Wahlen Works Blog

The big news coming out of Milwaukee this year is that there will be Summerfest. It will take place at the tail end of summer on September 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18, 2021 and feature more than 1,000 performances on 12 stages at its home in the Henry Maier Festival Park.

There’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s also going to be a lot of trash and spills and stains and mess. Oddly enough, we don’t mind that. After a year of lockdowns and restricted activity, a lot of people are ready to get out and have fun and we’re ready to get out and clean up after them. As we all look forward to Milwaukee’s exciting and eventful summer, we’ve got some recommendations for you for festivals and events that are on the calendar as we write this.


Polish Fest. A living educational showcase of the arts, culture and tradition that is uniquely Polish. June 11-13, 2021 at Henry W. Maier Festival Park. This festival is a Milwaukee treasure. If the shows, food, cultural events, and youth Chopin competition aren’t enough to tempt you, go for the vodka tasting. 

Strawberry Festival in Cedarburg. The 36th annual Strawberry Festival returns to Cedarburg this summer, on June 26-27. This free, family-oriented festival draws thousands of people each year to celebrate the humble strawberry, enjoy live music, browse and purchase original artwork from hundreds of artists, and enjoy some of the most decadent homegrown strawberries in the area.

Bastille Days. This festival is held in Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park and is one of the largest French-themed celebrations in the United States. The free four-day bash attracts over 250,000 visitors annually who enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, roaming busker entertainment and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows.

Croatian Fest. Wisconsin’s oldest continuous running ethnic festival will be back on July 17, 2021 at Croatian Park in Franklin. The cultural Program starts at 2:00PM featuring Croatian music and dance groups. There will be home made bakery and desserts and a full bar with Croatian beers and cordials. Traditional Croatian rotisserie is available and sells out quickly so pre-order your rotisserie lamb, pork and chicken.

Mexican Fiesta. Milwaukee’s Mexican Fiesta brings the sound, culture, and taste of México to Milwaukee’s lakefront on August 27, 28 & 29 this summer. Join in on the fun with three days of food, Mariachi, and Fiesta for everyone. The Mexican Fiesta is more than just a celebration; it is a vigorous declaration of community spirit at its best. This festival honors culture, tradition, and family. Don’t miss it!

German Fest of West Bend. Milwaukee’s German Fest has canceled its celebration for 2021, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get your beer, brats, and sauerkraut in the greater Milwaukee area. West Bend’s German Fest is scheduled for August 26-29, 2021 in downtown West Bend at 5th Avenue and Walnut. As an added bonus, all proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Milwaukee Air and Water Show. Join the USAF Thunderbirds at Milwaukee’s lakefront July 24-25, 2021. The Milwaukee Air & Water Show is Wisconsin’s premier free, family event of the summer and one of the top air shows in the Midwest. Experience the thrill of aerial and water-based acrobatics in a family-friendly environment. It’s a must-do for everyone who has been cooped up too long.

Wisconsin State Fair. The grand-daddy of them all — The Wisconsin State Fair — is back August 5-15, 2021 and we can already taste the cream puffs and fried butter. The first State Fair was held in Janesville along the banks of the Rock River in 1851. In 2021, The Fair will celebrate 170 years of tradition and once again welcome over one million Fairgoers over the course of its 11-day run. We’ll see you there.


It’s no surprise that when Milwaukee’s streets and sidewalks get busy with cars and people, they leave plenty of evidence that they were there. Get ready to welcome your friends and neighbors as they enjoy everything Milwaukee has to offer this summer. Start with a sweeping and pressure washing this spring and by August you’ll certainly need a second one, along with possibly a striping and signage refresh. We recommend scheduling your appointments now so that you can get outside and enjoy the fun.

Jim Wahlen Interview

Jim Wahlen is well-known in the Milwaukee area as an expert in the care and maintenance of concrete structures and exteriors. He is leading the company his grandfather founded in 1971, building a hard-working team, and staying at the forefront of technology. 

While he was born into the business, he doesn’t take it for granted. After working on the front lines of Wahlen Works in high school and college, he spent eight years in the corporate world. It was enough time for him to gain valuable business experience, and also to realize he wanted to take on the challenges, and experience the satisfactions, of running the family business. 

We spent a few minutes talking with Jim about facility maintenance, excellence on the job, and growing the family business.

Tell us a little bit about your background in the corporate world. Where did you work and what did you do?

I studied commercial recreation and tourism in college. After graduation, I worked at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells for several years, then went to work for Wyndham Worldwide as a financial auditor. It was during this time that I came to realize the importance of personal relationships and the critical role of small, family-owned businesses to our communities.

