By Daniel Green
Let’s do an exercise. Take a moment to look at the floor of the room you’re in. If you’re reading this there’s a good chance it’s not polished concrete. Now picture it as though it is. A smooth grey continuous sheet, uninterrupted from wall to wall, the exposed aggregate gleaming, polished to a mirror finish. Glorious. This kind of finish brings a sleek, stylish look that no other surface can. With its expansive feel, extreme durability and relatively low setup cost it’s an improvement that is certainly worth investigating. Let’s drill down some more.
The Good of Polished Concrete.
It’s Got Grit. Polished concrete is extremely strong, resilient and can withstand heavy foot & machine traffic with ease, giving many years of trouble-free service. It’s very difficult to damage and is virtually impossible to chip or scratch, so you don’t have to constantly fret over it like you would other floor coverings like polished timber, slate or expensive tiles.
Call Of Duty. Properly executed and maintained, a sealed and polished concrete surface has a service life of more than a hundred years. It will far outlast any carpet, tiles, composites and most family members. And unlike regular concrete, high traffic areas will not become stained or discoloured.
Easy As. Much like other masonry products, cleaning and maintenance is a breeze. A weekly broom or vacuum followed by mopping is about as difficult as it gets, resulting in a very small cleaning commitment. You could even hose it out or use a leaf blower [maybe check with your other half before firing up the Stihl]. This also means it’s perfect for people with allergies because organic material like pollen has a difficult time attaching itself to polished concrete.
T-Shock. Because of their inherent durability, polished concrete floors are more highly resistant to thermal shock and thermal loading than almost every other form of flooring. This means it can withstand rapid changes [read: instant] in temperature, as well as prolonged exposure to extreme temperature. Ever tried to freeze concrete or set it on fire?? While this may not be a consideration for a residential application it could certainly be one for businesses. Polished concrete is also statically dissipative, an important factor where static electricity could pose an issue.
It’s Chill. Volatile Organic Compounds are a large group of chemicals that are found in many of the products we use to build and maintain our homes. Polished concrete contains no VOC’s, however timber floors and carpets do. Once these VOC’s get into our homes and businesses they are released into the indoor air we breathe.
No Chemical Romance. Concrete in and of itself is fairly chemically resistant but the sealing phase of the polishing process elevates its chemical resistant level to extreme. This is on both the acidic and alkaline ends of the pH scale.
Options, options. Today, thanks to a continual development of concrete polishing techniques and methods, there is almost an unlimited variety of textures, colours and underlays available. You can even engrave it or add three dimensional textures like seashells prior to the final seal.
Fort Knox. The surface of a professionally completed concrete polish and seal is almost impregnable to liquids, especially water. This means contaminants can’t make their way into the concrete like they could if it were unsealed. But the job has to be done right by trained professionals, which means no cracks or crevices with which to trap pollutants or pathogens.
Mr. Brightside! Because the sealing epoxy has a sheen to it [even semi gloss products] it reflects light, sometimes doubling the light inside the space. Additionally, concrete is usually light in colour.
The Bad of Polished Concrete.
Uncompromising. It may be durable and strong but that means it’s extremely hard, meaning there’s no give to it. Unfortunately this means that it might not be good for those who spend ing periods on their feet, although this isn’t any different to unsealed concrete or other masonry flooring.
Ice Cold. Polished concrete isn’t great at heat retention, meaning its less forgiving in winter – although no more than regular concrete, slate or marble. There is an advantage though. If this is a new build you can install underfloor heating: a network of pipes just under the surface which runs hot water. This is actually more cost effective because the radiant heating of solid material consumes less power than traditional air heating.
Dam It! If the work is poorly completed then there is a chance that the concrete can be penetrated by moisture, resulting in mould or mildew at best and concrete cancer [link to PCC article] at worst. However, if you use an experienced concrete care provider then this won’t be a problem.
ITS LOUD! Like all hard and smooth surfaces, polished concrete can be quite echoey. This can be negated with acoustic absorbent surface coverings such as rugs, drapes or curtains, artwork and furniture.
Co$t. The initial setup cost of a grind and seal job is likely to cost more than other floor coverings like carpet or tiles, but over a longer period of ownership that cost becomes increasingly less. A pretty standard Sydney price is $15/m2 for a grind and seal and $120/m2 for a polish, so a good first question to ask is: how long am I going to make use of this?
Size Matters. Polished concrete has a stark look that can make spaces seem larger than they are, which is both advantageous and disadvantageous. Making a small room look bigger is great! But making a big room look bigger might not be what you’re after. One reason for this is because there are no seams in a polished concrete floor, just metres and metres of smooth shiny grey aggregate.
The Unforgiven. Often there’s no coming back from an impact with polished concrete. Dropped glasses, iPhones, knees – it’ll all come off second best. Careful consideration should be made about the inhabitants of the space before going ahead.
If you decide to get a quote, or even go ahead with a grind, seal and polish – please make sure you use a provider with the experience and knowledge to get the job done right the first time.
We may just know a couple of blokes like that.