A close-up of the concrete work at the School of the Future, done by Creative Surfaces Inc.

The photos on this page show more examples of the concrete work at the School of the Future, done by Creative Surfaces Inc.

Flooring installations can take on several levels, stemming from the nitty-gritty preparation work to highly intricate patterns. In this first INSTALLments column, we take a look at concrete overlay and how it fits into the work of an extremely demanding design. Our work for this this issue takes us to the Philadelphia area.

Some flooring projects require the fine detail of an artist to create precision designs. That’s exactly what a Philadelphia-area flooring installation company had to plan for when they tackled “The School of the Future,” for the Philadelphia city school system.

The project’s designer specified acid-stained concrete flooring, and further opted for a host of inconsistent patterns and multiple color schemes. And, the project’s schedule was accelerated to meet a school-opening deadline.

Creative Surfaces, Inc. (CSI), which specializes in concrete resurfacing, self-leveling cements, shot-blasting, epoxy coatings, stamped overlays and designer floors, was the flooring contractor charged with delivering. Company owner and veteran flooring professional, Tom Compton, recognized that with the fine artistry specified, a typical gray cement floor would not be optimal for the design. So, CSI installed a one-eighth-inch concrete overlay to create a white base needed to develop the coloring scheme that the specifications dictated. The cementitious topping was troweled over the existing concrete surface.

CSI also gave an alternative to the harsh acid stain, and introduced the project’s designers to an environmentally friendly water stain, which acted just like the acid stain, to complete the project. The myriad of colors and designs over the 70,000 square foot area – a typical 8-week job – were successfully installed in just four weeks.

Compton credits his trained work force for the success. In fact, despite that deadline hanging over his head, Compton took a first step that many contractors may overlook: He put his crews through specialized training before dispatching a single installer to the school’s job site to make sure his employees were up to date on the product.

“We hosted the manufacturer, Seamco Surfaces to show us exactly how to use their product. I believe getting that training helped us meet the goals of the project,” Compton said.

That extra training dovetailed nicely with the multiple years of apprenticeship and continuing education training his crews received as part of the local INSTALL program. INSTALL, the International Standards and Training Alliance, is a career-long training and certification program offered to floor covering installers throughout the United States and Canada, which is based on the needs of today’s flooring industry. More than 50 major mills and manufacturers regularly have their technical experts work with instructors from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ International Training Center, which produces the curriculum that INSTALL professionals learn from. As a result, the curriculum reflects what is needed on jobsites. CSI’s crews are trained by the Delaware Valley’s affiliate of INSTALL.

Michael Morrow, the chief estimator for CSI, said he can see the difference between his INSTALL-trained crews and other companies that don’t have the INSTALL program as their base. “Our crews display professionalism, a greater knowledge of work, and a better understanding of how products work. They also understand how a job should run and how to do it safely,” Morrow said. “I know I can count on that level of skill when I’m estimating projects.”

Compton said he believes the training he insists on for his crews gave him the reputation to land the School of the Future job. “I believe we got that job because of our reputation for detail and being able to get a job done and delivered on schedule. We worked closely with the construction manager and design team to ensure meticulous planning, and our crews answered the bell with focused work and excellent craftsmanship,” Compton explained.

“I can’t stress enough how important training is and I think that is proven in the trained workforce I had to complete a job as technical and demanding as this school project was.”