You’ve been a part of the family business for more than 12 years now. What are your day-to-day responsibilities and how has that changed over the years? 

At first I was very much in the business, on the front lines, doing the work. Over time, I took on more of the management and leadership responsibilities, where I have focused on recruiting talent and building our team. More recently, I’ve been looking for ways to grow and expand the business, developing a streamlined management system, and looking to the future. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the culture we’ve created here. We have a tight knit group of people that work well together. They are focused on the task at hand and ensure that we produce a very high quality of work on a consistent basis. 

You are experts in maintaining concrete. What are two or three things you wish people knew about concrete that they don’t?

First, that concrete is very long lasting if you take care of it. Most people think that concrete requires little or no maintenance, but that’s not the case in our climate. People don’t realize that concrete is porous. It’s like a sponge with voids that liquids, such as water and chemicals, can penetrate. Once water has penetrated the concrete, Wisconsin’s freeze-thaw cycle begins to work on it, degrading it rather quickly. Preventative maintenance slows this process and in some cases, can eliminate it almost entirely.

Second, all concrete isn’t the same. Some of it is poured above grade, some is poured below grade, and some is installed in panels. Each of these require different methods of cleaning and maintenance. For example, many newer parking structures have been built with concrete panels and they can move around a little bit by design. The caulking between the panels needs to be maintained differently than the concrete. Also, traffic patterns need to be taken into account when you’re working on the upper levels so that people on the lower levels are protected while you’re doing your job.

What are some of your favorite success stories? 

We often encounter epoxy in structures. It discolors pretty quickly with traffic. Heat and friction from the car tires makes it worse where cars turn in the structure because they all turn in exactly the same place. With our knowledge of chemicals and cleaning solutions, we know what it takes to clean it without damaging the surface. We’re able to get it a lot cleaner than our competitors, which makes our customers very happy. 

Do you have any cautionary tales to tell?

Sometimes when historic buildings are renovated and turned into residences, there are unwelcome surprises. In one case that we know of, drainage issues weren’t taken into account when storage units were installed in the garage area. They were flooded and ruined the resident’s property. That could have been avoided if we had been called in for a pre-renovation consultation.

In another, there was a parking structure where the maintenance company didn’t know how to remove stains properly and didn’t do wastewater recovery. By the time we were called and fixed the problems, it ended up costing the company more than if it had been done correctly in the first place.

What are some things you do differently from your competitors that may fly a little bit under the radar but have a big impact on the results customers see?

It starts with our quoting process. We want to see the facility in person, analyze the project, and develop a scope of work. We know to ask the questions most people wouldn’t think to ask; for example, how do you plan to vacate an entire garage at once in a downtown area with limited street parking. We work with our customers to prepare for that ahead of time. Because we work with so many people, we often know someone who can accommodate them for the day while we get the job done.

We also invest in state-of-the-art equipment, with replacements ready to go as back-up if necessary. This way there are no delays due to equipment failure which greatly reduces the risk of having to cancel and reschedule service.

What are your predictions for the future of your industry?

Pressure washing and related cleaning is going to become more and more environmentally conscious. Wastewater recovery requirements will increase. Knowing which chemicals to use in order to maintain a green clean standard will become critical.

When it comes to pavement marking, keeping abreast of the changes in symbols is very important. For example, the handicapped parking symbol is being redesigned to increase visibility and be more sensitive to the feelings of people in wheelchairs.

Regarding materials, longer lasting paints are being developed all the time. It’s important to stay on top of those changes and the latest technologies. 

How do you envision the growth of Wahlen Works growing over the next several years?

We will definitely be staying on top of the technology and upgrading our materials and processes in line with that. 

Our culture allows us to do things more efficiently to keep costs under control, which gives our customers better service at a better price. We spend, and will continue to spend, a lot of resources on training programs so best practices are being used. We offer employees continuing education so they are all trained on the latest methods. 

We are a place that people want to work and we want to continue to be that. We want their experience with us to enhance their life, not just be a place to go for a paycheck.

We also want our work to enhance the lives of our customers and will continue to strive for that.

historic third ward parking

Unless you live in the Historic Third Ward, when you visit you’ll need a place to park your car. It’s not the first thing you’re likely to think about — and you probably won’t — unless something unpleasant catches your attention. 

It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen in the parking facilities and on the sidewalks we maintain. In the Third Ward, you’re surrounded by beautiful historic structures that have been reimagined for the 21st century. We love the stories of these buildings and thoroughly enjoy our part in preserving their facilities. Let us tell you about some of the properties we serve.

