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Putting a Shine and Profit on a Dull Concrete Floor

When looking at a concrete floor most people see a dull gray slab. Not me, I see profit and opportunity. Concrete is one of fastest growing segments of the flooring industry and is finding wide use in all types of residential and commercial facilities around the world. This is a trend that will continue to grow in the future as carpet and other flooring materials lose market share. In an effort to reduce maintenance and labor costs, existing floor coverings are being removed to expose concrete that can brighten a room when cleaned and polished.

Need for Maintenance Grows
Over the last ten years, millions of square feet of concrete has been polished to a shine with little emphasis or information provided regarding how to properly maintain this new category of flooring. The low maintenance needs of concrete flooring have been oversold by polishing contractors who lead building owners and managers to believe that no maintenance is needed. Due to a lack of routine and periodic maintenance many of the floors that have been polished over the years have lost much of their shine and are now in need of deep cleaning, polishing and in some cases restoration.

This work is ideally suited for small business floor care professionals who have the equipment, chemicals and expertise needed to bring back the shine to an otherwise durable and easy to maintain floor. Most concrete contractors are set up to handle big grinding and polishing jobs and don’t offer or want to perform ongoing cleaning or maintenance services.

Concrete is Hard, Maintenance is Not
The routine and periodic maintenance of polished concrete is fairly simple and doesn’t require expensive equipment or harsh chemicals. You need a standard 175 RPM rotary floor machine and or a 1250 RPM burnisher. A mop pail and bucket, a wet pick up vacuum, a general purpose cleaner or degreaser (depending on the soil being removed) and a set of diamond impregnated floor pads and you are ready to go.

The diamond pads come in various grits from 400 to 11,000 and in most cases bringing back the shine can be accomplished with 4 to 10 passes with each of the top two or three grits. Testing with a hand held variable speed angle polisher or a floor machine in a small area will help you determine which grit to start with and how many passes are required to obtain the desired shine. Assuming the floor is not damaged beyond repolishing, wet or dry polishing with progressively finer grit diamond pads will bring back shine. After polishing, a top guard product may be applied to further enhance the shine and provide protection from staining and chemicals damage. If the floor is heavily soiled, pre-scrubbing with a hogs hair pad is required before beginning the polish process.

You’ll need to do some research to see what your local market will bear as far as cost per square foot rates are for this type of service. My best guess for small jobs, which is a good place to start, is in $1.50 – $2.50 per square foot range. For larger jobs, you’ll probably be in the $1.00 to $1.50 range. Another approach to pricing is to base the price on the time it takes to do the work. In this case multiple your hourly billable rate times the number of hours required to perform the work, add in 15%-20% to cover the cost of supplies and equipment and you should be ok. The cost of cleaning alone will probably be less than half of the cost of polishing. After doing a job or two review your numbers and adjust your price accordingly. As long as you are working on small jobs to start with, even if you are off by quite a bit, it won’t hurt you too much as the job is small and you can adjust your price on future jobs.

Customers can’t buy your services if they don’t know you exist. A major part of your job is the marketing of your services to potential customers. Make up a brochure or flyer and start looking for small retail stores that have concrete floor that have lost their shine or are in need of cleaning. In some cases customers may only want a small area of the floor serviced where it is soiled or high traffic levels have degraded the shine so you may have to establish a minimum charge for these types of jobs.

You are going to need more information to master this skill. Here are some resources that you should be aware and utilize to increase you knowledge and skills.

  1. Search “Concrete Polishing” and related topics on Google, YouTube or your favorite search engine.
  2. Visit the World of Concrete Show website and attend the show in Feb 2-6, 2015 in Las Vegas. (don’t miss it if you really want to learn about concrete)
  3. Concrete polishing magazines and newsletters:
  4. Concrete Polishing Associations:
  5. Related resources: