Its no wonder that homeowners have adopted polished concrete floors.Theyre quick to install and dont cost a lot. They also wear well and require minimal maintenance. Years ago, youd see polished concrete only in public spacesat the mall, say, or in office building lobbiesbut nowadays its a common sight in private residences.
To polish concrete the do-it-yourself way, youre going to need a concrete grinder. If you cant borrow one from a friend in the trade, you can rent one from your local home improvement center. In addition, youll have to get your hands on an assortment of grinding discs (in a wide variety of grits, from 30 to 3,000) as well as polishing pads.
Polishing concrete bears some similarities to sanding a hardwood floor. One of the big differences, however, is that with concrete you are going to make many more passes with the grinder than you would with a sander on a wood floor of a similar size. Also, you should expect to spray on a densifier or hardener between passes with the grinder.
Near the end of the polishing process, swap out the grinding disc in favor of a burnishing pad. At this point, youll notice the floor starting to get really smooth. Before burnishing one last time, put a thin coat of concrete sealer over the floor. The result will be a stone-like surface that gleams without the aid of floor waxes or oils.
The best concrete grinders typically include a skirt and a vacuum, both of which are designed to contain dust. Look for a unit that is also equipped with a built-in liquid dispenser. To polish concrete near existing walls without causing damage, its best to use a specialized edging machine (another tool you can rent from the home center).
Renting a concrete grinder can be a little priceyas much as $1,000 per week for the grinder itself, plus $250 per week for the edging polisher. That being the case, if you have a small job on your hands the most cost-effective option might be to hire a professional, as counterintuitive as that may seem. I recommend gathering estimates from a few local crews, then comparing those quotes to the amount charged by the tool rental depot.
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Polished concrete is the ultimate no-wax flooring material. With the proper floor grinding equipment and experience, concrete polishing contractors can grind concrete surfaces, whether new or old, to a high-gloss finish. Factor in the superior durability and performance of concrete, and it's no wonder why retail, commercial warehouse and office facilities, and even homeowners are catching on to the appeal of these smooth, high-luster floors.
Heavy-duty machines are used to gradually grind down a concrete surface to the desired degree of shine and smoothness, similar to sanding wood. Read more on the basics of polished concrete and the process of polishing.
Homeowners, retailers, big-box stores, educational and medical facilities are choosing polished concrete for their floor finish because of the competitive advantage polished flooring offers over other types of floor coverings. Decorative concrete in the form of polished floors has become the logical choice because of the great value it delivers, and because it can compete aesthetically as well.
Almost any structurally sound concrete floor, whether old or new, can be polished with proper preparation. However, there are some exceptions. See how to determine your floor's suitability for polishing.
The smooth, reflective surface of polished concrete invites a stunning array of options for coloring, scoring, and creating radial lines, grids, bands, borders and other designs. Stains and dyes are the most popular application for enhancing already existing polished concrete.
Because polishing is a multistep process, you can choose the level of sheen from satin to high-gloss that meets your maintenance and aesthetic requirements. This versatility makes polished concrete an ideal flooring material for a variety of applications.
Costs for polished concrete will vary by region, square footage, preparation needed, and the complexity of the project and design options; but you can expect to pay between $3 and $12 per square foot. Residential pricing may be slightly higher than commercial because of the need for smaller equipment and tighter spaces. To get a better idea of what you can expect, see Polished Concrete Cost.
Decorative polished concrete offers a number of advantages that other flooring materials can't match, particularly when it comes to durability, performance and sustainability. See how polished concrete stacks up against carpet, tile, vinyl, wood, laminate and natural stone in this comparison chart.
Polished concrete floors are extremely durable throughout their life, but will need a little maintenance to keep their beautiful shine. The good news is, they are generally easier to maintain than other types of decorative floors. Routine maintenance consists of keeping the floor free of dust and debris that can abrade the surface with dust and damp mopping. Learn more about polished concrete floor maintenance.
Polished concrete floors may look as smooth as glass, but they are completely safe to walk on when kept clean and dry. Whats more, they tend to be less slippery than waxed linoleum or polished marble. In public facilities with heavy foot traffic, however, preventing slip-and-fall accidents is a top priority.
Be aware that the process of polishing concrete floors requires a great deal of expertise and the use of specialized heavy-duty polishing machines equipped with diamond-impregnated disks that gradually grind down surfaces to the desired degree of shine and smoothness. Considering the investment in equipment and the skill required, it's definitely not a project for the do-it-yourselfer. You'll want to hire a professional concrete polishing contractor to do the work. Find a local concrete polishing contractor.
One of the most effective ways to dress up polished concrete is to apply dye. Concrete dyes are available in a much broader color palette than acid stains, and unlike stains, they are not chemically reactive with concrete so the effects tend to be more predictable and less mottled. They also offer more control during application, allowing you to create more intricate graphic designs.
Composed of extremely fine organic pigments, dyes penetrate into concrete surfaces to create translucent color effects. You can use dyes alone as a primary coloring agent or in conjunction with acid stains or integral color as an accent shade. Most dyes are compatible with each other and can be blended to create an unlimited range of color variations. You can also achieve interesting decorative effects by applying multiple colors of dye and using faux-finishing techniques.
When to apply dye to polished concrete: Dye manufacturers often recommend applying dye at the grit level just prior to the final polishing step and then applying densifier afterward. However, Bob Harris, author of Bob Harris' Guide to Polished Concrete Floors, says he has had good success applying dye at the 400-grit stage and after the slab has been densified, since dyes are soluble and will penetrate readily. Often it depends on the condition of the concrete, so it's best to check with the dye manufacturer for recommendations.
Although there is no reason to neutralize the floor after coloring with dye, as is required when using acid stains, you should clean residual dye from the surface to prevent the color from smearing. Harris recommends using an auto scrubber fitted with a vacuum recovery system for large projects and a mop or wet vac on smaller projects. Because dyes usually dry in minutes, final polishing and liquid hardener application can proceed soon after the dye residue is removed.
Solvent vs. water-based dye: Some solvent-based dyes are premixed and come ready to use, while others are shipped in dry powdered form and require mixing with acetone before use. You can usually thin dyes with additional acetone if you want to reduce the color intensity. Be aware that all solvent-based dyes are highly flammable, so precautions should be taken when applying them. Wear protective gear such as an approved respirator, safety glasses and protective gloves. Also make sure the room is well ventilated and no open flames are present.
Water-based dyes are typically packaged ready to use and require no mixing. Harris says that you can apply water-based dye to polished concrete at the same stage as solvent-based dyes (around 400 grit), but since these dyes are water soluble, you may need to apply the densifier first, especially if the concrete is soft, to make the surface less permeable. Because water-based dyes are free of acetone, they are safer to apply than solvent-based products.
Application tools: The best way to apply solvent-based dyes is with a pump-up or airless sprayer fitted with an acetone-resistant cone-shaped nozzle to ensure uniform coverage. Because these dyes dry very quickly, avoid applying them by brush, which can result in brush stroke marks. For small areas of detail, apply the dye with an air brush for the best results.
Water-based dyes offer a bit more control and can be applied on small areas with artist's brushes or traditional paint brushes. On smooth surfaces, color-washed appearances can be achieved by ragging or sponging the dye on the surface in a random motion. On open areas, the use of a pump-up sprayer followed by another person massaging the dye into the surface with a microfiber applicator or rayon mop is an effective way of applying the dye.
Wet polishing uses water to cool the diamond abrasives and eliminate grinding dust. Because the water reduces friction and acts as a lubricant, it increases the life of the polishing abrasives, particularly the resin-bonded disks, which can melt at high temperatures. A disadvantage of the wet process is the mess. Crews must collect and dispose of the slurry that's generated, which slows productivity.
Dry polishing requires no water. Instead, contractors use machines equipped with dust-containment systems that eliminate virtually all of the mess. Typically dry polishing is used for the initial grinding steps, when more concrete is being removed. As the surface becomes smoother, and crews switch from the metal-bonded to the finer resin-bonded diamond abrasives, they generally change to wet polishing. However, some manufacturers have introduced resin-bonded disks that are designed to withstand the friction of dry polishing, allowing the entire process to be done dry.
A concrete floor makes for a spectacular finish, indoors or out. To keep your floor looking its best, regular cleaning and occasional polishing are common practice. In addition to making your surface look great, a proper polishing regimen can extend the longevity of your concrete floor.
Fill a mop bucket with water and add mild detergent. Mop the floor's surface as a means to clean any residual dust. Mild stains should also come off when you mop. Make sure you allow the floor to dry or wipe the floor dry before you begin to polish.
Use a coarse-grit polishing disk (one that measures 500) to polish the floor. Coarse grit is more effective at getting rid of stubborn stains and rough areas on the floor surface. Begin at one end of the floor and work systematically, moving upward from side to side until you cover the entire floor. Use circular motions to work over the whole floor with the coarse grit disk.
Switch to a fine grit polishing disk. Use circular motions to work over the entire floor. Avoid overlapping activity. Any residual stains should lift when you polish with fine grit. Your floor surface should look clean and uniform as all stains and rough patches are cleared through the coarse and fine grit action.
For the final stage, use a polishing disk with the finest grit, such as 1500. It will give your concrete floor a nice, glass-like sheen. At this point, any staining or blemishes should be totally gone, so this pass is all about getting a beautiful finish.
As with any other specialized technique, polishing is a multi-step process requiring use of the proper tools and equipment to achieve top-quality results. To help you get started, here's a brief overview of the polishing process and a checklist of basic equipment and supply needs, along with some buying tips.
Note that each job will present different conditions and challenges, so be sure to consult with your equipment and material suppliers for recommendations as to the products best suited for your application.
POLISHING BASICS Polishing concrete is very similar to sanding wood. Machines equipped with diamond-segmented abrasives (akin to sandpaper) are used to grind down concrete surfaces to the desired degree of shine and smoothness. As when sanding wood, you gradually progress from coarser-grit to finer-grit abrasives. (In this case, grit is the particle size of the diamond.) The result is a glossy, mirror-like finish. You can polish concrete using wet or dry methods. Although each has its advantages, dry polishing is the method most commonly used in the industry today because it's faster, more convenient, and environmentally friendly. Wet polishing uses water to cool the diamond abrasives and eliminate grinding dust. Because the water reduces friction and acts as a lubricant, it increases the life of the polishing abrasives. The chief disadvantage of this method is the cleanup. Wet polishing creates a tremendous amount of slurry that crews must collect and dispose of in an environmentally sound manner. With dry polishing, no water is required. Instead, the floor polisher is hooked up to a dust-containment system that vacuums up virtually all of the mess. SUMMARY OF BASIC POLISHING STEPS How to Polish Concrete Floors Time: 03:49 Get a detailed summary of the floor polishing process, including information on using planetary grinders, chemical densifiers, diamond tooling and more. Remove existing coatings (for thick coatings, use a 16- or 20-grit diamond abrasive or more aggressive tool specifically for coating removal, such as a T-RexTM). Seal cracks and joints with an epoxy or other semi-rigid filler. Grind with a 30- or 40-grit metal-bonded diamond. Grind with an 80-grit metal-bonded diamond. Grind with a 150-grit metal-bonded diamond (or finer, if desired). Apply a chemical hardener to densify the concrete. Polish with a 100- or 200-grit resin-bond diamond, or a combination of the two. Polish with a 400-grit resin-bond diamond. Polish with an 800-grit resin-bond diamond. Finish with a 1500- or 3000-grit resin-bond diamond (depending on the desired sheen level). Optional: Apply a stain guard to help protect the polished surface and make it easier to maintain. DIY POLISHED CONCRETE FLOOR Polishing concrete is not an easy DIY project, since it requires heavy equipment and special diamond tooling. We recommend hiring a professional concrete polishing contractor to complete your project. They will have a thorough understanding of what it takes to achieve the best results. While concrete polishing machine rentals are available at local supply stores, the learning curve is steep. Plus there are many safety precautions that must be taken during the process, especially concerning dust collection. Featured Products 25 Inch Versatile Grinder Great for small retail and residential spaces Polishing Diamonds Options for hard, medium, and soft concrete. HTC & Husqvarna Equipment Short term machine rentals or lease to own Propane Concrete Polisher Concrete Polishing HQ Scanmaskin Diamond Tools A wide variety of different sizes and hardness Free Training with Purchase Model 2000 Grinder Rhino RL500 - trackless grinder Compact/powerful - 1/8 edge clearance Polishing Equipment Large Jobs Single person operation, easily maneuverable Compact Grinding Machine Easy to transport, 100% trackless and gets to less than 1/8" of the edge. POLISHED CONCRETE STANDARDS There are not published standards for polished concrete, but it is generally agreed that the concrete must be polished through the sequence of disks ending with 1800-3500 grit diamonds to be considered polished concrete. At this level the concrete will exhibit a glossy sheen and high reflectivity without the use of a topical coating. Polished concrete in not simply exposing the rock in the concrete mix then applying a sealer. During the polishing process an internal impregnating sealer is applied. The sealer sinks into the concrete and is invisible to the naked eye. It not only protects the concrete from the inside out, it also hardens and densifies the concrete. This eliminates the need for a topical coating, which reduces maintenance significantly (versus if you had a coating on it). When Demmert and Associates brings the concrete to a full polish, they never apply a topical coating or wax. According to Greg Demmert, "Waxing the surface would be defeating the purpose of a fully polished floor because the concrete floor itself is already shiny, so there is no need to put something on the floor that would then need to be maintained." A TEAMWORK APPROACH TO POLISHED CONCRETE
Polishing concrete is very similar to sanding wood. Machines equipped with diamond-segmented abrasives (akin to sandpaper) are used to grind down concrete surfaces to the desired degree of shine and smoothness. As when sanding wood, you gradually progress from coarser-grit to finer-grit abrasives. (In this case, grit is the particle size of the diamond.) The result is a glossy, mirror-like finish.
