Concrete Floors – Stained Concrete, Stamped Concrete and Polished Concrete Floors

$0.60 – $2 per Sq/Ft

Concrete flooring (also known as cement flooring) is no longer associated solely with warehouses, garages or carparks! In fact, concrete flooring in residential spaces has seen a surge of popularity over the past couple of decades, in line with the increased popularity of industrial chic and minimalist decor trends.

Concrete
Today’s concrete floors are not the boring gray of bygone days. One or more techniques like acid-staining, stamping, stenciling, tinting and painting can create concrete flooring in your home that is uniquely beautiful.

The other great advantage for home owners is that water is no threat to concrete flooring, so concrete is an option for the kitchen, bathroom, basement or garage that makes perfect sense.

Contemporary architects are also increasingly using concrete flooring throughout the home for a unified, modernist aesthetic.

In this concrete flooring guide we will look at everything you need to know to make an informed decision as to whether concrete flooring is the right option for your home, including the following sections:

Buying Guide: Here we’ll look at all the information you need to understand the different concrete flooring finishes, the pros and cons of concrete in your home, styles and trends to consider and answer the most frequently asked questions.

Price Guide: We’ll look at the different factors that affect the pricing of concrete flooring – such as thickness and finish – and any additional costs to consider , as well as a few top tips to help you save money on your concrete flooring installation.

Installation Guide: Concrete flooring isn’t necessarily the best option for a DIY job, but if you’re up to the challenge we’ll outline the basic process of concrete flooring installation and some do’s and don’ts for optimal results.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Finally, we’ll detail our top tips for keeping your concrete flooring looking its best for decades!

ABOUT CONCRETE FLOORS

What is concrete flooring made of?

Concrete is a composite material made by mixing aggregate materials such as sand and gravel with water and cement (itself a composite chemical mixture of silicates and oxides).

There are numerous different types of cement, characterized by their material components, but the most universally used in building construction is Portland cement which uses limestone (calcium carbonate) as its main ingredient.

Other chemicals or elements such as fly ash, silica fume and sulfoaluminate clinker can be added to Portland cement to give the cement various different qualities, for example to allow it to expand to greater surface areas than standard cement.

Once cement is mixed with water and aggregates it becomes concrete and this is the material that is then poured in-situ or cast as a slab in a factory to create concrete flooring.

Again, various other agents can be added to the concrete mix to improve results and performance, such as: accelerants to make it dry out more quickly, retarders and retarders to give you a longer work time, plasticizers to increase durability and pigments to change the color.

The type of concrete mix that you will need will depend very much on the overall look you are going for.

CONCRETE DECORATIVE OPTIONS

The thought of concrete flooring indoors is a turn-off to those who picture ugly, sterile floors throughout their home. But today’s decorative concrete floors vastly differ from that stark image. The range of techniques below create a remarkable variety of style options befitting the most upscale residences.  And creative homeowners and contractors use combinations of techniques that result in beautifully one-of-a-kind concrete floors.

Plain, sealed concrete floors are a clean-looking, durable and affordable option in the garage, basement or utility areas. Tinted concrete adds color in any room at an affordable cost, but tinting is available on new floors only.

Polish plain floors to produce an urban or modern vibe. Concrete polish is available in varying degrees of reflective clarity:

  • Flat/Ground: No or very slight light reflection
  • Satin/Honed/Matte: Slightly brighter with a little more life reflection
  • Semi-polished: Significant light reflection, though objects reflected look fuzzy rather than crisp
  • Highly-polished/Gloss: Highest reflective sheen, and reflected images are sharp

Staining concrete, whether acid etching or acrylic, followed by polishing delivers a lasting, rich luster that can be tailored to mimic marble, granite, tanned leather or wood. Acid produces earthy colors; acrylic polymers and pigments span the spectrum from white to black. Staining existing concrete floors updates their appearance and obscures cracking.

Stenciling concrete is a newer concrete floor treatment. Stencils are laid on the floor, and the exposed concrete is most often colored with paint or dye. Acid staining works with concrete stenciling too. An unlimited range of styles including popular brand logos, graphics and area rug designs make this a trending technique. The stenciled floor is sealed and polished to the desired level of gleam. Another recent technique is randomly embedding flat stones in the concrete before giving the floor a high-gloss finish to replicate a waterscape such as a river bed or lake/ocean shoreline.

