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From Saturated to Shiny

A Challenging Polish on an Oil Saturated floor

 The first time Fischer Canada used polished concrete was in July 2006 when the untreated concrete flooring in the aisles of their Waterloo, Ontario, facility was becoming problematic. "We weren’t happy with the floors," recalls Tom Prell, Fischer General Manager. Due to the oils and stainless steel chips created by the manufacturing process, the floors were, as Tom relates, "In really rough shape… and extremely difficult to keep clean." He goes on to explain that the company spent a lot of time and money to clean the flooring. "We would have it scrubbed during the Christmas holidays, but it was expensive and basically a futile effort." In addition to the time and expense of maintenance, there was a major aesthetic problem with the flooring. Prell says," It was dirty … not the image of a state-of-the-art automotive building."

BNE Contractors, a Kitchener, Ontario-based company, specializing in resurfacing concrete flooring helped Fischer resolve their flooring issues by cleaning and polishing the concrete in problem areas. "BNE had our solution," says Tom Prell, "the floor was vastly improved … in tip-top condition."

Impressed by the difference in maintenance and appearance from their first facility, Fischer decided to call BNE for their next facility expansion. Upon acquiring the new building, they discovered oil damage to the existing floors. "They didn’t want to use epoxy over the concrete due to inherent problems with coatings," says Chris Henderson, who goes on to explain that because of all the oil, an epoxy coating would have been a disaster.

Though the proximity of location was ideal, the building—and especially the flooring-- needed major remodeling to suit its new owners. The concrete slab was in disrepair; heavy damage from excessive oil saturation, pitting, joint cracks, and slab undulation plagued the building. Additionally, the soaked-in oil had softened the concrete. In order to create a facility that matched the state-of-the-art company, the floors had to be overhauled.

The building was formerly a screw machine shop and the floor was, as Prell relates, "Soaked in oil… so slippery it was like an ice rink… quite a mess. We called in BNE to do their magic." General Manager of BNE Contractors Chris Henderson recounts his first impressions of the situation: "The screw machine shop used a tremendous amount of oil…there was so much saturating the floor that it looked shiny and slick. It was the most oil I’ve ever seen on a floor… we had to proceed with caution."

Many contractors might have looked at the floor as a lost cause, but not BNE. The company with 15 years of combined experience and 30 restoration specialists knew the job was big, but had the tools and skills to tackle the project. Chris explains: "This project took a lot of specialized knowledge…in complexity level it was to a ten. It took all the knowledge had and some we didn’t!"

Before the team could even consider polishing the floor, there was the oil to contend with. "The oil had been there 10 or 15 years…went nearly right through the slab," says Paul Giangualano, Operations Manager and Fischer project leader. BNE recommended spin-jetting because, as Paul says, "The floor was covered in 1/4" of standing oil; it was a huge problem and tough to walk in," Spin-jetting is an industrial cleaning process that uses high-pressure water to remove coatings such as resins, grease, and epoxy. On the Fischer project, the goal was to remove large volumes of oil from the top surface of the concrete slab. Using spray patterns and rotating spray arms, the spin-jetting machines inject the slab with very hot water, at pressures exceeding 5,000 psi. Chris Henderson explains that in conjunction with detergents, the spin-jetting emulsifies and suspends oil, pulling it out of the slab. The spin-jetting removed the initial heavy oil saturation, and allowed the team to come in and start the remediation process.

Epoxy removal was the next step as the screw machine shop had installed extra coatings in high traffic areas. "There was about 2,000 sq. ft. worth of traffic topper," says Paul Giangualano, so BNE used coating removal tooling, including a diamond-bladed ShaveMaster, to scrape the floor. Paul explains that the removal was not exactly easy saying, "1/4 inch of epoxy removal is an art."

With the floor’s surface prepared, BNE started grinding with a rectangular medium-bond 40-grit diamonds to open up the floor. They soon discovered that the concrete had been tremendously softened from the oil. "We had to switch to a round 40 grit for soft concrete," says Henderson. However, before they did, the team had to tackle pitting, cracks, and joint repairs.

 They degreased again, and then got right back to polishing with a medium-bond 150-grit. Another power-scrubbing session was followed by a 100-grit—then they laid down a sodium silicate densifier. The final passes with 200, 400, and 800grits were interrupted by intervals of degreasing. "All in all we did 6 or 7 passes with the power scrubber," says Chris Henderson. After a finish with a raw power-washer, the floor was complete. Though the project had a lot of complications for onsite management, it took BNE only five days of working around the clock to take the Fischer building from oil field to warehouse-ready. Due to the amount of oil and the subsequent softness of the concrete, Paul Giangulano explains that they decided to put down a lithium based product to pre-densify the surface. Though it is not a usual step in BNE’s polishing process, Paul says they thought it would be best because, "Hard gets better results. The tighter the floor is, the less oil leaks out." The second 40-grit revealed a new problem. "Every time we would grind, more oil would come up," says Chris, "so after each pass we had to degrease the surface." Using a power-scrubber and citrus-based detergent, BNE cleaned up the excess oil. Cracking and joint repairs called for two types of fixes, depending on the extent of damage. BNE used semirigid Polyurea on up to 3/4" divides. Over 3/4" required a mortar mix . Several of the joints were so damaged by oil that they had to be cut out before they could be filled. Henderon explains, "We needed to cut deeper to get to white concrete." Post floor-repair, it was time to get back to grinding—this time with a harder tool. Chris says that there were undulations of slabs poured at different heights. Between oil issues and the height variations, BNE ground between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch to get to sound concrete.

Paul says it wasn’t easy but, "Luckily, I have capable guys working for me who are well-versed in turnaround." He continues, "The results are fantastic … a night and day difference from the beginning." floors are in great shape. They reflect light, look bright and clean … they give a totally different optical impression." He also comments that the maintenance has proven to work well for them as any tire marks or spills wipe right up. He says that no matter what happens throughout the day it only takes one cleaning during the night shift to get them back in mint condition. "It’s a greatly improved aesthetic, no doubt about it."

Tom Prell of Fischer concurs. "The

Some heavily pitted areas needed shotblasting to prepare the divets to be filled with clear epoxy. Giangualano explains that due to the oil still in the slab, the team had to get the epoxy primer in immediately. "We couldn’t just wait around or until the next day," he explains.
supplies many industries around the globeand prides itself on providing the best possible products and processes to clients. High profile customers such as GM and Daimler-Chrysler tour the facilities on a regular basis, so it is important for Fischer to not only be state-of-the-art, but look the part as well. With a combined total of 320,000 sq. feet under roof, flooring plays a huge role in overall appearance and functionality. Fischer Canada utilizes polished concrete for ease of maintenance, cost-effectiveness, aesthetic value and, most recently, the application solved major flooring issues in a facility remodel.