You can polish concrete using wet or dry methods. Although each has its advantages, dry polishing is the method most commonly used in the industry today because it's faster, more convenient, and environmentally friendly. Wet polishing uses water to cool the diamond abrasives and eliminate grinding dust. Because the water reduces friction and acts as a lubricant, it increases the life of the polishing abrasives. The chief disadvantage of this method is the cleanup. Wet polishing creates a tremendous amount of slurry that crews must collect and dispose of in an environmentally sound manner. With dry polishing, no water is required. Instead, the floor polisher is hooked up to a dust-containment system that vacuums up virtually all of the mess.
Polishing concrete is not an easy DIY project, since it requires heavy equipment and special diamond tooling. We recommend hiring a professional concrete polishing contractor to complete your project. They will have a thorough understanding of what it takes to achieve the best results.
While concrete polishing machine rentals are available at local supply stores, the learning curve is steep. Plus there are many safety precautions that must be taken during the process, especially concerning dust collection.
There are not published standards for polished concrete, but it is generally agreed that the concrete must be polished through the sequence of disks ending with 1800-3500 grit diamonds to be considered polished concrete. At this level the concrete will exhibit a glossy sheen and high reflectivity without the use of a topical coating.
During the polishing process an internal impregnating sealer is applied. The sealer sinks into the concrete and is invisible to the naked eye. It not only protects the concrete from the inside out, it also hardens and densifies the concrete. This eliminates the need for a topical coating, which reduces maintenance significantly (versus if you had a coating on it).
When Demmert and Associates brings the concrete to a full polish, they never apply a topical coating or wax. According to Greg Demmert, "Waxing the surface would be defeating the purpose of a fully polished floor because the concrete floor itself is already shiny, so there is no need to put something on the floor that would then need to be maintained."
Recently I was asked which changes or advancements have had the biggest impact on polished concrete floors, primarily in the industrial and commercial market sectors. Although we could discuss equipment improvements or how diamond tooling technology has significantly advanced through the years, the biggest impact by far is how concrete slabs are poured and treated from the ground up.
This first became apparent seven years ago, when a high-end client engaged our services to evaluate their polished concrete program. While touring four of their stores that had been in service for nearly a year, it was immediately obvious to us that the floors were not being poured flat due to the random pockets of coarse aggregate exposure. To improve the overall quality of the polishing, we needed to start by improving the quality of the concrete placement, especially how the slabs were being finished, cured and protected during the construction phase.
Today, there is now a heightened awareness of all of the team players involved in producing these floors, and it has dramatically helped to improve the overall quality of polished concrete. That said, it can still be very challenging to work with the various trades and recommend that they perform their work in a way that deviates from the norm and their standard routine.
Concrete finishers can be notorious for being set in their ways, and often they dont like outside sources asking them to finish a slab a certain way. Being a third-generation finisher myself, I appreciate this mentality and I love how most finishers consider themselves artists and take an attitude of ownership of the slab they are finishing. Finishing crews are accustomed to burnishing the slab to the point of darkening the concrete and obtaining a high shine, and they will often wet cure the slab with blankets for three to four days to increase the overall strength of the floor. This combination of wet curing and a burnished slab can wreak havoc with polishing contractors, who will typically need to use their most aggressive diamond tooling combined with wet cutting to expose the appropriate amount of aggregate. We have found that producing a haze or smoke finish, with little if any sheen or burnishing, is more conducive for initial grinding. But this must be done without compromising floor flatness and levelness numbers, as slab placement and finishing directly impacts the quality of the polishing.
While working on a project with Denny Bartz of Structural Services Incorporated, I asked about the dynamics of industrial slab placements specifically for the intent of polishing. Here are some strategies that he recommends for producing high-quality polished floors:
Bartz: We have reverted back to simplified mix designs, where in the past specifications called for ultra-high-performance mixes consisting of many different admixtures. By getting back to the basics and specifying well-graded mixes, we are able to produce a uniform slump which minimizes differential setting times of the concrete which helps in producing a much more consistent finish without surface mottling.
Bartz: Controlling the placing environment can be one of the most challenging considerations when you take into account subzero temperatures on some slab placements. Obviously this means controlling the concrete temperatures from the batch plant to the jobsite. Also, it is mandatory to maintain a consistent minimum ambient and subbase temperature of 55 F while the concrete needs to be a minimum of 60 F at the point of placement. Since temporary heating is being used, proper ventilation is a must and air quality is continually being monitored.
