By: Charlie Sprang
This past April, the Cement Masons and Plasterers Local 592 hosted a week-long training
session for journeymen, apprentices and instructors who had traveled from locals across the
country to the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association (OPCMIA)
training center in Gloucester City. The objective was to demonstrate overlay and polishing
techniques, part of a broad range of OPCMIA training programs designed to enhance the skills
of its members with the latest techniques and trends in the industry.
“Rapid Set ® Cement provided all the materials and Niagara Machine, Inc. demonstrated all the
polishing, overlay polishing and concrete polishing,” explained Tony Longbrake, training
coordinator with the OPCMIA International Training Fund. “This is the second class and we are
going to be doing them at locals across the nation. For some, it is a refresher and for others, it’s
new. The objective is to have them become familiar with refinishing techniques. You have to
keep up with the trends.”
Polished concrete grows in popularity
Polished concrete floors have become increasingly popular in commercial and retail
applications. Heavy daily foot traffic tends to make ordinary concrete floors wear out more
quickly and appear dull and generally unappealing. Not so with a polished concrete floor created
with Rapid Set ® TRU self-leveling overlayment that was demonstrated at the OPCMIA training
Polished concrete floors can be found in major retailers such as Costco, Under Armour, and
Nike among others. The TRU self-leveling overlayment system was introduced to Lidl, the
German discount grocery giant, for use in its pilot store in Fredericksburg, VA, when the grocer
was dissatisfied with the floor that had been installed when the store was first built.
The advantages of a polished concrete floor are both economic and aesthetic. There is a cost
savings in maintenance and the look is unlike anything that can be achieved through a regular
Portland cement poured floor.
“A polished concrete floor reflects the light much better and keeps down the dust [that
accumulates on floors],” said Rob Petracci, apprentice and safety instructor, and coordinator for
Local 592. “Overlays, whether in remodel or decorative applications, control the concrete look. A
lot of big wholesalers are going to overlays or polished cement.”
On an approximate 20’ by 20’ patch of concrete floor behind the office in the Gloucester City
training site, representatives from Rapid Set and Niagara Machine demonstrated the installation
process. The substrate must be thoroughly cleaned and free of any materials that would inhibit
the bonding process such as oil, mastic, or dust. Next, an epoxy primer is applied to the surface to aid penetration and adhesion. In six hours or less, the surface is ready for the overlayment application which is applied to a thickness of 3/8 of an inch. Colors can be added to create unlimited design possibilities. The finished floor is ready for foot traffic in two to three hours and can be polished in 24 hours.
An opportunity for hands-on experience
Many of the more than two dozen in attendance were given the opportunity to participate in the
process of either applying the different components or operating the polishing machine on a
section of the floor that already had the overlayment applied and had set for 24 hours.
Joe Zingale, a flooring group specialist with CTS Cement Manufacturing Corporation, the
company that developed the TRU self-leveling process, said polished concrete floors have been
installed in over 100,000 locations in just the past five years. “It continues to experience huge
growth,” he said.
One of the instructors attending the week-long session was Roger Lowry of the Cement Masons
and Plasterers Local 90 in Troy, IL, 20 miles east of St. Louis. He said there were only one or
two journeymen in his local with knowledge of the process and inquired about having a training
session there in the future. He recognized the value of the product and the benefits of learning
how to install it.
“This is great information to take back to my people and train them,” he said. “It will just make us
that much more valuable to the contractors in the area.”
The overlay and polishing training was conducted on Monday through Wednesday, followed on
Thursday and Friday by concrete polishing 101.
“This is becoming more and more popular,” Petracci said. “On the low end, it can be used for
warehouses and, on the high end, in restaurants. You can decorate it by adding color. The
possibilities are endless.”