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Industry Dilemma

Requesting ‘Polished Concrete’ Pricing? A large problem you will run into…

Unlike wood, tile or carpet flooring- ‘Polished Concrete’ is a very loose term when it comes to specifications and ITB’s. Manufacturers’ such as Armstrong, Mannington or Centiva are listed in the specification for such other flooring options. Even in the scenario the manufacturers’ were not listed in the topical flooring specification- a wood floor is to be a manufactured wood product, ceramic manufactured ceramic, etc. etc.

While Polished Concrete (loosely) is the use of chemically reactive densifier, concrete grinding equipment fixed with diamond abrasives; which are passed in progression to finer and finer stages, there exist many definitions & ‘processes’ today.

These many definitions & ‘processes’ are not themselves an issue to our industry: They are ‘options’. These options allow building owners to have exposed concrete finishes per their budget, building traffic and use. The issue being these ‘options’ are all being referred to in todays’ market as ‘Polished Concrete’.

Examples of Exposed Concrete Options:

Mechanically Polished Concrete

The use of a chemically reactive densifier, concrete grinding equipment fixed with diamond abrasives which are passed in progression to finer and finer stages. A quality Mechanical Polish can range from 5 up to more than 10 grits.

Burnished Finish

The use of a high speed floor burnisher (propane or electric) to pass generally 3-5 different series of nylon burnishing pads infused with diamond abrasives, in succession to finer stages. A chemically reactive densifier may or may not be used in this process.

Ground, Honed & Sealed Concrete

The use of concrete grinding equipment fixed with diamond abrasives which are used in theoretically 2-3 progressive stages. The machinist first opens the surface with an aggressive diamond grit to remove surface obscenities and/or expose aggregate per client request. Then the minimal required passes are completed to remove the initial diamond’s’ scratch pattern and moderately close the surface pores of the concrete to accept a topical sealer. A topical sealer is applied and then propane or electric burnished to a high gloss.

NOTE: ALL OF THE ABOVE OPTIONS HAVE DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT AESTHETICS, MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS TO MAINTAIN THOSE AESTHETICS AND THEREFORE DIFFERENCES IN LONGETIVITY

The exampled options above, all being referred to as ‘Polished Concrete’ becomes an issue for property owners & true Mechanically Polished Concrete installers alike:

Property Owners

Owners and management firms are enticed to purchase Polished Concrete for their properties because Polished Concrete has been media marketed as a low maintenance, long term, aesthetically pleasing flooring option which holds 100% true for a correctly installed Mechanical Polish> Unfortunately, Polished Concrete does not arrive in a store bought box such as the topical flooring scenarios. When taking Polished Concrete bids, owners are head ached with drastic price differences from invited contractors. These prices may vary from $1.00 to $7.00 per square foot when comparing the options bulleted above. Most often owners are completely unaware to differences in contractor procedure or processes they have or have not included in their cost.

Mechanical Polished Concrete Installers

Concrete Polishers who offer a true, mechanically polished process and bid accordingly are losing owner awards to the high number of ‘theoretical’ Polished Concrete bids placed by contractors who will do the most cost effective, lenient system, sold to building owners as a ‘low cost Polished Concrete Process’. Owners are unaware of the longevity and maintenance concerns and are obviously quick to play into the ‘theoretically polished concrete’ at such a discounted rate.