Stamping concrete is widespread outdoors but can be done on interior floors too. Popular patterns include pavers, large tiles, wood planks, fallen leaves, cobblestone and large stones. Stampable overlays are a new product and technique that involves pouring up to ¾” of concrete on top of existing concrete and then imprinting it with a large stamp.

Concrete coatings including metallic and metallic flake create energetic pop for game rooms, home gyms, basements and garages.

OTHER CONCRETE FLOORING CONSIDERATIONS

Durability?

If durability is a top priority for you, then you’ve found your material!

There’s a reason most modern buildings have concrete foundations: concrete is one of the most durable composite materials known to man, and can easily last up to 100 years in the right conditions!

The hardness of concrete gives it the strength to stand up to seriously heavy traffic, so it is definitely up to withstanding normal residential traffic including playing children and pets.

Concrete isn’t going to wear out like many other floors will, but it isn’t completely immune to trouble. Its durability is threatened by a handful of factors:

  • Poor mixing and application
  • Failing to properly seal concrete will make it susceptible to staining
  • Using a non-expansive mix of concrete over too big a surface can cause cracks over time, which can be repaired or covered
  • The surface of concrete can also become cracked or pitted (known as spalling) if the concrete isn’t properly sealed and is subjected to moisture and freeze/thaw cycles
  • Polished concrete dulls and paint is worn off over time, especially if sandy grit isn’t regularly removed

These issues can be prevented or slowed, and they are correctable. Details are found in our cleaning, care and maintenance guide to concrete flooring.

Water resistance and other benefits

Concrete is also waterproof, and resistant to most chemicals; it is also inedible (!) so there’s no concern that you’ll ever have vermin or termite problems! Plus, being an inorganic material, mold and mildew cannot grow on concrete.

Above or below grade?

Because concrete flooring resists water and humidity, it is safe to use for all levels of your home including the below grade in the basement.

Radiant Heating

Concrete flooring can be installed with radiant floor heating, providing toasty warm flooring throughout winter months.

Unlike other flooring which sit on top of the radiant heating system, specialist concrete floor is actually poured around the heating system – so that it is effectively integrated into the concrete slab.

Radiant heating systems can also be added to an existing concrete floor, where the system is embedded in a thin top layer of concrete over the existing floor (this does however of course mean slightly raising the floor level).

Easy to update?

Depending on your concrete floor finish, you may need to reseal it or repaint it from time to time.

One unexpected added bonus of concrete flooring is that – as long as it is very smooth, even and dry, it can also be the perfect subfloor for most other types of flooring.

So if you ever tire of your concrete flooring and want a complete change, you need only add new flooring (such as vinyl, ceramic tiles, laminate, natural stone etc) on top!

Maintenance

A well-sealed concrete floor is simplicity itself when it comes to maintenance and cleaning – check out our top maintenance tips below.

Environmental impact

The debate around the environmental impact of concrete is a complicated one, because there are good and bad aspects to the use of concrete.

One the one hand, the processes used to produce cement (needed to make concrete) use a lot of fossil fuel and create a lot of carbon dioxide; on the other hand much of the other ingredients needed to make concrete (aggregates and water) are fairly easily available and can be locally sourced making the overall production of concrete not as high in energy consumption as some other flooring materials.

Then again, the fact that you need a lot of water to mix concrete is problematic; but there’s also the fact that concrete has a very long longevity – up to 100 years – easily outlasting many other flooring materials, so it does not need to be replaced very often.

Furthermore, concrete is very good for home energy efficiency, keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. And concrete flooring can be recycled, crushed into gravel that can then be reused to create more concrete or used in asphalt rod construction.

So, concrete’s green credentials are not that easy to establish.

