Concrete surface preparation is a mechanical or chemical process that modifies the profile of a surface. The applications for surface preparation equipment are very diverse and can range from removing coatings from floors to leveling concrete.
The equipment used in surface prep is as diverse as the applications: scarifiers (or surface planers), strippers, surface grinders, shot-blasting equipment, and acids and chemicals. Chemicals and acids are used for stripping floors, but as concerns about disposal grow, there is an increased demand for scarifiers and grinders.
A scarifier uses flails and an enormous amount of energy to impact a surface to either change the profile or remove a coating. It can remove a layer of concrete or be used to texture or groove. It's usually used to level a surface that will be covered with a cementatious type of product, coating or topping.
A stripper machine will remove old glues or other types of adhesive residue. It will also scrape off any type of floor covering that might be on top of the concrete.
A surface grinder uses horizontally rotating discs to level, smooth or clean the top surface of a concrete slab. Most suppliers offer single- or dual-head machines, while EDCO offers a quad. This machine can remove humps, crowns, peaks and curls in concrete. It can remove thin coatings while leveling and smoothing the surface. It can also be fitted with silicon carbide stones for grinding and cleaning.
Shot-blasting equipment throws or sprays small steel shot (BBs) at a very high velocity toward the surface being prepared. The shot knocks away the paint or other coatings and rebounds into the machine. A vacuum system sucks up the debris and the shot is recycled. Different sized shot, shot rate and machine speed can be adjusted for different coatings and concrete hardness.
"Shot blasting can be used alone or in combination with scraping, scarifying or grinding," says Amy Flanagan with Blastrac, a supplier of surface preparation equipment. "In many projects, it's very common to use one or more types of surface preparation tools."
Figuring it all out
Each surface preparation technology has its pros and cons, and many times a combination of surface prep methods is best for the job at hand. One way to make sure your customers receive the proper equipment is to make sure you understand the scope of their project.
"Everyone's needs are different," says Dennis Von Ruden with General Equipment. "You can have projects as small as a closet to projects as large as a convention center. Who is using the equipment is important to know, too. Is it a Saturday morning commando or a surface prep contractor? The equipment is easy enough to run for either customer, but the applications will definitely be different."
Other questions to ask include:
- What type of material is the customer trying to remove? Knowing the right material can help determine the right process to remove the coating.
- How thick is the material they're removing? Generally speaking, a thick substance is easier to remove because it will have a weaker mechanical bond to the cap surface.
- What type of base surface is it? Concrete or asphalt?
- What is the condition of the base surface? If it's relatively new and smooth, it will be fairly easy to remove a coating. Conversely, the surface might be cracked, broken or eroded, making it difficult to remove material from the hills and valleys in the concrete.
- What are the environmental factors of the application? If the customer is removing material inside a building, engine exhaust and chemical fumes might be a concern. In that case, the customer could rent an electric-powered machine.
"Surface preparation is a very subjective process," says Von Ruden. "There are so many different coatings that you never really know what you're getting into until you start the job."
With the answers to these questions, however, you'll be better able to provide customers the right solution to their surface prep job.