How to properly protect decorative concrete during construction

Decorative concrete has become a very popular new flooring option for both residential and commercial construction projects. They are easy to maintain, ideal for areas with lots of sand or snow, and a good alternative to carpets if the homeowner has allergies. Decorative concrete floors are often installed in a new home early in the construction process, which can result in damage from paint splatter, dirt from work boats, impact from falling materials, and road traffic. How can you help protect these freshly polished floors from construction traffic and mishaps caused by falling construction tools and materials?

There are several different types of surface protection that protect newly installed decorative concrete floors from damage. Many contractors use Masonite, plastic sheeting, and polished films to try to protect concrete floors. These items offer limited protection and have serious limitations. Products like plywood can scratch the floor and are usually heavy and difficult to store after use. Masonite is bulky and cannot be easily repositioned on a job site. Occasionally, the 4 ‘x 8’ masonite sheets separate and allow road traffic to roll directly onto the new flooring. In addition, Masonite is not absorbent, so liquids flow down the sides and enter the spaces between the sheets, damaging the decorative concrete. Plastic sheeting has its own challenges. While it is easier to move around a job site and is less expensive than other floor protection options, it can be very slippery on polished concrete floor and can cause injury to workers if someone falls or trips. Plastic sheets move easily, which means that without being taped together, they could slide across the floor. Lastly, plastic sheeting does not offer impact protection from falling heavy objects. Another option contractors use to protect malfunctioning decorative concrete floors is temporary rugs. The rugs have a rubber backing, which does not allow the concrete to breathe. While it offers good impact protection, it is heavy and difficult to move and does not absorb spills well. It is also a very expensive type of protection.

Many builders have tried each of these methods to protect decorative concrete, but nothing works perfectly. The ideal product would be breathable so that the concrete can cure, absorb spillage, prevent differential drying, and provide impact protection. If possible, the product would be reusable and recyclable to reduce waste. Fortunately, there are several surface protection products on the market that meet all of these requirements.

Ram Board ™ is a heavy duty floor protection product that is made from a thick material similar to cardboard. One roll of Ram Board ™ is the same thickness as ten sheets of Masonite, and since it comes in rolls it is much easier to transport, move and store. Lays fast and flat when unrolling and allows moisture to escape to cure floors. Ram Board ™ is waterproof and prevents oils and other materials from seeping through and staining the concrete floor. Ram Board Vapor Cure ™ breathable tape can be used to bond ram board sheets and does not produce cure lines.

SurfacePro ™ is a thick, breathable floor protection product that has a non-slip backing. It comes in large rolls and is easily cut to size. SurfacePro ™ is reusable and provides 40 mils of protection for decorative concrete floors. The breathable product prevents cure lines in newly installed concrete and will not invalidate the flooring manufacturer’s warranty. Unlike the paper Ramboard, the Surface Pro is reusable and lasts longer.

SurfaceLiner Vapor ™ is a new product that is similar to SurfacePro ™, but also has a slightly tacky back that almost acts like an adhesive. It slightly clings to the ground without leaving any type of residue. SurfaceLiner Vapor ™ is breathable and transmits vapor for new concrete floors. It is also waterproof and tear resistant. SurfaceLiner Vapor ™ has padded protection that is very effective against impact damage.

, McTech Group’s EZcover is a natural cellulose fiber composite that immediately begins to absorb a spill without degrading. It has a dense top layer and a soft cushion underneath and is designed to take impact. EZcover breathes well, is relatively easy to cut / mold around objects, and comes in large rolls for easy placement in large areas. If kept in good condition, EZcover is reusable. It is durable against construction traffic and road traffic and the edges can be taped if required.

While contractors can use basic products like plastic sheeting, Masonite, and carpet to protect decorative concrete floors, the most effective types of protection are specialized floor protection products. Products like Ram Board ™, Surface Pro ™, SurfaceLiner Vapor ™ and EZcover are specifically designed to provide the best protection at a competitive price. Remind; Protection is an investment and avoids the high replacement or repair costs that can occur if expensive flooring is not protected. Contact your local surface protection provider for more information on how to best protect your valuable concrete floors.