Royale Concrete was faced with an uphill battle, literally, when they accepted the job of restoring an historic auditorium floor at a 1920s high school in Des Moines, Iowa. The steep pitch meant that the 900-plus pound grinders struggled to keep course with the steep slope. Even the self-propelled remote control grinders were no match to the forces of gravity dragging them downward and instead had to be muscled in order to stay on course. Adding to the challenge were dozens of closely-spaced degraded vent holes making it difficult for the 32-inch-wide grinders to navigate around them without damaging equipment and trying to retain a safe job site.

While most concrete professionals may have passed on the job given the obvious time commitment and substantial physical effort it promised, Royale Concrete’s team lead by certified craftsman Justin Toben met the challenge. This team of contractors overcame the challenges to create a honed floor worthy of the historic school.

The Uphill Climb

“We were incredibly proud of our craftsmen for tackling this challenging project,” said Erin Ledger, project and operations manager. “The client was thrilled with the results.”

Toben and his team pushed the grinders around the incline in a horizontal direction. Gravity, of course, constantly pulled the machine downward, so the men used their bodies to steer the machine in a straight path along the incline. It was very taxing physically to try to keep the grinders from veering downward.

A historic floor that has hosted concerts, plays and student assemblies for more than 90 years has experienced a lot of shuffling feet. The dozens of degraded vent holes in the auditorium floors required a great deal of repair before being honed and finished with the rest of the floor.

Toben and his team came up with an ingenious solution to repair the vent holes that was both effective and efficient. After the degradation around the vent holes had been prepped and cleaned the team was ready to fill them with cementitious repair material. But they still had to figure out a solution to repair them while retaining their function as a working vent.

Toben pulled from his past experience with forming concrete countertops and thought to use common foam insulation board as a form material for the vent holes. Using this easy-to-handle material allowed the team to easily customize the forms for each vent while retaining the original rectangular shape and function of each vent simultaneously. The grinders still had to be painstakingly maneuvered around the vent holes during the finishing, but the use of the foam insulation material made for a swifter repair process.

“Being solutions-oriented is one of our company’s core values," said Toben. "Where others may hesitate about certain projects, we strive forward, determined to use each challenge as an opportunity to hone our craft and either learn or develop new ways of overcoming obstacles.”