Polished Concrete Maintenance

That’s right, I said it. Polished Concrete and maintenance in the same sentence. Shame shame shame. Polished concrete is a ‘no maintenance floor’. Install polished concrete in your facility and your woes of having to occasionally fill a mop bucket are over. Better yet, throw out those old, stinky mop buckets….. Sound too good to be true? Good, because it is. The concept of removing a facilities’ existing floor, polishing the concrete below and utilizing that polished concrete surface for building traffic has become overwhelmingly popular in the last five years. Along with that popularity; manufactures, distributors and even contractors have marketed Polished Concrete as being a ‘One and Done’ finish- a no maintenance floor. As if the ability of using your existing concrete foundation as a floor didn’t sell itself. Whether or not the ‘No-Maintenance’ slogan is a ploy to grab buyers or merely an expression meant to exaggerate the ‘low maintenance’ quality- contractors & manufactures need to make buyers aware of the maintenance this lifetime finish demands. Polished Concrete installed correctly & maintained accordingly, is without a doubt a very cost conscious lifetime finish. “Contractor Does Not Provide Maintenance Services” Recently, more and more contractors are getting on the Polished Concrete maintenance bandwagon though there are still a large number of those remaining who only provide the initial concrete polishing service. In the event a building owner is left with the contractors’ taillights, no problem! The maintenance procedures for Polished Concrete are mostly achievable by in-house staff with occasional servicing by outside janitorial floor care firms. Please note: easy to operate buffing and scrubbing equipment can be purchased by the building, completely removing the need for outside janitorial floor care firms. In the event a building already utilizes a janitorial firm for the routine cleaning of their facility, that firm will likely carry the necessary equipment and be happy to add the cost to the routine contract.

A General Routine Template

Upon initially having the Polished Concrete floor installed, a general template should be followed. That template however, will need to be adjusted on the buildings circumstances such as unique type of traffic, quantity of traffic and exterior climate changes. Utilizing the below general template, a building can monitor the condition of the floor under said template and ultimately choose which items to increase & which to decrease.

Excessively rough

acility environments such as steel shavings combined with constant wheel traffic need to expect additional maintenance provided by Concrete Polishing Contractors’ down the road. ‘Additional, keep in mind, to those routine services expressed in the above table. The additional services are hard to determine price point as each scenario is different. One concept is very important with Polished Concrete maintenance, ‘Timing is Everything’. When the polished surface shows signs of light wear due to constant abrasion i.e. the gloss seems to be satin at best, a polishing contractor can return and perform 1 High Grit (800, 15000 or 3000) diamond pass to restore the finish. This one pass can typically be handled for around $0.30-$0.50 per square foot compared to the initial installation cost of $4.00+. In the scenario this pass is not performed prior further and further deteriorating of the polished concrete surface- simply passing a resin diamond polishing pad across the surface will no long suffice. In order to remove the excessive abrasions of the surface, the contractor now has to begin all the way in the grinding stages (metals) in order to restore the ‘palette’ and than commence the sequential polishing steps…pass by pass….grit after grit…for once again $4.00+ per square foot. In essence, you ignore the maintenance, you will be paying to completely re-do the area in a matter of time.

Seem expensive? It’s really not

Most building owners during the recent economic drought put off maintenance on their existing tile, wood and vct floors ‘hoping to purchase new once business came back’. Now, getting installation and associated maintenance quotes on Polished Concrete- many are finding sticker shock on the cost of routine maintenance and Interim Re-polishing. Polished Concrete’s associated maintenance cost is well below that of prior listed topical flooring’s, the issue is building owner’s have gotten accustomed to not paying maintenance services (on any type of flooring) in general.

Should Polished Concrete Marketeer’s (contractors, distributors & manufactures) keep holding the true cost of maintenance behind the curtain? In return, keeping an ever steady stream of new prospects? Is today’s installation profit worth the negative impact countless failing floors (due to lack of maintenance) can bring our industry?

Could showing upfront the true maintenance cost of a polished concrete floor cripple the current demand? Or, would it prove more beneficial; showing the consumer that Polished Concrete is a Lifetime Floor when choosing to accept the low maintenance costs associated….

Comparing Polished Concrete

Comparing Polished Concrete

Posted by Steve Perfect

“Polished Concrete is Not Purchased in A Box at Depot R’ Us”…. Unfortunately for the buyer, this means competing contractors are often unlikely to be installing Polished Concrete utilizing similar materials & processes, therefore, the buyer is receiving differing quotations on Polished Concrete that will truly yield different results. I.E. The buyer cannot go to Depot R’ US, purchase Polished Concrete and pay someone to install the product. The manufacturing plant for Polished Concrete is literally brought to the buyers’ building and installed in the format that the individual concrete polishing contractor deems feasible. One contractors’ ideal polished concrete system more often than not, is not identical to that of another polished concrete contractors’ system.