The Dye House

In September 1922, a small announcement appeared at the bottom page 93 in “The Underwear & Hosiery Review”. It said, “The Phoenix Hosiery Co., of Milwaukee, will start work soon on a new addition at Buffalo and Milwaukee Streets to cost $600,000. The building will be eight stories high and is expected to be completed about the first of the year.”

Nearly 100 years later, the P.H. Dye House is still the Third Ward’s tallest building, but has recently been completely renovated as an office and retail space that marries the industrial design of its past with the creative vision of its future. 

The historic landmark is called the “Dye House” because it’s the factory where Phoenix Hosiery employees dyed the high-end silk stockings that were becoming so popular during the “Jazz Age”. The concrete building, designed by Lockwood and Greene Co,” was listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1984. 

In fact, Milwaukee’s Third Ward was once well-known for its factories. Roughly 18 of the 70 buildings in the National Register of Historic Places were used for manufacturing at one time or another. Today, these beautiful and well preserved buildings are home to luxury apartments, live-work spaces, restaurants, and office spaces for a variety of eclectic tenants.

The Phoenix Building

Several of those factories belonged to Phoenix Hosiery, formerly Phoenix Knitting Works. It was one of Milwaukee’s most prosperous companies in the early 20th century. In addition to the Dye House, the company eventually had six locations in Milwaukee and three in the Third Ward. The Phoenix Building, a 7-story brick structure located at 219 N. Milwaukee St., was known as building #4 when it was completed in 1917. 

The Phoenix Building property record at the  Wisconsin Historical Society says, “The dye and wash area was in the basement, printing, stock and shipping on the first floor, packing on the second and knitting on the floors above…Since 1956 this building has been used by several firms for offices, warehouses and light manufacturing.”

The Phoenix building is currently home to ad agencies, law firms, investment companies, and the Historic Third Ward Association. It also boasts an amazing collection of early 20th century vintage ads for women’s hosiery as an homage to the building’s past. 

The Marine Terminal

The Marine Terminal Building has been occupied by a wide variety of tenants over the years, including Herb Brumder who manufactured his Porto-Power hydraulic “workshop on wheels” on the second floor in the 1930s. He may have been there for the “three freight elevators, the heavy load capacity of its floors, its fireproof construction and its location near downtown.” 

The building was designed by Albert Hecht and completed in 1918. It was a sought after warehouse location because it allowed access to the lake with only one bridge opening. Today it houses 83 luxury riverfront condominiums with heated underground parking, access to all the Third Ward offers, and fantastic views.

The Mackie Building

To walk past the Mackie Building is to step back 140 years in time. It has a fascinating history as the first Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee. The Exchange Room “contained the first trading pit ever constructed. The pit was designed by the Chamber’s secretary, William J. Langston, and was widely copied by other grain exchanges.” After the Chamber moved out in the 1930s, other tenants moved in and the interior was renovated to keep up with the times. In 1981, the Landmarks Commission noted that “the exterior of the building is essentially as it was in 1880.” (source)

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is currently home to the Mackie Flats Apartments. The apartments take up the top three floors replacing the 100-year old office buildings that used to be there. Residents are within walking distance to all the attractions of the Third Ward. As they step outside, they can glance up at the renovated clock tower where it still says “Chamber of Commerce”, take a few steps to catch the streetcar, or stroll leisurely to their destination.

Historic Third Ward Parking

Visitors come to the Historic Third Ward to work and to play. The 10-square block area is home to more than 500 businesses and people come year round for dining, nightlife, shopping, salons, healthcare, galleries, the performing arts, and events. The Henry W. Maier Festival Park is there, along with the Italian Community Center, the Milwaukee Public Market, and the Third Ward Riverwalk.

The historic warehouse vibe is still alive and well, only now instead of needing room for wagons, visitors need places to put their cars. They can park in the Historic Third Ward parking structures on Milwaukee Street and Chicago Street.

When you visit the Third Ward, you probably don’t think much about the parking or sidewalks and we think that’s a great thing. We keep the parking facilities and sometimes the sidewalks of these historic buildings immaculate so that visitors and residents are only aware of the beauty and history of their surroundings. We love that job!

new parking structure

In 2020, the average parking structure cost about $25,000 per space to build or about $65 per square foot. Office buildings in Milwaukee are required to have one parking space “for each 500 sq. ft. of the first 2,000 sq. ft. of gross floor area; one for each 1,000 sq. of gross floor area in excess of 2,000 sq. ft.” (source

That means that if your building is 50,000 square feet you’ll need at least 52 parking spaces and your new parking structure will cost about $1.3M by the time you complete the project. You certainly don’t want to have to redo anything.

