How To Minimize Disruption on Concrete Flooring Projects
By Painters USA Team
— Last updated May 17, 2023
When it comes to restoring and maintaining concrete floors, the battle between facility management needs and operational demands is one we often encounter.
Our advice: Don’t go to war.
It is possible to keep concrete floors in good condition with the least amount of disruption and often without the need for a total shutdown. It depends on three factors:
- Performance: If reducing downtime is an overarching goal, it makes no sense to choose a concrete flooring option that doesn’t perform well in your setting. So start with the best solution–generally polishing or performance coating systems like epoxy–to increase the working useful life.
- Vendor Experience: Cutting corners is one way to save time on any project, but that approach can add more time later–sooner rather than later. It pays to work with an experienced concrete flooring contractor who can deliver quality results, fast.
- Preparation: Advanced planning and preparation like moving equipment and gaining strong internal support and cooperation will ensure the project runs quickly and smoothly. It can also save money by reducing contractor labor hours.
Choose the optimal concrete flooring solution by knowing your options
Most industrial facilities and many commercial facilities have two flooring options: concrete polishing or performance coatings like epoxies or polyurethanes. So let’s start there, with a time and performance overview of each.
We won’t be delving into the details in this article, though we will provide links at the end to help you learn more about each one. Our advice is that you add performance and durability into your time- and disruption-saving considerations with help from these comparisons.
- No drying / curing time, which allows for immediate return to service upon completion.
- Overall time will depend on several variables, like area size, floor condition, structural details or decorative specifications that may necessitate handwork and more detailed attention, and desired level of shine, which adds polishing steps.
- Holds up to wear and tear from high foot and vehicle (e.g. forklift) traffic.
- Poor resistance to chemicals, oils / grease, harsh cleaning regimens.
Facility / Operational Considerations
- Good option for warehouses and factories and other facilities with mostly “dry” processes and conditions.
- Generally low cleaning and upkeep requirements.
- Works best on level concrete floors with minimal surface defects like gouges, which will require more time-consuming, detailed repair work.
- Drying / curing time is required, during which floor cannot be used.
- Overall time will depend on several variables, such as area size, floor condition, the chosen coating product (e.g. fast drying or other), and when drying / curing time can be scheduled.
- Good resistance to chemicals, oils / grease, harsh cleaning regimens.
- Can turn yellowish over time in a process called ambering.
Facility / Operational Considerations
- Best option (and sometimes only viable solution) for facilities with high sanitation needs like food and beverage processing and pharmaceuticals and facilities with typically wet, caustic, or greasy conditions.
- Can fill-in minor defects and level the surface for smooth, even appearance.
It’s important to note that both concrete polishing and performance coatings can perform across a spectrum of needs. Certain exceptions will make one or the other a preferred solution. It’s important to review your specific circumstances with a reputable contractor.
Vendor screening and selection
Flooring projects cause more disruption than many other facility maintenance projects, which is why vendor screening and selection should be rigorous. There’s too much at stake to choose a contractor based primarily or solely on attractive pricing or delivery promises. You want a contractor with the history and credentials to show they can walk their talk.
Contractor traits that deliver time-saving performance
- Past experience relevant to your situation, such as similar industry, facility type and condition, and project size for get-right-to-it efficiency and know-how.
- Expertise in concrete flooring and the causes of degradation like moisture, expansion and contraction, operational wear and tear, and other forces to ensure optimal performance for long-lasting outcomes.
- Right-sized teams based on project size and scope, well-coordinated across all steps and using the best equipment for the job to get more done in less time, without cutting corners that could harm quality.
- Reliability and trustworthiness to avoid unwanted, time-consuming headaches and delays, with a proven track record in meeting client schedules and deadlines.
- Specifying time-saving products like fast-curing coatings or concrete grinding materials to balance long-term performance and return-to-service needs.
- Scheduling know-how to plan project and process phases around slow shifts, production lines, and other factors for projects that must be done without a facility shutdown.
