Refinishing adds sheen

Published in The Legend November 2012

A treasure has been unearthed at U of L, and it’s been under our feet the whole time.

Some may have noticed the “new” floors throughout the PE Building and Max Bell Aquatic Centre that are speckled with small and colourful stones, but the gem-like floors have always been like that, says Judy Jaeger, Caretaking Services Manager. It was just buried under 40 years of built up floor sealer finish.

“The caretaking department would put down sealer finish month after month year after year, and there’s just so many layers that it would be impossible for us to come in and strip it with a chemical,” Jaeger says, adding a chemical stripper only takes six coats of finish off per application.

“It would take a very long time to get all the finish down to where the aggregate was first exposed and then we’d still have to grind it down, so we just decided to grind it down and spend the extra money on diamond discs rather than strip it down with a chemical that’s not very environmentally friendly.”

The floor refinishing project was initiated during the renovations to the PE Building and stairwell supervised by the Facilities Project Management Office (PMO) Jason Baranec. The Caretakers who spent more than 2000 hours bringing the floors back to life were Jon Mpere who is also a fulltime student, Kenny Ampiah graduate of New Media, Patrick Troy, and Brett Schafthuizen.

Rather than hire a contractor to simply grind and apply an epoxy resin, Caretaking offered to perform a more comprehensive floor refinishing with a new grinder and polish machine saving the PMO thousands of dollars.



Caretaking worker Derek Vincent put in many hours to make the 40-year-old concrete aggregate floors in the PE building sparkle like new.


Refinishing the floors is quite an undertaking. It begins with resurfacing using four different grades of diamond disc pads, followed by a densifier used to seal, harden and dustproof the exposed concrete. Finally the floors are auto scrubbed and rebuffed once more before applying a stain resistant top coat and then polished with a heat pad.

The process takes approximately 16 hours for every 1,000 to 1,200 square-feet. To give you an idea of how long that is, the hallway along the Max Bell Pool spectator gallery took about 3.5 weeks to complete.

“It`s a very long process. You have to do four passes horizontally and four passes vertically, like a crisscross. That’s eight passes per disc using up to 10 discs.

“It’s quite labour intensive and it’s also expensive. The discs are made with diamonds so they cost a lot of money.”

But the task is well worth the time and money as the end result means floors across campus will not have to be refinished again for many years - plus it’s more environmentally friendly.

“It’s a green initiative; it will actually give us LEED points for future buildings,” says Jaeger.

“In the past we were scrubbing the floor at least four to five times a year, and refinishing it with a zinc-oxide type finish which isn’t as environmentally friendly but it was what we had to put down to hold the floor together.”

Now caretakers use an eco-friendly top coat sealant that reduces the amount of potentially harmful particulate concrete dust that can be kicked up from foot traffic.

“In the long run we won’t have to redo this for about 20 years compared to five times a year currently,” says Jaeger. “In the high traffic places like the Wellness Centre it might be more like every five years, but in places like AWESB it could be up to 20 years.”

Most of the PE Building has been completed with a few spots left in New Turcotte Hall. Next year, Caretaking will start on other areas of campus such as the University Centre for the Arts which is almost all aggregate concrete, as well as the Students’ Union Building.