This is the first part of a three-part article about polished concrete.

Within the last five years, polished concrete flooring has grown in popularity, replacing vinyl composition tile (VCT) floors in many new and existing commercial facilities.

Durability, aesthetics, the high degree of light reflectivity, reduced construction costs, minimal environmental impact and the ease of maintenance are just a few reasons why this flooring system is quickly becoming the preferred choice of many retailers, architects and engineers.

As polished concrete continues to grow as a favored flooring material, there is an increased need for distributors who sell floor care products to fully understand the daily maintenance needs required for the application.

Over the years, polished concrete has been sold as a “maintenance free” flooring system. Industry experts say that is a common misnomer, however.

“Too often, we run into people who believe that once the concrete floor has been installed, it maintains itself,” says Claudia Lezell in a press release. She is vice chair of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) Standards Hard Surface Division and president of Inspections Too, Inc. and the Flooring Technology Institute based in Friendswood, Texas. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like most other hard floor surfaces, concrete maintenance requires a specialized approach that takes several factors into consideration — otherwise, it can fail.”

A series of grinding and polishing steps are used to initially create a high-gloss polished concrete floor. A coarse grinding tool, such as a diamond disk, is used to either wet or dry grind the concrete. Then a series of progressively less abrasive diamond pads grind and polish the floor until the desired level of gloss is attained. Facilities can choose the level of sheen — from satin to high-gloss — that meets their maintenance and aesthetic requirements. This process includes several levels of grinding, application of densifiers and sealers, burnishing and buffing. A licensed concrete contractor with specialized equipment and tools typically performs this initial process.

Cleaning professionals can easily perform routine maintenance, however, using readily available floor care products.

Polished concrete, unlike VCT, is relatively low-maintenance flooring, since it does not require waxes or sealers. It does, however, like any flooring application, require specific preservation methods in order to keep its glossy appearance, says Bill Griffin, owner of Cleaning Consultants Inc. in Seattle.

The various levels of shine for polished concrete range from low gloss to reflective, mirror-like finishes. Daily routine maintenance for polished concrete floors includes daily dust mopping to remove dirt and grime accumulation that can abrade the surface, says Bill McGarvey, director of training and sustainability at Philip Rosenau Co., Inc. in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Subsequent wet mopping or autoscrubbing — depending on the square footage of the facility — with a neutral cleaner also is necessary.

McGarvey recommends only using pH-neutral cleaners on polished concrete, since a cleaner that is too acidic or too alkaline will deteriorate the concrete and dull the shine of the floor. A neutral floor cleaner will also help in suspending dirt particles so they can be easily removed.

The correct type of floor pad is required to prevent concrete surface damage. Diamond-impregnated pads will mechanically maintain the floor’s polish. These pads are made of synthetic or natural hair fibers and are sprayed with diamond powders, secondary abrasives and epoxy binders. These pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit all models of floor buffers, burnishers and autoscrubbers. Depending on the specifications of the pads, they can be used either wet or dry.

“Use diamond pads throughout the life of the floor and not just during the original polishing of the floor,” says Griffin. “Every so often when [the floor] starts to get dull, go back in with some diamond-impregnated floor pads and use it for seven to 10 cleaning cycles under any kind of a machine, and then once you get it back up to the shine you want, back down to a white pad and maintain it for two months or six months or a year.”

next page of this article:
Be Proactive With Concrete Floor Care