"Too many times we get so focussed on, 'We are the polisher, and you are the maintainer.'"  Pat Harrison, Structural Services Inc.
Bryan Haraway/Getty Images "Too many times we get so focussed on, 'We are the polisher, and you are the maintainer.'" Pat Harrison, Structural Services Inc.

As it does every winter, cabin fever set in here in the Midwest. I find the best way to cure myself of this imaginary malady is to go somewhere that reminds me of warmer times when the streets lack a coating of rock salt and snow piles don’t stand shoulder high.

So naturally, I went to the auto show, where I can dream of motoring around all spring and summer with the top down while warm breezes surround me.

Like others who attended, I was taken in by the clean, pristine condition these hunks of steel, plastic, and glass were in. It’s no accident. There were people there whose sole job was to walk around with feather dusters to wipe off any blemishes from the hoods and doors.

Sometimes when I go to the auto show or drive past a new car dealer’s lot, I wonder how long it will take for the novelty of owning a new vehicle to wear off. Six months? A year? Two years? I don’t have the answer and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I know one factor that plays a part is maintenance. A vehicle will look better and last longer if you wash and wax it regularly and change the oil and other fluids at recommended intervals.

This sounds familiar because just a couple of weeks before the auto show, I was among almost 200 people who heard similar comments at Concrete Surfaces annual Concrete Polishing Luncheon & Forum held at World of Concrete.

There was a good reason maintenance was the theme of the event. People have been walking on hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of square feet of polished concrete floors since the industry started making inroads close to 10 years ago. If maintenance was ignored, these floors now are showing it. “We’re fortunate that after five or seven years, we’re getting an opportunity now to go back and look at these floors we originally created,” said Pat Harrison, vice president and principal, Structural Services Inc., Richardson, Texas.

You might not like what you see. And the architects and owners who are in a position to specify and pay for more polished concrete might show their disappointment by turning to another flooring surface the next time they plan a new school, big-box store, or restaurant.

This is not an us versus them issue. “Too many times we get so focussed on, ‘We are the polisher, and you are the maintainer,’” Harrison said. “That’s not the case. There is an opportunity through the whole cycle for every one of you to be involved. It’s more than giving them a 5-gallon pail of soap, and coming back six months later and saying you didn’t do your part.”

After listening to Harrison and the other speakers, it’s clear the polished concrete industry must move beyond the “polished concrete is low-maintenance, but not maintenance-free” mantra. This is not news anymore. You must work with the building owner to maintain the floors you already worked on so you have more business in the future.

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