When international lighting manufacturer ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls Inc.) was building its new corporate headquarters in Middleton, Wis., it had a unique design goal: All employees, administrative and factory staff alike, were to enjoy a carpeted floor throughout the entire 250,000-square-foot facility.

ETC, a provider of internal and external lighting to theaters, museums, schools, and TV studios around the world, wanted to counter the perception of a corporate culture where anyone would have greater comfort than anyone else. This included offering the highest level of flooring comfort equally to all employees.

But after determining that they could not use carpeting throughout because of safety and maintenance concerns, the design team began to search for a solution that would meet factory requirements of an industrial setting with forklifts, while still feeling warm and bright.

Presented with alternatives, designers opted for a diamond-polished, highly reflective flooring finish in the assembly area of the building. As a world-class lighting company, ETC also regarded this light reflectivity and appearance important both symbolically and practically.

They ultimately opted for Master Builder's Light Reflective dry-shake flooring finish with a hard-trowelled surface. The floor was cured using a wax-based curing compound, which acted as a sacrificial protective layer on the floor during the concrete curing and construction process.

Toward the end of the project and before the owner occupied the space, the curing compound was removed and crews started the diamond polishing process. With the proper hardness of diamonds and grit to avoid damaging the surface or removing the well-finished colored dry-shake, the surface was diamond-polished wet to provide a high gloss.

During the polishing process, the crew applied a penetrating sodium silicate for added sealing properties, along with a penetrating oil-resistant sealer in the manufacturing areas where the floor was to assist in repelling oils from ETC's machining operations. All of the floor control joints were filled and shaved flush using a polyurea joint filler.

Now, the floor's performance is exceeding expectations and has been, as also promised, a low maintenance, highly effective showplace for this company's operations.

“Workers and visitors both comment on the floor's luster,” says Marc Reuter, ETC's facility manager. “It's another element in creating the good energy of a great working environment.”

Often, dry-shakes are chosen largely as a durable alternative to epoxy and urethane finishes. They are rarely conceived as aesthetic solutions and certainly not as a warm alternative to carpeting. Typically, polishing colored dry-shake products can be very difficult, as they are often finished rough or are not trowelled tightly.

Normally the floor flatness (FF) and floor levelness (FL) numbers with a polished finish will give way to the customer's desire for a true color. Concrete contractors are forced to finish the floor lightly to avoid burning or discoloring a dry-shake color. Polishing a rough-finished, dry-shake can result in the salt-and-pepper exposure of the dry-shake and cement aggregates, a result that sounds more desirable than it truly is.

Working together, concrete placement contractor Middleton Construction Inc. and floor polishing contractor D&B Industrial Floor Coatings Inc. developed a non-traditional method of shake application, along with a specific polishing procedure. Using a Horiba IG 320 gloss meter, the floor reads at an average 81 gloss, with readings as high as 89.

ETC is undergoing another large expansion project and is utilizing the same contractors and materials to achieve this desired floor once again. “The resulting floor not only provided us with a durable industrial surface that can stand up to our demanding production work, but it also is an attractive, people-pleasing surface that we're proud to show off as part of our headquarters' overall aesthetic design,” says Kobi Danke, building-project manager for ETC's new addition.

Project Details

  • Owner: Electronic Theatre Controls, Middleton, Wis.
  • Concrete Contractor: Middleton Construction Inc., Arlington, Wis.
  • Floor Polishing Contractor: D&B Industrial Floor Coatings Inc., Menomonee Falls, Wis.

The author is president of D&B Industrial Floor Coatings Inc., a flooring installer based in Menomonee Falls, Wis. For more information, visitwww.dbfloorcoating.com, or telephone 262-255-3800.