The building code of Milwaukee has more than 2,000 words in it dedicated to parking and paved areas. Buried in those pages are some obscure requirements, such as:

  1. The surface of all lots, spaces and areas regulated in this section shall be maintained free of holes and ruts, which may accumulate standing water.
  2. All storm water which is generated from a newly paved or repaved area of more than 1,000 square feet…shall be disposed of within the lot lines through a sewer, permeable paving, natural absorption or combination thereof without discharging to adjacent private or public property not specifically designed for this purpose.
  3. Plans for the paving of a parking lot shall indicate existing and paved areas, distance of paved areas to lot lines, finished grade elevations, swales, buildings, wheel guards and barriers, curbs, curb cuts, location of drains and catch basins, size and arrangement of parking spaces and width of aisles and driveways.

You can future-proof your parking structure and avoid expensive mistakes on parking construction projects by consulting a maintenance expert before beginning work. Here are four things to consider.

Water Availability

Pressure washing companies charge extra to carry water in. For large parking structures this can be prohibitively expensive. You want to know much water capacity is needed to pressure wash your entire facility using your own water sources. Planning ahead for the right water supply will save a lot of money in the long run.

Wastewater Recovery

Do you know what the regulations are for wastewater recovery in your area, and how much water will need some place to go during and after a cleaning? If wastewater needs to be removed or stored and filtered before being released into the sewage system, you’ll need a plan for that. You’ll also want to have the most environmentally friendly features factored in from the beginning.

Concrete Sealing 

Sealing your concrete can double its life and significantly reduce your repair costs. But not all concrete sealers are alike. The best ones cost more money and that cost is multiplied by the number of square feet in your garage. But that’s only one side of the equation. You don’t want to make a decision that will cost less up front only to see that savings wiped out by larger costs down the road. A top of the line, 100% solids, silane sealer should be on your short list of must-haves.

Striping and Pavement Marking

In addition to meeting the requirements of the building code, proper pavement markings need to be planned in advance. This will include vehicle parking, pedestrian walking spaces, directional driving arrows, entrance and exit signs, handicapped parking spaces, loading and unloading areas, and fire lane areas. In some instances, such as handicapped spaces and fire lanes, there must also be both marking on the pavement and on upright signs. 

We are Milwaukee’s concrete experts. Call us for a consultation before you hire architects and contractors and we’ll make sure you know what you need to consider before breaking ground on your new parking structure.

commercial floor coating

Pristine facilities are critical to your brand image and dozens of studies confirm it.

The brand experience needs to be a high priority when designing and constructing a company’s physical space. Every square foot of your building can and should support your brand identity, including the floor. In this blog post we’re going to talk about how the right choice of commercial flooring can enhance and strengthen the perception of your brand with your customers. 

Commercial floor coating must be both durable and able to withstand the demanding situations encountered in industrial environments. It’s one of the reasons so many commercial and industrial facilities are moving toward extra heavy-duty concrete floor coatings. But it is just as important that the floor finish be aesthetically pleasing. When people visit your facility, you want them to be impressed with it and with your company. No matter what industry you’re in, nobody wants to walk on unsafe, ugly floors.

You can tell just by looking when a floor is at the end of its useful life. Vinyl will loosen at the edges, carpet will be stained and torn, ceramic tile will crack and chip, and epoxy will discolor and peel. If it’s time for a new surface, consider replacing your existing flooring with a polyurea floor finish such as Wahlen Works PolyCoat System. 

Polyurea is the best choice for areas which are subject to heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It offers a water tight seal, the surface doesn’t absorb chemicals, and it protects against abrasion, corrosion, and UV damage. It’s also beautiful, and can be branded with color and style options that are almost limitless. 

PolyCoat Commercial Floor Coating

A heavy-duty floor coating is necessary for a wide variety of industrial, commercial, and maintenance environments. Nearly every one of them has to accommodate high traffic, heavy loads, high impacts, and/or abrasive agents. The surface of the floor needs to be able to stand up to extreme pressure. And, equally important, these trusted companies have a brand image to protect. PolyCoat commercial floor coating achieves all of these objectives in each off the following environments.

Food Processing Plants. Food processing plants are not only responsible for the image of their own brand, they’re also responsible for the brand reputation of the products they produce. Sanitation is incredibly important. Plant floors need to survive spills, chemical cleanings, and frequent power washing. PolyCoat is easier to clean than uncoated concrete and seals the floor, keeping bacteria out.

Food Service and Restaurant. In the competitive restaurant industry, cleanliness can make or break a brand. Quarry tile is often used, but both the tile and the grout are porous and difficult to keep clean. They absorb contaminants over time, a problem that can be eliminated with a PolyCoat floor coating.

