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Design Ideas: Polished Concrete Info

Back to the future: The year is 1985, about 8 or 9 years before polished concrete made its official debut in the market. At the ripe age of 21, I remember watching this crazy movie in which a teenager named Marty McFly hooks up with mad scientist Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown. Doc reveals to Marty a modified time machine super-powered by plutonium and a flux capacitor. Ironically, I recently had to change out a capacitor in the inverter box on my grinding equipment, so I can relate. Who knows? A plutonium- powered planetary grinder may be the next big thing.

Marty Mcflys Dad, George.

Polished overlay with brass divider strips, crushed glass and water based dye.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of similarities between this movie and the polished concrete market. I was recently asked my opinion about where the polished concrete market is going in the future. As I gazed into my crystal ball, trying to predict where the industry is headed, it was clear that I needed to go back in time first, just as Marty McFly did, and reflect on all the trials and tribulations I and many others in the industry experienced along the way, not to mention the countless hours of blood, sweat and tears it took us to get where we are today. To put things in perspective, the stamped concrete market got its start back in the early 1950s by a young entrepreneurial genius named Brad Bowman. Fast-forwarding 60-plus years, the stamped concrete market continues to thrive, with new innovations each year. Similarly, we have not even scratched the surface (no pun intended) of the full potential of the polished concrete market.

Elaborate sawcut designs with water based dye over warehouse floor.

Polished overlay with brass divider strips and Modello design.

In predicting the future for polished concrete, I see exciting times and plenty of opportunity ahead. But I also see some changes I'm not so thrilled with. As I peer into my crystal ball, here are a few of the trends I'm foreseeing:

High speed burnishing with shine pads.

Extremely high gloss on this high end decorative floor achieved with a traditional full grind and polish.

Rapid advances in diamond tooling and equipment
Like the computer industry, diamond tooling and concrete polishing equipment seem to change daily and will continue to advance. We now have diamonds that cut faster, last longer and don't leave burn marks or scratches. We have better pads that amp up the shine and systems that significantly reduce the amount of steps needed to produce that high shine we all strive to achieve. Of course, grinding equipment will continue to advance as well. More machines will be propane powered (we're still working on plutonium), and they will be lighter, sleeker, faster, and more compact and powerful than ever before.

Better specifications for polished concrete
One of the biggest changes I see is the manner in which new concrete slabs are poured when specifications call for polishing. Early on in the industry, mega-high-performance mix designs were being specified, before contractors began realizing that the coarse diamond tooling would simply skate across the dense surface. What's more, slabs were not being placed within floor flatness and levelness tolerances, setting the stage for a very nonuniform polish. Within the last two years I have really seen a change to the specifications being written for polished concrete that are very beneficial for contractors. At least, they now give contractors a fair chance to meet the specified finish, such as light sand exposure with no coarse-aggregate exposure.

More topical vs. traditional polishing
One of the biggest changes I have seen, and one that's often debated, is the growth of topical polishing versus the full grind, hone and polishing process that I and many others prefer. Although, there are certain applications that fit the needs of certain clients, I believe the growing acceptance of topical polishing has actually made the industry move backwards rather than forward. When you consider that one of the weakest parts of the concrete slab is the surface, as a result of finishing, simply burnishing the cream may look impressive when completed, but it will not stand up under extreme conditions when subject to forklift traffic, pallet jacks, and heavy foot traffic. Over the last couple of years, I have compared the wearing of commercial topically polished surfaces with floors that have received traditional full grinding and polishing. Hands down, the full grind and polish outperforms topical polishing in most aspects.

Innovatech's polish pad for popping the shine on polished concrete floors.

HTC's Fenix pad designed to polish overlays but is also great for burnishing in topical Polish Guards.

Buckle up
Although I'm pretty certain we will never see grinding machines that will transport us back in time like the silver DeLorean did for Doc Brown and Marty McFly, one thing is for certain: I sure wouldn't want to go back in time to when the polishing industry first started. The future looks very bright for the polishing industry, so you better hold on for a wild ride!

V-HARR® Premium Polishing Pads are one of Superabrasive's most versatile products. Originally designed for mechanically polishing and restoring concrete, V-HARR® is also ideal for terrazzo and hard stone floors, and can be used under any planetary floor polisher. The high quality felt works between the resin segments to clean the floor as well, which is why they are also recommended for concrete floor maintenance. Dry use is strongly recommended; however, V-HARR® will produce remarkable gloss results on black granite when used wet.

Superabrasive's Flexible Electroplated Pads are designed for fine honing and grinding. They may be used on natural stone, engineered stone, and fine wood surfaces, but work best on softer stones such as marble travertine, limestone, and onyx. A very versatile product, they may be mounted on various floor grinding machines, or hand-held grinders for corner work.

Final note: Of course, this is just my viewpoint into the future. So I figured I would get more insight from two other people who have been involved in the industry for many years and interact with polished concrete contractors regularly. I sat down with Len Sniegowski of Superabrasive Inc. and Chad Zogleman of Structural Services Inc. and asked for their expert opinions about where the industry is headed. Read my interview.