Concrete Flooring Restoration Highlights Sanctuary’s Conversion

The First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, photos by Phil Anevski
The First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, photos by Phil Anevski

Built in Missouri in 1927, the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis’ sanctuary was recently renovated to modernize its look and feel, while preserving its historic Gothic style. Improvements to the sanctuary’s floor, specifically two rectangular sections under the pews, were vital to this upgrade.

The heavy-gauge battleship linoleum in these locations was badly damaged and would not complement the newly installed stained-glass windows and modified, movable pews.

Possibly the church’s original flooring, it was also a stark contrast to the stone-clad aisles that run up and down the middle and sides of the sanctuary.

“We pulled that up (the brown linoleum flooring) and underneath was concrete,” says Sue Salvati, chair of First Presbyterian’s flooring committee.

In search of an affordable flooring treatment, the church connected with locally based Decorative Concrete Resurfacing which was tasked with staining and coating the 1,665 square feet of concrete and creating a new prayer feature.

A path of restoration
According to Kevin O’Hern, president of DCR, his team first prepped the concrete floor using a hammer drill outfitted with a spade bit to loosen the rolled linoleum. They followed up with Dewalt hand grinders equipped with various Drillco diamond blades. The surface was then washed and wet vacuumed.

A Sundek premix squeegee coat was applied to smooth out the existing concrete, filling any holes and prepping the surface for a SunCanvas architectural microtopping, which was applied with a Magic Trowel and designed to accept the desired stain.

Two workers then applied SunStain SunH2O to the surface, each using pump-up sprayers filled with either rich earth or black colored stain. SunStain is prepared by mixing a base stain container with separately packaged color packs.

By following each other and spraying the water-based stain in a circular fashion the workers achieved a mottled look where the two colors blended together. Work was led by Eduardo Gomez, DCR’s head installer who boasts 20 years of experience.

The creation of a prayer walk was crucial to the church’s modernization. To create the walkway, DCR taped off lines so that the SunStain SunDye Grey and Fern Green could be misted on top of the areas not taped to create the lines. The measurements of these lines had to be exact, although the committee changed the dimensions midway through the taping, which made this task a bit more challenging, O’Hern says.

Decorative Concrete Resurfacing which was tasked with staining and coating the 1,665 square feet of concrete and creating a new prayer feature.

Similar visually to a bank or amusement park line, the path serves as a meditation and prayer tool for the churchgoers.

At this point, the contractor had put down what he thought was the desired stain and prayer walk lines. However, the day after applying the stain, the church’s flooring committee requested a color adjustment, as most members did not oversee the previous day’s work.

“Typically, we like to have everyone that makes the final decision on color there to approve the work,” O’Hern says, and that didn’t happen.

“Initially we were not happy. It had a lot of black in it,” Salvati says, explaining the six-person committee wanted a gray-mottled look.

DCR achieved this by adding more rich earth stain to the surface. This color adjustment delayed the project two to three days primarily because the prayer walk had to be taped again and the additional stain needed more time to dry.

Dye applied, the contractor then removed the tape used to outline the prayer walk and coated the entire surface with SunOne 100 primer and water-based polyurethane/polyaspartic as the topcoat. These coatings were chosen because the project was indoors and needed to be low odor and nonflammable.

The creation of a prayer walk was crucial to the church’s modernization.

Overall, the project wrapped up in eight days, with the church having to relocate just one Sunday service to a different building.

While initially frustrating, O’Hern concedes, the extra days involved on the project paid off, as both the congregation and outside sources were impressed with the results. “In the afternoon, the sanctuary is an array of colors and the floor just really shines,” Salvati says, marveling over the polished concrete results. She adds she’s also impressed with the floor’s ease of maintenance.

O’Hern, too, is pleased with the outcome of his hard work. “The project really showcases the character of the floor,” he says. Others have noticed the church’s shiny makeover. The new flooring and its inlaid meditation path garnered national recognition at Sundek’s National Convention earlier this year, taking home “Project of the Year” honors.

Project at a Glance

Client: The First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis; University City, Mo.

Decorative concrete contractor: Decorative Concrete Resurfacing; Ballwin, Mo. |

Scope of project: Removing the battleship linoleum floors of a 90-year-old church to expose, grind and stain the building’s original concrete flooring and create a prayer walk.

Products used: SunCanvas architectural microtopping, SunStain SunDye Grey and Fern Green, SunOne 100 primer, SunStain SunH2O base container with rich earth and black color packs.

Most challenging aspect: Altering the initial stain prior to touch ups and adjusting the prayer walk’s measurements midway through taping.

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