One of the most difficult parts of construction, and what’s separate the ok and the great general contractors is their ability to run a schedule for a project. In our experience, the best GC’s pick their sub-contractors at the beginning, make a schedule, and keep everyone updated through regular project meetings.
One of the most common questions we get asked during the first part of planning is, “When do you polish concrete?”
Is it right after the concrete is poured? Is it before or after walls? What’s the hard and fast answer for when to polish?
The real answer, much like the floors we install have a bit of variability; It depends.
MOST of our work is going to be done AFTER drywall and the first coat of paint and primer.
BEFORE the final coat of paint, cabinets, trim, and doors.
But here are some exceptions.
SOMETIMES we can do a bulk grinding pass BEFORE walls, and come back towards the end for final passes. Dependent on the project, and the final finish selected.
SOMETIMES we can do all the work BEFORE walls are placed and the floor can be protected during construction.
There is also a difference between remodel work, with concrete that has been down for years and fully cured and new construction that has new curing concrete, as well as some climate variables.
The concrete is already in place, the floors have been down for years, and we can polish and finish the floors – about whenever. We can polish the floors during the demolition phase, and then cover the floor with a protective board and construction can continue through the whole thing. We can also wait until after news walls are built a come in towards the end of construction. We also may do some bulk grinding and then come back towards the end for more of the finishing passes.
It’s all dependent on project durations, scheduling, and availability for things like power, lights, and water, which is usually more readily available on remodeling projects. Remodel work gives us many options. We also may have other variables such as cut out’s or trench patching to take into consideration.
New construction brings a bit more finesse to scheduling. The word ‘concrete’ is associated with site work, and those preliminary steps in the construction project. But we are finishing contractors just like drywall installers, painters, ceiling installers, and other flooring trades. Being finishers we need a few more amenities to do the best work. On new construction work we will typically need water, power, heat, and a ‘closed in building’ to get started on the finishing stages.
Have cold temperatures outside and its raining? That cold and rain soak right into the concrete surface. For our best work we need the slab acclimated to an indoor type of environment and to be free of outside moisture.
POLISHING TOO SOON. Sometimes it’s better to wait…
It would be ideal to be able to finish all the concrete flooring in its entirety before any walls go in on new construction. When the space is wide open, there is little edge and detail work. Everything seems to go faster and smoother until….
The end of the project. Here’s what we have seen from finishing a concrete floor in its early stages too soon.
The Joints – The concrete has now acclimated to the enviroment. The HVAC is on and the moisture has drawn from the surface. The concrete has shrunk and the joints have opened. Every one of those joints we filled now has a bit more space in them than they had before leaving a gap between joint filler and the wall of joint.
The Finish and Color – All the moisture that left the slab had to come out some way and it usually evaporates through the surface. That brand-new shiny concrete floor finish is now dull – flat and hard to clean. The color which was vivid is not washed out. What gives? When that water came through the surface it also carried salts and minerals from the concrete through the finish, dulling or ‘eating away’ at the finish.
How do we know all this?
Because in our younger, more accommodating state, we did work when the GC wanted us to; Not what created the best product for the client. In our attempt to please, we said Yes, when we should have explained more, or said ‘Not Yet’; even though it would have made someone upset.
In the end, we had to refinish our work, creating even more disruption, than simply waiting for the time to be right.
We are not trying to be difficult to work with. We just have to put the end clients best interest first. They choose concrete floors for their beauty, for their durability, and their lifetime use. We as the sub-contractor need to be experts in our field to lead everyone to the best finish.
We share our experiences and set expectations so the general contractor, client, and end-user are all better for it. That’s how we help contribute to making win-win projects.
In each project, it’s best to coordinate scheduling and process with your project manager. They will know the best process and plan for your specific project. Of course, you can also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about your project.