 80,000 bikers into town for three days of rides, parades, bands and other special events.

As a major sponsor of “Roar,” dealership owners Kelly and Susan Lapping were set to be at ground-zero. More than anything, they wanted a beautiful, spacious and completed setting in which to play host and display their Harleys to the incoming crowds.

First, Cori, Matt and crew had to whip 17,245 square feet of old concrete into shape.

The GC, award-winning Odyssey Builders, Erie, took the VCT tiles off, presenting the Diamond Designer Concrete team with a floor that hadn’t seen daylight since it was poured.

“It was in really bad shape,” Cori recalled.

Trench repairs for plumbing, both old and new, spanned the floor. Pitted, cracked, chipped, and spalled concrete stretched from wall to wall, still covered in patches of rock-hard, ages-old adhesive from the torn-up tiles.

“The adhesive made the floor horribly rough,” Cori said. “We had to grind it off.” In addition, the floor was uneven and wave-like. “We didn’t measure the difference between the high spots and low spots,” Cori said, “but it was significant.”

Diamond Designer Concrete brought two grinders, each weighing nearly half-a-ton, to flatten and smooth the craggy, uneven surface. Removing the glue was rough and bumpy said Cori, who did her time running the thousand-pounders along with her brother and their crew. But that was just the start.

The Diamond Designer Concrete team worked against deadline to repair countless cracks, spalls and other defects in the floor with products and procedures from Metzger/McGuire, Concord, N.H.

Metzger/McGuire is a manufacturer of joint fillers and repair materials for retail and industrial concrete flooring.

Metzger/McGuire field rep Matt Rizzo, who visited the site, said their work impressed him.

“That floor looked like a jigsaw puzzle, it had so much random cracking,” Rizzo said. “They could’ve done less, but they went the extra step.”

A “grid pattern” from years of VCT tile covering heightens the floor’s “industrial” look. Repairs to countless, cracks, spalls and boltholes are harder to spot.

Despite the looming deadline, Cori, Matt and company took pains to make sure the joints were perfectly sanded and defects filled with the right repair materials the right way, Matt said. “I can tell just from looking at the photos,” he added.

“One of the biggest problems was that there were many parts to the old floor,” Cori said. “It wasn’t just one pour. Every section had a different strength of concrete; sometimes hard, sometimes soft.”

That meant an additional drain on the team’s already scarce time as they changed diamonds to match varied floor conditions. Repeated grinds at ever finer grits of metal bond diamonds gradually smoothed and flattened the floor, making the job faster and easier. After their final grind and before beginning polishing, Cori’s team colored the floor with Consolideck GemTone Stains “Espresso.”

This part of the job went quickly, Cori said. They applied the water-based color with pump-up sprayers and micro-fiber applicators, smoothing it out into a rich brown translucent tint. As soon as the floor dried, about 20 – 60 minutes, the crew followed the same procedure to harden and densify the floor with Consolideck LS lithium-silicate hardener/densifier.

Hardening/densifying offers several benefits for polished concrete floors, and their installers and owners.

LS converts soft calcium hydroxide into rock-hard calcium silicate hydrate — the same substance that makes concrete hard to begin with. Without hardening/densifying, unreacted calcium hydroxide quickly turns into concrete “dust,” the bane of concrete floors.

Hardening/densifying eliminates dusting.

The reaction fills microscopic pores in the concrete with calcium silicate hydrate. It creates a harder, denser, more monolithic surface that polishes faster, easier and with better results.

After a sub-60-minute dry time, The Diamond Designer Concrete team began polishing. They took the finish in stages to a mirror-like 1,500 grit finish. Propane burnishing melded an ultra-thin coat of Consolideck LSGuard into the floor, locking in the water-based color and increasing the floor’s already considerable gloss and stain- and abrasion-resistance.

“It wasn’t in the best of shape,” says co-owner Kelly Lapping with a chuckle, recalling the floor before Diamond Designer Concrete got to it. “Cori and her group did a fantastic job, and they got it done with two weeks to spare before ‘Roar’.

“We absolutely love it,” he said.

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Bikes reflect in the polished concrete floor created by Diamond Designer Concrete, with products from PROSOCO and Metzger/McGuire.

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Polished concrete floor at the University of Wisconsin, Superior Campus.

Despite plenty of information to the contrary in the marketplace, two wrong ideas about polished concrete floors persist:

1. Polished concrete floors don’t need regular maintenance cleaning.
2. If you do clean your polished concrete floors, any old cleaner will do.

Let’s take number one first ~ it’s the easiest. Obviously, everything gets dirty. Dirt tracked in from outside needs to be swept up. If left on the floor, the tiny grains of dirt act like sandpaper to degrade the shine.

In the sense that it needs periodic cleaning, a floor is no different from a dog, a kid, you, a gun, a car, your teeth or anything else. Everything gets dirty. Everything needs regular maintenance cleaning.

Polished concrete floors must be cleaned regularly to keep their appearance — whether they look like they need cleaning or not — to get up tiny amounts of dirt, dust, grease and other contaminants before they build up enough to degrade the floor’s appearance.

This floor doesn’t look like it needs cleaning, does it? That’s how it’s supposed to look. Correct maintenance cleaning products and procedures never let a polished concrete floor get dirty to begin with.

Note in the photo how clean and shiny the floor already looks. That’s the secret to effective maintenance ~ not letting the floor get dull or dirty to begin with.
That takes us to misconception #2 — that any old cleaner will do.

Any old cleaner WON’T do. Cleaners that are acidic can attack the concrete. Harsh chemicals made for cleaning waxed floors can eat away at surface protective treatments. There are cleaners on the market made specifically for polished concrete floors. Using them following the manufacturer’s instructions will prevent a lot of problems from happening to begin with.

“Following manufacturer’s instructions” is just as important as using the right cleaner. For example, not diluting a cleaner properly with water can leave a haze on the floor.

Use the right products the right way and you can count on polished concrete floors that keep their shine until the building is abandoned or destroyed. And that includes no stripping, waxing, replacing or landfilling.

This damage ocurred when someone dropped a glass jar of pickles on the floor. The acidic pickle juice, left too long, etched the polished concrete floor. Incorrect removal technique — wiping instead of blotting — compounded the damage.

Of course, you also need a good spill-remediation program in place. Regularly scheduled maintenance cleaning isn’t enough to rescue floors from spills. Spills must be cleaned up right away. Food and drink especially can ruin a polished floor’s shine, especially if it’s acidic, like soda pop, orange juice, or milk (yes, milk – lactic acid).

And there’s a right way and wrong way to remove spills.

But that’s another story.

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