We started our trek by applying our conditioner with a mop and letting it set in. The guys basically worked for 5 minutes and sat for an hour while the conditioner went to work. They then tried to remove the conditioner, on their hands and knees, with towels. A 15 x 20 room required more than 15 towels. Even with 15 towels, we didn’t get all of the conditioner up, which we discovered after we applied the “super glue” and new coat of urethane. The “super glue” and new coat of urethane reactivated the conditioner and expanding bubbles were readily apparent – like chicken pocks in wood. That was when we knew we had to rinse the conditioner from the wood.
Most of you know what a “Zamboni® machine” is. For those who don’t, it is the machine used at skating rinks to quickly refinish the ice. It is normally a four-wheel drive vehicle that has a rotating screw that scrapes up loose ice which is followed by a wet cloth that applies fresh water to the ice. It’s fun to watch – rough, coarse ice is replaced by completely smooth fresh ice. When we started experimenting with our “SandFree” process, we didn’t realize how much time we would spend watching the ice Zamboni® machine at the Wells Fargo Center (nee Wachovia, nee First Union nee Corestates ) Center here in Philadelphia.
We came to realize the action of the conditioner could be enhanced with a buffer and an abrasive pad. The conditioner softened the urethane and the abrasive pad conditioned the surface even more. We then rinsed the floor with water and crawled around on our hands and knees with the towels to dry it. The results were much better, but we still were finding small areas of failure predominantly where there was still dirt on the floor. It was hard to believe that dirt was surviving the conditioner and rinsing but it was there. And we were still spending forever on our hands and knees with all of those towels. I kept thinking we were going to end up in the laundry business to clean all of these towels.
We then found an alcohol-based cleaner , that would remove anything the butyl-based conditioner left behind, and now added a wet vacuum to the process. This was much better – apply the conditioner, buff, rinse the floor, use the cleaner, vacuum the excess, dry with the towels. But the thought of that ice Zamboni® machine, the bad ice becoming good ice, the lack of labor, was all very appealing, and, it seemed, somehow practical for us, even though it added water and we wanted to remove water.
We were able to find machines that could perform 2 of the functions that we needed – the application of solution, and buffing of the floor. But, if we could get the manufacturer to add a vacuum, we could do everything that we wanted – apply, abrade, and remove the solutions. There was a machine to which they could add a vacuum that trailed behind. With that vacuum we now had our own “Wood” resurfacer like a Zamboni® machine and, in appreciation of our inspiration we call it the “Sand-boni”. It provides abrasive action with a pad, applies solutions, AND removes most of the excess water.
This was a big moment for “SandFree”. It was also the moment at which we knew the time to expand the business had come. Inspired by the Zamboni® ice resurfacing machine, we were able to create a similar machine to condition the wood floors for resurfacing and reduce our labor costs by at least 65%. We now could refinish wood floors without sanding, and at costs that sanders couldn’t dream of. This misery of the dust, and the inherent health problem, was solved. And, we were fast, which meant we could accomplish a lot of work with almost no interruption to the restaurant owners.