A new lease of life for tired concrete floors

16th September 2015

A new lease of life for tired concrete floors

A disused warehouse has been transformed into an interactive ‘brand experience’ centre, with the help of an innovative floor refurbishment technique.  Ibrahim Fleyfel, Sales Engineer at Permaban, explains.

The 40,000 sq ft warehouse in Stockport belongs to an international sports brand.  In 2014 they commissioned a major project to create a corporate showroom to inspire its staff and distribution partners alike, and provide a stylish venue to launch new products for the first time in the UK market.

The floor dilemma

When Midland Flooring Ltd was approached to undertake the specialist flooring contract work, the project team faced a dilemma.  The warehouse had been subject to healthy use over several years, which had resulted in the existing floor’s surface becoming uneven and unattractive, certainly unsuitable for the new centre.  Yet a survey showed that the subfloor was fundamentally in a sound condition.

Removing the existing floor and starting again would have been wastefully expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming.  Also, as with any new floor, ongoing monitoring and management over time would have been necessary as the floor cured – for example, checking and replacing sealant on the construction joints.

The wet-on-dry solution

The answer lay in a technique known as ‘wet-on-dry’ resurfacing.  By using this method, the existing ‘dry’ subfloor would be kept, and a surface hardener would be added on top as a ‘wet’, pre-mixed slurry to create a new top surface. 

Surface hardeners are commonly known as dry-shakes when in powdered form, and typically contain hard-wearing mineral aggregates, cement, pigments and mixing additives.  Dry-shakes are often sprinkled onto new industrial floors during construction, to add durability and colour and to suppress steel fibres near the floor’s surface.    

Pre-mixing the powder with water to form a slurry is a technique also used for new concrete floors - known in those situations as a ‘wet-on-wet’ application.  It offers particularly reliable results, as unlike dry-shakes, the slurry does not need to use the bleed water from a fresh slab for it to be applied effectively.

Hence in this situation, with an existing dry-slab, the wet-on-dry technique was clearly the only option.

Application procedure

Firstly, the subfloor (the existing ‘dry’ concrete) was thoroughly cleaned to ensure all dirt and debris was removed. 

A bonding agent was then applied, so that the new surface would adhere strongly to the subfloor.  Then the surface hardener was placed on top, applied as a wet slurry at a thickness of around 15mm, to allow for variances in the existing subfloor.

The new surface was power-trowelled to create the smooth, semi-polished finish the client desired.

Abrasion resistant finish

As well as rejuvenating the floor’s appearance, the surface hardener has significantly improved the abrasion resistance of the floor.  Boehm abrasion resistance tests on the product used (Rocland Qualidur supplied by Permaban) prove that abrasion resistance on a floor can be improved by a third when using the product in its dry-shake formulation.  When applied as a pre-mixed slurry this will be further enhanced.

Easy to clean

Keeping the brand centre clean is clearly of importance to the client; and the new smooth floor surface not only protects the concrete beneath from damage, but also allows the floor to be more easily cleaned than an unfinished floor.  Rocland Qualidur is also resistant to rust, dust infiltration, oils and hydrocarbons.

A colourful result

Another benefit of a surface hardener is the option of adding long-lasting colour to the floor’s surface, without needing to colour the concrete or paint the floor. 

For this project, two colours were used – a light grey and a dark grey – to distinguish different areas in the floor and enhance the overall aesthetics in the building.

With lighter colours also comes the added benefit of light reflectivity, which can reduce the lighting needs of a building.  This can not only contribute to the ambiance, but also reduce the building’s energy costs.

Swift application

Midland Flooring took just 14 days to undertake the whole rejuvenation process, working around the dismantling and fit-out contractors who were also in the building at the same time.  The floor was completed on 18th December 2014.

Permaban made a follow-up visit at the end of June 2015, and the floor was looking in excellent condition, and its striking appearance is a definite asset to the building.  Unfortunately a leak in the roof had damaged one small area of the floor, but the surface has now been replaced.

Reduce cost and waste through renovation

While the industry focuses strongly on creating technically advanced new concrete floors, there is an existing stock of industrial buildings across the country which could be given a new lease of life, for a fraction of the cost of a new floor.  As this successful project proves, there are both short-term and long-term benefits of using a ‘wet-on-dry’ surface hardener, and this is something clients and contractors alike should embrace.

This article first appeared in Concrete magazine, September 2015

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Stockport1

Applying primer the day before

Stockport2

Mixing the slurry

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Application

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Screeding

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Power trowelling

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Completed floor before cleaning