Creating the perfect marble floors -- with concrete

Founded in 2003, Ave Maria is the newest Catholic university to be opened in 40 years. Built as the anchor for the planned community of Ave Maria, Fla., the university buildings reflect the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and incorporate the charm of Italy's hill towns. These two architectural styles come together beautifully in the 70,000 square feet of decorative concrete flooring used throughout the campus.

The project team — comprised of Ave Maria University, architect

Cannon Design of Grand Island, N.Y., and construction manager Suffolk/Kraft of Naples — wanted the floors to have a dramatic look yet stay within an affordable price range. They worked through a challenging process to arrive at the look they wanted and the durability they needed.

Decosup Inc. of Miami and Bayer MaterialScience, a producer of polymers and high-performance plastics, were instrumental in providing an alternative solution to traditional flooring surfaces — one that would provide a rich, natural appearance, yet showcase the beauty of concrete. They recommended a combination of acid stain and polyurethane sealant that would have the appearance of marble and be extremely durable and easy to maintain. Several mock-ups and tests were performed before Decosup was awarded the contract and work began.

According to Decosup President Art Pinto, achieving the desired results from decorative concrete can be extremely intricate. "It's important to use top-quality products and know exactly how the different materials are going to interact," he says.

For the floors at Ave Maria University, Decosup recommended a system comprised of its own ChemTone Acid Stain and a DecoShine sealer, a polyaspartic polyurea developed using polyurethane technology from Bayer MaterialScience. A rich "aged leather" color was chosen for use throughout. "ChemTone Acid Stain provides you with a beautiful, marble-like finish. The acid stain has no hydrochloric acid, so it's safe to use and has no nasty fumes," Pinto comments. "And the polyurethane sealer locks in the finish and creates the high-gloss polished look. It's extremely durable — it won't scratch, and it's easy to maintain. That was important for everyone on the Ave Maria team."

Three specialty contractors were hired to execute the project. In order to ensure the durability of the floor and the overall success of the installation, Miami-based flooring contractor Concrete Floor Solutions first diamond-ground the surface of the new concrete to a 100-grid surface texture. This provided an excellent surface for the acid stain, and allowed for proper adhesion of the polyaspartic coating.

Once the concrete was prepped, experienced crews from Crown Concrete and Cutting Edge Concrete handled the staining and sealing. First an acid stain was applied. Then the polyaspartic sealant was sprayed on all 70,000 square feet of acid-stained concrete. Because the coating was easy to use and fast drying, a second coat was applied in just a few hours.

Pinto notes, "The Ave Maria job had a very tight time frame and the quick-drying polyaspartic sealer helped keep us on schedule. Yet it was even more important that the end result would give the University years and years of beautiful wearability. The combination of our ChemTone Acid Stain and the polyaspartic sealer was the ideal combination for this particular application."

The job wouldn't have gone quite so smoothly without the seamless collaboration of all parties. Cannon Design, Suffolk/Kraft and the trades worked diligently through the guidance of Bayer and Decosup to ensure that the new finishes were installed properly and completed before school opened in the fall of 2007.

Bayer MaterialScience LLC is one of the leading producers of polymers and high-performance plastics in North America and is part of the global Bayer MaterialScience business with nearly 14,900 employees at 30 sites around the world.

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