A popular home design trend is the industrial look, where raw industrial elements – think exposed brick walls, large open windows and metal bars and poles – are paired with neutral colours and an open floor plan to create a contemporary ambience. If you are considering concrete floors, you can find out more about:
- What are polished concrete floors?
- Is a polished concrete floor expensive?
- How much does a polished concrete floor cost?
- Is polished concrete more expensive than floorboards?
- Are polished concrete floors worth it?
- What types of polished concrete flooring are available?
- How are polished concrete floors installed?
- How long does concrete polishing take to complete?
What are polished concrete floors?
According to Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA), polished concrete describes decorative concrete flooring options that leave the concrete surface exposed as the final floor finish. The CCAA said polished concrete floors are affordable, energy-efficient, low-maintenance and dust-free. Polished finishes can be achieved through a variety of techniques, which can create different colours and patterns in the floor. These finishes can be completed on concrete slabs that are either on the ground or suspended (such as a floor on the upper storey of a house).
Is a polished concrete floor expensive?
A polished concrete floor can be cheaper or more expensive, with the cost depending on how much heavy grinding is required, according to Policrete, a concrete flooring specialist. With benefits including durability, concrete flooring may be a cheaper option than some alternatives if you are looking for a long-term value option.
How much does a polished concrete floor cost?
Polished concrete prices range from under $25 per square metre to around $50 per square metre for grind and seal polished concrete on average, according to online service directory hipages, with honed concrete costing about $75 per square metre and mechanically polished floors costing $100 or more per square metre. Alternative Surfaces, a company that offers services for floors, walls and joinery, estimates that pricing can vary between $65 to $140 per square metre, depending on your desired finish.
Different factors go into the pricing of polished concrete, including the size of the area you require flooring for, the condition of the floor, the type of concrete finish you’d like, what type of polish is used, how much polishing is needed and how easy or difficult it is for workers to access the floor area with their equipment.
Is polished concrete more expensive than floorboards?
For hardwood timber floorboards you can expect to pay about $50 per square metre for low-grade timber with lots of knots and imperfections, $55 to $80 per square metre for mid-grade timber with some imperfections and $100 to $150+ per square metre for timber with the few or no defects, according to hipages. With the online service directory estimating costs for polished concrete floors to range from $25 to over $100 per square metre at the time of writing, whether polished concrete or floorboards will be more expensive or cheaper for your home could vary.
Factors such as the timber species you’d like to use, along with the grade of timber chosen, should be assessed in comparing prices, along with variables that might influence polished concrete flooring costs for your home. If you consider maintenance costs for your flooring, timber floors may prove to be more expensive, because it’s likely they may cost more to maintain than concrete flooring in the longer term.
Seeking some quotes from different flooring specialists and carefully weighing up your options could help in making a decision that fits with the overall aesthetic, and budget, you have in mind.
Are polished concrete floors worth it?
Concrete is known for being a low maintenance flooring option. Concrete industry specialist John Nichols shared with Canstar that polished concrete floors are the most durable floor in the housing industry. “They will not be eaten by termites, will not rot from moisture, will not burn if exposed to heart or flame, will not wear out, and will outlast many generations of the people that live in the house,” he said.
Concrete floors can now come in a variety of colours. Looks can be achieved in different ways through mixing the colour into the concrete, as well as through staining and coatings, and textures and patterns can even be created to replicate the look of a desired aesthetic, such as timber or stone, according to hipages. Another advantage is that concrete floors can work as a thermal mass if they’re exposed to the sun, meaning they can absorb and store the heat of direct sunlight and slowly release it over the day and into the night. This internal heating could make a difference to the comfort of your home, and even your utility costs, longer term.
But, there can be drawbacks to choosing polished concrete flooring too. First, it can be cold. Second, with little ‘give’, concrete can be uncomfortable for some people and hard on the knees and joints, plus it might be similarly unforgiving if glass or other fragile items are dropped onto the floor.
Houzz also reports that while polished concrete can be waterproofed, moisture can still make its way up from the ground if the floor is not properly sealed on both the top and bottom surfaces. This might lead to the growth of visible mould or mildew, which could impact the structural integrity of the slab and be costly to fix.
What types of polished concrete flooring are available?
Mr Nichols told Canstar there are three basic methods of producing a polished concrete floor. These can be used to polish the concrete slab itself or to achieve a different look by using different materials in the top layer. They are (1) steel trowelling, (2) burnishing and (3) mechanical grinding. Mr Nichols said both a steel trowelled and burnished finish require a high degree of labour, as the surface must be worked around quickly to create the desired finish before the concrete hardens.
According to Mr Nichols, the most common method today for producing a polished concrete floor is through mechanical grinding. This is done by allowing the concrete to set hard and then using grinding pads (on a grinding machine) to grind down the floor to produce a desired finish.
What’s the difference between a honed finish and a polished finish with concrete flooring?
Mr Nichols said there are typically two types of finishes you can get from a mechanically ground concrete floor. They are a honed finish and a polished finish.
- Honed finish: This is produced by partially grinding down the surface with course and medium grinding pads to reveal a smooth matt finish. This finish will have a higher skid resistance compared to a gloss texture and may be suitable for outdoor floors or those that experience high foot traffic.
- Polished finish: This high gloss shiny finish is produced by fully grinding the surface with progressively finer grinding pads and is generally suitable for indoor flooring surfaces.
The process of grinding the concrete will expose the aggregates (materials in the concrete such as sand, gravel and stone) which can provide different patterns and colours. A sealer is then applied and absorbed into the concrete to help prevent staining, keep the concrete surface looking good and to facilitate cleaning.
How are polished concrete floors installed?
A concrete floor can be laid either as part of the foundation slab or as a cap (or topping) overlaid on an existing concrete floor, according to build.com.au. Once the concrete is poured, one of the methods described will be used to provide the polished finish. The concreter will need to know what method you are using while laying the slab, to ensure they can give it the type of finish you’ve chosen.
The CCAA states that colours can be introduced to polished concrete floors by adding pigments to the concrete when mixing it, or by applying aggregates, chemical stains or dyes and tints to the surface. It also advises that patterns can be created by saw-cutting pattern lines into the surface, using different joints, or adding aggregates when polishing. Existing concrete slabs can also be polished, according to the CCAA, but this will depend on their condition. Some surface preparation, such as the removal of minor defects or trowelling marks, may be required on existing floors before polishing can begin.
How long does concrete polishing take to complete?
The time it will take to polish concrete in a home will ultimately depend on the size and complexity of the project, but could take upwards of two to three days, according to hipages.
Looking online or visiting showrooms may help you visualise how polished concrete would look in your home and give you more information about the options and pricing for this type of flooring. For further guidance, you may find it helpful to get in touch with a flooring professional.
Cover image source: By Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock.
Additional reporting by Elise Donaldson.
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