Polished Concrete a Smart Choice for School Flooring

By Zack Askew

Every year, school boards spend big bucks replacing old, worn-out carpet and composite vinyl tile. That’s why architects are working with builders to design educational facilities, ranging from elementary schools to post-secondary institutions, with polished concrete floors. The surface material is known for its high durability, longevity, lower overall cost and simplified maintenance.

Traditional Flooring Comparison
The broad range of hues and pattern choices for carpet is one of the reasons it has been popular in elementary schools. Bright colour schemes have been found to increase brain activity and reduce the scale of large spaces, helping children feel comfortable.

Although polished concrete floors don’t sound exciting, they can be stained to incorporate a wide variety of colours, shapes, patterns or themes. Alternatively, they can be left their natural cement colour, which is ideal for high schools and post-secondary institutions.

Due to the three-dimensional structure of carpet, the soft surface material acts to some extent like a sink. Carpet fibres trap allergens, dust and dirt, and absorb any moisture or spills. Carpet can become quite dirty (even gross) without daily shampooing, which isn’t practical.

While tile floors can withstand frequent washes, it has seams that can trap dirt and moisture under peeling or separating tiles. The smooth, monolithic surface of concrete makes it very easy to fully sanitize 100 per cent of the floor.

What’s more, carpet and tile are both installed using industrial glues that can be very difficult to remove at time of replacement or renovation. With age, the glue also breaks down. This causes sections of carpet and tile to peel and lift, creating safety hazards.

The Cost Benefit
The cost of installing polished concrete is relatively the same as other floor covering materials; however, the investment pays for itself over the lifetime of the product as it’s easier and cheaper to maintain.

When carpet tears or stains and tile chips or breaks, polished concrete will continue to look great thanks to its inherent strength and durability. With the proper amount of grinding, honing and polishing during installation, a concrete floor develops a dense surface that is difficult to scratch and is abrasion and water-resistant, making it an ideal flooring choice in heavily trafficked, all-seasoned facilities where frequent washing may be necessary.

Daily care of concrete floors involves sweeping or mopping. Cleaners can use a commercial walk behind scrubber with mild detergents to pick up dirt and debris. Waxing is not necessary, so custodians require no additional training and this saves a step in the cleaning process.

Maintenance staff should avoid using heavy-duty cleaners, acids and other chemicals on concrete floors since they may eat away at the finish. Also, because polished concrete is naturally porous, it is more prone to staining than other types of hard surface flooring finishes. To prevent discolouration, custodians should clean up spills as soon as possible to prevent them from penetrating the concrete.

With time, concrete floors may begin to fade with heavy foot traffic and not shine as bright. This is easily remedied with the application of new sealer followed by burnishing of the floor to improve the visual clarity of the concrete and restore the original shine. The sealer will also add extra protection and help prevent future stains and scratches.

Zack Askew is head of sales and project management at Concrete Fusion, and certified as a master craftsman from the American Society of Concrete Contractors. Servicing the Ottawa region and eastern Ontario, Concrete Fusion specializes in polished concrete, self-levelling cement and commercial epoxy coatings. Zack can be reached at 613-714-0656 or [email protected].

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