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Alfalfa's Market Boulder, Colo.


There was plenty of flooring to do before Alfalfa’s Market, a new natural foods store, could open on Earth Day 2011 in a former Whole Foods space in Boulder, Colo.

“It was over 12,000 square feet of bare concrete floor that ranged from 30-day-old new pour to floor sections 75 years old,” recalls Randy Anderson, president of decorative concrete contractor Surface Prep Technology, in Aurora, Colo. Not to mention the vinyl composition tile (VCT) that had to be ripped up and all of the glue that needed to be scraped away. “It took us three days just to prepare the floor,” says Anderson.

They used a 32-inch Diamatic 780 Ultra concrete grinder with diamond bonds ranging from soft to medium hard, then finished up with grit resins from 50 to 800.

The spray coat was QuickDye, from Concrete Coatings Inc. This solvent-based acetone dye is promoted by its manufacturer as an alternative to chemical stains. Concrete Coatings’ Cory Christensen explains that contractor Anderson “ran into issues trying to get a uniform color. Depending on application techniques, QuickDye can create a more uniform coat (than an acid stain would).”

There was another key factor to consider. America doesn’t get much “greener” than the environmentally friendly Boulder metropolitan area. Throw in the fact that the client is an organic and natural food retailer, and the only question became — how environmentally friendly could they get?

The fast drying time of QuickDye is a sustainability feature in that it can keep vapors to a minimum. “It dries in, like, 20 seconds,” says Anderson. That factor was equally important to the job schedule, since other remodeling work was going on all around them and as they worked, the store grand opening date was rapidly approaching. Because they were able to rapidly layer spray coat upon spray coat, the Surface Prep Technology team could completely cover each of the two large floor sections with up to four color coats in as little as 10 hours.

A subtle palette

As for the creative plan, it sounded like something of a mishmash, a patchwork quilt approach: Anderson and his crew were to spray on a sand-colored base coat over 60 percent of the floor surface, a terra cotta tone over 20 percent, olive color at 10 percent coverage and, finally, gold over 20 percent of the floor space.

“The general manager had a vision of what he wanted, so he was directing us the whole way,” says Anderson. “It was a weird vision.”

But weird in a good way. The idea was that the color would change gradually throughout the interior. In most places the coats would overlap, creating a subdued palette dominated by the neutral sand and terra cotta tones, but with a flicker or streak of brighter colors here and there and a less gradual shift where it made thematic sense. For instance, the olive shade lent a logical, subtle organic feel to the produce department.

Which is where Anderson’s crew ran into a problem. The coloration here was too subtle.

The QuickDye system uses C-Series Liquid Colorants, powder pigments that mix with the acetone base at a ratio of one bag per gallon of acetone. So far, so good.

But, says Anderson, “the olive color just wasn’t strong enough to come to the top. The material was absorbing into the other colors, so we figured we had to reduce the acetone to 30 percent in mixing it with the olive.”

A stronger, more vibrant color emerged. Dilemma solved.

Anderson then applied Di-Hard Densifier, a lithium concrete hardener from DiTeq to lock in the colors. He used his Clarke Autoscrubber to pick up color residue, after which his crew applied a coat of DiGuard. They cut the floor with a diamond range from 30/40 to 50/60 to 120 in soft- and hard-bond matrixes.

The final step was to go over the surface with a high-speed burnisher and 800-grit polishing resins, bringing the floor to a glossy finish that could be easily maintained with soap and water.

Anderson’s client was happy. His vision had been realized. The polished floor was perfectly in character with all of the stone and recycled brick used elsewhere in the newly renovated store. While the color palette might be difficult to describe, it’s easy to admire — and as natural-looking as the fresh produce in the well-stocked bins of the new Alfalfa’s Market.