Health Care Facilities. It’s no surprise that the highest levels of sanitation are expected from medical facilities. Unlike vinyl flooring, PolyCoat flooring is seamless and completely bonded to the concrete underneath preventing areas where trapped moisture can allow pathogens to grow. In addition, a polyurea floor coating is resistant to the harsh cleaning agents that are used in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and even veterinarian offices. 

Manufacturing Plants. Manufacturing plants and factories are high impact environments. Their floors have to be abrasion resistant and able to withstand heavy things being dropped on them or dragged across them. If you’re running equipment around the clock, you don’t have time to baby your floors. In addition, the appearance of the workplace is important to an employer’s human resources brand. PolyCoat offers durability along with an aesthetically pleasing appearance. 

Hospitality. When staying at a hotel or other type of lodging, guests have high standards of cleanliness for everything from their guest room to the conference room and everywhere in between. They also want their surroundings to be lovely. There are few things more important to a hospitality brand than the appearance of their properties. A PolyCoat floor coating satisfies on all counts. 

In addition to the above, other businesses that require the heavy duty floor coatings are offices, retail locations, fitness centers, warehouses, and any place where vehicles are parked. Polyurea can replace almost any other type of flooring and do a better job of representing the brand to the public. 

Keep in mind that polyurea is often mistaken for epoxy. Epoxy is more popular and more easily found in a Google search, but it’s not the equal of polyurea — the base of our PolyCoat floor finish. Polyurea contains a two-compound, 98% solids basecoat. It is 20x stronger than epoxy and has 98% percent flexibility compared to 2% for epoxy. The higher solid content increases the long-term durability of the floor coating. The flexibility allows it to expand and contract where epoxy will crack and chip.

It is possible to have a beautiful, durable floor in the toughest commercial and industrial environments. You can hire Wahlen Works to install your commercial floor finish with complete confidence. We have protected and maintained concrete surfaces since 1979 and you will be in expert hands. Our technicians are highly trained and we will respect your time by completing the project in one day on your schedule. Talk to us today about your commercial floor coating project.

milwaukee discovery center

The Medical College of Wisconsin was founded more than 125 years ago in 1893 as the Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons and then, in 1913, the Marquette University School of Medicine. It officially became the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1970. One year later, in 1971, the Wahlen Corp was formed by Ted Wahlen. 

In the years since, we have become the caretakers of some of Milwaukee’s most historic and distinctive properties, earning the trust of facility managers, property managers, and general contractors throughout Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin.

In addition to MCW, here are some of the Milwaukee landmarks we are proud to service and maintain.

The Milwaukee Art Museum. Art got its start in Milwaukee in 1888 with Frederick Layton’s Cathedral Square art gallery. In that same year the Milwaukee Art Association was established. Milwaukee’s art collections and display facilities grew over the years and the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrated its centennial in 1988. 

In 2001, the Quadracci Pavilion opened, with its movable wing-like brise soleil becoming an instant Milwaukee icon. We are honored to be responsible for the care and maintenance of their stunning underground parking facility — one that has inspired a Porsche commercial, and is the first impression most visitors have of the museum.

Discovery World. Discovery World started out in a basement, moved to the Milwaukee Public Library, then shared space with the Milwaukee Public Museum before moving in 2006 to its permanent home on the shore of Lake Michigan near the location of the very first Milwaukee cargo pier. It’s our job to keep the decks and parking areas of this beautiful facility in pristine condition.

Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital. Wisconsin historical marker #186 is located on the grounds of historic Saint Mary’s Hospital and marks the location of the Saint Mary’s School of Nursing, founded in 1894. Saint Mary’s opened in 1848 at Jackson and Wells streets. It’s sister hospital, the non-sectarian Columbia Hospital, began operations in 1909, also in downtown. In 1995, the two hospitals merged and Columbia St. Mary’s was formed. Their new $417 million-dollar state-of-the-art facility opened in 2010. We ensure that it’s exterior and parking areas are clean and safe for patients and visitors.

The ASQ Building. You wouldn’t believe it to look at it now but the ASQ center was once a Gimbels department store, and later a Marshall Fields. Built in the 1880s, it was designed after the Selfridge Store in London, but had deteriorated significantly before its renovation in 2001. Today the beautiful structure is in the National Registry of Historic Buildings and stands proudly in the heart of downtown Milwaukee as a successful, 195,000 sq. ft. office building.

