When Faced With Restoring Century-old Terrazzo Floors in Time for the 100th Year Anniversary Celebration, Cornwall-on-hudson-elementary School Turned to Diamond Devil™ to Rejuvenate Their Appearance, Dramatically Improve Safety, Save Time, Money, and More
- Restore century-old floor appearance in time for the 100th Anniversary Celebration
- Undo decades of damage to terrazzo due to unnecessary stripping and waxing (believed to be the only way to maintain their shine)
- Find a chemical-free solution, so Cornwall could continue to embrace its Green District status
- Eliminate issues with traditional maintenance, like slip-and-fall risks and high labor costs
- Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System
- Three innovative tools to Hone, Polish, and Shine terrazzo floors
- Environmentally friendly, chemical-free solution—use only water
- Works on most standard floor machines
- School’s floors were returned to their original luster in time for the celebration
- Without wax, Diamond Devil™ Shine Tool produced an image gloss and clarity the floors had not seen in decades
- The System delivered results that were even better than expected
- Long-term, chemical-free maintenance plan that delivers superior results with less resources: saves time and money
In most school districts, May is a cause for celebration because it signifies that summer vacation is around the corner. At Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary, May 2023 included another occasion: the school was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
In 1922 Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary School was the district’s primary high school. Thanks to the area’s booming population, a dedicated middle school was built eventually, at which point Cornwall-on-Hudson became the elementary school. Regardless, it was an occasion to be celebrated with an open house that would allow past graduates to tour their alma mater and relive wonderful memories.
There was only one problem: the school’s terrazzo floors looked every bit of 100 years old.
One of the reasons terrazzo is so popular in schools and other high-traffic areas is because it is known for requiring little-to-no maintenance. As a material, its roots trace to ancient Egypt but the modern-day terrazzo originates in Venice, Italy around 500 years ago; and the first known terrazzo flooring installation in the United States was in New York City in 1890 at the Vanderbilt residence.
The issue is that terrazzo flooring is not designed to be stripped and waxed. Yet, as standard protocol, many school districts perform this “strip and wax” maintenance program annually—during the summer months when students, teachers, and other staff are away. Floor stripping involves the use of harsh chemicals that are not only dangerous to staff, but also can permanently damage the natural surface of the terrazzo over time. Waxing cementitious terrazzo only compounds this issue, leaving a residue that diminishes the terrazzo’s natural slip resistance, rendering staff and students more prone to slips and falls.
Not only does stripping and waxing damage the floor, but it makes the environment more dangerous. The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System is a greener option that uses only water and provides an overall safer work environment. It leaves the terrazzo floors with a superior image gloss and clarity.
While continuing this unnecessary and damaging process every year for decades certainly created long-term problems, that’s nothing compared to how worn and severely damaged the terrazzo floors were after 100 years.
After nearly a century, Cornwall-on-Hudson’s floors were in horrendous condition. By 2022, the top layers of the terrazzo were so damaged by regular stripping, waxing, and sealers that the surface became powdery, dusty, and appeared to be ruined. In addition to that extensive damage, 100 years of using rock salt caused further deterioration.
Conditions had declined to the point where the floors would no longer accept floor sealer or wax at all. After the thorough use of sealer and no less than eight coats of wax, everything absorbed right into the floor like nothing had happened. They were beyond stripping and waxing.
This was the scenario that Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary School workers, and particularly custodian Walter Hanson, found themselves in with the big anniversary celebration approaching. “I do not want people coming back to the school walking down the hallways looking at the floors, asking ‘what happened?’” Hanson said.
The maintenance team began to fear that grinding the floors down and starting from scratch was the only option – something that wasn’t realistic due to time and budget concerns. Likewise, the goal was to bring back wonderful memories for past graduates and school officials wanted to return the floors to their original vibrancy.
