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decorative concrete flooring

Concrete Floors and Flooring 101 – For Homes, Offices, and Industrial Spaces

In the last quarter of 2020, I joined a dedicated marketing team as a writer and was tasked with the responsibility of researching and writing about concrete flooring for ten websites. Each site needed twenty unique articles about this subject. So I interacted with industry pros, read a ton of articles, visited concrete structures, and did practical flooring activities. I learned a lot and decided to share the knowledge with the visitors of Hudson Products.

I never knew concrete slabs had so many decorative ideas, completely customizable, and a better floor solution compared to wood, stone, marble, and most of the other flooring solutions out there. Plus, concrete is very hard-wearing, affordable to decorate, easy to clean, and maintain. Concrete flooring performs great in most property structures including homes, commercial centers, and industrial spaces as well. Here are some places you’ll find concrete.

Places Where Concrete Flooring Apply

Thanks to the unlimited design possibilities of concrete, concrete flooring can be part of any building as long as it has a floor. Some of the common areas you can install this floor surface include:

Kitchen Floors

Whether it’s a commercial or residential kitchen, you can bet this room gets a lot of traffic than most parts of your home. Concrete works great in kitchens because they are durable. There’s no other floor solution that responds better to warping, chipping, discoloring, and staining like concrete does. Yet, it not only withstands the foot traffic but is also stable with the heat fluctuations as you cook. Plus, it can handle ingredient, liquid, and water spills really well.

In addition, concrete floors are hygienic and very easy to clean. They don’t have joints and grout lines that could trap dirt and moisture which contribute to dirty environments. What concrete surfaces offer is what regulative government institutions require from property owners. Again, the aesthetic possibilities with concrete allow you to customize your kitchen floors to meet the theme of your home or business.

Streets and Driveways

Driveways and streets obviously need hardwearing surfaces because of the foot traffic, heavy machines, and vehicle movements. Then driveways and streets need surfaces that won’t collect dirt and grime because these surfaces are hardly cleaned. Concrete floors work the best as streets and driveways.

When it comes to flooring concrete surfaces as your street or driveway, there’s an array of ways to pattern and decorate them to meet your design and theme requirements.

Bathroom

One of the biggest problems with bathroom floors is that they easily get slippery when they contact moisture. Longer exposure to these conditions weakens and breaks the floor components. But concrete floors and flooring solutions make this a challenge of the past. You can use concrete resurfacing solutions to create a durable bathroom floor that is resistant to moisture and is anti-slip. By installing radiant heating, you keep the floor comfortable under your feet and avert dust and allergens.

Garages

Garages are no longer the most boring place in a home or commercial space. They are an extension of the living and working space and must be aesthetically pleasing as much as they are durable. Concrete slabs have a variety of ways they can be floored and designed so they are durable and good looking. So with concrete, you make a garage floor that can handle heavy machinery, tool falls, and chemical spills that might happen. Plus, it is easy to clean and maintain.

Basements

A common problem you might find in basements is moisture seepage from the ground. This can even lead to flooding, that if left unattended can eventually compromise the integrity of your home. Besides, this creates a good environment for molding and mildew issues. So, they require a flooring solution that can be designed to prevent water seepage. That’s concrete floor.

Commercial Spaces and Industrial Facilities

Commercial spaces and industrial facilities are high foot traffic areas with machine movement and chemicals at play. These spaces must be conducive for workers and look good for customers. In fact, there are always industrial guidelines and codes that ensure your workforce is well protected and you provide a hygienic environment for whatever you are producing.

Whether it’s a restaurant, retail store, bar, school, hospital, office, industrial building your floor surfaces must be durable and safe. This is economically viable for you and ensures your space is productive. Concrete floors come with countless opportunities to customize and create an attractive space that’s bright and great for business. If need be, you can integrate the logo of your company into your concrete floor surfaces.

Concrete Flooring Solutions to Improve Bare Concrete

Truth be told, bare concrete can be very unattractive, boring, and mottled if it’s not surfaced with decorative flooring. The grey color and uneven surfaces are what most people see when you mention this flooring solution. Fortunately, there are several flooring solutions you can install on your concrete floor to make it look good and even more hardwearing. Here are some of the top flooring solutions you can use on your property.

