Customers often ask how scratch resistant our floors are. This is really a tough question to answer because to my knowledge there is no laymans measurement for scratch resistance. I could get into some technical jargon on the measurements a lab uses to indicate scratch and abrasion resistance, but it wouldn’t do any good since there is no basis for comparison.
Instead, let’s focus on reality and expectations. Part of my job in installing floor finishes is creating a floor that compliments the intended use for the space and the surrounding décor. The other part is taking into consideration the budget, the volume and types of traffic the floor will see, and the maintenance routine the owners plan to adhere to. This will ultimately determine what the final finish will be.
At first glance a high gloss floor gives the impression of a clean and well kept space. But it’s not just an impression, it’s the truth. Maintaining a floor to a high gloss finish requires a high frequency maintenance program to include daily dust mopping and wet mopping. A weekly high speed burnish, and a monthly re-application of acrylic floor finish. This is because no flooring material or coating is durable enough to withstand the abrasion resulting from foot traffic grinding debris into the floor. Over time, this action creates micro abrasion that dulls the gloss of the surface. Unless you are a property owner willing to deal with the expense of such a maintenance program, a high gloss option probably isn’t for you. The end result is money spent on maintenance increasing the cost of the floor in the long term. As a business owner, we often look at the life cycle cost for any purchase made, and maintenance can be a huge factor in that cost. Sometimes it makes sense to spend more now, to save even more in the long term. For example, the 10 year cost for vinyl composition tile (VCT) is approximately $16/sqft as reported by facilities managers, which is 2-3 times the cost of our floors in the same time frame. And quite frankly, VCT is purely functional and has no decorative appeal.
Many of our flooring systems require the use of epoxy primers and binders, but seldom ever do we install a floor leaving epoxy as a topcoat. This is because as durable as epoxy is, it is more prone to abrasion than any other finish. Our recommended finish of choice you will hear us refer to is a “high wear urethane”. Urethane chemistry is far superior to epoxy in terms of hardness and chemical resistance, and makes an excellent coating for protecting a floor against stains, scratches, and abrasion. Regardless, urethanes are still subject to wear as any other material is.
Enter the “high wear urethane”. High wear urethane is one of the most significant advances in floor coatings in the past several decades. It’s high wear properties ensure you will not get any micro abrasion or traffic wear patterns, and is extremely scratch resistant. It is the ultimate in a maintenance free floor finish. This particular coating is formulated first with a high solids content, unlike the urethanes of yesteryear that have extremely high VOC levels. As well, this means a thicker product is on the floor once it cures. Additionally, a micronized aluminum oxide grit is added to the urethane. This increases the friction coefficient of the coating for added slip resistance and provides body to the coating to inhibit abrasion and scratches. This means in order for the floor to scratch, a material harder than aluminum oxide must be used, which is not common with ordinary dirt and debris. This coating however does have a satin finish. In my opinion, a satin finish lends to a more natural look. And rest assured a satin finish will never wear into a high gloss floor, where as the opposite is most certainly true.
So on your next flooring project, when we are pushing for a ”high wear urethane”, it’s because we know that it really is that important. Important for you to keep your maintenance costs down, and important for us knowing that our work will still look terrific even 10 years from now.
Posted by Dennis Yurconis on Nov 6, 2008 in Decorative Concrete Maintenance
Now that winter is approaching, it’s better to be prepared now rather than later. It reminds me of the time I moved from Florida to upstate New York. I was wholly unprepared for what seemed to be a new ice age! By the end of November, when the first blizzard hit, not a single snow blower could be found for purchase locally, and all the contract plow operators were already booked for the season. Needless to say, I got quite a bit of exercise that winter…and a little pain too.
But the reason for my post is obviously geared toward concrete, and I want to share a few pointers with regards to snow removal, de-icing and care of exterior concrete. It is still fresh in my head as we completed a job a few weeks ago, with a decorative overlay to restore a concrete slab that had been through some serious winter torture. The maintenance people had used an enormous amount of rock salt and ice chippers to control the amount of snow and ice on the concrete. It did some serious damage, with much of the surface flaking off. The slab in question was a raised balcony and replacement would be an extremely difficult, messy and expensive option. Luckily we were able to restore it to like new and give it a decorative finish with a polymer cement overlay, but the owners were given a little instruction to prevent their maintenance staff from causing them further grief.
In case you missed my article on “Concrete Problems and Causes” I will paraphrase the section on the use of de-icing salts…
Concrete that is subjected to use of deicing salts combined with freeze-thaw conditions are prone to scaling. The National Research Council’s Strategic Highway Research Program tested deicing salts to see how they would etch and destroy concrete. The tests were interesting. It appears that magnesium chloride did the least amount of damage. Calcium chloride caused 26 times more damage to the concrete than magnesium chloride. Regular rock salt, sodium chloride, caused an astonishing 63 times more damage. If the tests were accurate, it appears that it may be worth the extra money to purchase and use magnesium chloride. Even still, your driveway will track rock salt from the roads, and it will concentrate in your garage where the snow/salt slurry collects and evaporates.
It is this reason why we see many untreated garage floors up north here that have scaled concrete floors. This is the perfect reason to have us install an epoxy floor in your garage. It is impervious to salt damage, makes it very easy to clean, and will keep your garage floor in great looking condition for many years.
Decorative concrete is not as prone to scaling from the freeze thaw/salt relationship generally because the project is finished off with an acrylic sealer. The sealer keeps the salts from penetrating the surface and becoming a problem. This is just one of the reasons exterior decorative concrete should be resealed every three years. So, the type of salt used on decorative finishes is not as much an issue as it is on unsealed concrete.
Snow removal on decorative concrete must be done without the use of metal blades. That includes metal snow shovels, ice picks and chippers, metal bladed snow throwers, and steel plows. Use a plastic show shovel or a snow blower with rubber blade. Contact your snow removal contractor and make sure they are using a urethane blade guard on their plow if you have decorative concrete on your driveway. Use of de-icing agents rather ice chippers or picks is a must.
You might not notice when grey concrete has minor imperfections or is scratched and abraded. On decorative concrete you will I can guarantee that. How bad will be determined by the process; whether color hardener or integral color was used, or if the surface was stained. You may not notice it as much if integral color was used because color will be present throughout the concrete, but with color hardener or stains, the color is only present on the surface, so once it’s worn off, it will become unattractive pretty quick. Even with integral coloring, it will be noticeable because when the surface becomes abraded the sealer is removed and the concrete will take on a lighter appearance than the surrounding concrete. This is because the sealer will darken the concrete when applied, much like it does when it gets wet.
So, the bottom line is take good care of your concrete and it will last a long time. If you don’t I have a good feeling you and I will be meeting for a quote next spring. While we at Abstract Concrete don’t ever turn down the opportunity for work, we would much prefer not to do repair work…you already paid for your decorative treatment the first time.