Smouse School Project

“While Harry Potter may be fiction, the Smouse School could be a real life Hogwarts, with its magical architecture,” said Erin Ledger, Project and Operations Manager of Royale Concrete. “We were brought in to this unique school to address a tripping hazard that existed where the staircase surfaces met the hallway surfaces.”

Preserving the Aesthetics of an Historic Building

Smouse School opened in 1931 and, today, serves students between 3 and 12 years old, most of whom have severe challenges. Students, parents, and teachers all appreciated the unique Smouse school building. However, over the years the numerous piecemeal renovations, mixed with original construction, were causing safety hazards, as well as presenting aesthetic inconsistency.

“The mixture of materials used on the historic stairwells and those used for the hallways did not match. The transition was unsafe and unsightly,” said certified craftsman Justin Toben.

Smouse’s grand double stairwells were original to the building and were finished in beautiful Italian terrazzo. The hallways, on the other hand, used just the original concrete substrate as the exposed finish. This had been polished during a renovation of the building, but unfortunately the level of the hallway floors were about 1/4 to 1/2 inch lower than the terrazzo stairwells. This trip hazard isn’t acceptable and the school district wanted to find a permanent solution.

The school wanted to honor the two existing surfaces and didn’t really want to add another surface to the mix that looked out of place in the uniquely designed building. So keeping in mind the historic school, the Royale team devised a plan to try to match as closely as possible the color and texture of the existing terrazzo staircase.

The contractor concluded the best way to do this without doing a matching terrazzo installation would be to use a new cemetitious repair product on the market at that time, Rapid Set Tru PC. Rapid Sets Tru PC mix has a small aggregate in it which would match the stone chip in the terrazzo pretty well. They also custom-colored the product to match the color of the terrazzo as close as possible.

At each transition from hallway to stairwell (eight in total), the Royale Concrete team used planers to rout out areas of the concrete substrate that lay adjacent to the terrazzo.

“Concrete planers are not common for polishers to own. We are fortunate to own two of them. They made work on this job much more efficient and eliminated a lot of work done by hand,” says Toben.

The bed created by the concrete planer (at least 1/4 inch deep, depending upon the need) was then primed and in-filled using the specialty cementitious repair material. The cementitious product was installed slightly higher and then ground down to be level with both the stairwell and the hallways and before being polished to a beautiful shine.

“Tru PC is a wonderful product,” said Ledger, “but it can be challenging and it takes someone with experience and training to use it successfully. Our craftsmen pride themselves on their strong comfort level using the diverse line of Rapid Set products.”

“Our team spared no detail,” said Toben. “We created rounded corners with our hand-grinders to make the transition less jarring and to fit the aesthetics of the school much better than a 90-degree corner. This school and these students deserved something beautiful.”

“We are thrilled with the end-product,” said Ledger. “We are confident that the students and faculty are safer traveling the building and the transitions look as if they could have always been here.”