A few years ago, concrete was used as a sturdy sub-floor, not a final flooring product. Most often, concrete received a floor covering like carpeting or tile. But, not only has that changed, concrete is the chic material to use in commercial architecture and new home design. The Commercial Flooring Report states that concrete flooring systems account for up to 20% of new floors annually, and that number is continuously rising! Concrete offers unmatched versatility, a sophisticated appearance, and long-lasting durability. In this complete polished concrete guide for flooring, we'll explore the endless design options, strength and resistance additives, and overall benefits of polished concrete floors.
What is Polished Concrete Flooring?
Polished concrete involves a multi-step process consisting of mechanically grinding and honing the concrete and then polishing it with bonded abrasives to cut a concrete floor's surface. Achieving the specified level of gloss occurs through refined cuts. Polished concrete floors often have a glossy, satin-like finish. Because of the varieties of color, patterns, and aggregate sizes and styles, the design options for polished concrete are limitless. Depending on the amount of polishing and exposure of aggregate, the resulting aesthetic can have a salt and pepper appearance.
What is the Process for Polished Concrete Flooring?
Within our Polished Concrete Guide, including the process is vital. Concrete floors obtain treatment with a chemical densifier that's purpose is to fill any gaps or natural pores in the material. This densifier acts as a hardener and penetrates any open space, creating a chemical reaction that hardens the surface. After the application and drying of the chemical densifier, the progressive grinding begins. Not unlike sanding wood, walk-behind polishing machines use finer grits of diamonds to bring out the intended shine and smoothness. Essentially, to measure polished concrete flooring, the higher the grade, the larger the aggregate and the finer the grit, the smoother the finish.
Step-by-step, the process of polishing concrete includes:
- Cover and protect the surrounding property.
- Remove old floor coatings, seal cracks and joints, repair any damage to the existing floor, or install a new concrete floor. (This step varies depending on whether the existing floor is being refinished or if you are starting from scratch with a new concrete slab.)
- Begin the diamond grinding process, beginning with a low grit diamond to expose large aggregates and smooth the concrete surface.
- Patch any divots to create a smoother surface.
- Continue the diamond grinding process, gradually increasing the diamond grit used. Apply any hardener and densifier to reinforce the surface.
- Polish the surface with resin discs up to 800 grit.
- Apply oil and water repellents.
What is the Allure of Polished Concrete Floors?
Environmentally Friendly Flooring Option
This green flooring solution does not negatively impact our environment. Classified as a sustainable material because of its ability to utilize an existing product (the concrete slab), consumers seek out polished concrete flooring. By using the current concrete substrate, you eliminate the need for additional materials and the energy consumed during the installation process.
Contemporary Flooring Presentation
Concrete material offers a modern, minimalistic quality that compliments the present-day architecture and interior design. The industrial vibe of polished concrete flooring works well in any space, especially those geared toward the avant-garde.
What are the benefits of Polished Concrete?
Polished concrete floors maintain their pristine look long after other types of flooring require replacement. Hardened and polished concrete floors have an extremely long lifespan when compared to any other flooring solution. When maintained properly, these floors can last for upwards of one-hundred years. The hard-wearing surface even outlasts hardwood, which gets scratched, chips, and dents.
If not correctly cared for, polished concrete floors lose their shine over time, specifically when they're located in a high-traffic commercial or industrial facility. However, the maintenance regimen for polished concrete floors is easily defined as basic. Regular polished concrete flooring maintenance includes dust mopping to remove the accumulation of dirt and debris from the surface. This daily task prevents build-up that slowly erodes the veneer. Routinely wet mopping with clean water or a neutral balanced PH cleaner also helps preserve polished concrete.
Easy to Clean
In addition to mopping with soap and water weekly and sweeping or dust mopping daily, the only cleaning required is spot cleaning. Depending on the type of spill, it may only be necessary to wipe it up using a dry cloth. Occasionally water may be required, and infrequently, a mild cleaning solution designed specifically for polished concrete. Never wax a polished concrete floor, as it dulls the finish.
Millions of people struggle with allergies. Because of its commonality, new homes and businesses consider allergens when building or remodeling. Moreover, companies and homeowners are choosing to install polished concrete flooring, simply because it protects against allergens. Mold, bacteria and dust become trapped in other flooring solutions like carpet (the worst collector of allergens), the grout between tiling, and in the cracks between hardwood planks. The smooth, seamless surface of polished concrete eliminates these pathogens. According to the American Lung Association, controlling animal dander and dust mites in your home and office protects you from headaches, respiratory issues, and immune disorders.
As previously mentioned, polished concrete floors are unsusceptible to mold, which is created by trapped moisture. What's more, this hypoallergenic flooring solution, unlike other floors, is not porous, meaning no moisture penetrates it. The sealed surface is so dense that it repels more than just water. It stops oil and other contaminants too!
The high coefficient of polished concrete makes it less slippery than other flooring options, even though it looks sleek. As long as polished concrete remains clean and dry, it will be more slip-resistant than polished marble or even waxed linoleum.