Stained Concrete – How to Apply Stain on Concrete Floors

Concrete stains are the first concrete flooring solution you might want to install on your property. They are an easy, quick, and cost-effective way to transform grey concrete surfaces into colorful and vibrant surfaces. If you decide to take this route, you’ll either use an acid-based stain or a water-based stain on your floor with this method. They come as solutions that enhance the appearance of your concrete floor without significantly changing the color of the floor – if you choose to. Each flooring project will be unique in this regard.

Acid-Based Stains –

Acid stains go through a chemical reaction with your concrete floor to form a permanent flooring solution. The outcome of each staining job depends on the porosity of your floor, its age, density, and the chemicals present on it. You are at the mercy of the chemical reaction that will take place as you apply the stain. While it comes in a variety of colors, the solution is translucent so it doesn’t affect much the color of your concrete. So by the end of the day, you’ll get an attractive floor solution in earthy tones. That’s why no stained concrete project looks the same as the other.

The benefit acid stains have over water-based stains is that they can be used on polished concrete. Before acid staining, it’s recommended that you test the solution at a hidden point of your floor surface to make sure you like how it looks before applying it on the entire floor.

Here are a few acid staining products recommended by the experts I interacted with.

Water-Based Stains –

On the contrary, water-based stains give you more control over your staining project. There’s a large color palette to pick from and it allows you to blend and dilute the hue as much as you need. You use water and so you can make an opaque solution by denying it water; or fade it further by increasing the water content. During application, the solution leaves behind non-reactive pigments in the concrete pores. With proper installation, they produce a uniform surface and consistent finish.

With water based-stains, you know the end from the beginning. What you see is what you get. And after installation, the cleaning process is much easier. Plus, it doesn’t require neutralization as acid stains do. You don’t have to wait for long before sealing the floor.

Here are a few recommended products for water-based staining.

Epoxy on Concrete – How to Apply Epoxy on Floors

If you’ve not heard of epoxy flooring yet, you probably are not into concrete flooring much. Epoxy has continually grown in popularity owing to its valuable addition to porous concrete surfaces. It’s a chemical combination of a resin and a hardener that turn into hard-wearing plastic floors when they cure. You can pour epoxy multiple times on a concrete floor to create smooth surfaces, that are stain-resistant, and glossy. Messes become easier to manage on epoxy sealed floors.

If you are looking for ways to endlessly decorate your concrete floor, then epoxy is the solution. With skilled hands at work, you can achieve 3D designs, patterns, and swirls. The best part about epoxy is that it comes in kits that you can easily mix (comes with the instructions) and do by yourself. If you don’t do it well, the results won’t last long, will chip, cure with trapped air, and the surface will be uneven.

Installing epoxy requires a well prepped floor. So you’ll have to remove the debris, grind the floor multiple times or sand it down, then remove the stains and any previous contamination. Sweep the floor clean using a vacuum. By the end of the cleaning process, all the residue, dirt, and grime must be removed.

Then prime and fill any floor damages. Doing this eliminates bubbling and gases being trapped within your epoxy solution.

Mix your epoxy resin with the hardener then apply the solution with a good quality roller. Let it be for 24 hours to set before applying another coat. Before recoating, seal any holes you might notice in the previous installation. Also sand any sharp and uneven sections then collect all the dust to avoid getting an ugly surface when you apply the final coat.

Here are a few suggested products that you can use during epoxy flooring:

Polished Concrete – How to Polish Concrete Floor Surfaces

Concrete polishing has been around for centuries but still getting popular with time. It has become the go-to concrete flooring solution for those who don’t want to burden their floors with extra material on the surface. All it takes is grinding down the existing concrete surface until it produces a high gloss finish that doesn’t need extra coatings. The last product is very durable, smooth, easy to maintain, and resistant to moisture problems.

