Canadian Rental Service

Products Concrete Surface preparation and finishing
Prepping for success

Remember when a garage was simply meant for parking that big family station wagon your parents had when you were a kid? We’re taking about an era when a garage was just a garage.


August 24, 2011
By Dennis Von Ruden President General Equipment Company

Topics

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Rent a surface grinder, get a floor that looks like this. What customer could resist?


Remember when a garage was simply meant for parking that big family station wagon your parents had when you were a kid? We’re taking about an era when a garage was just a garage.

It was a place to park the car and maybe a spot to store the lawnmower, a few shovels, some tools and your dad’s tackle box.

As the modern home design has evolved, so has the garage. It’s come a long way from that dimly lit, crowded single stall. The modern garage is now much more than a place to park a vehicle. It’s become a bright, clean and spacious area, complete with big-screen televisions, stereos and well-stocked refrigerators. It’s now a social setting as well as a personal refuge from reality. It holds not only a car, but also bragging rights.

With a relatively small investment and a little effort, many look to spend some weekend afternoons adding to their homes’ value by upgrading the garage. They may paint the walls, upgrade the light fixtures, add cabinets or install organizational racks. But no matter what they do to the walls, a drab concrete floor lies below. To complete their renovation, many wish to obtain a bright, attractive surface that they see in magazines or on TV. To do so, they turn to their local rental centre for the needed supplies and a little advice.

Grind over matter
To many do-it-yourselfers, restoring the floor can be a bit more intimidating than buying a few gallons of paint or some light fixtures. Some may not know the best method of installing an epoxy coat, but when they reach the rental store, they look for two things: ease of installation and cost effectiveness. Fortunately, a rental centre can grant both wishes by recommending a low-speed grinder, a set of grinding stones and a two-part epoxy kit. With these supplies, a few tips and a dash of common sense, almost anyone can use this recipe to create outstanding results.

For prepping a floor, single-head surface grinders not only present a low-cost option to customers, but rental operations also benefit by the low initial costs and maintenance requirements. And compared to the more expensive and complex diamond floor grinders, these machines offer more flexibility. They operate from 15-ampere circuits, which are available in most garages, and their lighter weight allows customers to easily transport one, even if they don’t drive a pickup truck.
Surface grinders typically have a wide range of attachment options available, making them one of the most versatile products in a rental centre’s repertoire. While some might assume that diamonds are the superior attachment for properly prepping a floor, an inexpensive 10-grit silicon carbide stone is actually the best recommendation for do-it-yourselfers. The main advantage of diamonds is their long life, but a set of three stones can easily do up to two typical garages before they are discarded. When a set of stones costs around $10, it provides a much more practical option than several thousand dollars worth of diamonds.

Besides surface grinders, other prepping options exist, such as the use of acids to etch the concrete. This technique has been used for years, but along with the health concerns related to chemicals, disposal can prove to be a nuisance.

Furthermore, one should warn customers of epoxy coating manufacturers claiming that little or no preparation is needed. The allure of less work is tempting, but by putting in the extra work now, customers will be more satisfied in the long term. Improper bonding between the epoxy and concrete is the reason so many do-it-yourself applications fail.

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Diamonds wheels are intended to remove concrete quickly, but if a customer works too quickly, he or she may damage the surface.


 

Nose to the grinding stones
Before putting their noses to the grindstone, many customers will have questions about their epoxy project. When they ask, it’s important to stress the prepping process, which is done to promote better adhesion. Just like painting a car or house, this step is crucial to the success of the project.
First, people should remove any oil spots on the garage floor with brake cleaner. Then, they can reach for the surface grinder, which is used to open the concrete pores. The important thing to understand is that concrete is surprisingly like a sponge, absorbing dirt and other contaminates. Even new concrete floors may be too dirty for epoxy coatings and need to be prepped.

To create a clean surface with the grinder, one must first penetrate the surface cap and then remove a minimal amount of concrete. There isn’t a universal number for the amount of concrete that must be removed, but very little needs to be shaved off before the pores are opened. In fact, with the exception of high spots in the floor, removing less than 1/32 of an inch from the surface will typically create ideal conditions. Remember, the goal is to have a clean floor – not a heap of concrete dust. When operating the surface grinder, customers should work slowly, being careful not to remove an excessive amount of concrete. This is another advantage of 10-grit grinding stones, which give inexperienced operators more control of the grinder.

After vacuuming or sweeping the dust off the concrete floor, one can use water to ensure the surface is ready for an epoxy coating. Simply spread some water on the surface and see what happens. Within a short time period, it should penetrate the surface and begin to dry. If, however, the water beads up and does not dry quickly, the surface needs additional grinding. Several locations should be checked before moving to the next step because water is much cheaper than redoing a failed epoxy coating. As a word of caution, water may work well for testing the surface, but one should avoid grinding wet surfaces. This will only create a slurry – and, not to mention, a complete mess.

Putting a coat on
When customers successfully prep their floor and begin mixing and applying the first epoxy coat, it is important that they follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Some epoxies must sit for half an hour before application and be applied within several hours of mixing. People should keep notice of the limits, while still taking their time to apply an even coat.

After applying the first epoxy coat, the customer should strongly consider a topcoat of clear epoxy or urethane. This extra coat increases the durability of the floor and significantly increases the light reflected off the surface, creating an impressive look. Before applying the topcoat, the first coat must set overnight, but while it is still wet, one may apply colour flakes or a custom logo of their favorite motorcycle, car or sports team on top. It will show nicely through the clear coat after it is applied.

Back for more
No matter how well it is adhered to the floor, even highly durable epoxy coatings become worn and scuffed with regular use. Eventually, customers will return to their rental store with questions on removing and reapplying their epoxy coatings. Fortunately, they can rent the familiar surface grinder for removing the epoxy without the use of chemicals or the high risk of surface damage. After the epoxy has been completely stripped, the 10-grit grinding stones can be used once more to reopen the concrete pores, and the floor will be ready for another round of epoxy.

The entire process of applying epoxy is extremely simple. With a small investment and a little work, people can transform their ugly, stained garage floor into the envy of the entire neighborhood. It all starts with proper prepping methods and, by offering a low-cost, single-head surface grinder, you can set your customers up for success.