- Reducing worker discomfort like ensuring adequate ventilation to mitigate and reduce issues caused by the strong odors of coatings or dust generated during the concrete grinding process.
- Safety commitment and OSHA-trained crews for no time-consuming problems and delays or worse due to preventable hazards or incidents.
By any measure, you want a concrete flooring contractor that knows a number of tactics and approaches to reduce the amount of time any given area will be out of commission.
Before work begins: Pre-job walks and preparations with key stakeholders
Well before the project begins, we advise facility maintenance teams to review the pending work with all key stakeholders. Setting proper expectations and gaining their support for the pending maintenance work that will affect their work is hugely important.
By pooling together their knowledge and needs, you can identify time-saving tactics and advance preparations before the project even begins.
Advance preparation might include:
- Addressing any drainage issues like pooling or flooding to allow time for necessary repair and mitigation and to ensure that any coatings will adhere quickly and properly.
- Identifying fixed obstructions like pipes or columns to discuss with the contractor and determine how much time will be needed to work around them.
- Communicating special requirements or concerns like time-sensitive production areas, shift scheduling, or workplace safety. Each stakeholder should bring their needs, concerns, and ideas to the table to find time-saving solutions and work-arounds.
- Clearing the flooring area of equipment, products, or materials to save time that the contractor would have to spend moving or covering these items themselves. This will also prevent damage and reduce safety hazards.
- In regard to clearing the flooring area, planning for alternative storage and workspace in advance to accommodate your operational needs and the contractor’s workflow during the course of the project.
- Planning for temporary traffic flow changes to allow workers and equipment to move around flooring maintenance areas easily and safely.
- Developing and implementing a communication plan to reach all workers who will be on shift during any phase of the maintenance project. For example, our crews regularly find that a floor has been walked on prior to our explicit approval, which causes contamination or other damage that may require extra time and expense for a redo or touch-up. Temporary barriers like tape, cones, and signage are easily ignored and breached without adequate communication and support from all facility users. The support and buy-in of your facility users will also save time and improve outcomes.
More time-saving tips
Here are a few final tips and tactics that can be helpful in allowing normal operations and flooring work to happen simultaneously.
Parse out the work in phases
The contractor can divide the area into smaller sections and work on one section at a time to provide flexibility to adjust schedules and accommodate production requirements.
Work with the contractor to schedule work that makes use of off-hours, weekends, 3rd shifts and any other slow times. For example, coating projects can be planned so that curing can take place overnight or on Sundays to minimize interference. Work can be planned to avoid certain times and areas when they are most active.
In facilities like food processing plants, where it may be difficult or impossible to continue operations alongside flooring maintenance due to sanitation and food safety requirements, a shutdown may be necessary. Also keep in mind that a contractor with food industry experience and the capacity to schedule large crews can help guarantee fast return to service if a shutdown is required.
Temporary traffic and workflow accommodations
We already discussed the need to plan for alternative storage, workspaces and traffic flow in advance as temporary accommodations. The flooring contractor should also designate and segregate active work areas and flooring space that requires protection even if contractor crews are not present. Respecting these restrictions will help the contractor meet your project deadlines and quality expectations.
Finally, good communication will ensure that everyone is aware of the project schedule and any changes or updates and understand what is expected of them. Use email, signs posted in cafeterias and break rooms, and any other communication methods available to you to keep everyone in the loop and gain their full buy-in and support.
Maintenance is inevitable; disruptions are manageable
Nothing lasts forever, including industrial concrete floors, and nothing has more potential to disrupt normal operations than flooring work. While maintenance is disruptive, the alternatives of cutting corners or continuously deferring projects can lead to even longer and more frequent disruptions.
Working closely with internal stakeholders to develop a project schedule that meets operational needs and choosing a reputable contractor with proven concrete flooring experience like Painters USA is the best way to streamline maintenance for time-saving efficiency.
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