When the residential market is down, some contractors turn to the commercial market. But if a contractor is looking to do interior commercial decorative floors, it's important to know what he or she is getting into. It takes planning, education and communication to create a successful decorative commercial floor. Whether you're a contractor who has done decorative residential floors or you're brand new to the market, the requirements of commercial floors are a whole new ball game.
Communication is the biggest factor when working on a decorative commercial floor. A contractor needs to know what, how and when to communicate and to whom. The contractor needs to know what the owner's expectations are. These expectations need to be conveyed to the contractor's employees. A contractor must also discuss with the owner and general contractor product limitations and jobsite conditions, says Nick Sorrentino, president of Patterned Concrete of Pennsylvania. Discussing the jobsite is especially important so all parties involved know just what the flooring and decorative contractors need to provide the finished product.
Preconstruction meetings are a great place to hold these first conversations. Sorrentino also suggests holding crew meetings throughout the project to assess the job and address any problems or changes that occur. Checking in with the owner, general contractor, subcontractors and suppliers can also help ensure everyone is on the same page throughout the process.
When working on a new slab, the concrete flooring contractor and the decorative contractor need to be sure to communicate. Both contractors, especially the decorative contractor, need to convey their needs to get the most successful finished floor possible. This is especially important when staining the floor, says Chris Klemaske, project developer for T.B. Penick & Sons.
The color of the concrete will affect the reaction and coloring of the stain being applied, Klemaske says. "Darker colored concrete will react darker. Lighter colored concrete will react lighter," she explains. Both contractors should be aware of this before starting.
The concrete flooring contractor should not use magic markers or pencils to mark the slab because this may prevent stain from penetrating the concrete in these areas. They must also make sure the slab is protected from any materials such as paint, oil, etc. Klemaske also says not to leave anything sitting on the slab during the curing process because it will leave a shadow. Stains often do not hide surface imperfections and blemishes - and may even magnify them - so the concrete flooring contractor needs to be particularly careful when finishing the slab to make sure they minimize cracks and trowel marks.
These two contractors must also communicate regarding expansion joints and saw cut patterns. "Commercial projects may require more layout and joint spacing. You need to know where your joints are going before you make the first pour. Things need to be precise," Sorrentino says. To prevent joints from interfering with the decorative aspect of the floor, he suggests trying to design the layout of the joints within the pattern of the floor. If that isn't possible, Klemaske suggests doing the decorative saw cuts at the end because people's eyes will tend to go to those cuts rather than the control joints. If the decorative contractor is doing a saw cut pattern he needs to decide if he wants to do a wet cut or a dry cut, and this needs to be discussed with the flooring contractor.
Contractors must also continue to check in and communicate once the floor is complete to make sure the other trades on the job are not damaging the finished concrete floor.
During planning, contractors should identify the use of the floor and the desired maintenance. This will help determine product choices. If it is a new floor, conditions should be favorable. If it is an existing floor, however, contractors need to be aware of any cracks or failures, says Marshall Barabasch, director of architectural concrete with Peterson Brothers Construction.