Editor’s Note: Concrete Surfaces hosted its annual Polished Concrete Luncheon and Forum at World of Concrete on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas. About 200 people attended the event, which was sponsored by organizers of the International Concrete Polishing & Staining Conference (ICPSC), to be held Sept. 29–Oct. 2 in Duluth, Ga.
Speakers included Carl Cabot, vice president, American Decorative Concrete Supply Co., Lowell, Ark.; Kenneth Fisher, certified walkway specialist and contributor to the National Floor Safety Institute, Southlake, Texas; Pat Harrison, vice president and principal, Structural Services Inc., Richardson, Texas; and Mark Schuler, vice president of sales, Mr. Clean Maintenance Systems, Colton, Calif. Charles Griffasi of the ICPSC moderated. Maintenance was the discussion’s overriding theme, including slip-fall liability and maintaining dyed concrete.
Look for details on next year’s Concrete Polishing Luncheon & Forum later this year. World of Concrete 2012 takes place Jan. 24–27.
While polished concrete floors continue to grow in popularity, contractors are learning the job is not finished when the last piece of equipment is loaded onto the truck and the check for the job cashed. Months later, someone on the other end of the telephone may seek advice on how to get rid of a blemish or ask why the floor’s shine is fading on an otherwise successful job.
Contractors in the fledgling polished concrete industry are learning they must leave maintenance instructions with the owners so their satisfaction with a job well-done continues months and even years later. Don’t oversell the project.
“Floors were originally sold as maintenance free,” said Structural Services’ Pat Harrison. “The impression was if you put a densifier on the surface, you didn’t have to deal with it anymore. That’s the farthest from the truth.”
Years ago, when the polished concrete industry was just starting to make inroads in the market, some of the major cleaning companies more interested and focused on vinyl composite tile (VCT) mistakenly told some building owners the same products used on VCT could be used for polished concrete floors.
“Too many times we get focused 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, and 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.”
Limiting liability “You do a great job polishing floors, but, collectively, your group does a terrible job of telling people how to take care of them,” said Ken Fisher, a certified walkway specialist. For 17 years, Fisher dealt almost exclusively with VCT floors, but that has changed.
“Two years ago, we became more educated with concrete,” Fisher explained. His clients’ lawyers were getting “barraged” with lawsuits “because we are seeing more polished concrete.”
Coinciding with the popularity of polished concrete floor are two developments outside the control of the construction industry: An aging population and economy trying to regain its footing after a serious recession.
Fisher noted that 325,000 Americans a month are turning 65 years old. People also are more likely to file lawsuits if they are out of work. “We work with insurance companies that have seen unprecedented slip and fall increases the last six months,” he said.
Contractors can influence the choice of floor by letting architects know they have a strategy to decrease falls. But the issue can be confusing because OSHA does not have a standard for the Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF). Fisher stressed to the audience that the lower the SCOF, the more hazardous the floor will be.
“If you can reduce the hazard, reduce the liability, and control the event, insurance companies and defense attorneys will love you,” Fisher explained. “Educate your client. We must demonstrate and educate.” (For further information on slip-fall prevention, read “Giving Slips the Slip” from the December 2010 issue of Concrete Construction, a special section of Concrete Surfaces.)
“Don’t leave a facility where you worked without giving some type of instructions,” said Mark Schuler of Mr. Clean Maintenance Systems. “Find out what kind of cleaning equipment they have. Look and see what they are going to clean the floor with. Make sure they have the tools to do the job. You just spent a lot of your time. Your reputations are on the line.
“Know what oils and soils you need to remove,” Schuler added. “Use proper cleaning equipment, chemicals, and pads. Remove all residue left on the floor to create a clean, safe floor.”
Carl Cabot of American Decorative Concrete Supply added, “You have to educate the maintenance groups all the time.”
Maintenance procedures can vary, depending on the location. “There is no set maintenance,” added Cabot. “You have to look at each situation on its own. If you dealing with winter up North when there are a lot of salts and heavy traffic coming in, you might want to use one type of cleaning product. Down South, where there is a lot of sand and grit, you might want to use a different type of cleaning product.”
Maintenance issues surface quicker with dyed concrete than with gray concrete. “Be sure the cleaning solutions you are using are not going to damage your stain protection,” Cabot said. “Once the stain protection is damaged, things will start soaking into the concrete faster.”
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