Flooring ‘Mess’ Is Fixed By Polishing

Project submitted by Jeff Wolcott, Wolcott Concrete, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
By Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com columnist

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Every room in this exquisite custom-built home in Cambria, Calif., is filled with unique design features, such as curved wood rafters, a central wood-burning concrete fireplace that acts as a structural post, custom-fabricated steel doors, windows and baseboards, and concrete sinks in the bathrooms. Unifying all these distinct design elements is the use of polished concrete floors throughout, chosen not only for their understated elegance but also for their sustainability.

“I chose to go with polished concrete because it offered a green alternative to carpeting," says homeowner Randy Flamm. “We were already going to have a slab with a radiant heating system and wanted to avoid having to install a floor covering. Polished concrete reduces allergen problems, which I used to experience with our last carpeted home. But the main reason is that it looks really cool!” he says.

When the floor slabs were first poured, however, they didn’t turn out to look nearly as “cool” as Flamm had expected. “The general contractor had used red rosin paper and masking tape to protect the new concrete floor, and the tape left dark stripes in the floor as it cured. These stripes were quite deep. I was asked to regrind the floor after another polisher had spent a month polishing with a smaller machine,” says Jeff Wolcott of Wolcott Concrete, hired by Flamm to salvage the floors.

Wolcott’s solution was to regrind the floor down to the aggregate to remove as many of the stripe marks as possible and to distract the eye. Because the floor was integrally colored with a black pigment, the exposed aggregate would give it a terrazzo-like appearance. But getting down to that aggregate proved to be a challenge.

“The floor had been densified by the previous polishing contractor, making it very difficult to grind and polish,” says Wolcott. “Also, the baseboards are 1/8-inch-thick steel, which left very little room for error in grinding the edges because we couldn't use any shrouds on our hand grinders.”

Wolcott’s crew started by grinding the floor with two HTC machines and segments up to 150 grit. Next, they applied a lithium silicate densifier and polished up to 800 grit. The final step was to protect the floors with two coats of a surface-hardening clear coat. The work took about a month to complete and was done as the rest of the house was being completed.

Thanks to Wolcott’s efforts, the floors now live up to the homeowner’s expectations, in terms of both appearance and performance. “I hired Jeff to fix the mess the floors were in and he did a wonderful job. We have found the floors to be low-maintenance and very durable,” says Flamm.

Wolcott has been in the concrete business for over 35 years, primarily doing acid staining. But more recently he learned to polish concrete because it gives him complete control of the finished product. “The demand for polished concrete is growing, especially in commercial work. I really enjoy taking a 50-year-old floor that is really ugly and polishing it into a thing of beauty that will last. I aim for a floor that is timeless, not trendy -- something that 20 years from now people will still enjoy seeing,” he says.

Materials used

Concrete densifier: Pentra-Sil 244+, Convergent Concrete Technologies
Protective clear coat: Convergent's Pentraguard

Polishing contractor

Jeff Wolcott
Wolcott Concrete, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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