Visibility and Energy
The high reflectivity of polished concrete reduces the lighting needs in the area and improves the natural light from the sun. When a room contains polished concrete flooring, the ambient lighting increases by up to 30%! Increased ambient lighting means you're using less artificial light and saving on your energy costs. In addition to increased visibility and lower electric bills, installing polished concrete floors increase safety and productivity in work environments. These eco-friendly floors also help achieve LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the most widely recognized green building rating system worldwide.
How do I Customize Polished Concrete?
Stained and Dyed Polished Concrete
Stains and dyes give polished concrete the splash of color it needs to be transformed from dull, grey concrete. At Creative Maintenance Solutions, we employ experienced installers trained to use special stains that combine chemically with cured concrete. When accurately applied, the stains produce antiqued or variegated effects, creating a unique brilliance. Stained polished concrete can also resemble the look of earthy elements like tanned leather and natural stone. These stains never peel, fade, or chip once the chemical reaction is complete.
Contrary to acid-based stains, there is no chemical reaction with concrete dyes. However, they do offer an infinite number of colors, more vibrant than stains. When used on previously stained floors, dyes add layers of color, enhancing the existing stain. Both stains and dyes give you creative freedom when designing your polished concrete floor.
Scored Polished Concrete
Scored polished concrete features distinctive designs and patterns made by cutting a series of grooves into the concrete. These scores are not imparted onto the surface of the concrete slab, as is the case with stamped concrete. Also referred to as saw cutting, scoring concrete must be done on a structurally stable slab. It can be done indoors and out and on new or old concrete.
The decorative options of scored concrete include radial lines, diamonds, stars, borders, rectangles, and a multitude of other shapes. Once the scoring is complete, the area can be stained with different colors to compliment the rest of the floor. Borders are often used to outline specific work areas to increase safety and productivity, but they also present a decorative element to homes and offices. The most common design in scored concrete is a grid pattern, often angled. However, custom designs like company logos or intricate, hand-scored configurations are growing in popularity.
The term aggregate refers to a "broad category of coarse- to medium-grained particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete, and geosynthetic aggregates." Different levels of sheen and ranges of aggregate exposure are achieved through the process of polishing concrete. Depending on the diamond grit used, the floor's appearance will be anywhere from matte to a mirror-like finish.
When the concrete exposure is ground and polished, but splattered with small pieces of aggregate, the floor is referred to as Salt and Pepper polished concrete. This finish gives the polished concrete floor an aged impression. Exposed aggregate polished concrete is when the polished concrete is more heavily cut, exposing more significant amounts of aggregate. This type of polished concrete flooring is often selected when the concrete substrate is broadcast with a custom aggregate.
How do I Style a Room Around a Polished Concrete Floor?
While interior design tends to be a very personal choice, there are some general ways to enhance your polished concrete floors. Concrete is usually associated with a cold, dull, industrial look. But polished concrete changes that. It is now embraced for it's pure, raw elegance, augmented by elaborate area rugs, trendy furniture, and ornate sculptures. With the right embellishments, polished concrete floors emerge as warm and inviting, while remaining trendy and modern.
Area and Accent Rugs
Arguably, the fastest way to soften the feel of polished concrete (actually and metaphorically) is to lay a rug. Whether you have a large area you'd like to minimize with an area rug, or you have a small area you want to maximize with an accent rug, your polished concrete will come across as less sterile with the break the floor covering provides.
As a matter of course, concrete gives off an industrial vibe. Interior design experts recommend embracing the raw appeal of concrete. By blending the professional look of polished flooring with natural materials, an intriguing balance is created. Instinctively warmer elements, like animal print, wood, and greenery, provide an unexpected freshness. The contrast between hard and soft tones makes the space feel welcoming.
Polished concrete feels sophisticated and tasteful when accents are placed throughout the space. Normally, you may think matching the flooring color to accents looks best because traditionally, that's how we've been taught to decorate. The unique look of polished concrete gives us the freedom to explore contrasting elements. For example, you may usually pair a grey concrete kitchen floor with similar colored accents. Design experts disagree and suggest mixing things up with marble countertops, a brightly tiled backsplash, and metallic cabinet hardware. If you're feeling like going really wild with your design, concrete feels chic when warm tones and gold metals enter the picture.
As previously mentioned, one of the advantages of polished concrete floors is their intense light reflectivity. The high gloss and sheen dramatically brighten a room. The high levels of reflectivity allow lighter-toned polished concrete floors to amplify natural light during the day and reduces the use of artificial lighting at night. From a design perspective, this gives you the ability to use skylights, windows, and low-light lamps as significant design elements. Polished concrete floors complement the eye-catching movement of natural light and the innate contrast of light and dark on your walls and flooring.
About Creative Maintenance Solutions
Since 1989, Creative Maintenance Solutions (CMS) has been specializing in polished concrete flooring solutions for residential use, as well as commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities. As one of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's leading concrete flooring contractors, we proudly serve our customers with superior quality flooring materials, customer service and satisfaction, and precise flooring applications. As your reliable, neighborhood contractor, we promise to transform your uneven or cracked concrete into a new, durable, beautiful conversation piece. Laying the foundation for a safe, clean, appealing environment starts with a company you can trust. We look forward to turning your concrete slab into a work of art.