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"Touchup" - Or what happens when you damage an acid stained floor

July 2010 Newsletter

Hi Folks! We're already half way through July! Hope your 4th was as good as ours was. Now that we are halfway through the year it's as good a time as any for a little reflection.

One question I often get asked is just how durable are acid stained floors. The answer is that they're pretty tough, but they aren't "bulletproof" as you'll see in the story below.

  Let's get a little history about the job first. Five years ago, this space was converted into a jewelry store in McKinney, Tx. To bring it up to code, the storeowners needed to upgrade the bathroom. The plumbers came in, tore up the floor, laid down the pipe, filled it in with new concrete, and left it in good shape. Sometimes we find that plumbers leave the floor in pretty bad shape because they're plumbers and not concrete professionals.

When we were contracted to do this job, we explained to the client that the patched area would take stain differently, which would cause the color to be different than the rest of the floor. The client knew this so there would be no surprises at the end of the day.

Fast-forward five years. I got a call from the owner asking if we can swing by to take a look at the floor. As soon as I walked into the store he just started grinning and said, "I know, I know." I could see the problems right away, but there were two things in particular that stood out. First, the floor was heavily worn in the high traffic areas. Second, there were rubber-backed rugs on the floor.

Acid stained floors are tough but that doesn't mean they don't need to be maintained. In the five years since we had done the job, nary a drop of wax had touched the floor. We always recommend applying a wax coat to the floor on a periodic basis to protect it from regular wear and tear. It's the same thing you would you do with the paint finish on your car.

Foot traffic wears off the wax over time, but when you replenish it, it helps keep the floor from getting damaged. Applying a wax coat to the floor isn't a hard process. We recommend a mop-on wax that dries very quickly and doesn't have to be buffed. For commercial floors you should apply it at least once a month and residential settings can be once every three to six months. You can get more information about what we recommend in our "floor cleaning instructions" guide, which is also under the General Info heading at the top of the page. One other thing: if you are using office chairs, you need to get a "hard floor" chair matt. The constant rolling action of the chairs can be very hard on the floor. If there's any dirt or grit, it'll get caught in the wheels and just grind away at the floor, eventually wearing it away.

The second problem was just as serious. Rubber and sealed floors just don't go together. There's something in these two materials that makes them really stick together. Waxing the floor helps this a little, but I still don't recommend using a rubber-backed rug on a sealed floor and all our floors are sealed. If you ignore this warning, a month later you will literally have to peel the rug off the floor, taking the finish with it. Ahh... So for our storeowner, an ounce of prevention would have been better than the pound of cure.

In some situations, applying another acid stain on the floor can create quite a bit of "personality", which may be a little more than what most people want. In this case, our storeowner was ok with a lot of personality; he liked the rustic look of a direct acid stain and wasn't concerned if it was a little more varied than before, so we went that route.

Well, it didn't come out quite as we expected. Even though we stripped and cleaned the floor, when we sprayed on the acid stain it would not react! The sealer had really done its job in spite of being applied five years earlier and being worn away by heavy foot traffic. We tried the stain at full strength and all we got was a weak fizzle with almost no color effect at all on the floor. It's not the result you want to see after putting in so much work to get the floor prepped, but it wasn't totally unexpected. It's always possible after cleaning a previously sealed floors that a very thin layer of sealer that has wicked into the concrete pores just below the surface remains. This is what prevented the acid stain from reaching the concrete, hence, no color! Clean as you may, you can't always remove this layer. Sure, you can grind or sand the floor to remove it but it'll also completely change the character and appearance of the floor, usually creating a look that is less variegated or mottled, which is something we try to avoid. The storeowner didn't want a uniform looking floor so the only option left was to go with a colored sealer.

We do this by mixing in a little pigment with the sealer prior to spraying it on the floor. Adding too much pigment will create a painted look, but a light spray will blend in those areas of an acid stained floor that didn't react at all. It's not the same thing as an acid stain, but it looks very close and sometimes you just don't have a choice. We think it came out rather well, and the storeowner was happy with the results. I think he now knows just how important it is do some maintenance on the floor and we won't get another call in five years. See you all next month.