Bob Murrell 

M3 Technologies

Photos by Bob Murrell

On  large projects with tight budgets, how can you provide quality results? As always, it mostly comes down to managing the customer’s expectations. Ultimately, it all boils down to what is really needed versus what you can provide, at an agreed-upon price.

Let’s face reality: not every project has the budget to grind (lippage removal), hone, and polish a floor that needs some attention. In many cases, polishing may be all that is required to bring back a level of gloss that is satisfactory for the client. Even though some areas may require some light honing, like entry ways and pivot points, a 220 grit and 400 grit feathered may be all that is required before polishing, to achieve the desired effect.  

Also remember: on larger projects, you may have to complete manageable areas by the end of each day. In other words, you may not be able to leave areas unfinished for any length of time. Other issues of concern may be that certain projects may have limited access availability. For instance, you may be only able to work on nights and weekends.    

As an example, let’s look at the Federal Courthouse in Knoxville, Tennessee. The project parameters included over 15,000 square feet of marble which needed repairs, some honing, and an overall polishing. There are four different marbles in this project, all of which are 2cm (3/4-inch) material. Three of the marbles are from local Tennessee quarries: two types of Pink Tennessee, and some Imperial Black. There’s also some Vermont Verde Antique (a type of serpentine), which seems to have been thrown in for a decorative touch.

Above, left: Before repair and polishing the Tennessee Marble floor Above, middle: Gloss meter reading before and after polishing with 5x Gold Above, right: After polishing with Majestic 5X Gold Powder

Above, left: Before repair and polishing the Tennessee Marble floor

Above, middle: Gloss meter reading before and after polishing with 5x Gold

Above, right: After polishing with Majestic 5X Gold Powder

The majority of the floors simply needed some good polishing to restore the desired luster. Majestic 5X Gold was used to accomplish all of the polishing on this project. Some heavily worn and/or etched areas required some light honing, using 400 grit TX Triple Thick diamond discs, prior to polishing. Entryways, choke points, and areas outside of restrooms (probably due to improper cleaning materials being spilled by the maintenance contractor) where etching and wear were problematic, all required honing with at least a 400 grit prior to polishing.  There were also bad areas, which had salt buildup, beneath some drinking water fountains that needed repair. The Majestic 5X Gold took care of this issue very nicely.

Additionally, there were some setting bed failures which caused some pieces to shift and break over the years. There were also grout failures in certain areas like the transition joint lines between one hall or room and the next, as well as all around many of the window HVAC registers joints, in a large rotunda. It was decided that, due to expansion and contraction issues, these grout and masonry failures would be replaced with caulk. 

Because the failed joints were approximately 3/8-inch in width, to do the caulk job correctly, flexible backer rod was first installed in the joints. This does a couple of important things. First, it limits the amount of caulk which helps the joint to cure better, and also has a lesser tendency of adhesion release. Secondly, the round-shaped, flexible backer rod helps with forming a perfect hourglass bead in the joint. This gives more adhesion surface area and also allows for more flexibility in the finished caulked joint.

There was also lots of etching from random spillage of acidic materials (cola, orange juice, and who knows what) throughout the facility. This was mostly spot  repaired using a 400 grit diamond hand pad and then polished afterwards with the 5X Gold under the floor machine. 

Rust stain on Tennessee  Pink before and after polishing with Majestic 5X Gold. Tennessee Pink marble has a naturally high iron content.

Rust stain on Tennessee  Pink before and after polishing with Majestic 5X Gold. Tennessee Pink marble has a naturally high iron content.

Another issue that was noticed later was leftover floor finish around the edges and in some low grout joints. Because it was in small specific areas, this was simply removed using razor blades. Doing it this way was easier than trying to strip the floor with chemicals.  

This was a fairly large project that had many issues and a strict budget to adhere to. However, significant improvement was made to the installation in many areas. By targeting issues that the client specifically wanted addressed, the appearance of the overall floor was greatly improved. For instance, gloss level readings were improved by 25 to over 51 points on different stones using a calibrated meter. Several installation failures were also rectified along with many joint and breakage repairs.

Additionally, work opportunities were very limited. Some weeknights and weekends were all that were available, and only when the building was not in operation. Also, because this was a federal building, security was paramount and all work had to be escorted by a badged employee who could open doors for access to most all locations. Therefore, it was necessary to have this employee scheduled in advance. So you see, the work availability was not like most projects where you can come in and just start and work until you are basically finished. This project lasted many weeks, as the work was performed based on the opportunity of the building’s and the escort’s availability. 

Overall, this project turned out really nice and the client was especially pleased with the results. Not every company will want to do this type of work but for those that do and can work flexible days and hours of operation, it can be very rewarding.   

As always, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm the results and the procedure prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration or maintenance project (oh, and use your smartphone to take plenty of before and after pics!). Also the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.

Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.