Concrete: From a Dome In Rome to Your Home

The Romans invented concrete in anticipation of Life Floor. Maybe.

The Romans invented concrete in anticipation of Life Floor. Maybe.

Summer is here! And while that may mean we here at Life Floor feel inspired to splash around in more aquatic-based topics to beat the heat, there’s also one particular thing that summertime means here in these Midwestern United States: construction season.

And with construction comes concrete. As a substrate, it’s one of the easiest to install on and one of the longest-lasting. The Roman Pantheon--the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world--was finished in 128 A.D. and human use of concrete has been traced all the way back to 6500 BC. The trick is when people want to use concrete as the final product for wet, slippery areas.

So, let’s say construction season comes around and you want to improve your concrete pool deck, whether to create a safer surface or just to spruce it up. Great! We’d ask, how’s your concrete doing? And that’s where things can get rocky.

Now, we admit our usual line about installation--Life Floor needs to be installed on top of a “Clean, dry, and intact” substrate isn’t entirely enough information. So, in the spirit of summer in Minnesota, here’s a little constructive content about potential foundational problems.

Too Smooth: This usually come with a new install where the cement has been trowel-smoothed to a slippery, mirror-like shine. Like a summer blockbuster movie that’s all gloss and no substance, this leaves nothing for the adhesive to really hold on to. For most surfaces (Life Floor, carpet, ceramic tile included) to be adhered to a concrete substrate, there needs to be something for the adhesive to adhere to. We generally suggest completing a new concrete pad with a light broom finish, or roughing up an excessively smoothed surface with mechanical shot-blasting.

Too Rough: Installing on top of fresh concrete is a bit of a Goldilocks situation, because at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got concrete that’s too gritty. Sometimes this might be because of an added non-slip sealant put on top of a concrete slab, other times someone got a bit too aggressive with their broom finish. In any case, this should be sanded or ground down. Any sort of chemical solvent or adhesive remover can leave a residue that needs to be removed; the same is true of any old glue sticking around. Our suggestion? Hit it with a diamond grinder.

Too Porous: So you have a concrete floor and at first things are happy. It looks clean and solid, and if you power wash it then problems seem to just disappear. Until a few years go by and all that oil, dirt and debris that was supposed to vanish has actually sunk into the pores of your beautiful floor, and left rough, stained, and discolored concrete. Hit it with the diamond grinder and apply your new flooring from there (once you’ve cleaned up the mess.)

Too Wet/Too New: One of the main things that is needed for just about any commercial tile adhesive on the market is a dry surface to go on top of. But a few sunny days on a newly poured concrete bed isn’t going to cut it. By most traditional measurements, concrete is not fully cured until at least 28 days have passed (with some wiggle room regarding the specific timeline of any given concrete slab). As concrete cures, it has a higher surface humidity than what is ideal for industrial contact cement application, which makes adhering any kind of product tricky. Trying to install during or before a rainstorm is even worse. Often times the contact cement may adhere to part of the concrete, but the concrete will stop adhering to itself and you’ll watch your beautiful floor peel up and take some cement with it. Keep your powder and concrete dry, folks.

Too Broken: Repair or Replace? Short answer: You’re best off talking to a concrete contractor. 10 years ago, the answer was usually “replace,” but as technology has improved and budgets have decreased, the option to repair has become more and more attractive. A good rule of thumb is asking whether something can be returned back to its original state easily. Just need to fill some cracks and deal with some settling? Repair away. Does it requires more than 2 inches of material? Is it crumbling or spalling? Probably should look into replacing that.

If you have specific questions always look towards a professional, but it never hurts to get a firm footing on any new topic you want to build on. Happy construction season!