Q. What is polished concrete?
A. During my travels across North America I've come across polished concrete floors dating back to the late 1920s. Two notable such examples were on the West Coast; the lodge at Yosemite National Park and at a little Church in East Vancouver, BC in both cases the floors were polished, cut into wonderful graphics and motifs then chemically stained.
The terminology polished concrete was originally used to describe the process whereby a typical grey or colored concrete floor was coated with a wax product and then highly polished. The wax used was generally powdered bee wax which was melted and mixed with turpentine and a mineral pigment, if required. It was applied while still warm (and liquid), with powdered French chalk sprinkled over the surface some 12 hours later. The surface was then polished by rubbing vigorously with a soft cloth. Hence the term "polished concrete floors".
Today, while the name remains, the final surface finish can be achieved in a variety of ways; all of which are much easier than the process described earlier. Colormaker's answer to creating a new polished concrete surface is with a cementitious topping called Pentimento, based upon the old age Italian cement formulations, and plastering techniques.
The method of thin layering, and re-polishing is carried out on spiked kneeboards. This process assimilates the original installation of the polished concrete, except that the surface is now placed in a thin layer of cement polymerised with an acrylic activator, polished and re-polished. The final result is impossible to distinguish between what is a 4-inch slab of polished concrete and what is polished Pentimento at 1/8" thick.
To further increase color concrete depth, an ultra thin layer of Pentimento Cement Finish is trowelled over the surface to act as a veil, allowing the color underneath to show through, thus creating a marble-like look.
Our competitors promote the use of self-levelling materials, which level to a degree after being raked and rolled into place and are easy to install. At a distance they give the impression of polished concrete, but up close their appearance comes in second place, loosing the quest, especially with their plastic-like look, showing none of the depth so sought after with polished concrete.
Pentimento can be integrally colored on site during installation with Colorfast, a blend of pigments and dispersing additives, and if specified, acid stained with Patina etch or color-washed with Someru concrete dye.
Instead of using the old method of waxing to complete the process, Colormaker recommends a range of sealers and an acrylic floor finish to achieve the same effect.
Q. Can I have a polished concrete surface on our second floor?
A. While polished concrete finishes have been generally associated with slab on ground type construction, now with Pentimento available, there are no restrictions on creating those polished floors over lightweight concrete, and thin 2' topping slabs.
Q. How long does it take to complete a polished Pentimento floor?
A. The timetable for the typical 2000 sq.ft. - 5000 sq.ft. project, with 3-5 men:
Day 1 - Mask, Sand, Wash, Rinse, Patch, Prime
More time will be required for speciality custom work.
Day 2 - Prime and install Pentimento Concrete Topping
Day 3 - Basic Secondary Coloration e.g. Patina Etch Stain, or concrete dying - and first coat of Sealer if time permits.
Day 4 - Second coat of Sealer and two coats of Deco Finish
Note: Smaller projects have the same time schedule.
Q. Once installed, do I need to maintain the new floor?
A. Certainly, treat it like any other object you treasure. A simple vacuuum from time to time, and when there's dirt or grime, a quick wash with a mild detergent and rinse. The occasional coat of Deco Finish, depending on foot traffic will act as the sacrificial wearing surface for your concrete floor.
Q. Do you always use a concrete topping as the base for all your coloration systems?
A. No, not always. We make that decision once we have inspected the existing concrete surface. Sometimes we come across suitable concrete for our coloration techniques and graphics. It depends on the finish requested. However, a newly placed Pentimento concrete topping at the end of the construction process, solves the problem of trying to protect the concrete floor during construction from contamination and damage. It allows us more control with color and texture. Plus these days it is harder to find quality concrete floors to work on.
Q. How do I go about having my project installed?
A. Call our main office in Vancouver and we will determine what direction would best suit you. Sometimes a cement artisan or associate could be available in your area or we will fly one, or a team in, the later being most common for us.
Q. Can a "do it yourselfer" install the Colormaker systems?
A. Yes. However this really depends on the person and the system. We have sold decorative concrete products to many novices, with great success.
Q. How long will it last?
A. Well, I've seen Patina acid stain projects down for over 70 years and still look great, and when it comes to our concrete toppings, we have floors down in North America for over ten years and still look new. Many with extremely high foot traffic flows in commercial applications and even to the extent of covering the asphalt road entrance to a punishing Gegra Rental Equipment Yard. The real answer depends on the artisan /installer.
Q. Does it crack?
A. The potential for cracking is always there, that's a guarantee. Our experience shows that the thinner the concrete topping the lower the risk, and in a lot of cases a few cracks add to the natural appearance of concrete. What's perfect, that should be the question. Arriving in Yakima, Washington at the newly built Cancer Centre, Michael Miller the concretist and his associates including Michael Drammer, Paul Taylor and Gary Jones were inspired to use cracks to natures intent, as seen in the photo to the right.
Q. What colors are available?
A. Endless. It used to be just pastels and earth tones. Now because of technology we can produce some pretty wild and funky floors. Check out Wild Packets, a cutting edge technology company in San Francisco.
Sometimes I dream of a work of really great breadth, ranging through the whole region of element, object meaning and style. This, I fear, will remain a dream, but it is a good thing even now to bear the possibility in mind.
-- Paul Klee 1945