Part two of this three-part article looks at necessary maintenance for polished concrete floors.

Just like any type of flooring, polished concrete floors need daily maintenance to continue looking their best. Unfortunately, some facility managers and building service contractors have been told that these floors are so durable that they don’t need anything but water to maintain them. That’s really not true of any surface. All water has minerals in it that will dull the appearance of any shiny surface if used alone.

Any cleaner that is intended to strip grease, wax, etc., will lessen the shine of the flooring. Janitors should use the most neutral cleaner possible, whether mopping or autoscrubbing, and preferably one that is rinse-free. Autoscrubbing simplifies cleaning larger areas of polished concrete. However, the biggest mistake people make is using a too heavy of a brush or too coarse of a pad.

“All you need is a standard plastic brush,” says Jonathan Palecko, regional sales manager at National Chemical Laboratories, Philadelphia. “You don’t need anything fancy. [A standard brush] will get into all of the pores and crevices of the concrete. That’s all you need.”

Anything harsher than a standard brush or red pad and a neutral cleaner will lessen the shine of the flooring over time. Unlike many other types of flooring, the job isn’t to shine a finish on the flooring, but to shine the actual concrete itself.

Beyond daily mopping or autoscrubbing, there will be some heavier maintenance necessary as well. In most spaces, the floors should be polished with a crystalizer or a restorer-type hardener, says Palecko. The interval of these treatments depends on the amount of traffic on the flooring, but it should happen weekly or bi-weekly, as a rule.

Eventually, polished concrete will need a little more care. If heavy wear patterns start to appear in high-traffic areas, a restoration paste can help even things out a little, says Palecko. At some point, however, the floor will need to be diamond-honed or polished with stronger brushes or diamond pads.

Know Your Stuff

As with most areas of construction and maintenance, the flooring installers are very rarely the best experts on how to maintain polished concrete floors. It’s important to get all the facts up front about the maintenance of finished concrete. Distributors can help by making sure that their customers know how eager they are to help. Any distributor who doesn’t know enough to guide an end user through the process of maintaining polished concrete will certainly know a manufacturer who can help them both.
 
“Many people know a little about a lot,” says Palecko. “The best thing to do is know what you know and what you don’t. Don’t fake it, ask people who know. Manufacturers are happy to help.”

Distributors can also help by providing references for facility owners. Distributors know which building service contractors are experts in maintaining polished concrete, because they may even have trained some of them. If they didn’t, they sure know who’s buying the right equipment and supplies to do a good job.

As with almost any other area of the cleaning industry, the success of polished concrete cleaning protocols rests on whether there has been adequate training and whether the training is followed. Distributors should set up systems that encourage end users to read product labels carefully and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, says Paul Narpaul, owner of Innovative Chemical Corporation, Cottage Grove, Minnesota.

With polished concrete, however, it goes beyond that. Palecko uses the diffusion of lighting to help train customers to be able to see when a floor needs something beyond ordinary, daily maintenance. Some facilities are looking for a high gloss, one in which the reflection of a light bulb is clear and crisp. Although that’s usually the expectation with high-grade marble or other stone floors, it’s unusual with polished concrete. If facility owners want it, however, they can get it.

Even if the optimal look for the facility is much softer, where the light will diffuse nicely on the floor, it’s the end user’s job to be able to look at the floors and see whether they’re ready for more maintenance. Distributors and manufacturers should be able to help end users learn the look of their polished concrete. Depending upon the desired look, there may be up to 10 or 12 steps to really bring the floor back into its glory. According to Palecko, maybe seven of those might involve diamond honing or polishing.

Helping end users see the early signs of wear gives them the ability to plan the heavier maintenance for times when the facility use is slower.