Concrete is a natural composite material made from an aggregate (rocks, river stones and granite chips) combined with a cement binder (such as limestone and calcium sulfate) and water. It is the most basic flooring material and generally forms the subfloor or base of a building that may be covered with wood or tile, or left exposed.
Concrete floors can be poured as part of a new build, or an existing floor can be stripped back to its concrete slab as part of a renovation. A series of treatments can then transform the slab into a smooth and decorative surface appropriate for flooring.
- For a new build, concrete is poured early on in construction so aggregate mix, color, finishes and underfloor heating may need to be decided at this stage.
- When it comes to stripping back a floor to reveal the concrete slab, keep in mind the original pour was not intended to be exposed. So while it will function as a flooring surface after the necessary treatment, it may have an inconsistent look — for example, areas of little to no aggregate next to areas with a lot of aggregate.
- The level of polish will affect the overall aesthetic of the floor as well as the budget. A light polish or matte look is less expensive, gives a more natural look and doesn’t show many of the stones inside the substrate. In comparison, a heavy polish is more expensive and will expose the stones and provide a more colorful finish.
- Other finishes can include stamping, dyeing, embossing, staining and more.
- Concrete floors can be a cost-efficient option, but the finishes, treatments and installation will influence the final cost.
- An endless variety of color and texture effects is possible. Color can be mixed directly into the concrete before the pour, or existing floors can be stained, dyed or painted.
- Concrete is extremely tough and durable. While it is possible to chip or scratch a concrete surface, it is difficult to do so. Plus, it’s flood- and fire-resistant and will last a lifetime and beyond when polished and maintained.
- Concrete floors can work as a thermal mass when exposed to the sun, making a big difference in comfort and utility bills. It will absorb and store the heat of direct sunlight and slowly release it over the rest of the day and into the night.
- Concrete floors can look and feel cold without sun exposure, but a great rug can always help warm them up.
- Concrete floors can injure people and damage objects if they hit the surface hard, so they’re not recommended for areas frequented by children or elderly people.
- Concrete is susceptible to penetration by moisture if not properly sealed on both top and bottom surfaces, which can lead to the growth of mold or mildew.
- Because concrete floors have no give, they can be hard on joints and other body parts — backs and feet especially. Rubber mats or cork cushioning in areas such as the kitchen, where lots of time is spent standing, can help reduce this, as can slippers or soft-soled shoes.
- A lot of energy is used in the production of concrete flooring. However, this is offset by its ability to reduce future energy usage by acting as a thermal mass.
- Concrete floors are easy to look after — just sweep and mop with soapy water or a neutral cleaner.
- Seal or wax the floors regularly in high-traffic areas to maintain the protective layer over its surface.
- Repolish floors as needed to maintain the desired gloss.
Polished concrete flooring is measured by grade and finish — the higher the grade, the larger the exposed aggregates, and the higher the finish, the shinier the polish.This structural concrete slab has selected aggregates and a natural oxide color. It has been left exposed and polished to a level that makes the aggregates clearly visible.