(This article was reposted from Bartell Global and written by Randy Wheelis. This article provides information about the equipment you need to polish concrete.)
Polished concrete is the “wave of the future!” you see it everywhere. Why? Because polished concrete has so many positive aspects to it. It can be a lot of things — it’s very attractive, extremely durable, eco-friendly, safe, practical, trendy, it can be finished in a variety of interesting ways to name some of the benefits.
To achieve this, contractors often ask, “what equipment do I need to polish concrete?” So, I thought in this article we could cover the necessary equipment to actually polish the concrete, PLUS the related equipment you need, and equipment that would be nice to have to complete the process. So, here we go!
FIRST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT NEEDED
GOTTA GET RID OF THE OLD
If the project is not new construction, you will most likely need to remove the existing material and this can be done by hand (which is a terrible option) or by a power scraper, whether a “walk-behind” or “ride-on”. See below for examples of both.
BULL Walk-Behind Terminator Ride-on
Powered floor scrapers are very effective at quickly removing large amounts of flooring in a short period of time. They can save time, money, and energy, as well as help prevent on-site injury to workers.
SECOND PIECE OF EQUIPMENT NEEDED
ADDRESSING THE SILICA IN DUST AND GRINDINGS
To produce a polished concrete floor, you must progressively grind, then polish the floor. This results in a lot of grindings (dust and debris released by grinding). These grindings contain dangerous materials like silica and other materials that are harmful when breathed in and must be mitigated or removed from the environment. This is accomplished in a couple of ways: through dry extraction or wet extraction.
CONTAIN THE DUST – DRY METHOD
Hepa filter dust extraction systems is a fancy way of saying a “vacuum” — but not just any vacuum! Your dust extractor must have a HEPA filter that removes 99.97% of airborne particles making the environment safe to occupy.
CONTAIN THE DUST with water
AUTOSCRUBER SLURRY EXTRACTOR
Another way of containing the dust is by flooding the floor with water, then grinding and polishing wet. This creates what is called “slurry”. The slurry can be removed with a wet-vac on smaller projects or an autoscruber on larger projects like the one shown above. Yup, this is messy, and you need to handle the wet grindings or slurry correctly as it is considered hazardous waste. But it does do an excellent job of removing all dust from the environment.
THIRD PIECE OF EQUIPMENT NEEDED
THE MACHINE THAT DOES ALL THE WORK
A planetary grinder is the machine that actually grinds and polishes the concrete itself. All the other equipment we covered so far are supporting this one essential machine. Above are two examples of planetary grinders. They are both Bartell Global Predator grinders, on the left is the “X” series (a four-headed machine) and on the right is the “Y” series (three-headed machine) both are really capable machine designs. There are of course several other manufacturers making great equipment, I just know the Predator line well and have had really good results using both of these designs.
POWER TROWEL POLISHING
In addition to planetary grinders, contractors are now attaching polishing pads to power trowels and having great success with a very high production rate. This method is awesome for the right projects but is not the best choice for others. So, do your research to determine what process is best for your projects.
An absolutely critical part of the polishing process is using the correct diamond tooling
Any machine is only as good as its tooling. So, don’t go cheap on the diamond tooling, use premium diamonds for the most positive results. If you are unsure of the correct diamonds, find one of Bartell Global’s knowledgeable distributors or reps and they can assist you in choosing the correct diamonds for your project. And, as always you can call us and we can get you the assistance you need. It is really that important.
FOURTH PIECE OF EQUIPMENT NEEDED
THE EDGES AND OTHER TIGHT PLACES
DFG280 SINGLE HEAD GRINDER
On all projects you will find areas where the big planetary grinder will not go, it’s just too big. So, you will need a smaller grinder to fit into those smaller areas like the one shown above. Also, these smaller machines can be used to “edge” the floor, or, get as close as possible to the wall as the large planetary machines often cannot get close enough to the wall for aesthetic purposes.
FIFTH PIECE OF EQUIPMENT NEEDED
THE FINISHING TOUCH
Propane burnishers are, in most cases, the last step in the polishing process and give that final “POP” to the appearance of the floor and with some sealers the burnisher activates the sealer and provides additional reflective shine to the finished floor.
You do need more equipment than just a grinder to polish concrete but polished concrete is now a large part of the flooring world and will be for the foreseeable future. So, serious contractors should consider making the financial investment and training to participate in this growing section of the flooring industry.
We at Bartell Global and our knowledgeable distributors are always available to assist in selecting the best equipment and tooling for your projects. So give us a call.
One last image I wanted to share with you… it never ceases to amaze me how with a little training and the correct equipment you can transform an ugly concrete slab into a beautiful polished concrete floor!
Old concrete storage shed floor at a rental house in Seattle
For more in-depth coverage of this great technique, check out our Comprehensive Guide to Polished Concrete eBook: