Turning gray to great
Hallack doesn't waste time jumping into the delicate artwork littered throughout the store since it takes about three to four days to complete the template work, cutting it and applying the colors one at a time, in two or three layers. Hallack puts two or three of his most artistic employees on the artwork. "I don't give them a time frame; I let them take their time because it's about pride, and it's the lasting piece of the project," Hallack says.
On the Ripon Save Mart project, Hallack's team installed an elaborate windmill and greeting near the entrance and artwork in the baby food aisle using 11 colors of the water-based Tintura stain from L.M. Scofield. For the floor staining Hallack used four colors from L.M. Scofield's Chemstain Classic line.
While staining 40,000 sq. ft. of concrete might sound like a daunting task, Hallack has created his own system for commercial projects. "When I started doing Save Marts we used backpack sprayers, with about a 3-gal. capacity," he says. "But we had to have four sprayers, with four employees handling them."
Hallack knew there had to be a better way. At a local farming supply store he found 25-gal. sprayers. Because the equipment would be used with an acid-based stain, Hallack had to replace all the metal and copper parts with plastic, and then adopted a dolly with a pull system. "Instead of four employees with four pumps, I have one employee pulling the 25-gal. sprayer and one person spraying it," he explains. Hallack says with this system he can normally stain 40,000 sq. ft. in six to eight hours.
This is the part of the project where Mother Nature's icy breath affected Hallack's job most. Usually manufacturers recommend that chemical stains are applied above 50 degrees F, but on Hallack's project, temps were in the low 30s. Without time to wait for temps to rise, Hallack left the stain on the slab for two days, twice as long as normal. He also employed the use of heaters, both to warm up the areas where the artwork was applied and to keep his workers comfortable.
Preserving the color
Spraying the stain and applying the multicolored artwork can be a tedious process, but Hallack says neutralizing the floors is one of the most challenging parts of a chemical staining application. His crew uses a soap neutralizer, scrubs the floors with nylon brushes and follows up with the auto scrubber to suck up the soap and water. They repeat the process until the wash water is clean. Once the floor dries, Hallack administers one last test. "We apply a piece of tape that we leave there awhile; then we pull it up. If the tape is still contaminated, that will tell us if the floor is still not clean," he explains. "It is the key to successful floors."
On this particular floor, Hallack used heaters and blowers to speed up the drying process in the cold weather. Hallack typically allows his floors to dry 24 hours before applying the sealer. Luckily, temps were warm enough to allow him to proceed with the sealer application process.
Hallack says he normally applies two basecoats of sealer to protect the stain, then several finishing coats on top. The sealer is applied using a mop, except in the produce section where Save Mart specs broom finish for a nonskid surface. Hallack explains he sprays the sealers over the broom finish to prevent the rough surface from pulling fibers out of the mops.
Between the first two coats of sealer, Hallack fills in about 10,000 lineal ft. of expansion joints with tile grout. Instead of the usual 16-ft.-on-center joints, Save Mart requests joints cut every 8 ft. to give the store a decorative look. On the Ripon Save Mart project, Hallack used three colors of grout - black, tan and white around the artwork, which Hallack says gives beauty and definition to the saw cutting.
Be prepared for large jobs
Hallack says that contractors who take on decorative jobs of this size have to be prepared and trained, and warns against taking on a project of this magnitude if all you've ever done was small residential projects.
"Many contractors take on some of these big jobs and end up doing them two or three times, and in the end there's no profit left because there isn't much leniency on these projects," he says. "If they don't know how to do it right, they need to hire a consultant, another contractor who has the capabilities and skills to help them."