CONCRETE BUYING GUIDE SUMMARY

  • Concrete is a mix of cement, aggregates and water
  • You can choose a number of different finishes to make a unique floor for your home
  • Concrete is water resistant, durable, mold and mildew resistant
  • You can have radiant heating with concrete flooring
  • Concrete is relatively easy to update and very easy to maintain
  • Concrete’s is both good and bad for the environment

CONCRETE FLOORING PROS AND CONS RECAP

PROS
CONS
  • Durability of 50 to 100 years
  • Impressive spectrum of decorative options, as discussed below, to fit with styles from rustic to traditional to modern
  • Suitable for in-floor radiant heating
  • Ideal for wet locations such as the kitchen, bathroom, basement and garage
  • Resists scratches and chips
  • Low-to-moderate maintenance required
  • An existing concrete floor can be enhanced with cleaning, staining, stenciling, painting, adding an epoxy coating or overlaying the slab with a thin layer of fresh material and stamping it
  • Considered green, sustainable building material due to its durability, energy efficiency and recyclability
  • Can be covered later with many types of flooring
  • Costs more than many flooring materials, especially when decoratively finished, though this negative is offset by its durability
  • Hardness makes it unforgiving when items are dropped on it or a person falls on it, and it can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time (a drawback alleviated by padded area rugs where standing is common)
  • More difficult and costly to remove than most flooring types; covering is an option, but floor height differences will be produced
  • Feels cold to the touch when unheated
  • Severe cracking is possible with faulty installation and will be noticeable
  • Breakdown of the surface (spalling) of garage floors is possible if the concrete isn’t properly sealed and is subjected to moisture and freeze/thaw cycles
  • Considered not green due to the significant use of fossil fuel and CO2 production

Concrete Buying Guide FAQ

Q: What is radiant heating, and why is it suitable to concrete flooring?
A: Either electric heating cables or hot-water tubes are laid on the subfloor in back-and-forth style, and the concrete is poured over them. When tubes are used, heated water is pumped through them. Radiant heat systems are used with concrete because the heat transfers easily, won’t damage the concrete and rises through the floor to heat the space above.

Q: Can a badly cracked concrete floor be refinished?
A: Not in the sense that hardwood is, but a thin, tough layer of concrete can be poured onto the old floor to create a new finish, a technique known as microtopping. The new surface can be stamped or stained too.

Q: Are concrete floors loud, and what can be done about it?
A: They create noise like tile and hardwood, and the noise can be reduced with area rugs and runners in walking paths.

Q: Is staining concrete a DIY job?
A: It can be, but you risk poor results (which are permanent) unless thoroughly familiar with the products and techniques used.

CONCRETE FLOOR PRICES

The basic cost of concrete flooring can be less than $1 per square foot for materials only, but concrete cost can rise to as much as $30 per square foot when a new concrete floor is installed and finished with a combination of pricey treatments.

For every type of floor, there are material and labor costs. The price of concrete material is small relative to the labor costs of pouring and finishing it.

It has this in common with ceramic tile, cheap vinyl and cheap laminate, though the total cost of concrete floors is higher than for the latter two floors. Premium hardwood and natural stone tend to be the opposite; the material accounts for a larger portion of the total than does installation labor.

So how much does concrete cost? The concrete cost per yard varies significantly, but the range nationally is $85 to $140 per cubic yard. Homeowners in the East and Northwest pay the highest ready mix concrete price and those in the Midwest and South pay the least.

Concrete costs also depend on how thick the concrete needs to be. To translate this into concrete prices you can use to estimate your job, one cubic yard of concrete covers:

  • 81 square feet 4” thick
  • 121 square feet 3” thick
  • 162 square feet 2” thick

If the concrete price per yard is $100, then you can divide that cost by 81, 121 and 162 to get the price per square foot:

  • $1.23 at 4” thick
  • $0.82 at 3” thick
  • $0.62 at 2” thick

Garage and basement floors are typically 4” thick. Other interior floors are 3”-4” thick, and overlay is usually 2” thick.

These concrete slab cost estimates are about the same whether the concrete is delivered by a truck for large jobs or mixed on site from bags for smaller floors.

However, there are additional materials such as moisture barrier, spacers, chemical additives for garage floors in freezing weather and cleanup of tools. These materials raise the cost of concrete floors by $0.15 to $0.25 per square feet.