Age, Improper Maintenance, and an Urgent Deadline Come to a Head
Quickly, Hanson and his colleagues set out to find a solution that would give them the results they desired without causing any additional damage to their once-beautiful floors. In addition to addressing potential safety concerns, they wanted to maintain their position as a “green” district – meaning that harsh chemicals were off the table.
Of course, this was a bit easier said than done. Part of it came down to the fact that, even though stripping and waxing was decidedly not how terrazzo floors were meant to be maintained, Hanson and his team were apprehensive to try something drastically different. As is true with most other school districts, their standard operating procedures prevailed. They were focused for so long on “the way things have always been done” that they were hesitant to ask the question, “is there anything else that could be done?”
Hanson and his team attempted to identify an in-house solution that would fall within the same scope of what they had been doing, but nearly everything they considered was a non-starter. The floor was too damaged to grind it down and start from scratch. The natural sealer was non-existent. They needed to find something that gave them the results they sought, all without damaging what they already had, in time for the celebration.
“I started talking to my boss…we looked at different options,” Hanson said. Coincidentally, his supervisor heard about the Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System. Hanson started to research just what was possible, even finding online videos showcasing how to effectively use the various tools and what they could potentially produce when applied properly.
“When [we saw] the demo, it seemed to meet our needs. It checked off all our boxes. This was going to solve our problems.”
– Walter Hanson, custodian
In August, Hanson and his supervisor saw what The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System could do when they scheduled a free on-site demo. “When [we saw] the demo, it seemed to meet our needs. It checked off all our boxes.” When his supervisor asked him what he ultimately thought, his opinion was clear: “This was going to solve our problems.”
With that, the deal was closed quickly and the team at Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary School put their faith (and the future of their floors) in The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System.
Restoring the Shine, Luster, and Legacy of Terrazzo Floors
Once The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System was selected as a viable solution, work on the restoration project began in earnest. Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary School has three main hallways. The first was the priority to get ready for the 100-year celebration. The remaining two would be completed the following summer.
To say that the team at Cornwall-on-Hudson are pleased with the results would be an understatement. Hanson said that he legitimately enjoyed watching the process and seeing the results, especially as the cherished floors slowly came back to life. He said the floors looked even better than expected.
Hanson particularly loves the fact that The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System is so quiet that he can run his equipment while kids are still in the building, as long as they stay away from the work area. He ran the machine on a Friday night with kids in the nearby gymnasium and there were absolutely no issues.
As opposed to the extensive effort required to “maintain” the floors by stripping and waxing with subpar results, the floors look quite a bit different today.
Hanson and his team began restoring the floor’s shine and luster by completing one final chemical strip. Then used the Green Hone Tool for six passes, followed by six passes with the Tan Polish Tool designed to bring the floor to a standard satin polish. To elevate the shine to an unparalleled image gloss and clarity, the team used the Red Shine Tool for 30 days. Subsequently, they simply use it one to two days a week as part of their maintenance program, using only water.
In terms of advice for others thinking of using The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System, Hanson indicated that patience is a top priority. If you need six passes initially, don’t rush them. Perform the work slowly and the results will come. For Cornwall-on-Hudson, the current plan is to do one final chemical strip on the two remaining terrazzo hallways, and then simply focus on maintaining the floors for the foreseeable future.
In the end, Hanson commented that he was beyond happy with the results, as were his colleagues and the alumni who attended the celebration. If the condition of the terrazzo floors were to stay exactly the way they are now, everyone involved would be ecstatic. There is a visually striking, uniform shine to every inch of these century-old floors!
The upside is that not only did the results turn out even better than they anticipated, but the floors will continue to improve from here on out.
“It can be even better looking,” said Hanson, indicating that he had personally observed the floors getting better with each pass. “That’s something to look forward to.” He rated The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System five out of five stars. “It made it into a real floor again. If there was a sixth star, I’d give it to it,” he said.
Year-over-year Savings With The Diamond Devil™ Terrazzo Restoration & Polishing System