Northwestern Mutual. Northwestern Mutual has called Milwaukee home for 160 years. It was born on March 2, 1857 as the Mutual Life Insurance Company of the State of Wisconsin. By 1865 it had expanded into other parts of what is now the midwest and changed its name to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

In 2019 it was ranked #111 in the Fortune 500 for revenue. The insurance behemoth now occupies the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons in Milwaukee and an 84-acre campus in Franklin; and owns the 7Seventy7 apartment tower on 777 North Van Buren Street. The Franklin location includes two parking ramps, one four-level and the second a six-level, 1,625-stall structure. We have been entrusted with the maintenance of both of those facilities and the external garage at 7Seventy7.

The Garages of The Third Ward. The Historic Third Ward District is called that because 70 buildings in its 10 square blocks are on the National Register of Historic Places. They were built in a 36-year span after a fire destroyed 440 buildings in 1892. Today the Third Ward is a must-see for visitors to Milwaukee. “Its district of well preserved, large historic buildings, festival grounds, art galleries, theatre groups, eating and drinking establishments, and special events make it a unique attraction in the Milwaukee metro area.” We are as proud of the Third Ward as we are to maintain the vast majority of the garages in the district.  

The work we do each day takes us to some of the most recognized and iconic locations in Milwaukee. We do our part to maintain Milwaukee’s historic properties and we feel privileged to do so. It’s what it means to be Milwaukee trusted.

concrete floor finish

When you think about your dream garage, what do you imagine? A high-top bar in front of a wide screen and next to a beer fridge? Your vintage red Porsche parked on a showroom quality surface? A pristine floor underneath the wheels of your immaculate Harley?

The cure for garage envy starts with the floor. While your dream garage may eventually need insulation, climate control, and the best in high tech; without stunning, showroom-quality flooring nothing else matters.

But it’s not just about looks. Garage floors take a pounding and have to hold up under the heavy demands of everyday use. You want a floor that is impervious to stains and spills from oil, gas, and other car fluids. With the Wahlen Works PolyCoat system, you can have both function and form; rugged durability and limitless chip, color, and top coat options. 

Concrete Floor Finish Process

The most important contributing factor to the success of a concrete floor finishing project is the preparation work. Our meticulous process ensures that you will enjoy your dream garage for years to come and we offer a lifetime warranty to back that up. Our 5-step process includes:

  • The initial inspection and project site assessment
  • Determining the products to be used and the color choices
  • Preparing the surface so that it is clean, sound, and dry
  • Patching and priming
  • Product and system installation


Most of the garage surfaces we see are deteriorating and have spalling and chipping.

Our process starts with the initial site visit where we assess the condition of the concrete and work with our customer to determine the desired end result. We check to see if the concrete is coated or uncoated and if the substrate is degraded. We measure contamination levels of grease, oil, and chemicals and we document all cracks and defects. Then we test the concrete to determine the moisture level because that determines which materials we will use. If the concrete has excess moisture we use a base coat that has a vapor barrier built into it. 

Color Options

From there we present an almost limitless number of color options, and we bring samples of the most popular ones so that the homeowner can get a first-hand idea of how the finished floor will look. Designer colors offer the ultimate “wow” and can achieve the look of granite, marble, or terrazzo if that’s what is desired. When we come back to do the installation, we are ready to go and can complete the project in one day. 


On installation day, we start by grinding off the top layer of the concrete. We have a walk-behind planetary concrete grinder which is ideal for smoothing a garage floor and opening up the concrete at the beginning of the installation. In order to prepare the surface properly we generally remove 150-200 lbs of concrete from a standard 2-car garage. 

Next, we use a repairing compound to fill in areas that have chipped or spalled and make the entire surface smooth and even. Then we put the base coat down, followed by the vinyl flake color which the homeowner has previously selected. After it cures for a few hours, we put the top coat down. 

The differentiator in our service is thorough preparation. Every step in our process is important and we don’t skip any or cut corners. There are several reasons that concrete coating systems fail: poor preparation of the surface, the amount of moisture not accounted for, and low quality coating products. Our process ensures that none of this will happen to you. 

Polyurea vs. Epoxy

Not all products for upgrading your garage floor are created equal. Our PolyCoat concrete coating system uses polyurea rather than epoxy. It is the best choice for your garage floor — hands down. Frankly, the two products are not even close in terms of quality, appearance and longevity. 

Polyurea is a two-compound, 98% solids basecoat. It is 20x stronger than epoxy and has 98% percent flexibility compared to 2% for epoxy. The higher solid content increases the long-term durability of the floor coating. The flexibility allows it to expand and contract where epoxy will crack and chip. Polyurea is UV stable so won’t discolor with sun. It can be used outdoors and epoxy can’t. 

