Cash from Concrete
Concrete Cleaning, Maintenance and Restoration
Buck fifty to as much as $5.00 or more per square foot to clean, polish, stain, densify and recoat those concrete floors you walk over every day. Price varies from area to area, the size of the job and the specific services you are providing. There is no reason to let someone else make that kind of money when it could be yours for the asking. Being able to service this growing market will open doors to both residential and commercial accounts. The good news is that you probably have most of the equipment needed to get started. What you will need is training, a little practice, a few supplies and a willingness to see concrete as an opportunity for profit.
Concrete is a poured mixture of cement, water and aggregate (stone, sand or gravel) of various sizes, Terrazzo is similar, except marble chips are used in place of gravel and other bonding agents such as epoxy or polyester may be used. Concrete acquires its strength and hardness as it cures and the moisture hydrates out of the mix. Designer concrete floors, walls and counters are available that are etched, pigmented, stamped, molded, densified, or diamond polished to a shine. These decorative concrete surfaces are more expensive than standard concrete and are durable, require little maintenance and offer many interesting design, appearance, texture and color choices. For these and other reasons such as sustainability, light reflection and a long useful life, we are seeing wide spread use of concrete as a flooring material in both homes and businesses. Considering the benefits and options, it is easy to see why decorative concrete is gaining popularity in all types and size of locations, including shopping centers, warehouses, factories, schools, retail stores, automobile dealerships and even upscale homes, condos and apartments. Although this trend may be unknown in the cleaning industry, it’s a hot subject in architecture, design and construction.
The benefits of concrete and terrazzo include low maintenance costs and a wide range of products can be used to seal, finish or coat the surface. It is important to closely follow the product manufacturer’s application and maintenance instructions.
Polishing and Grinding Concrete
A large, heavy and expensive floor machine with diamond abrasive disks are used to wet or dry grind and polish the floor to the desired level of shine. For small areas a standard 175 RPM, 1.5 HP rotary floor machine with a weighted drive assembly can be used for grinding, polishing or cleaning, but due to low production rates and lesser quality, it is not practical for large areas or where high quality results are needed.
Much like sanding a wood floor, the process starts with a course abrasive (100 grit or less) and progresses incrementally through multiple steps to fine abrasives (up to 1800 grit or more) until the desired shine is achieved. This process can be used on new or existing concrete with many variations including color, shine, texture, insets, or overlay with glass, metal, stone and other materials. During the process a densifier may be applied and after polishing a penetrating or topical sealer, stain guard, topical finish or natural wax can be applied to the floor to give it the desired protection, shine or luster.
Densifying or Hardening Concrete
Densification is accomplished much in the same way, except that during the initial grinding process an application of a modified silicate hardener is applied to the surface, which penetrates into and reacts with the concrete. A densifier can be applied to new or existing concrete and works by forming a hard crystalline structure within the surface of the concrete itself. The result is a harder, denser surface that is easier and cheaper to maintain because less periodic maintenance (polishing), other than dust mopping and scrubbing is required. Well that’s what the literature says, and this is where you come in. Building owners and manager are finding that polished and decorative concrete floors are not as bulletproof as the marketing literature may suggest. Concrete floors do require occasional periodic and restorative procedures to keep them looking like new indefinitely. This is especially true in high traffic areas and when daily or routine maintenance is not provided or an area lacks protective matting which allows abrasive grit to be tracked in, which over time scratches the surface, degrading the shine. In most locations, polishing the floor periodically with fine diamond impregnated floor pads will maintain the shine, thus avoiding costing restoration.
Builders, designers and architects are moving away from installing expensive floor coverings and are instead specifying low maintenance decorative concrete floors, walls and counters. There is money to be made if you learn how to clean, repair, polish, stain, paint and recoat this new type of floor covering: good old concrete with an attitude.
Services You Can Provide:
- Servicing concrete and other hard surface floors normally falls into the following categories:
- Cleaning (daily or routine tasks)
This includes such tasks as wet and dry mopping or vacuuming and light scrubbing. You can do this.
- Maintenance (periodic tasks)
This includes such tasks a pressure washing, light or heavy scrubbing, polishing and applying sealers and coatings. You can do this.
- Restoration (infrequent tasks)
This includes such tasks as removing sealers and coatings, recoloring, repainting or staining, repairs, grinding, densifying, polishing, sealing and recoating. These tasks are more complex, but learnable and require specialized chemicals, supplies and equipment. Additional research, training and practice are recommended before attempting these procedures.
