Concrete Flooring Installation Guide

It’s a rare homeowner who tackles the job of installing their own concrete floor. 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.

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