Concrete Flooring VS Hardwood, Natural Stone and Other Flooring

In comparison to many other flooring materials, the average cost of concrete is in the low. Here’s a chart to show how concrete compares to other flooring materials. NOTE, that prices quoted are for the material costs only.

TYPE OF FLOORING
PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT
Concrete $0.60 – $2
Bamboo $3 – $9
Carpet (wall to wall) $1 – $20
Ceramic tile $0.50 – $15
Cork $3 – $12
Hardwood – solid $1 – $18
Hardwood – engineered $3 – $16
Laminate $0.70 – $5
Linoleum $3 – $8
Natural stone – slate $3 – $15
Natural stone – marble (basic range) $4 – $15
Natural stone – marble (top range) $10 – $45
Rubber $1 – $15
Vinyl Sheet $0.60 – $5
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) $1 – $7
Composite vinyl  (aka rigid core, WPC / SPC) $2 – $12

COST OF CONCRETE INSTALLATION

Concrete flooring cost rises with the amount of labor put into decorative techniques. From basic to elaborate, here is a table detailing those techniques and the price of concrete flooring.

Note that in this table the cost of the technique must be added to the standard concrete installation cost.

TYPE OF CONCRETE FINISH
PRICE RANGE PER SQUARE FOOT
Standard installation (unpolished finish) $3.75-$6.25
Tinting + $0.10-$0.25
Polishing + $1.25-$2.00
Staining + $2.75-$7.00
Stenciling + $3.85-$8.50
Stamped finish + $8.00-$15.00
Embedded decoration + $10.00-$20.00
Epoxy coating + $5.00-$8.50

Installation and standard finishing Cost: This is the choice for garages and basements when durable flooring is the main concern and the homeowner doesn’t mind a plain, gray floor. In basements, a smooth finish is preferred; in garages, a brushed finish that improves footing is also an option.

  • Basic concrete finishing cost: $3.75-$6.25 per square foot

NOTE: If you have an existing concrete slab, this cost does not apply. The following prices are for that technique only. They don’t include the concrete slab cost.

Tinted Concrete Floor Cost: Pigment is added to the concrete while it is mixed, and the spectrum of finished colors ranges from medium to dark. This is an inexpensive way to escape a dull gray appearance. This option is for new floors only.

  • Tinting concrete cost: $0.10-$0.25 per square foot

Polished Concrete Floors Cost: If you’re looking for an urban/modern aesthetic on a budget, simply polishing the concrete to your preferred level of gleam will achieve the purpose. Polishing powder is sprinkled onto the concrete, and a high-speed polisher is used to bring out the shine. If it’s a new floor, tinting the concrete before it is poured and polished is a cheap upgrade.

  • Polished concrete floor cost: $1.25-$2.00 per square foot

Stained Concrete Floors Cost: Staining can produce dramatic and beautiful changes in the appearance of bare concrete. An entire floor can be uniformly stained at lower cost or divided into sections that are stained individually at higher cost to produce any conceivable design. The stain mix determines the color and look of the finished product. Staining is an affordable and effective way to revive old concrete, and new floors are often customized with this treatment too.

  • Stained concrete floor cost: $2.75-$7.00 per square foot

Stenciled Concrete Floors Cost: Stenciling using acids, acrylic or paint is new in the last decade but trending because of its versatility in creating a customized floor. Popular stencil themes include family coats of arms, logos of brands like Harley-Davidson, area rug patterns and the types of designs common on wall stenciling. The higher cost of stenciled concrete compared to staining reflects the moderately to significantly more time the work takes.

  • Stenciled concrete floor cost: $3.85-$8.50 per square foot

Stamped Concrete Floors Cost: Most often done on driveways and sideways, stamping is becoming more common in small indoor areas like foyers, bathrooms and utility areas. Complex stamping is a labor-intensive process, so stamping concrete prices are higher than for most other treatments.

  • Stamped concrete floor cost: $8.00-$15 per square foot

These concrete flooring cost estimates are approximately the same for stamped concrete overlays, a process in which an existing slab is covered with a layer of fresh concrete that is then stamped.

