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Thoughts on Polishing: The Lack of Maintenance Standards is a Debacle

The polished concrete industry has been plagued with a slew of maintenance systems that confuse and aggravate end users of polished concrete. Many suppliers of tools, equipment, chemicals and cleaning products rush to offer systems of maintenance, none of them adequately tested or proven. Far too often, these systems are based upon what can or cannot be patented or trademarked, what may make the most money for the supplier, and what is available and convenient for the supplier, rather than what is actually in the best interest of the end user.

Other manufacturers of flooring have managed to do a much better job of working together as one unit to create industry standards, which can assure the end user that they will have no problem developing a maintenance regiment that will ensure a maximum life for their investment. Mohawk Industries Inc., Beaulieu of America and Shaw Industries Inc., the three leading carpet manufacturers, were fierce competitors, but in the 1990s, all three worked with the Carpet and Rug Institute to put out consistent carpet maintenance literature. VCT, vinyl, terrazzo, and other flooring industries did the same.

In contrast, among the maintenance systems recommended by polished concrete suppliers are: an autoscrubber with a janitorial cleaning pad and stone soap, an autoscrubber using expensive diamond-impregnated cleaning pads, an autoscrubber or a swing machine using bristle brushes containing diamonds, an autoscrubber or a swing machine using soft bristle brushes, a burnishing machine with plain cleaning pads, and a burnishing machine with diamond-impregnated cleaning pads. Some say no maintenance at all is necessary. I've even seen people use an acrylic floor finish, which is a topical product that should not be applied at all, as it defeats the whole purpose of polishing the concrete.

Some advise the end user sweep heavy particles off of the floor prior to cleaning with these systems, and some make no reference to precleaning the floor.

The result of the confusion can be anything from a polished concrete floor quickly losing its shine to a floor developing what people in the industry call an "orange peel," the look of the skin of an orange. Some of the most expensive maintenance systems can create the most problems. While many of the systems may work to one extent or another, and while some may feel there are no definite right or wrong answers to the polished concrete maintenance question, one system still needs to be agreed upon.

End users like definite answers, or they will go with what they perceive to be a more proven floor system.

John Abrahamson has been in the polished concrete industry since 2000 and was in the flooring industry for 15 years before that. His former positions include president of HTC Inc. and national sales manager for VIC International. He recently started a hard-surface flooring company in Knoxville, Tenn. He can be reached at john_abe@comcast.net

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