An Overview of Polished Concrete Flooring
Considering polishing your concrete floor? Here’s where to start.
Are you looking for a cost-efficient way to upgrade the concrete floors in your retail space, patient lobby or industrial facility? Consider having it polished to a high-gloss shine. The process of concrete polishing not only adds beauty to your space, but it will actually make your floors stronger and more durable.
What is polished concrete?
There’s a little confusion about what we mean when we’re talking about polishing concrete. We’re not referring to just applying a surface polish or coating. Concrete polishing is actually a mechanical process.
It’s similar to polishing granite or marble—the surface itself is finely ground down with specialized equipment (using something similar to sandpaper but often involving diamond grit). The glossiness that results reflects the physics of the concrete itself, not merely a shiny liquid coating.
Not only does this process give the concrete a smooth surface (which can range from a dull luster to a high shine, depending on how intensely it’s polished), but it actually compresses the molecules of the concrete together, so that polished concrete is at the densest, hardest state it can be in.
Benefits of Polished Concrete
Because of the physical changes concrete undergoes during the polishing process, it offers significant advantages over untreated concrete floors:
Looking to make a dramatic statement? Concrete can be polished so finely that it reflects almost like glass. And it doesn’t have to stay gray, either: dyes can be added during the polishing process to match the rest of your decor or make a bold statement.
Polished concrete can make a good impression on customers in a hospital lobby, automotive dealership, grocery store or other commercial space. Its clean, attractive surface can also improve worker morale in an industrial plant or warehouse.
Because polishing increases the density of the concrete’s molecules, the hardness of your floor’s surface can be nearly doubled: polished concrete often reaches a hardness level of 7 on Mohs scale. This makes it more difficult to scratch or damage, even if you’re using heavy equipment regularly.
Polished concrete is a cost-effective flooring solution that’s also inexpensive to maintain. You use your existing concrete slab, so there’s no need to install new materials. Maintenance is relatively easy: the smooth surface makes it easier to sweep and mop, and it doesn’t give off dust like regular concrete (see “Cleanliness” below). Over the years the shine can dull, depending on the amount of traffic, but it’s easy to restore with an inexpensive touch-up polishing.
Despite its smooth appearance, polished concrete often provides better traction than unpolished floors. If water is spilled on the surface, it can actually provide better grip for the shoe (though we still recommend cleaning up spills right away as a general safety practice).
You may have noticed in warehouse environments, including some home improvement stores, that there’s often a fine layer of dust on everything. That’s the nature of untreated concrete—it sheds dust over time as it ages. However, the physical changes that polished concrete undergoes eliminates the release of dust. This is not just an aesthetic advantage, but it can prevent contamination of products and improve your facility’s air quality.
Limitations of Concrete Polishing
While polishing your concrete floor is a great solution in many situations, it’s not always the right fit for every facility. Some environments that probably require a different solution include:
- Ceramic labs or other “dusty” environments: Polished concrete is not slippery when wet, but it does become very slippery when there’s dry, loose powder everywhere. Depending on your industry, we would probably recommend a slip-resistant floor coating for these kinds of environments.
- Food processing facilities: While polished concrete is a great fit for grocery stores and other retail outlets, it’s still slightly porous despite its extra-dense surface. If you’re processing food and beverages, you need something that is absolutely impervious to bacteria, so we recommend a USDA-approved floor coating instead.
- Environments dealing with chemicals: In general, polished concrete is not chemical resistant, and spilled oils or chemicals can discolor it. If you’re looking for something more stain-resistant, we’d suggest an epoxy or urethane floor coating. If you’re dealing with especially harsh substances, we recommend an extreme chemical-resistant coating.
The process matters.
While there are a few different methods of polishing concrete (including “wet” and “dry” methods), it’s important to know that there are actually about 10 stages to a proper polishing job.
Unfortunately, there are many in this industry who sell “concrete polishing” services, but they only go through a couple of these steps. As a shortcut, they may apply a clear sealer to make the floor look shiny, but it doesn’t last long.
If you want to get the full benefits of concrete polishing, including better longevity and durability, be sure that your vendor isn’t taking shortcuts. Learn more about what goes into the process of true concrete polishing.
More About Concrete Polishing
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