Embedded Concrete Floors Cost: Embedding stones, shells or tiles in concrete to create a decorative border or entire floor is labor-intensive work. The complexity and amount of material embedded determines cost. This technique is best used with a new floor but can be part of a concrete overlay too.

  • Embedding concrete floor cost: $10-$20 per square foot

Coated Concrete Floors Cost: The most common and durable concrete coatings use a 2-part epoxy base. Adding pigments is common and affordable. Other additives include metallic powder or flake, marble or granite flakes, mother of pearl and synthetic materials, all of which give vibrancy to the coated floor. Often used in commercial settings because of their durability, epoxy coated concrete floors work well in the basement, garage, home gym, kitchen and bath.

  • Epoxy coated concrete floor cost: $5.00-$8.50 per square foot

We’ll say it again for clarity: This menu of concrete floor costs is for the specific treatment only; they do not include the concrete cost.

Additional Factors in Determining the Total Concrete Flooring Cost

We’ve noted that the complexity of the decorative design is the major factor in concrete floor cost because it determines how much labor goes into the project.

Here are a few other ways costs can go up.

  • Cleaning dirt, stains, oil or adhesives off an existing concrete slab can add up to $2.00 per square foot.
  • Reinforcing framing or flooring when necessary to support the weight of concrete can add $1-$3 per square foot in total cost.
  • When the home is outside the concrete company’s normal delivery area, a surcharge of up to $200 per load might be added.
  • If a concrete delivery truck can’t get near the home, due to muddy conditions at a construction site for example, and a concrete pump must be used, a one-time cost of $1,500 might be incurred.
  • 3,000-3,500 PSI concrete is typically used for interiors, but if the homeowner wants stronger material, the concrete cost per yard will go up by $5-$15.

Saving Money on Concrete Flooring

Local contractors all pay the same concrete prices for material, so the place to reduce the cost of concrete flooring is in installation and the decorative techniques you choose.

To do this, get concrete flooring price estimates from several contractors. Just make sure they have proven experience and can show you a portfolio of their work. If they’ve done work in commercial buildings, go see it. Paying less and getting a bad job isn’t the goal, right? There’s no cost or obligation for using online services that provide three free concrete floor estimates from screened and experienced contractors in your area.

You can also reduce the cost of concrete flooring by removing old flooring yourself.

Clean any existing slab by removing adhesives, grease and dirt. Removing flooring and cleaning concrete will each save $1-$3 per square foot. Avoid the more expensive treatments such as overlay stamping and embedding other materials in a new floor to keep your concrete floor costs manageable.

Concrete Flooring Cost FAQs

Q: Do decorative concrete floors cost more than other types?
A: Not necessarily. Cleaning and staining, painting or polishing an existing slab produces concrete floor costs are competitive with good carpet, laminate, linoleum, vinyl and inexpensive hardwood flooring. The concrete floor cost of pouring new material and having it stained and/or polished is competitive with premium hardwood, luxury vinyl tile, natural stone and tile. See our flooring price guides for each material to compare costs.

Q: How much does concrete cost over its lifetime? Is it a good value?
A: The cost of concrete is quite low over the life of the floor. The floor will last up to 100 years, but in more practical terms, the estimated 30-year cost for concrete including a basic floor and the repair and maintenance it will require is $8-$10 per square foot. If it is stained or stenciled, the cost rises to $12-$24 per square foot, and most of the additional cost is upfront expense. Because other flooring types must be replaced or refinished in that time and have greater annual maintenance costs, their 30-year costs are higher: vinyl flooring is $30-$40 per square foot and ceramic tile is $25-$33 per square foot. The 30-year cost of getting hardwood flooring refinished is $14-$20 per square foot.

Q: How much does radiant floor heating cost?
A: $6.75 to $9.00 per square foot. The larger the area heated, the less it costs per square foot. While an electric system may cost less to install, it will be significantly more expensive to operate than a gas-heated hydronic system.

CONCRETE FLOOR INSTALLATION 

Can you DIY Concrete Flooring Installation?

No, pouring concrete flooring is not a DIY job. It’s a rare homeowner who tackles the job of installing their own concrete floor, as you need to have a specialist skills set and working knowledge of how to best mix concrete and choose the correct concrete for your specific flooring needs.

