As polished concrete flooring continues to gain traction among retailers, treatment, topping and technology options are increasing as well. Chain Store Age spoke with Stephen Klugherz, president of San Diego-based Diamatic USA and Diamatic Management Services, subsidiaries of the Blastrac Global Group of Cos., on how new products and technologies are helping to solidify polished concrete’s place as a preferred flooring solution.
What can we expect to see in 2011 in terms of trends in concrete flooring?
While still relatively young in the marketplace (12 to 13 years), the trend of polished concrete surfaces will see rapid growth and advancements in technology over the next few years.
I believe that we will see more vertical integrated systems introduced that will help to clean up the highly fragmented nature of the business, which remains the industry’s Achilles heel as it relates to quality and repeatable results. An example is the Ultraflor system, which Diamatic and Ardex introduced in October 2010, designed to offer cutting-edge concrete processing and stain protection. We are then connecting the process with a certified installer network that is highly trained and supported.
Another big trend in the market is the introduction of polished overlays. There are a lot of new applications that retailers, architects and owners have asked the industry to address, and these systems will continue to evolve into a whole new flooring solution with the same maintenance benefits of polished concrete.
We believe the library of new applications will double in the coming years. There are some very interesting new treatments and toppings that will give polished concrete surfaces a lot of opportunity to compete with traditional flooring applications, and they will offer excellent repair solutions for polished concrete floors.
What should retailers know regarding the maintenance of concrete flooring?
Retailers need to understand that polished concrete and its maintenance are both part of a process. Polished concrete surfaces need to be maintained; the product is not, as it was promoted early on, a surface that needs no attention. It is imperative that the polishing process is executed to a specification that is followed by a maintenance program meant to maintain the initial results.
These floors usually lose their shine in about six months. There are many ways to “gloss” a floor but, as some retailers have learned, shine and stain resistance do not last if the initial process was not properly executed and/or the floor does not have a maintenance process designed for the concrete.
Properly maintained, the floor will be perpetual. There is no reason a floor should not continue to gloss and provide superior stain protection for five, 10, even 20 years, but it takes a change in the mind-set. Companies need to lose the chemicals and abrasive brushes and instead use a manufacturer-backed maintenance system.
What categories of retail are best suited to concrete floors?
We are seeing polished concrete in nearly every category, from auto parts to clothing, grocery, pet, warehouse, coffee stores, casinos, hair salons and auto dealerships.
What is a heavy planetary grinder, and why is it important?
The industry has concluded that every step of the process contributes to the end result and the product’s life expectancy.
In layman’s terms, we are trying to tighten up a floor to increase abrasion resistance. The diamond tooling used underneath the planetary machines is as important to the process as the weight of the machine and treatments used to densify and add stain protection. The professional installers understand that machine weight increases production and improves the end result, cutting the floor to a flatter surface, which will enhance the depth of gloss and create better abrasion resistance. A planetary system in these weight classes of 1,000 lbs. to 1,400 lbs. can cut and grind a floor without leaving a cutting edge or mark on the floor.