Hope and Change

No, I’m not going to talk about politics as this may infer. But I am hopeful that the worst is behind us and that positive change is coming, if not here already. The construction industry has been hit particularly hard in this last recession, and there are fewer of us that have survived to benefit as we move forward. We need to keep this in mind so we don’t give away our talents, but instead ask for the appropriate compensation for the value we bring. The volume of the big box stores has decreased from the good old days and hopefully the crazy pricing that came with it can go away as well.

While I have not taken part in the J.C. Penney retrofits with polishable overlays taking place across the country, I am hopeful this will be a good thing for our industry. From the people I have spoken with and what I am reading on various blogs, it sounds to be “so far so good.” I have also seen some very impressive pictures of the work that has been completed to date. I am hopeful this will continue. These polishable overlays have a tremendous future for all of us (I will be elaborating on this in subsequent columns). We simply have to avoid screwing it up; which brings me to another topic.

I hope to not have any more clients ask me for a “Walmart floor”! I just cringe when I hear someone recite an abbreviated spec for this floor, which isn’t mechanically polished. I realize Walmart worked diligently to create what they have, and when done correctly from mix design to place and finish to cure, they look great. The fact they are done so inexpensively is simply foolish. Hopefully this will change now that some have left the party, and our future clients will stop confusing this with a true polished floor.

Where we have seen a real breakdown for this “Walmart floor” is in the finishing and curing of the concrete when completed in something other than a Walmart. My crew and I just returned from correcting a floor in a new high school that was completed last year that fell way short of the criteria. Due to inconsistent finishing of the surface and a weak paste that had to be removed in several areas, we were forced to use traditional diamond tools to correct the situation and satisfy the school board. The principal of the school summarized it best one day when he stated, “So you are basically polishing a turd.” In the end, we were able to change his outlook for the better, and with real diamond tools being used, it does look good.

We were also recently involved with a beautiful vacation home on a lake with a similar story. A great deal of time and thought went into a floor the GC thought he could finish for a buck and a half a foot, and I was left one magic wand short of obtaining full owner satisfaction with the hand we were dealt. The field of the floor was for the most part finished nicely, but the edges that were finished by hand were very different in color and surface density. To add insult to injury, the floor was properly wet cured with curing blankets, but the floor was not washed when the blankets were removed leaving a hard crust of laitance that had to be removed. Worse yet, the design professionals never managed expectations with the client leading to a wandering path of what the owner thought he had bought; the clients’ expectation level evolved as time went on. On the up side, we have a new client for life, and we will be back to this home for future maintenance and any other improvements that may come about.

We are seeing a great year unfolding with a bright future for more to come. My hope is if we all change for the better, complete better work with greater attention to detail, and avoid selling out, we will all benefit because of the positive mark we leave behind.