But, even if you plan to hire professionals, knowing what to expect and what you’re paying for will be useful as you discuss the project with concrete floor contractors.

HOW TO POUR AND FINISH INTERIOR CONCRETE FLOORS

Here are the basic steps. Information on popular optional steps follows.

  • Step 1: In an existing home, remove the baseboard and old flooring before covering the subfloor with a thick, tough moisture barrier and taping it securely to the walls
  • Step 2: Use 2x4s or similar rigid material to frame the area where the floor will be poured
  • Step 3: If the application requires it, install steel reinforcing mesh over the subfloor or radiant heat system
  • Step 4: Mix the concrete, and pour it onto the subfloor to the height of the framing or chalk mark applied for the purpose
  • Step 5: Use a concrete rake and screed (an aluminum tool or a 2×4) for the initial leveling, adding material to any low spots
  • Step 6: Once excess moisture has risen to the surface and evaporated, finish the concrete surface with specialized tools called floats
  • Step 7: Allow the concrete to cure for 4-6 weeks
  • Step 8: Seal the floor

Optional Steps for Creating a Decorative Concrete Floor

Most homeowners choose one or a combination of these steps to give their flooring exactly the performance and/or appearance they want:

  • Install radiant heat cables or tubing on top of the moisture barrier before the reinforcing mesh and concrete are added.
  • Add pigment to the concrete as it is being mixed, so the color extends throughout the blend. This is preferred to surface tinting or painting that often wears off with age.
  • Embed tile or stone or stamp the concrete with a form after the surface has been leveled with a screed and the excess moisture has risen and evaporated.
  • Stain, stencil or paint the surface or apply a coating after the concrete has cured in 4-6 weeks.
  • Polish a non-coated floor to give it the desired sheen before the sealer is applied.

Concrete Flooring Installation FAQs

Q: How thick are concrete floors?
A: Garages and basements are typically four inches; all other interior concrete floors are one to three inches thick. Thicker is better, but code requirements for headroom and door height must be maintained.

Q: Can self-leveling concrete be used?
A: In some applications, yes. It is a very good material to use over radiant heat systems, but won’t have the long-term durability of Portland cement concrete.

Q: Does ceramic tile have to be removed before concrete is poured?
A: The tile is best removed simply to reduce the weight of the floor. Note, if the tile installed over concrete, the tile can be removed and the concrete cleaned and then stained or painted.

Q: Can concrete be poured over wood flooring?
A: The flooring should be removed first. Note: Whenever pouring concrete over a wood subfloor, a moisture barrier must be installed first to protect the wood from the water in the concrete and to allow the concrete to properly cure.

Q: Does a floor above a first floor, basement or crawlspace have to be reinforced for concrete?
A: Not in all cases. If the floor flexes after the concrete is cured, the concrete will crack. To determine suitability in an existing home, the contractor will examine the foundation, bearing walls, joists and support beams and posts. Installing a concrete floor over a slab offers the best chance for crack-free performance. In new construction, the proper support is easily built into the home.

CONCRETE FLOOR MAINTENANCE

Concrete flooring is easy and affordable to care for, and that’s part of what makes it a good long-term value despite significant upfront costs. Use this concrete floor cleaning and care guide to keep your flooring looking great and resisting stains and damage in the years ahead.

CONCRETE FLOOR CLEANING

These concrete cleaning tips don’t require a lot of work, but should be followed carefully.

