As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
The same principle applies to concrete surface and substrate preparation as it does in many other aspects of life.
Preparation of concrete prior to installing floor coverings including carpets, vinyl, timber, tiles or laminate is just as important as the finished product. It is easy to underestimate the importance of correct surface preparation before installing a new floor, but improper preparation can cause failure in your coating or floor covering which in turn comes back to you as a defect or high cost rectification.
In the initial stage of preparation all of what is on the surface needs to be removed. This is any type of floor covering, adhesives, coatings, membranes, or surface coatings with a view of getting a good key on your concrete substrate for the following process.
It is possible to mitigate the risk of project failure, adhesive not bonding or moisture issues by starting the project right with concrete and floor surface preparation which in some cases is specified by the company who manufactures the product you lay.
The most common method for preparation to apply a floor covering is using a concrete floor grinder. In some applications where a heavier profile is required a shot blaster, scarifier or surface profiler may be used like a bush hammer in applications like thicker coating projects.
Concrete floor grinding makes use of diamond tooling with a wide range of grit levels to which the initial grind is made. The general rule is the lower the grit, the more aggressive the grind. For instance, 16 or 20 grit diamonds will be more aggressive and help grind down faster than a 40, 60 or 80 grit diamond tool or wheel.
The bond, shape and number of segments to your diamond/s also play a part in the success and speed of your preparation project. All Preparation Equipment has helpful guides online to assist in choosing the right tool for your brand of machine.
Other tooling including PCD’s are used for heavier adhesive, under tile glue removal, coatings, waterproofing membranes and any thicker product that may be sticky and clog up traditional diamond tools. Using either a diamond grinding shoe, plug, plate, or wheel system the PCD’s offered nowadays provide faster, cleaner and more effective removal of commercial and residential glues, adhesives, coatings and membranes.
The advantage of concrete floor grinding is that the profile can be heavy textured or finished smoother depending on the tooling used. The profile of a grinder is not typically going to get you the finish a shot blaster or scarifier will, however this process offers you a more diverse range of tooling and attachments for other projects moving forward.
Offering more than a sanding / buffing machine, grinders such as Schwamborn Concrete Floor Grinders provide a more powerful performance to flatten high spots in a concrete floor. Schwamborn machines are German built, engineered and designed and have been for over 80 years.
Their innovation has turned traditional single head, single speed grinders like any 250mm into a stand up edge grinding machine. The ability of the head allows you to turn it to the left or to the right without it interfering with the wheel base.
The advantage of standing up to perform these works also saves the operator and helps to prevent sore knees or aching back in the floor prep process.
Concrete floor grinders are successfully used dust free with the use of a powerful vacuum / dust extraction system. Brands like Dustcontrol SE specialise in this field and offer a range of single phase and three phase units to connect depending on the size of your grinding system.
Hand held angle grinders connect to vacuums like the DC2900L, DC3900L and the DC400L Tromb Vac providing effective suction and control of airborne and surface dusting while you grind. The larger the grinding width of your machine the more efficient your vac needs to be.
Keeping in mind, no two jobs or machines are the same so it is important to assess what your machine needs based on size, tooling and application.
Processes like acid etching, degreasing, and auto scrubbing are not adequate to achieve a surface profile on majority of cases which is why mechanical cleaning is the number 1 method for effective concrete surface preparation.
Flatten your floor
Where highs and lows are over the floor area, a screed, bulk fill or floor level may be required using floor levelling products such as; Mapei, Ardex, Sika, BASF or Bostik. Making use of mixing equipment like the Portamix Mega Hippo Mixer, levelling products can be mixed and poured direct to the floor efficiently. The process of using a mechanical mixing station versus and hand held mixer and bucket are a lot more efficient and ensure the product is mixed correctly from start to finish.
These applications also use other tools like the Sticky Level Pegs, Pin Level Rakes, Magic flexible trowels and Flexible spiked shoes to walk over the wet floor levelling product.
These types of floor levelling products ensure a flat, consistent floor for products like vinyl where there is a smaller tolerance and require better floor flatness.
Depending on the floor covering being installed it is important to consider and assess things like cost of installation, ease of installation and durability of the floor covering. Other thing to consider include; what is the maintenance / cleaning process for it, does the design fit into the style of the finished product (colour / texture etc), stain resistance, wear resistance, the thickness of the product, will it be exposed to direct sunlight and is it UV stable.
Story by Naomi Archer, All Preparation Equipment