The Different Types of Concrete Floor Finishes
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When you think of concrete floors, do you picture the dull, cracked slabs of dingy basements and garages? Think again! Today’s concrete floors are stylish, dramatic, colorful and beautiful enough for grand living rooms and entranceways.
Why Concrete Flooring?
Concrete floors have become increasingly popular with local renovation contractors, architects and decorators in recent years because of their beauty, versatility and practicality. Here are some of the many benefits you’ll enjoy with concrete flooring:
- Durability: You’ll probably never need to replace this floor.
- Cost effectiveness: Although initial costs are higher than other types of flooring, your investment will pay off over the years when you never need to pay for another floor.
- Environmental responsibility: Concrete is a recyclable material, and is produced with less energy than other flooring choices. It doesn’t require trees to be cut down and doesn’t create large amounts of waste such as carpet padding and scraps.
- Allergy relief: Concrete isn’t an environment where dust mites and other allergens can live and grow easily.
Additionally, concrete floors are easy to clean and available in styles, patterns and colors to fit almost any design style.
Concrete Flooring Decorative Options
- Marbled black and brown
- Warm ochre, bronze and yellow shades
- Vibrant and soft blues
- Vivid and pastel greens
- Rich reds
- Violet, plum and peach tones
- Glossy blacks
- Heather gray
- Earthy browns.
To create these varied colors as well as many different looks and textures, a number of techniques are used to create unique decorative concrete including:
- Painting: This emerging coloring method is only used by a few professionals and is expected to become more widely available because of its strikingly beautiful results. Skilled concrete artists use paint to replicate the look of tiles, stone, marble or slate in any color or combination of colors. A non-yellowing urethane topcoat insures that floors won’t fade or chip.
- Acid staining: This chemical staining process uses metallic salts in a water-based, acidic solution that reacts with calcium hydroxide. This reaction produces color compounds that bond permanently with the concrete floor. Acid staining is an extremely popular way to color concrete floors, with chemical stains available in black, brown and blue-green color groups.
- Polishing: Modern polishing equipment smooths even older concrete floors to a glass-like finish that will never have to be waxed or coated.
- Scoring and saw cutting: Shallow cuts, only about ¼ inch deep create the illusion of separate tiles.
- Finishes: Concrete can be textured to feel like brick, slate or marble and can be combined with other materials such as glass chips or metal.
- Overlays: Whether you’ve got an old, worn slab or you just want to change the look of your modern concrete, overlays provide a perfect solution. Ranging in thickness from a paper-thin coating to a few inches of cover, they’re available in all the styles, colors and choices of full concrete flooring.
Caring For Your Concrete Floors
Properly sealed concrete floors are easy to clean and maintain. You’ll need to reseal them occasionally, with the schedule depending on the amount of traffic your floors receive. For day-to-day upkeep, here’s all you need to do:
- Damp mop with water and use a soft, non-metallic brush to get rid of routine surface dirt.
- When you need a little extra cleaning, first try water with mild soap. If that doesn’t do the trick, step it up to stronger soap and then stronger soap with a little ammonia.
- Inspect your floors for areas where the sealer may be worn out. These high traffic sections may need to be resealed before the rest of your floor.
Warm Concrete Floors: Adding Radiant Heat
Since concrete can be cold underfoot in the winter unless exposed to direct sunlight, you may want to consider installing radiant heat with your concrete floor. You’ll have to make this decision before the floor is down. Because the system is under the hardened concrete surface, radiant heat can’t be added to an existing concrete floor.
Radiant heated floors work through heating tubes or electric heating elements attached to a wire mesh, which is laid down before the concrete is poured. The concrete is then added to cover no more than two inches over the heating system. This silent heating system warms your feet and the room, while lowering your total energy costs.
Before You Buy
Every flooring option has its challenging aspects. If you’re thinking about concrete floors for your home, consider these possible drawbacks to make sure this is the right choice for you:
- High initial cost
- Hard surface under feet
- Cold, unless exposed to direct sunlight or radiant heating is installed
- Requires professional installation and concrete removal after the project
- Installation can be messy, with precautions needed to protect walls and furniture.
Additionally, be aware that while most concrete floors need very little maintenance, extremely heavily trafficked areas may have to be resealed as often as every few months. Whatever flooring material turns out to be your best choice, glamorous new concrete styles widen your options for gorgeous, sustainable, durable home flooring.