A mop, wet vacuum, floor machine, auto-scrubber or rotary spray jet wand can be used t clean concrete surfaces. Several companies offer hard floor wands that incorporate a spinning spray head that connects to a pressure washer, steam cleaner, portable or truck mounted carpet extractor. These specialty-cleaning wands are good for cleaning grouted, uneven or smooth concrete floors in locations where large amounts of water and pressure will not cause problems. If the surface is heavily soiled, pretreatment maybe needed with a degreaser, alkaline or neutral cleaner, followed by dwell time and brush agitation. Acid chemicals should not be used on cement based concrete floors as they will immediately damage the surface (etch, roughen and loss of gloss). A brush type shroud on the base of the wand should be used, as a solid flat plastic base will hold grit that can scratch the floor. To prevent damage, keep spray pressure under 800 PSI, if the surface is damaged, a lower pressure is recommended.
A standard rotary floor machine, with a hogs hair, white floor pad or brush may be used to scrub concrete floors. Don’t use a red or blue pad as the color may migrate into the floor. If the floor has a high gloss polish or shine, do not use a pad or brush containing course abrasives as it may scratch the floor and remove the gloss.
Test all processes, pads and chemicals in a small (6” or less) inconspicuous area to determine the best process and product prior to use. Speed dry the test area with a hair dryer, heater or air mover to see how the floor will look once it dries. Normally a concrete surface will lighten as it dries; scratches and or loss of gloss may not be visible when the floor is wet.
This can be the application of a top guard penetrating or topical sealers, finish, or coating such as epoxy, urethane, acrylic or polymer emulsions. Surfaces should be clean and dry prior to application of a sealer or coating. Concrete will powder / dust if not protected with a durable penetrating sealer or finish.
This can involve paint touch up, stain removal, filing or repairing pits, cracks, scratches, gouges, holes and spalling or other surface damage or defects. Specialty products, repair kits, tools and training are available from product manufacturers.
Color, Stain and Paint
This can involve removing and replacing or touching up color, stain or paint on concrete surfaces. Specialty pigments, paints and stains are available from product manufacturers.
This involves the use of metal or resin bonded diamond disks under a rotary or square floor machine. The size and type of machine will depend on user preference, square foot being serviced and budget.
This often involves removing surface and penetrated stains. Oil and fluids are common problems and may sometimes be removed or lightened by chemical application or the use of a poltice. Oil spots can sometimes be removed or lightened by spot cleaning with a good degreaser or oil emulsifier. Oil containing solvents should not be used on natural stone or concrete as they may leave a dark spot.
An excellent booklet titled “Removing Stains and Cleaning Concrete Surfaces” is available from the Portland Cement Association, www.cement.org email: email@example.com
Equipment, Chemicals, Supplies
Specialty concrete suppliers, distributors and manufacturers offer a complete line of products, equipment and often training related to concrete cleaning, repair, and polishing.
A Word about Safety
Working with concrete involves the use of harsh chemicals, water, solvents and airborne particulate soils, along with powered equipment that is heavy, noisy and vibrates. Adequate training, supervision, and the proper use of safety precautions, personal protective equipment (PPE) and ongoing equipment inspection and maintenance is required to minimize risk, protect workers and the public.
Science Comes to Concrete
We are now seeing scientific test equipment being used to validate ASTM, ANSI, IICRC and other industry standards related to slip resistance, gloss, film thickness, bacteria load, particulate size and count, and other indoor environmental issues.
Green and Sustainable
The U. S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org) has developed the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) certification program that rates new and existing buildings based on criteria that promote environmental stewardship, energy conservation, safety and an indoor environment health.
Concrete that uses recycled materials is considered a sustainable product. When processes are used that reduce energy, water and waste generation, sustainability is further enhanced.
Resources and Education
There are many resources available today regarding concrete cleaning, repair and polishing. There are several associations, trade shows, publications, chat/forums and YouTube videos available that are specifically related to this subject. A “Google” search will yield multiple links.
Keeping Up With Change
This is a relatively new field of specialized service where technology, product and processes are constantly changing. Keeping up to date with the changes that are impacting our lives, jobs and businesses is an important part of and a requirement for today’s’ successful technician and business owner. Where education and opportunity meet, you’ll find profit.