by Chris Dobrzycki
A Growing and
Do you want to make money?
If you do, you will appreciate this story. Here's how a refinishing company managed to make over $43,000 in just seven working days using a six-man crew and one foreman.
A north suburban school just outside of Chicago had a problem: how to deal with 7,500 square feet of ceramic wall tile in a busy hallway that was damaged by time and students. The tile needed to be "renewed" by the end of summer and be ready for the following school year. It was chipped in areas and there were even a few missing tiles. The grout was in bad shape, but just as well — the tile colors were outdated too. The cost and time to gut and replace the tiles (which were set in concrete) would have been cost-prohibitive for the school. The best alternative to replacing it was to refinish and make it look new.
This is where Beautiful Finishes Inc., of Pensenville, Ill., comes to the rescue. "This job was a perfect fit for us," says manager Axel Brown.
Beautiful Finishes specializes in refinishing bathtubs, counters and ceramic tile. "We use a process in which old, worn tubs and tile can be made to look new and be just as resilient," Brown says. "It's a very simple process. People can have their tubs and tile done in one day. Not only is it great for the homeowner, but also for hotels, apartment complexes and in this case, a school too."
Beautiful Finishes examined the tile and found that it needed to be repaired in a few spots due to chips and cracks, and that some missing tile needed to be fitted. The grout needed to be refreshed, for it would also be refinished. The charge was placed at $5.75 a square foot, considerably less than having the old tile removed and replaced. What that meant in return for Beautiful Finishes was the use of a six-man crew and a foreman for seven days — and the chance to gross more than $43,000.
First, as with any job site, the area needed to be prepared. The hallway was sealed off from the public and fume exhausters were installed to remove dust and fumes. Next, the ceiling was masked off, but the carpet was left in place as it was being replaced after the completion of the job.
The first true task in the refinishing process was the etching of the tile. The tile's surface glaze needed to be made permeable to allow the primer to better bond with the tile. Porc-Etch 1000, manufactured by Hawk Research Labs, was applied to the tile. The etch was then neutralized and allowed to dry. As the company demands all work environments to be safe, this step of the project required the technicians to wear half-face respirators.
Chipped and cracked tile needed to be repaired. To complete this task, Beautiful Finishes used Pro-Fil, a polyester filler produced by Hawk. Finally, all grout lines were treated with grout slurry to fill in holes and make all the lines look even.
Donning the appropriate air respirators with a full face mask, two spray technicians using HK993 three-stage HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray turbines primed the hallway tiles. They applied two coats of UltraGrip 4000, a two-component epoxy-based adhesive primer. "For such a job you'll want to use lightweight portable spray units, but with enough power to get the job done. Your HVLP needs to be able to get the coating onto the surface fast and easily," says Scott Cholpek, foreman at Beautiful Finishes.
Finally, the topcoat was applied to the primed surfaces using Glas-Tech 9000 two-component acrylic urethane. "Glas-Tech is extremely durable, having a high hardness rating, and as a benefit for the school, graffiti resistance," says Jim Gibson, product development manager for Hawk.
In the end, Beautiful Finishes' technicians created a seamless-looking tile hallway that hid grout lines and created a new and inviting space. The school requested that the newly refinished surface have an appealing look and asked that a top border of red tile be created below the border. The red was first applied to the border area and later masked off, so the white topcoat was then sprayed from the border to the floor. The final step was to return in 24 hours and remove the masking and clean the area up.
|Top: Staircase before refinishing and, bottom, after refinishing
For those of you who have some experience with spray painting, a project like this would not be difficult at all. Refinishing is a similar process to painting, in that a primer is used for adhesion to the substrate and to cover repairs and imperfections, and then a topcoat is applied for the final finish. Colors can be highly customized just by asking your supplier or by tinting on the spot. About the only difference is that this form of spraying involves the use of a two-component primer system and a two-part acrylic urethane topcoat.
As far as time, 7,500 square feet of tile can be done in seven days, or a small bathroom can be accomplished in as little as two to four hours, depending on how much prep is needed. Actual time spent spraying both primer and topcoat can be less than 1 hour — typical time is about 45 minutes for a bathroom.
As with any painting job, you will find the most time-consuming tasks will be masking off your work area and doing repairs. In the case of tubs, it may be as little as a good cleaning of the tub and surrounding area to as much as filling in cracks and holes in the bathtub surface. These are skills that the average painter already has and will not need to relearn.
There is an ever-growing trend in trying to preserve tile, bathtubs and counters, Brown says. Homeowners are trying to cut down remodeling costs by refinishing existing fixtures. Bathtub, tile and countertop refinishing is a business that always does well — year round.