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Get the Look - Polished Concrete Pictures
How to Polish Concrete: Learn the basics and get a step-by-step overview
Polished Concrete Preparation: How to clean, repair, and evaluate before polishing
Wet vs. Dry Concrete Polishing: What's the difference?
Concrete Polishing vs. Resurfacing
Reviews of Concrete Polishing Equipment How to clean, repair, and evaluate the condition of concrete floors before polishing
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Tips for Choosing Edge Grinders
Selecting Dust-Collection Equipment
Diamond Tooling: Tips for choosing the right type of diamond tooling and equipment
Concrete Densifiers: An introduction to chemical hardeners and how they work to improve polished concrete
Buying Tips for Polishing Equipment: Before you invest in a grinder, be sure to listen, learn and ask the right questions
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  • An example of the array of diamond tooling available from one manufacturer.
  • During the final stages of polishing, you’ll work up to higher grit levels for finer polishing. Here 3000-grit resin-bond diamonds are doing their job.
  • Using coarse lower-grit diamonds and walking with the machine too quickly can leave deep scratches in the floor that are difficult to remove.
  • A floor polished by Perez’s company, Custom Concrete Designs.

I figured it would be advantageous to get some expert insights on recent advancements in diamond tooling and how to achieve the best results with today’s systems. I spoke with John Abrahamson, national sales and marketing manager for SASE Company, a manufacturer of grinding equipment and diamond tooling, and Carlos Perez, owner of Custom Concrete Specialists, Miami, which does some extremely high-end concrete polishing work.

Abrahamson

Harris: What have been the biggest changes in diamond tooling from the 1990s compared to today?

Abrahamson: The most significant change in metal-bond diamond tooling since the ’90s is the number of options of matrix or metal bindings used. In the ’90s there were only a couple of different metal bindings or matrixes. Now there are typically six different bonds, ranging from very soft to very hard. Another significant change would be the introduction of a hybrid type diamond tool where you have a metal-resin combination. This allows you to make a nice transition from the metal-bond step to the resin-bond step. The hybrid tool is also very good for making the initial cut in certain applications.

Harris: For someone new to concrete polishing, what is your best advice as it relates to choosing diamond tooling?

Abrahamson: Newcomers to the polished concrete business will save themselves thousands of dollars in diamond tooling and labor if they are well educated on which bonds are best to use on the particular floors they are grinding.

Harris: Do you see the industry changing more to an all-resin system for all steps, or do systems still predominantly consist of metal-bond diamonds for the lower grits and resin-bond diamonds for the higher grits?

Abrahamson: The industry will always have a need for a metal grind followed by a resin polish. The scenarios where resins are taking over the part of the metal bonds are found primarily where an inexpensive alternative is needed, and in that case all that is really being accomplished is a polishing of the cream on the surface of the floor. An all-resin polish will improve the cleanablity of a floor, but it will not remove the imperfections from a concrete floor.

Harris: What is your opinion of the applicators and manufacturers that are promoting the topical-polishing-only systems using diamond-impregnated pads instead of the traditional full grind, hone and polishing steps?

Abrahamson: I see no problem with that as long as they differentiate it from a full grind and polish and do not oversell the topical polish, making unrealistic claims. Topical polishing and traditional full grinding, honing and polishing are two totally different scenarios.

Harris: What percentage of your customers grind dry vs. wet and why?

Abrahamson: About 90% to 95% of my customers grind dry for a variety of reasons. Primarily, grinding dry means that you do not have the messy slurry to clean up, let alone dispose of. Also, grinding dry allows the equipment operators to better see the floor during the grinding phase, whereas grinding wet sometimes hides the low spots since the floor is saturated.

Harris: I know concrete varies in hardness, but what is the average life expectancy (square feet per set of diamonds) one could expect to get?

Abrahamson: When using the proper metal-bond diamonds, you should expect to get about 7,500 to 10,000 square feet out of a set of metal bonds. If you get more than 10,000 square feet, you are typically losing productivity due to the diamonds grinding too slowly. On a lower-grit resin, such as a 100, 200 or 400 grit, you can expect anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 square feet depending on the style of resin used. On a higher-grit resin, such as an 800, 1500 and 3000 grit, you can expect to get anywhere from 3,500 to 10,000 square feet.

Perez

Harris: When you were first starting out in the art of polishing, what was the hardest learning curve or best lesson you had to unfortunately experience?

Perez: The hardest lesson was learning to be patient and to take my time on the first two cuts to achieve a scratch-free floor. I wanted to do it faster. In concrete polishing, it doesn't work like that. The first two steps are probably the most important since they set the stage for the rest of the process. Take your time, and you will have a gorgeous floor.

Harris: What have been the biggest changes in diamond tooling today compared to when you first started?

Perez: One of the biggest changes is that before you had to go through 7 to 10 steps to polish a floor. Nowadays there are different kinds of systems, like hybrid pads, that permit you to complete the process in just 4 steps.

Harris: In working with different contractors all over the world, I have noticed that some contractors use different tooling manufacturers for various grits. Some claim that certain metal-bond diamond tooling from one manufacturer may cut better than others, while another manufacturer’s resin-bond diamond tools polish better. Do you use a variety of different manufacturers, and if so, why?

Perez: Yes, we use different manufacturers, and this depends on the job and the type of finish the customer wants. For metal-bond cutting, we use Korean diamond tooling because it gives us a lot more square feet per set. For resins, everything depends on the type of concrete, Sometimes we use metal-resin hybrids for the initial cuts if the concrete is new and or if the customer does not want aggregate exposure.

Harris: I know your company polishes a lot of cement-based overlays. What is the biggest consideration when choosing the appropriate tooling for polishing these types of toppings?

Perez: Custom Concrete Designs only uses Rapid Set TRU (a self-leveling overlay from CTS Cement) for polished overlays. All the big diamond tooling manufacturers have systems to polish these types of products. We use a variety of tooling consisting of Korean and Chinese soft-metal bond and resin diamond tooling.

Harris: When you are embedding objects into your overlays, often the embedded objects are protruding above the surface. What types of tooling have you had the best success with to grind the surface flush without dislodging the embedments?

Perez: When I’m building an overlay with a lot of inserts and different types of aggregates I like to do my first cuts with a round 3-inch soft-metal bond diamond, which is then followed with a transition hybrid pad.

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