Do you know what “good” is when it comes to polished concrete? Most would answer; “Sure, when I get paid for my work”!
There were recent posts on LinkedIn criticizing contractors for posting photo’s up-close and low to emphasize reflectivity of the floor. The problem is, these contractors may not know any better. Most contactors both large and small can’t say for certain they have achieved a certain grade of refinement on their floors. Some may attain a very glossy floor, while others may achieve a high level of clarity and then others may be able to discern a smooth surface, but how many can say for certain their crew has achieve all three?
For years, I argued against Roughness Average (Ra) as a quantifying metric for aesthetics of polished concrete, and I still hold strong to that belief. However, it is a tool to be used to determine how well the tooling is working, but there must be a high level of understanding within the tooling, machinery, and the polishing process to properly identify how to utilize Ra. This information is often left to the contractor to figure out, and quite honestly they are overwhelmed with so many variables at a job site that they can’t easily single out and identify individual indicators. In fact, projects often start out with good intentions just to end up with desperate attempts to complete and move on.
Just because you’re getting paid for your work, does that mean it’s the best it could be? Of course not, albeit there is always room for improvement. Are you giving your customers the value and quality you promised when you sold the project? I know from personal experience that projects don’t always go as intended. In fact, they rarely go as intended! None-the-less, we owe it to our customers, if not the industry overall, to meet or exceed our quote in regards to quality, time and price.
Not to point fingers, but contractors are quick to deflect responsibility to unreal expectations from the customer or poorly placed concrete. First, I believe it is the contractor’s responsibility to establish the expectation of their services; price, quality, realistic time frame, and terms. Secondly, I believe it is also their responsibility to evaluate the substrate and get a solid game plan to process the floor to meet those previously discussed expectations. However, we (as a society) operate in this state of “busyness” instead of “business” and as stated, good intentions end up in desperate attempts.
You’re probably thinking about now; “Well Brad, you’ve done a great job of explaining my problems, what do you propose as a solution?”
There are methods out there that work and work well to help you navigate the treacherous paths through construction. Unfortunately, there is so much “clutter” within our industry it’s hard to know what is real and what is not. Who do you believe, because everyone tends to be an “expert” (don’t believe me just read some of the comments on LinkedIn!). We’ve got the industry “juice”. We’re graced with the “God of Gloss”. And if those aren’t enough, there are endless opinions out there to offer support for our quasi and baseless theories.
All-in-all, it’s very simple. A smooth surface reflects light and provides a better wear surface. Likewise, a surface that offers a higher degree of abrasion resistance is better for long-term performance. So, how do you achieve a smooth, light reflective and highly abrasion resistance surface?
First, you must know your tooling, and I mean KNOW your tooling. What was it created to do? What type of scratch pattern should I expect? What degree of cut and/or surface profile can I expect from “X” tool? This goes for metals, hybrids and resins. Would you expect to get 50 mpg from a Ram 3500 work truck? Not likely, but it’s possible to get close to that with a Toyota hybrid. The point is, how can you expect your resins to perform as they should if you didn’t do the work with the metal bonds, and how do you know you didn’t do the work with the metal bonds unless you know what they are capable of? This goes way beyond looking at the floor and replacing one scratch pattern with another!
Second, you must know your limitations and not be afraid, or embarrassed to ask for help. Recently, a contractor processed a floor with 40 grit metal bonds through 3000 grit resins. Yet they still failed to meet the specifications of 80+ DOI (distinctness of image or clarity). It took almost three days to isolate the variables and determine the problem, during which the contractor incurred heavy penalties for delayed process (est. $30K). They could have properly educated their entire team at a fraction of that cost if their focus had been on staying current with the industry best practices and technology in lieu of the “busyness” of their current business.
Good, in my opinion, is when you have met or exceeded the expectations of 1) yourself, 2) your customer, 3) your contract, and least of all 4) your peers. If you can accomplish this and make a profit as well, when then your better than “good” and most likely on your way to success.