You use industrial-grade machines to grind down the concrete floor surface until you achieve a shine you desire. Besides being a cost-effective solution, it competes well aesthetically because you can create patterns and designs with it. It also improves the lighting of any room owing to its high gloss reflective surface. There are two ways you can polish your floor but some contractors use a mix of both to achieve the best results. Here they are:

Wet Polishing –

As the word suggests, wet polishing uses some form of lubrication to grind down the floor. Often water, it’s meant to eliminate dust and reduce friction as the grinding continues. That’s particularly helpful in increasing the lifespan of the resin bonded abrasives that can melt at high temperatures.

The biggest issue with this method is the mess it leaves behind. You have to dedicate time to collect all the slurry that’s produced, which can slow productivity.

Dry Polishing –

This method does not require water. The grinding machines come with dust containment units that take care of the mess. Dry polishing is commonly used at the initial stages of polishing. As the floor becomes smoother and finer abrasives are being used, wet polishing becomes a more attractive option. But better design inventions that can withstand the heat of abrasives are happening and if things go on like this, wet polishing might be a thing of the past.

Concrete polishing process will depend on the current condition of the floor surface. But assuming your existing floor has a previous coating, the process will go something like this:

  • Polish off the existing coatings with 16 or 20 grit diamond abrasive
  • Fill the cracks and joints using a filler like epoxy
  • Grind with a 30 to 49 grit diamond abrasive
  • Grind with an 80-grit diamond abrasive
  • Grind with a 150 or more grit diamond abrasive
  • Densify the concrete with a chemical hardener
  • Polish with 200 grit diamond abrasive
  • Polish with 400 grit diamond abrasive
  • Polish with 800 grit diamond abrasive
  • Finish with 1500 or more grit diamond abrasive depending on the desired gloss
  • Apply a stain-resistant to protect against staining and make the maintenance easy

Here are a few products that help in concrete polishing:

Concrete Stamping – How to Concrete Stamp Floor Surfaces

Another beautiful way to improve the aesthetics of your concrete floor is concrete stamping. It’s sometimes called imprinted concrete and textured concrete. It’s a way to make a regular concrete surface look like stones, tiles, brick, or even wood. You can create endless design and pattern imprints in your concrete often seen in patios, pool decks, driveways, among other places.

Stamping concrete is more cost-effective than natural stone, laying brick, and pavers. If properly done, this concrete flooring solution looks very realistic to whatever you are trying to mimic. Even better, you avoid challenges like weed and moss growth which are common on real stone and brick installations. And to gain the natural look and color variations, you can use dry-shake color. If you treat it with non-skid additives you’ll have a comfortable space to walk and work. If you seal stamped concrete, it becomes a piece of cake to clean and maintain.

I came to learn that stamping concrete is not a diy-friendly way to floor your concrete. It requires a lot of work, a knowledgeable workforce, and tools. You can use a freshly laid concrete floor or a skim coat over an old concrete floor to achieve results. Here’s how to go about installing stamped concrete:

  • Start with cleaning the floor using a grinder to remove any previous installation
  • Use one part muriatic acid with eight parts of water to etch the floor and open its pores
  • Tape the surrounding wall surfaces to protect them from the skim coat layer installation
  • Mix your skim coat into a consistent soapy solution then let it set for five minutes. The skim coat kit comes with the mixing guidelines
  • Apply a layer of skim coat evenly over the concrete surface
  • Mix the stamping layer which will be a thin finish and the texture pave. The mixing process is the same as how you mixed the skim coat above
  • Apply your stamping layer without leaving behind any dry spots or pools of solution
  • Let the layer dry according to the recommendations of the manufacture
  • Take your stamping material and arrange them from one end of the floor to the other. Do this in the direction where you won’t need to step into your work
  • Tamp the stamps or press them onto the floor surface to leave their imprints. Your stamps should be positioned to achieve a random pattern as possible
  • Smooth the lumps and bumps, divots by rubbing the edges then clean away the dust
  • Color your floor using a pump sprayer. You can begin with the primer then a finishing color. Don’t leave behind puddles of paint (use a rag to sock in the excess paint)
  • Apply a concrete sealer over the stamped floor

Here are a few stamping designs you might want on your floor surfaces:

How to Clean and Maintain Concrete Floors

Cleaning concrete depends greatly on the type of decorative flooring you’ve chosen and whether it’s on the inside or outside your property. It also depends on the type of soiling and staining you want to eliminate. Fortunately, as long as it’s concrete we are talking about, it’s easy to clean and maintain.

