Going without a floor covering does not mean you have to go without style and strength. Retailers can stain, polish, and seal innovative floor leveling compounds with appealing, fashion-forward results and they are ideal for projects that need working time while achieving high early strength. And with contributing LEED possibilities, the environmental friendliness of polished concrete overlays makes it an excellent green building product. With reduced maintenance cost and long-life cycle, this market segment is trending to grow higher in the years to come. However, these polished overlays require knowledge and expertise to be truly successful. So, let’s explore some of the key attributes of a successful polishable overlay installation.
- Proper subfloor preparation is critical to the overall performance of the concrete overlay. Most manufacturers of concrete overlay systems require a minimum CSP3 as defined by the International Concrete Repair Institute. Advancement in profiling equipment is making this portion of the work easier.
- Repairing the surface cracks found in concrete substrates should be considered as a mandatory procedure in the installation of the concrete overlay. Crack repair products, like two-part epoxies, two-part urethanes, and non-shrinking silicate-based systems, help minimize the risk that surface cracks telegraph through the newly installed concrete overlay.
- Advances in epoxy primers, some that also include moisture mitigation properties, has also become a key component in the success of concrete overlays. Epoxy primers usually include either a sand broadcast or a specialty acrylic primer that allows the proper bond between the original substrate and the concrete overlay. Carefully selected epoxy primers can minimize the risk of delamination due to improper bonding and high moisture.
- Proper tools and equipment are crucial components. Combined with the appropriately selected concrete overlay material, they create a successful installation. Without the correct tools and equipment, concrete overlays will not meet customer expectations. Suitable tools include – grinding and polishing equipment, diamond polishing pads, densifiers, and dust control. Mixing equipment can increase production, and it offers a more consistent application. Gauge rakes and a smoothing trowel – affect the overall finish of the concrete overlay.
- Addressing customer expectations should be done before starting an installation because a concrete overlay is unique and handcrafted. A quality installation includes not only the right equipment but also properly trained and experienced installers. Mockups, including any coloration and design aspects of the concrete overlay, should be performed prior to the final installation. Once again, this is so that the customer’s expectations are consistent with product performance and installation techniques.
- Integral dyes and topical stains have significantly advanced in the concrete overlays in recent years. Metal dividing strips give the craftsmen the ability to create patterns and separate colors. Seeding with colored aggregates and stenciling techniques is also broadening the design potential of concrete overlay products and installations.
- The sheen of the concrete overlay must be decided in advance with the customer. Some areas of the country may prefer a high polished application, while others are seeking a more minimalistic approach with muted colors and lower sheen.
- A maintenance procedure should be implemented for the overall lifecycle of the material. Areas with darker colors and higher traffic may require a more stringent maintenance procedure. Polyurethanes, polyaspartics, and epoxies are the go-to products for most commercial applications.
The steps listed above are not inclusive of everything required but gives an overall view of an application. Not all concrete overlay products are made the same. Individual applicators should become familiar with how different products work by referring to the manufacturers’ written instructions. They should also have experience with how their equipment and installation techniques may vary from one manufacturer to the next.
Take the time to educate yourself, not only with the concrete overlay products but also the proper preparation, tooling, equipment, design possibilities and maintenance to enhance your ability to be a leader in this ever-increasing market segment.