The Catholic Cemeteries of Brooklyn and Queens were building a new welcome center at the St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY just outside New York City. The architects BBS (Burton, Behrendt, Smith, P.C.) of Patchogue, New York suggested polished concrete floors. The owners representative Randy van Yahres who was in charge of the project was unfamiliar with polished concrete and its possibilities.
“Other than walking into a Home Depot, I had no knowledge of concrete floors,” recalls Van Yahres. “My expectations were rather low.” Some concrete floors were shown to me as examples and then my expectations were even lower. Everything I’d seen was integral color with a monochromatic kind of appearance. That wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted variegation, the high and low mottled appearance of aged leather.”
He was looking for a much more high end wow factor. After some research he was introduced to Matt Johnson, Owner of Green Earth Floors, Inc. Tuckahoe, NY, a well-established concrete polishing contractor who had installed a variety of polished concrete floors in high profile New York City locations and around the Tri State area. Johnson took Van Yahres to some of his recent projects. Impressed with what he saw Mr. Van Yahres said “that’s when I fully bought into the concept.” Van Yahres became a believer and decided on a dark brown color. They worked with American Decorative Concrete Supply Company (ADC) on the shades. The color selected was a custom color made by a combination of two shades. Johnson explains that he used a technique he developed that would bring out different hues. His technique produces gradations, like cutting through tree bark, giving the floor depth, dimension and a uniqueness that the clients were looking for. The project was 4000 psi commercial concrete on grade, over a vapor barrier. A small portion of the project was on an elevated slab built over a basement storage room. It was no easy task getting the inconsistencies to be consistent.
Products used by Green Earth Floors on this projects to achieve the desired look and feel were: ADC’s Ameripolish SureLock Color, L&M’s /FGS Perma Shine and LS Guard, Metzger/McQuire – spal pro RS88 for the joints. Regarding the cracks in the concrete, which are always a factor, Johnson used Match Crete by Roadware. Van Yahres said that Johnson did a masterful job filling the cracks. “He got it to look like marble grain and people who see the floor actually think it is marble.” Lipsky representatives thought the results were excellent. Responses they said have been more than favorable, “all those viewing it love it and say wow, how did you do that?”
Johnson describes the floor as very well made, with no curling. There was some waviness, but not to an unusual degree. He also found it exceptionally hard and dense, which would be consistent with the curing practices used. A hard floor is counter intuitively, easier to polish and can yield very high gloss results. “I loved working on that floor,” Johnson comments, “even though we had a tough time grinding it.” Johnson recalls that he had to order three extra sets of diamonds and the concrete was very tight making it hard to get the dye into. “A tight slab-one with high density-can be difficult to dye because the port structure is small to start with, leaving minimal pathways for the dye to enter.”
During polishing, after the 800 grit abrasives, Johnson noticed some areas of insufficient color beyond the desired range of variegation. Color variegation is the norm in dyed concrete, stemming directly from the inconsistencies of the concrete itself. A concrete slab’s color, local density, and even its chemistry vary inch by inch. These variations are not flaws: they are simply part of concrete’s nature. Many variables can contribute to these small inconsistencies; wetness of aggregate, absorptive aggregate, minor variations in mixing, placement techniques, vibration and consolidation, finishing techniques, wind and sunshine during placement and initial set, variations in curing, etc.
The feedback has been that the owners were quite pleased as well as all parties involved. The project was going for a silver Leeds certification and Mr. Johnson has been informed that it was also up for a Green Building Award.