The Ultimate Test

Back in 2007, we completed a showroom floor for a home electronics automation company in our area. The finished project worked well as a satellite showroom floor for my company because we shared a similar client base with the electronics company – high-end homeowners and home builders. I enjoyed several leads from this floor, and I always looked forward to a call from our client, even when it was a request to come over and hit the floor with a few coats of wax. So when I received a call from them this summer, I was stunned to learn they needed to hire us to remove the floor that we had both taken pride in making look so good for so long.

Looking back

I remember wet grinding that floor before the walls were built to remove the cure seal and prepare for the acid stain. After the walls were up and rocked, we came back and created the floor using three colors of stain in a simple geometric pattern. We used stenciled medallions to add a greater sense of elegance and sophistication. We topped it with two coats of clear epoxy and two coats of urethane for superior durability. The finish laid out like glass because of the grinding we completed in the beginning.

The weak housing market forced our client to leave their showroom and move to a smaller, survivalist location. Some of their competition was gone, but those that remained were working out of their garages with minimal overhead making things very competitive. Sound familiar? To add insult to injury, the landlord required them to restore the space to the original condition. The walls and automation equipment were removed, ceilings torn out, and then I had to grind off the floor.

Moving forward

I felt horrible for my client. And I knew I would lose a showroom floor that brought me a lot of business over the years. I priced the removal about as low as I could to barely cover my costs.

I felt sick when we arrived to begin the destruction. We had several different sets of metal bond diamonds left over from past projects and believed we would grind off the floor fairly easily. By early afternoon I was starting to realize I was in for a long ride as I tried several different things in my library of tooling without great success.

Before day’s end, I was on the phone ordering some new tooling — so much for a cost-effective approach and getting something done inexpensively. The next day, I had high hopes for the new 16-grit diamonds designed to rip off coatings and erase the floor. The down side was the new tools didn’t really work any better than anything we already had. It was just going to be a tough row to hoe on several levels. But I had an odd sense of happiness to witness the fight this floor put up.

We finally made it through the epoxy, and I was thinking that a couple of passes would get us through the stain and clean up the floor. Pass after pass, when we washed the floor, the stain was still plain as day. A fresh coat of sealer and we could again have a great looking floor. So I finally mixed up a colored silicate to seal the floor and camouflage the remaining color. The project was much more difficult than I had bargained for and made us late for the next project.

I could have gone and rented a shot blaster, or a bigger machine, but I never had the money for that in the job. It always comes down to having enough money in the job to support the best way to accomplish something. Instead, we slogged through with what we had knowing we were erasing a job well done, and relished in the fact that our work can leave a lasting impression that’s hard to forget.

Shawn Wardall is the executive concrete artisan and president of Specialized Construction Services, Inc. He welcomes your comments at shawn@specializedinc.net. Visit his company’s website at www.specializedinc.net.

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