Tom  McNall

Floor Restoration Consultant

Before polishingThe reason that the phrase “Would you like fries with that?” is so ingrained (as well as annoying) in our culture is because it was consistently pushed on us by one of the largest fast food chains in the world, some 30-40 years ago, and then copied by every one of their competitors.

After polishingToday, because of over use, many chains look for different ways of introducing the same pitch – and the purpose is to entice you to buy more through the power of suggestion.

Now, in the natural stone restoration game, when we suggest other ways that we can help our customers, we actually need to offer them something useful and of benefit to them. 

Offering to seal a counter or floor can be a quick up-sell, yes, but realistically, it is pennies, and most counters really do not need sealing (on calcium-based stones it cannot prevent etching and most granites are not porous). The real money is underfoot. On surfaces that customers can walk on and subsequently wear down over time.

And so you ask, “Well, just where do we look to offer our services to up-sell if we’ve already polished all the stone in a customer’s home?” I say, look in the garage or perhaps the basement. Because in many cases, there is more stone buried and contained in the concrete and cement that make up a typical garage and lower level subfloor.  

Now, entombed inside of the matrix of concrete are tens of thousands of small limestone, marble and granite rocks that make up the aggregate that helps bond the liquid concrete together and add to its strength. And the beautiful thing about those rocks is that they can still take a polish like their slab and tile “counter”-parts (pun intended).

Polishing concrete is a natural add-on for the natural stone restoration professional because, quite frankly, you can use your existing equipment. Now, hold on there, Sparky! Before you start harassing your local big box hardware store manager with offers to polish his store, there are a few things you need to know.

Number one, the companies who started polishing concrete years ago and pitched it to the big orange and blue box did not have their thinking caps on tight enough. They sold the job for less than it was worth. 

The warehouse store concept originally had dull, plain concrete floors. They attracted dust, were hard to clean, and they looked boring.  Polishing the concrete erased all of those concerns. However, if you were to look at the flooring section of those very stores, you will see that you cannot get even the cheapest (high maintenance) flooring bought and installed for under $1 per sq ft.  

You’d be hard pressed to find mildly decent flooring there for under $2 /sq ft (+ installation).  And yet the companies that are polishing those floors are expending themselves for less then cost the cheapest flooring their very customer sells and giving better value.

So, wise guy, you ask, “Just how do these guys stay in business, then?”

I’ll tell you how they do it: A) they are only polishing the cream (top layer); B) they are mortgaged to the extreme with leases on very high-priced equipment that is only good for large jobs; and C) they need to keep moving all over the country to keep making their payments on their equipment and to make a profit.  

So, unless you like working for small margins, being under a lot of stress constantly and always on the road, I’d stick to the smaller, high profit jobs that you can do in your own neighborhood with equipment you already have.

The second thing you need to know is how concrete is made and formed. Why? Because it could bite you in your behind if you do not have a basic understanding.

The cream that I mentioned earlier that the big box chasers are polishing is the liquid dense part of the concrete that gets pushed to the surface as the heavier stones slowly sink, as newly poured concrete begins to settle. It also gets somewhat smoothed by the concrete finishers trowling the surface as it hardens.  If you polish only the cream, it looks good, but not “great.” It also does not have a consistent color and can appear cloudy.

The best finish is when you can expose the bigger aggregate (the size of a quarter and larger) further down. Now, getting to this larger stone base requires tooling that can shave the top layers (anywhere from 1/4-3/4˝ or more at times) down in an economical way.  From there, you can essentially use the same equipment you already have to produce a high-quality shine.  

The more knowledge you have on the subject, the better, because high-quality homeowner customers appreciate the look of the high gloss, larger aggregate finish.

If you really would like to know more about polishing concrete, I suggest that you contact the producers of this magazine, because they put on a very positively-rated course all about this subject. I plan on attending one put on by them myself in the future to expand my knowledge on the subject. Visit their website for a list of upcoming concrete polishing classes.

Until next month, keep your stick on the ice.

Tom McNall is founder and owner of Great Northern Stone, an Ontario-based stone cleaning and restoration company servicing Ontario and Chicago, Illinois. Tom also offers corporate and private consultations as well as speaking at conventions. He can be reached at