The main advantage, and the thing that sets the polyurea concrete finish system apart from all others, is that it’s a one-day install. You leave for work and when you get home, we’re done. Epoxy garage flooring requires four to seven days to complete, during which time your garage is unusable.

The cost of using epoxy is less upfront, but when your epoxy floor starts to look worn again in a few years, the disappointment will set in. You want your stunning new floor look to last for years. Isn’t it better to spend a little more and know that you’re getting the best product and expert installation? 

Benefits of a Premium Garage Floor Finish

In addition to the superiority of the product, there are a number of additional benefits of our PolyCoat system.

After installation, you can begin enjoying your new garage immediately.  By the end of the day, you can walk on it and, after 24 hours, it’s ready for vehicles. After-care instructions for some floor coating installations read like a complicated user manual — do this for 12-24 hours, then do this for 1-2 days, and finally do this for 3-7 days. With our floor system, you won’t need to download a pages-long care guide to avoid damaging your new floor. 

Furthermore, maintenance is a breeze. The product is resistant to oil, gas, coolant, salt, abrasion, and impact. It maintains its high glossy finish and can be easily cleaned with water and a sponge. The finish also protects your floor from Wisconsin’s freeze-thaw cycle and winter deicing chemicals. 

Most importantly however, a PolyCoat concrete floor finish adds to the value of your home at the same time it adds to the beauty of your garage. The modern look of a high-quality floor coating is certainly a nicer look than damaged concrete and it will make your garage and entire home stand out to prospective buyers. 

Why Wahlen Works?

We know concrete.

Our track record as a company testifies to the truth of that statement. Other companies can offer lifetime warranties but they may not be in business long enough to make good on their promise. We have been a trusted service provider in Milwaukee since 1971 — almost 50 years.  We are going to be here from the moment you make your first call until the moment you sell your house. 

Additionally, you can count on your new PolyCoat garage floor to last at least 25 years. We offer a lifetime warranty and if you sell your house within the first year after coating, we will transfer the warranty to the new owners. 

Let luxury be the first experience you have when you come home at the end of the day. A high performance PolyCoat concrete floor finish gives you the dream garage you’ve always wanted. Our product and process give you beautiful finishes and durable, long-lasting performance. Don’t settle for anything less than the best.

parking lot striping

You know your parking lot striping needs to be repainted when drivers aren’t able to see the stripes, lettering, and pavement symbols clearly enough to maneuver safely. 

A good rule of thumb is that a parking lot needs to be re-striped every one to two years. If your pavement marking is just starting to fade, you might be tempted to wait another year to re-stripe, but there are good reasons not to put it off. In fact, the two most important reasons for freshly painted parking lot striping are accident prevention and ADA compliance.

“On average, more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries.” In addition to distractions and lack of attention, “inadequate pavement striping, potholes or cracks, lack of signage, debris, poor lighting, puddles, and snow and ice also can lead to pedestrian injuries.”

In addition to the importance of providing safe parking areas, it’s a requirement that they be accessible by persons with disabilities. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and additional requirements for parking areas were added in 2010. They regulate features such as minimum number of accessible parking spaces, their location, and required signage and pavement markings.

Parking Lot Striping Q & A

Why would I need to re-stripe as often as every year? How often you need to re-stripe depends on the volume and type of traffic you get. If your parking facility is exposed to the elements and busy year-round, your parking lot striping will fade quickly. The markings on a less trafficked site, such as a school or community center, will stay bright and readable longer. The problem we often see is when facility managers decide to make their pavement markings wait another year. If a heavy rainfall prevents drivers from seeing your parking lines, you’ve waited too long to re-stripe.

How do I know if my parking facility complies with the ADA? The U.S. Department of Justice has an excellent ADA compliance brief on their website. We recommend reading it so that you’re familiar with the guidelines. Other than that you don’t need to be concerned when you hire Wahlen Works. We’re thoroughly conversant with the ADA requirements for striping, marking, and signage.

How do I maximize the safety of my parking lot? Road surface markings convey information to both pedestrians and motorists. They show pedestrians where they can walk safely and direct vehicles to where they may drive and park. Properly placed arrows, crosswalks, symbols, and signage clearly define who belongs where and who must yield to whom. It’s important to provide enough spatial margin so that 21st century distractions don’t turn into tragedy. If a driver is looking at his phone, misses a stop sign, and hits the brakes late, a little extra room can make all the difference.

What else do I need to know? It’s important to pay attention to raised embankments and changes in elevation. Painting them a contrasting color alerts pedestrians that they need to take a step up or a step down, reducing a common cause of falls. 

