The first few days they did demo work, ripping out carpet, wood floors and tile. The tile was a bear. There were two guys running jackhammers simultaneously and it still took an extra day. The mastic was so thick in some areas it was a real challenge to get it out. They also found various cracks to fill and other uneven areas. Here are a few before and mid-demo photos:
After the demo they filled in the cracks and bigger problem areas then allowed it to cure. The next day they brought in a separate contractor to grind the floors. That took a full day with a diamond grinder to make it as smooth and even as possible. That completed the first five days, or week one.
The following week they applied what was called a ‘scratch’ coat, to achieve an even surface for the stain to grab and to hide any markings (paint, carpet glue, etc.). It is actual concrete but in a very thin film. That had to cure and then be sanded before they put down a skim coat the following day which finishes the process of filling in all the imperfections. Again, that had to also be sanded. This whole skim coat thing is something I might do differently if I ever do it again. Personally I like to see some of the imperfections in the surface but most residential consumers don’t. If you check out the floor at the Fry’s supermarket on Ray Rd. and N. Ranch Circle, it appears they did not apply a skim coat so you can almost see through the floor to the original character of the concrete. Plus, if you drop something really sharp you can gouge the stain and see the skim coat beneath. The skim coat process ended week two. (I didn’t take any photos of that stage).
After the last skim coat and sanding came the fun part – staining! All the while the demo and prep work was going on we were still trying to decide on color, locked in debate because I liked one, my hubby another. So we went with a brown tone that Gary (of BC Coatings) suggested and while it’s a bit darker than I wanted, the depth and richness of color is beautiful. Gary has done many floors and after spending two weeks with me he knew what we were looking for so I trusted him.
You can use either acid or water based stain and we went with acid. It absorbs a little deeper but other than that, they are very similar as far as how they adhere and appear. The stain is applied using a sprayer (they tape off the bottom three feet of your cabinets and walls). This is a good time to note that when you do a project like this you should definitely plan on replacing your baseboards at the same time. They look like crud after you take out the tile and carpet and while the standard 2 ½ inch crummy baseboards we see all over Ahwatukee are OK with tile and carpet, they look weenie once you go down to the concrete. We made that call late in the game, after they had already taped off the walls to spray so that added a little more time to take all the tape down, demo the baseboards and then re-tape everything. But I’m so glad we did it, it was worth the extra $1,200 and time to put in new, 3 ½ inch baseboards, all freshly painted and crisp looking. We also added new, equally wide but more decorative trim around a couple of doorways to make them stand out in our entry way area.
After the stain dries (which was the end of week 2) they apply a sealant which is the really toxic stuff. I can’t believe they can see much less think after spending time around this stuff. They did two days of sealant and I didn’t want to be anywhere near our home – it was awful. Finally, after that dried they applied the final touch, two coats of wax. They were done after 13 working days but we didn’t move back in for another two because of the smell of the sealant. We had to open all of the windows and even now, after a month has gone by you still get whiffs of sealant when you open cupboard doors and other tight spaces.
The end result really is beautiful but not necessarily for everyone. It’s a very loud home now and we’ve put down many of our wool oriental rugs that I’ve had in hiding for years until we find exactly what we want. Slowly, as our furniture and décor went back in, more of the sound was absorbed and it softened the feel of the floors. Ours are what I could describe as rustic (as opposed to industrial or contemporary) because of the floors tonality and how it looks paired with our eclectic furnishings. The floors are cool under the feet but I imagine I’ll welcome that a little more once summer hits.
It took a while to get used to them but I really love the floors now. They are very pretty, albeit darker than I wanted, but have really tied the house together. When looking back to the before pictures I can’t believe we waited so long to get rid of that ugly tile and carpet!