Grinding and polishing my concrete floors technically started as an idea 4 years ago … then I thought I would do something about it myself 2 years ago by acid washing them (here).
That was a terrible idea and didn’t get me very far. Fast forward to the month of November 2012 and finally the dream was going to come true.
I thought …
I hoped …
I lost A LOT of sleep.
As a brief primer, my ENTIRE house has exposed concrete floors and with the careful placement of a rug here, a chair there, they look all right. And by “all right” I mean not very good. They were a swirly-twirly mess of different shades and stains. The original stain was put on using a penetrating sealer and mixed into the top coat of wax. This means that over the years, the areas that got mopped more became lighter in color, and the parts that were under rugs remained darker.
Since we had to clear out the house to deal with the concrete floors, you can see what I’m talking about in all the “before” pictures.
I was extremely nervous that I might be making a terrible mistake.
In the picture above, on the left hand side you can see a patch job that was done on the concrete slab sometime in the past. You can also see where the newly poured slab meets the existing brown-stained concrete slab. Despite having conversations with the concrete contractor about trying to match the mix of the existing concrete, it was nearly impossible because the sand and aggregate would have to match precisely … which they wouldn’t. We might get it close but even with close you could count on the two slabs always looking slightly different.
Here is a perfect shot to indicate the color variation between the floors. On the far left you have the concrete floors that were covered by rugs, the middle section was the main circulation path for the house and got “cleaned” the most frequently (meaning it had the most color removed.) On the far right you can see the new slab.
This was the floor in the Master Bedroom under the carpet – a bit of a mess. So maybe now you can understand why I was so concerned about how the floors were going to turn out. It was because of this that I brought in FloorRescue about 90 days before work was to begin to do several test grinds so that we could see what might be expected once the floors were polished.
If you take a look at the grinding wheel in the picture above, without knowing anything you can see that it is a serious chunk of metal that will take off the top layer of concrete off (and the color along with it) in short order.
It would take forever to grind 2,000 square feet of concrete down using small hand-held equipment so the plan was to bring in two HTC hooded floor grinders. Even then, the plan was to run two crews for 8-12 hours a day for 4 days.
This is what the underside of one of these grinder looks like. All business my friends … and I’m told that these things weigh around 500 pounds and while that sounds a little generous to me, they are heavy. They need to be heavy so that the weight is pressing these discs down onto the concrete in order to grind away the top layer of concrete and aggregate.
After the first day of grinding, this is what I found … not a whole lot of progress. They had put up some plastic to protect the walls and they had made the initial top coat of the concrete on the left hand side of the picture above.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of concrete dust that was E V E R Y W H E R E!!! Truth be told, the relatively clear photos you see above were taken around 11:30 at night after the workers had been gone for about 4 or 5 hours. What I walked in on (obviously right after they had called it a night) was in the next picture …
Whoooo Wheee!! That is some serious cough-inducing, eye-reddening concrete dust … and believe me when I tell you that concrete dust is fine like baby powder and as a result there was a layer of it on everything. As a result, I decided to spend the next 4 hours of my evening covering everything I could with plastic.
Which included ….
My daughter’s fish tank. We had set it up in the bathroom so that it could sit on the counter (all of her bedroom furniture had obviously been removed). I made a flap in the plastic out of blue tape so that I could open it up nightly and feed the fish.
Progressed moved along at a slow but steady pace and the owner of FloorRescue had some concerns that they would not complete the project in the estimated 4 days. He wanted to make sure I understood that they wanted to do it right and the floors were taking a long time to grind all the color out. His solution was to have his guys simply work longer days but even then, it would probably take 6 days to complete the project.
Here is a look at a section of the concrete floor after the color had been ground out. The more you grind, the more aggregate you will expose. As it turns out, our floors were nowhere near level, even over the span of a few inches. As a result, there is plenty of aggregate that was exposed in the floors which I kind of like – makes it look more like terrazzo.
It took a lot of equipment on this job and this was just a small portion of what was used. This was a time-consuming, messy, labor intensive process and we haven’t even got beyond the grinding process. I’ll cover that in tomorrow’s “Part 2” post – the cleverly titled “Polishing Concrete Floors.”
I just blew my own mind so I’ll leave you with one last final image in preparation of tomorrows post…
a dirty toilet…