Re-striping is a necessary part of parking lot maintenance. Vivid color contrasts and uninterrupted traffic flows direct visitor movement correctly and safely. Wahlen Works offers professional parking lot striping, pavement marking, and signage services for newly paved lots and lots that need to be re-striped. Call us today for a quote.

concrete penetrating sealer

To describe something as “weathered” is to say that it has been worn by time and exposure to the elements. A weathered house. A weathered face. Weathered concrete. Over time, everything deteriorates. You can’t completely prevent the “weathering” of your concrete, but you can slow it down significantly with a penetrating sealer.

Our 100%-solids silane sealer is a premium grade, clear, penetrating, waterproofing treatment. Silane is a combination of hydrogen and silicon and it doesn’t form a coating on the surface of the concrete like acrylics and epoxies do. 

Silanes have a very small molecular structure. The small molecular size of the product enables it to penetrate deeply into the pores of the concrete but does not change the appearance or vapor permeable (breathable) nature of treated surfaces. The higher solids (100%) of our sealer compensate for its small molecular structure and low viscosity.

Silane sealer forms membranes within the surface and penetrates deeply into the concrete. This is why it does such a good job protecting the reinforcing steel. Silanes are also water-repellent and hydrophobic (having little or no affinity for water). They protect against freeze thaw damage and efflorescence. Efflorescence is the crystalline deposit of salts that form from water consisting of salt deposits left behind when the water evaporates.

The primary deteriorating agents for concrete are weather, traffic, and chemicals. A penetrating sealer is the best choice to protect concrete from chemical corrosion and freeze-thaw damage in parking garages, bridge decks, and other surfaces which are subject to extreme exposure. Our silane sealer causes concrete to become permanently repellent to water, salt, and waterborne chemicals without losing its breathability.

“Corrosion-related damage to reinforced concrete is the result of rust, a product of the corrosion process of steel, which expands and thus requires more space in the concrete than the steel did at the time of installation. This change in volume of the steel results in expansive forces, which cause cracking and spalling of the adjacent concrete. Other signs of corrosion of embedded steel include delamination of the concrete (planar separations parallel to the surface) and rust staining (often a precursor to spalling) on the concrete near the steel.”

A penetrating sealer prevents spalling, cracking, and staining longer than other concrete sealing treatments. By sealing your concrete, you’ll be spending a little now to save a lot later. It is one of the most cost-effective forms of preventative maintenance you can undertake. We have more than 40 years of experience maintaining parking facilities in Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin We offer a 5-year warranty on our concrete sealing services so you can have confidence that your property will be protected.

properly sealed concrete

In an obscure court case over an alleged breach of lease in St. Louis, the judge ruled, “to the extent defendants based their breach of lease claim on central parking’s alleged obligation to repair deterioration…to the garage’s concrete surface before the end of the lease term, the court finds in favor of defendants”. 

Further down the page, discussing a different example of deterioration, one engineer said, “It’s a classic case of garage neglect, where the operator has failed to protect the decks with a sealer or coating and has allowed water to infiltrate the deck, rusting the rebar mats and (probably) the post-tensioned cables. The rust on the bottom mat steel has resulted in spalling concrete and general degradation, resulting in loss of deck strength and homogeneity.”

If you own a parking garage, preventative maintenance can save a small fortune. 

One form of preventative maintenance is concrete sealing and it’s one of the best returns on investment you’ll find. Last month on this blog we wrote about chloride contamination in concrete and this month we’ll address preventing that contamination and deterioration with concrete sealing.

To prevent degradation in your concrete, you need to prevent water, salt, and waterborne chemicals from penetrating its surface. A high-quality, professional sealant blocks the pores of the concrete, preventing these damage-causing elements from working their way under the surface and attacking the rebar. 

Our silane sealer is 100% solids, compared to the sealers you can buy in most home improvement stores which are about 40% solids. It’s been tested by time, having been in use now for 40 years. The small molecular size of the product enables silane to penetrate deeply into the pores of substrates but does not change the appearance or vapor permeability of treated surfaces. 

In addition to parking structures, this silane sealer can be used to protect buildings, roads, balconies, plazas, and vertical surfaces. It’s approved by the USDOT for sealing bridge decks. It is quite simply, the best product you can use to protect your property. Our sealer forms a permanent chemical bond, stops freeze-thaw damage and spalling, is not susceptible to ultraviolet or chemical degradation, and is cost-effective.

Don’t neglect the preventative maintenance of your garage. A comparatively small investment now could save tens of thousands of dollars or more down the road. Our concrete sealing service also comes with a 5-year warranty, giving you confidence in the wisdom of your investment.





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