Hard Floor Maintenance

Polishing Concrete: Finding the Right Equipment for Your Job

The process of polishing concrete consists of three consecutive categories: grinding, honing and polishing

June 17, 2013
Trans

  1. To determine the equipment you need, you must first decide the market you are going to serve — residential, commercial or a combination
     
  2. Choosing the right equipment for your job involves considering many factors, including the equipment’s weight, motor size, working dimensions and directions the abrasives rotate
     
  3. To determine what best suits your needs, it is always best to consult with equipment manufacturers
Polishing concrete is an increasingly requested procedure, and as with any other new add-on, there are many elements that must be considered before simply jumping into the business. Some new contractors getting into the polishing business think polishing concrete simply consists of slapping abrasives on and off the bottom of a machine. In reality, the process is quite technical and requires the proper experience and equipment to produce the desired result. 
 
The process of polishing concrete consists of three consecutive categories: grinding, honing and polishing. Within each category are multiple stages, which consist of consecutively using finer grit abrasives at each step. The end result should have a glass-like finish and the clarity of a mirror reflection.  
 
There is specific equipment that makes the polishing process possible. Some of the equipment can require a significant investment. The equipment can be difficult to transport and may need expensive tooling to achieve the desired gloss and clarity. These and many other factors should be considered before purchase.
 
“Use of the right equipment will help ensure a higher quality end product,” recommends Brad Burns, Executive Director, Concrete Polishing Association of America (CPAA). “An equipment investment must not be made lightly, but rather after a thorough assessment of your market and the equipment options.”
 

What equipment is right for your job?

To determine the equipment you need, you must first decide the market you are going to serve — residential, commercial or a combination of both. In the residential market, it is rare to find three-phase power, therefore, to prevent the added expense and the need for a generator mounted in your truck or trailer, you will have to choose equipment that runs on 110 volt or 240 volt single-phase power. Also, remember that your equipment must fit through residential doorways and be able to be moved up and down stairs.
 
Even in the commercial market there are times when three-phase power may not be available. When it is available, it is often only 240 volt three-phase, not 480 volt three-phase. Additionally, motors that run off of 240 volt three-phase power have high amperage requirements. When running 240 volt three-phase equipment with long runs of power cord, you’ll need four-gauge wires. And four-gauge, four-wire cable not only gets very heavy, but the cost of 60 amp plugs is quite high.
 
Another factor to consider is if you will offer surface preparation, polishing or both. To perform heavy surface preparation you will need a machine that has adequate weight and horsepower. The general rule is that the heavier the machine and the larger the motor, the more power you’ll need. The proper abrasives play a key role with both the light to medium prep work (with a lighter machine) and polishing with heavy equipment. 
 
It’s necessary to consider the size of the jobs you are about to confront. A 22- to 25-inch machine can tackle jobs up to 2,000 square feet in a timely manner. Larger areas will need multiple pieces of the same size equipment or larger equipment. When making this decision on what to purchase, consider that with multiple machines you have the flexibility to put several on one job for increased production or on separate jobs.
 
How are your jobs set up? Are they in open areas or broken into smaller areas? Large equipment is an advantage in open areas, but cannot be used in areas with lots of rooms and tight corners — then smaller equipment may be your better option. Consider your market. Is it consistently open areas of 1,000 square feet and over with doors that are 36 inches wide or larger? Then a 32-inch machine will significantly increase production. Remember, smaller machines offer more versatility, but require more manpower. Larger machines have less versatility, but increased production. Increased production and less manpower will bring you more profits or provide you with the ability to price a job more competitively.
 
There are many issues for you to consider when choosing the polishing equipment that’s right for your company. The best method is to educate yourself on your options and consider how the various machine characteristics will help you produce the floors you and your customers desire.
 

Factors to Consider

Choosing the right equipment for your job involves considering many factors, including the equipment’s weight, motor size, working dimensions and directions the abrasives rotate. 
 
Equipment weight can range from 110 to over 2,000 pounds for walk-behind equipment before weights are applied. Ride-on equipment is higher, at over 13,000 pounds. More important to consider is the actual weight or head pressure over the abrasives.
 
The motor size can range from 1 hp on a single-head rotary machine to 40 hp on a walk-behind with a multi-rotary head. Basically, the higher the friction, the more power required to drive the abrasives. 
 
In terms of the overall size of the equipment, you must purchase equipment that you can easily transport. A variety of shapes and sizes are available and some break down for easier transportation.
 
Another area to consider is the size of the overall abrasive working area. The working dimensions can range from a square size and 14 inches to a round size and 15 inches. The largest is 98 inches with multiple planetary heads. Also, there are options with the abrasives drive. Variations can range from a large fixed single rotating head, fixed dual rotating heads that are positioned side by side, machines that have two to eight rotating heads that interweave in a gear-like fashion, and then in a totally different set-up, there is planetary equipment where one large head rotates in one direction in addition to smaller ancillary heads that also rotate in the opposite or same direction.
 
To operate the rotating heads of the machine often the main or centralized motor uses a belt or chain in conjunction with a pulley system. Sometime the equipment eliminates the belts or chains and uses a gear system. The small, single rotating head machines are frequently driven directly from the motor.
Additionally, there is variety in how the machines are driven. Some machines are designed to be pushed, pulled or moved side to side while others are propelled with motor-driven wheels or come as ride-on units.
 
Lastly, yet quite important, is the power requirement. The equipment is either powered by cord electric, battery or propane, and in some cases hydraulic driven motors are used. Propane power has one advantage in that there are no cords and no electrical requirements other than the battery used for starting the machine. Typical electrical requirements for cord electric equipment are 110 volt single-phase, 240 volt single-phase or three-phase, and 480 volt three-phase. You will find that amperage requirements can range as low as 20 amps and as high as 60 amps.
 
To determine what equipment best suits your needs, it is always best to consult with equipment manufacturers so you understand what equipment is on the marketplace and what might be the best investment for you.    

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