Clean Porous Concrete

  • One of the easiest ways to get rid of dirt on concrete surfaces is by using a power washer. With just a press of a button, you can blast away any type of dirt and debris
  • Use a hard bristled brush to scrub any stubborn grime and spray soap over a porous concrete surface to detach all the dirt (never use a metal bristled brush)
  • Use bleach or ammonia to get rid of stains Muriatic acid can be used on exterior concrete floors to remove the toughest stains
  • Be cautious when handling chemicals to install or clean concrete floors

Clean Epoxy, Polished, or Stamped Concrete

  • If you have decorative concrete surfaces, you should use a gentler approach
  • A bucket and a mop together with a mild cleaner are good enough to remove most dirt. Only use soap if absolutely necessary
  • Spot cleaning any time you spill something on decorative concrete is essential to make sure you don’t allow dirt to develop into stains
  • Periodic application of concrete sealant and waxing makes sure the floor is resistant to future stains and any dirt that could penetrate the floor
  • Don’t leave behind pools of water, soap, or any cleaning chemical because it can contribute to dulling the floor

Here are a few products that will help you clean your concrete surfaces.

How to Deal With Concrete Floor Damages

As much as concrete floors are durable, they are not invisible. They still get scratches, scuffing, chipping, spalling, cracking, and more. All these come by as a result of human activity, natural disasters, as well as variations in weather conditions. A chair drag on the floor, drifting of plates underground, and freeze-thaw conditions can leave behind a damaged concrete floor. Before you handle any concrete floor damage, it is critical that you diagnose it to understand its cause and the extent of damage you are dealing with.

Repair Cracks

  • Cracks can be a huge problem if not addressed in time. They let in moisture, which can seep into the subfloor and affect the foundation integrity of the entire building.
  • To repair a concrete crack, you must clean it first. Remove all the debris, dirt, and grime that is trapped within the crack and open it up a bit.
  • Use a concrete filler like epoxy to feed into the gap making sure that every part is covered and no air bubbles are left behind.
  • Since the patch might look different from the rest of the floor, let it cure then color it depending on your previous finish.

Repair Scuffing and Scratches

  • Scratches and scuffs will mostly appear on decorative concrete; particularly on epoxy floors, sealed polished concrete, and waxed stained concrete.
  • If the scuff marks appear shallowly on the floor surface, all you need to do is to clean the floor and apply another wax coat or a sealer. In fact, applying wax and sealant should be a periodic process (thrice or twice every year) to restore the sheen of your floor
  • If the scratch penetrates further into the concrete slab, you should treat it as a crack
  • Clean and try opening the deep scratch up to create room for a filler. Fill it up and let it cure before decorating it as the rest of the floor

Concrete Floors Become Better With Time

Concrete slabs are very durable structures that only become better in quality over time. The older concrete is, the better it settles and the more it improves. Aging is actually a good thing with concrete. Signs of wear and tear will inevitably appear on the surface of concrete when exposed to damaging conditions. But as long as it’s structurally sound, there’s nothing you should worry about. Repairs will take care of all your problems.

Whenever you encounter a problem like a crack on your concrete, involve an expert to examine the structural condition of your floor. A proper diagnosis can identify the source of the problem and provide the best solutions to counter the issue. Sometimes even what looks like irreparable damage to concrete doesn’t warrant a replacement of the entire floor. Always consider repairs and avoid disruption, downtime, unearthing larger problems, and the expenses that come with replacing your concrete floor.

Is Concrete Floors and Flooring the Right Choice for You?

A concrete floor is a great choice for any type of floor in any space. It’s the to-go-to flooring solution if you are looking for a durable solution, want to save money during installation, and seek to decorate it however you like. Plus, it’s easy to clean and maintain. With this floor and flooring solution in your property, you may never need another flooring solution in the coming decades. So if I were to pick a floor solution among carpeting, marble, tiling, wood, and any other in the market, I’d suggest you install concrete.