Who would have thought polished concrete would come to the aid of the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter jet?
The ongoing relationship between the U.S. Air Force and Yezco Concrete Polishing began back in 2009 with a 200-square-foot, high-performance concrete test panel in the propulsion room of an aircraft hangar for F-16 fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. Unlike older epoxy coverings, the polished concrete prepared by the Phoenix contractor exceeded expectations.
“We recommended it as a solution to their flooring issues,” which included adhesion and lamination problems, says Rob Yezzi, the company’s vice president, who works together with his cousin, Joe Yezzi, company president, to run the business. Rob proposed installing a polished concrete test panel in a heavily worked area that got the most use and abuse. “Six months later, we closed the deal and began work on the remaining hangar floors.”
That first job entailed 25,000 square feet of floor that needed to be stripped of three layers of epoxy and several layers of paint in designated areas, then finished with dyed and polished concrete. The flooring also had to be detailed to reflect the hangar’s newest occupants: F-35s. The soon-to-be phased-out F-16s were being replaced with the up-and-coming premier jet for not only the Air Force but the U.S. Marines and Navy as well.
As part of the flooring job, Rob Yezzi and his seven-member crew had to create designated parking areas for each of the new aircraft. This went beyond your simple, striped parking lanes.
To ensure all the planes would fit properly, they had to create a silhouette of each F-35 to be parked in the hangar. The F-35’s dimensions differed from the F-16s that were there before. “They gave me a blueprint that had the outlines (of the F-35) in inches, which we had to convert into feet,” he says. “The nose (of the jet) had to be so many inches from a reference point and the front wheel and wings had to line up just so. We had a one-inch tolerance all the way around.”
This critical part of the job, he says, was all done painstakingly by hand. “Working off the blueprint, we used a lot of masking tape and created life-size images on the floor,” he says. With the tape as their guide, the crew then dyed the jet silhouettes with AmeriPolish SureLock Gold, outlined in Midnight Black.
In addition to the designated parking areas, the hangar had other areas that were color-coded according to the Air Force safety program. For instance, walkways were marked in yellow, eyewash stations were green, and black-and-yellow stripes marked hazardous areas where there were overhead doors and electrical panels. The areas where firefighting equipment was stored were noted with red, as were paths that had to be kept clear at all times.
In the past, these areas had been painted, but the Yezco crew opted to go with a more sustainable solution and used penetrating dyes. “Now they won’t have to repaint every few years, because the dye is permanent,” Yezzi says.
Tackling the challenges
The hangar job also involved removing concrete to make way for a new duct system and various pieces of diagnostic equipment, then pouring new concrete. In addition, Yezco had to grind away years of hydraulic fluid stains. As you can imagine, all these new and old areas didn’t match.
To make the floor look good for its new residents, Yezzi says they ground the entire floor, bringing it up to 100 and then 400 grit. “Then we sprayed down a SureLock custom gray dye, to bring everything to the same color, and applied a densifier,” he says. In highly stain-prone areas, they also used AmeriPolish SR2, a penetrating stain repellant designed to protect polished concrete.
To be qualified to continue polishing concrete for Luke AFB — which includes hangars, warehouses and other buildings — each crewmember has to go through an initial extensive background check and then get their clearance renewed every six months. Each time they take their vehicles on base, Yezzi says, the vehicles must go through a search pit that involves dogs, mirrors and physical inspections to make sure everything is on the up and up.
Besides the everyday hassles of passing the military muster and getting through the gate in one piece each morning, there are the drills to contend with. “We’ll be in our groove and making progress when out of nowhere there’s a simulated terrorist attack or bomb threat that will shut us down,” Yezzi says. These lockdowns are sporadic, he adds, and sometimes they’ll happen more than once in a day. “We just have to deal with them and lose a day or two of production.”
“We try to plan our days to be the first in line,” he says. “You can get through (the procedure) in 15 minutes or you can sit and wait 45 minutes for your turn.”
Still, Yezzi says, he finds the work very gratifying. “I’m most proud that we are able to provide the Air Force with a sustainable solution for their flooring needs. As a team, we have successfully transformed a dingy epoxy floor into a nice piece of polished art that performs well for them.”
Project at a Glance
U.S. Air Force
Yezco Concrete Polishing, Phoenix, Arizona
Scope of project:
The contractor’s ongoing relationship with Luke Air Force Base started with dyeing and polishing concrete in a fighter-jet hangar
Most challenging aspect:
Cutting through existing epoxy and deciphering blueprint dimensions to create life-size silhouettes of F-35s on the floor
Products, tools and method used:
AmeriPolish SureLock penetrating dyes, AmeriPolish 3D HS hybrid silicate densifier, AmeriPolish SR2 stain-resistant sealer, HTC diamond tooling and grinders used in compliance with HTC’s Superfloor method