The easiest fashion for the Polished Concrete buyer to compare ‘apples to apples’ bids is to utilize a manufacture specification in the bidding process. This is a subject that was covered prior, see Industry Dilemma . However, this article is not meant to dwell on prior topics but instead outline what buyers’ need to look for when receiving various Concrete Polishing quotations.

Foremost, lets cover the main differentiating factors that cause contractors to yield different results (on the same floor).

Equipment

The mechanical polishing of concrete requires heavy grinding equipment affixed with diamond tooling run in sequential order. As with any industry, there is a multitude of manufactures producing concrete polishing equipment for contractors to utilize. The different equipment varies drastically in width of grinding path, weight and speed in which the tooling (aka diamonds) rotates. While width of equipment may alter a contractors pricing due to their ability to cover larger areas in less time, the weight of the equipment will produce different results than lighter equipment no matter the width. The more weight on the diamond tooling, the better the final polished concrete result will be. The speed the equipment allows the diamond tooling to run will also differentiate the final polish. Variable speed is of utmost importance, in many scenarios a concrete polisher will have best results running they’re initial ‘grinding’ diamonds at a lower rpm and upon the polishing or ‘resin’ diamond stages- higher speeds result in a better final polish. The overall rpm that a variable speed machine is able to obtain is going to differentiate the final result of the polished concrete.

Diamond Tooling

The concrete polishing process utilizes many different diamond tools, run in a sequential order below the machine on the concrete surface (comparable to wood sanding but with a higher count of stages). As with the equipment, there again lies a multitude of manufactures marketing different diamond tooling options. Though the grit levels (grit being the diamond grit size for a specified tool) are likely similar, the metal or resin bond material that holds them together is not. Also, the diamonds that are molded into polished concrete tooling are of highly differentiating qualities between manufactures, again playing a hefty role on final polished concrete finish. Combine tooling variables with different equipment manufacture machine weights and speeds- there is an endless array of results that come to a buyers’ floor.

Chemicals

The polishing process utilizes various chemicals in the contractors’ said concrete polishing process. A main factor being the densifier. Densifier is used to harden the concrete surface by chemically reacting, filling pores and increasing surface density. There are many types of silicate densifiers; lithium, potassium and sodium. All said lithium types are efficient in hardening concrete based on the concrete’s original hardness and the point in the polishing process in which they are applied. I.E. A potassium densifier would typically be used on an abnormally soft concrete surface or after the grinding (metals) process, prior to the polishing (resins) process. A lithium densifier would typically be used on an originally hard concrete surface and latter in the polishing process. Better said, potassium is a thicker silicate carrying agent that allows the chemical to dwell on a porous (soft) surface while the lithium is able to sufficiently penetrate overly hard (less porous) surfaces. Again, countless manufactures produce said densifiers- creating a field of variances of chemical quality. More so, the point in the polishing process that the contractor utilizes the densifier, can vary the overall result of the final polished concrete floor.

The Polishing Process

As if the differences of equipment and chemical weren’t enough to differentiate the buyer’s polished concrete floor, manufactures and concrete polishing contractors alike share differed beliefs on the sequential diamond passes and at which point to apply chemical. In recent years, two main forms of mechanical concrete polishing systems have come to be: Traditional & Transitional. Click pictures below to see systems.

Aside from the main differences of the two systems, contractors are adjusting which steps to ‘jump’ and wherein densification occurs. This ultimately results in a different polished concrete resul. It should be noted in regards to the transitional system- various manufactures have contested that the creation of the transitional diamonds were not intended to ‘jump’ steps but merely gain efficiency and longevity of the diamond tooling itself while processing in the traditional manner. Either way, there is a large number of newer manufactures and contractors boasting that they’re ‘transitional system’ is equal to, if not greater, than that of the latter traditional.

Keep posted for the secondary article of this series which will cover how to differentiate what your contractors are offering and efficiently comparing their price points.