  • Vacuum or sweep your floor regularly. Gritty dirt is the worst material your floors are likely to encounter. When it is walked on, the grit acts like sandpaper to dull the gleam and wear away the seal that keeps your concrete from staining. If shoes are worn indoors or pets go in and out frequently, then the floor should be swept every few days. For no-shoe homes, once a week might be sufficient.
  • The best tool for removing dirt is a hard-floor vacuum with the rotating brush turned off. This picks the dirt up and off the floor rather than pushing it across its surface.
  • Once the dirty grit has been removed, damp-mopping the surface using a just warm water or water and a gentle, neutral cleaner is sufficient. A microfiber mop will gently remove stubborn dirt left behind from vacuuming.
  • If your concrete flooring installer recommends a specially formulated cleaner, give it a try. They typically cost $12-$25 per gallon, which is enough for 6-12 months of cleaning. Most include conditioners that protect the floor with a dirt-resistant, invisible film that makes the floor easier to clean next time.
  • Clean up spills quickly.
  • To remove material stuck on the floor, cover it with a slightly damp cloth or paper towel. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then wipe away the dirt.
  • Avoid cleaning with bristled brushes, scouring pads, steel wool, harsh cleaners, bleach, soft-scrub cleaners or a strong scrubbing motion. These will jeopardize the seal and gleam.
  • These tips apply to sealed concrete. If you’re cleaning an old concrete floor to prepare it for renovating, then it’s a different story. The goal is to get the concrete as clean as possible for the best adhesion of what comes next. Use a strong scrubbing agent like tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) when needed. Concrete cleaner formulated for bare concrete work well too. A power washer is ideal for garage use or in basements with drains.

CONCRETE FLOOR CARE 

Keeping concrete flooring clean and sealed are the two most important aspects of maintaining its beauty and integrity. We’ve covered cleaning; let’s talk about sealing concrete and other care and maintenance issues.

The right sealer is the one recommended by your installer, if it’s a new floor. Most will be film-forming products. This means that they leave a durable coat of film that protects the porous concrete from staining. The most common sealer types and their advantages are:

  • Penetrating Sealers: Penetrating sealers are best used in garages. They leave a natural or matte finish rather than a sheen. Apply penetrating sealer every 2-4 years.
  • Acrylics: These are the economical choice. Water-based and solvent-based acrylics are available, and they do a good job protecting decorative applications like stenciling, staining and tinting. Some acrylic sealers must be used in combination with floor finish or wax. A range of sheens from matte to gloss are available. Apply acrylic sealer every 2-3 years.
  • Polyurethanes: These are the preferred and highly protective products available in water-based and solvent-based mixes, each in a range of sheens. Polyurethanes do a superior job protecting the beauty of polished and decorative concrete flooring. Apply polyurethane every 3-5 years.
  • Epoxies: These 2-part films are more of a coating than a sealer. Epoxy can be tinted or infused with metal fleck or stone chips to enhance the visual appeal. Epoxy coatings last for 15+ years in residential use.

If your concrete flooring cracks, the repair should be made by a professional for best results. The first step is to determine why it cracked. If the subfloor flexes, reinforcement from beneath will make it stronger and more rigid. Once that is accomplished, the crack can be repaired successfully.

Minor surface cracks don’t have a structural cause. Most homeowners consider them part of the floor’s character like knots in wood or patina on copper, especially if bending over is required to see them. Noticeable cracks can be filled and colored to match the surrounding concrete. A variety of filler and tinting products are used. If not filled, cracks collect dirt, so going over them occasionally with a vacuum hose is required.

We have a whole post on the different kinds of cracks in a basement floor and how to fix them.

Polishing a concrete floor when the gleam is gone is another maintenance item best left to professionals. However, if you have experience running a mechanical polisher, polishing compound is available. A polisher with a built-in vacuum is the best choice for dry polishing. Whether wet or dry, use a progression of polishing disks such as 30/80/150/400/1,500-grit. Clean the floor between disks. Seal the floor soon after polishing it.

CONCRETE FLOORS CONCLUSION

Concrete flooring is relatively common for a garage floor, but for the rest of the home it appeals only to those who really love either the industrial or the minimalist aesthetic. Though these looks are  becoming more popular, they are not necessarily a widely-loved look, so perhaps not the best choice for a fixer-upper that you’re wishing to quickly sell on.

But if you do love the look, then you’ll get such a long use of this type of flooring that the investment is definitely worth it.  Remember it is very durable and long lasting flooring, so to avoid disappointment or buyers regret, do take your time and do the research on the exact finish you like.

Finally, our main Home Flooring Pros advice is really to choose a very reliable and knowledgeable contractor for concrete floor installation. Installing concrete is not cheap and a poorly finished concrete floor that neither performs well nor looks good will be simply heartbreaking.