When Royale Concrete took its first look at a 65-year old concrete floor at a former farm chemical warehouse, it didn’t know what it would find under years of dirt, grime, spilled chemicals, mastic, fork lift lanes and epoxy coatings. What the concrete polishing company uncovered was a floor with colorful, well-distributed aggregates, minimal repair requirements and a good dose of character. The polish gave a 2,000-square-foot area of neglected concrete a new life as a high-design floor in a remodeled office.
Promoting a polish
President Jessica Ledger-Kalen and vice president Jeremy Waugh founded Royale Concrete, Fairfield, Iowa, in 2006. The company started performing pour work mainly in the residential realm and eventually branched into commercial and government work. Ledger-Kalen and Waugh soon realized they were highly detail-oriented contractors working in a sector of the construction industry that didn’t particularly value the details. “We re-evaluated our company and decided to purely focus on surface prep and concrete polishing,” Ledger-Kalen recalls. “It made a lot of sense to us, for owners to choose polished concrete flooring over other traditional flooring options.”
“Polished concrete offers owners something other than replacement,” Waugh continues. “We can give them a repair and polish.” That business model has been working for the young company. Waugh says even though they do offer polished floors on new construction, the economy has created a strong base of work in reconstruction projects in the geographical market his company serves.
Royale Concrete was initially brought on the project at the former farm chemical warehouse to perform a 20-grit grind and apply L&M Construction Chemicals’ SealHard densifier for 70,000 square feet of warehouse space for a new branch of an oil distribution company. “If the owner’s budget would have allowed, he would have gone further with the grind,” Waugh says. “But the floor we gave him allowed for a clean, consistent look on the floors, slight reflectivity, the ability to repel stains and a smoother surface that will be easier to clean.”
After speaking with the owner and learning he was planning on tile as the flooring option for a 2,000-square-foot section of the building that would be office space, Waugh told the owner about polished concrete. Royale Concrete did a demo on an area of the floor that was getting carpet and the owner loved it. He asked Royale Concrete to proceed with the exposed aggregate polish in the office space.
Royale Concrete started the dry polishing process with a 20-grit, metal-bond abrasive grind, which removed the VCT black mastic residue, carpet glue, painted-on fork lift lanes and years of grime that collected on the floor. They did an aggressive grind on the concrete, exposing a beautiful aggregate scatter full of color and various aggregate sizes.
Then the crew moved up to a 60-grit metal grind, after which they filled the concrete micropores with a grout then densified the floor. From there the crews went through a grinding sequence with 100, 200 and 400 copper-bond hybrid abrasives, followed by 400 and 800 resin-bond abrasive steps. “With the copper hybrids it’s almost impossible to leave a scratch behind,” Waugh says. “We like the hybrids because of their efficiency in removing scratches from prior steps and leaving a consistent scratch pattern.”
Like any concrete floor that has seen decades of use and neglect, the crew at Royale Concrete found a few flaws to work around. For instance, they discovered a section of the floor where stud wall nails were left in the concrete. “At first we thought we would pull up those nails and repair the floor, but then we decided to leave them in instead of risking the possibility of a large pop out,” Waugh explains. So Royale Concrete crews ground down the nails with a metal hand grinder; now the nails are part of the history of the floor.