Bartz: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I have found that most finishing crews are receptive to recommendations at the preslab placement meetings. Occasionally, I will come across a crew that has been finishing for years and does not embrace change with open arms. Typically, finishers are told to burn a floor in as tight as possible without scratching the surface, which is not the most desirable finish if the intent is to polish it. To eliminate mottling, smears and other surface imperfections, a less aggressive, lighter finish using minimal hand tooling appears to produce a better canvas for a homogeneous polished surface.
Pay attention to the detailsHarris: I have seen the methodology on how theses slabs are being cured change over the years. What are your thoughts on the curing of concrete slabs specifically for polished concrete?
Bartz: Choosing a curing product and method that minimizes or eliminates surface discoloration has been a huge challenge. Originally we thought liquid-applied curing membranes were the most effective. However, on several projects, the applicators were not using the proper tip, which created drips and speckles over the entire slab. Considering the liquid was not atomized at the time of application, the heavier areas of the curing compound resulted in differential cure. Even after grinding, we still ended up with darker speckles across the slab. The end result was the polished concrete contractor needed to grind deeper to remove the blemishes even though the project was not originally bid to grind that deep. For the last year or so, we have been using the wet cure method with curing blankets left on the slab for three days on the polished concrete areas. This system has seemed to improve the other issues. However, if it is not installed properly (stretched tight and wrinkle free), you can be left with blanket lines as a result of the blanket not being uniformly in direct contact with the concrete.
As you can see, it takes a lot more than just the polishing contractor to produce a stunning polished concrete floor. Many clients are now implementing preslab construction meetings and holding the entire construction team accountable for everything from slab placement to the time the store opens. This has dramatically improved the final appearance of the polished concrete.
If you have never attended a preslab construction meeting specific to the polishing of concrete floors, youd be surprised at the scope of the participants who attend. In addition to the key players, including the owners representatives, general contractor, concrete subcontractor, and polishing contractor, other members of the team that can have an impact are present, from the ready-mix supplier and concrete testing agency to plumbers and electricians.
The clients chose polished concrete for a good portion of their interior floors for a variety of reasons, including aesthetics, ease of maintenance, and light reflectivity. Upon visiting some of their earlier polished floors, we noticed a few problems that ultimately had nothing to do with the quality of the work done by the polishing subcontractor, but instead resulted from the work of the placing and finishing contractor. When polished concrete started becoming popular, specifications were being written inappropriately, setting up the polishing contractor for failure. One specification we came across in particular called for a light salt-and-pepper finish (exposing the sands with no coarse-aggregate exposure), but made no reference to floor flatness(FF) or floor levelness (FL) tolerances. As a result, some of these floors exhibited unlevel, wavy surfaces with raised sections that made it nearly impossible to expose only the sands. These areas showed patches of coarse-aggregate exposure, which the owners did not want. The remedy for this problem was to install the concrete within specified tolerances. In addition, specifying lower-shrinkage concrete materials, combined with tighter joint spacing, would significantly reduce the amount curling the concrete would exhibit.
Witnessing these recurring problems, it became apparent that we needed to revisit the entire concrete placement process, starting with how the subgrade was prepared all the way through to the curing of the slab and, ultimately, the polishing. After attending several of these preconstruction brainstorming sessions, it really got me thinking about the crucial roles each of the different trades play during the concrete construction process. Everyone involved on a polishing project should be sharing the same common goal, which is to create a durable, architecturally pleasing floor. What's more, these floors have to be reproducible on a consistent basis from one region to the next. Of course, this is a daunting task considering some of the jobsite variables involved.
As you can see, there's a lot more to a successful polishing project than simply passing a grinding machine back and forth across the concrete. Each trade needs to contribute their specific knowledge and skills and be held accountable for their scope of work.
Here is an overview of some of the key issues each contractor should be held accountable for on a polishing project. The purpose of this list is not to hang anyone out to dry if something goes wrong, but rather to let all parties know what is expected of them and that they need to strictly adhere to the project specifications to avoid potential problems.
Before you consider taking your polished concrete floors to the next level including designs and graphics, refine and perfect the basics discussed in this article. Avoid cutting corners or skipping steps. After all, there is no substitute for doing a job the right way.
Cement floor polishing are quite popular in modern construction.This is explained first by its dryness, smoothness, evenness and durability.Before polishing the floor, a sanding process is performed.The service life of the finished coating depends on the properties of this process.
Concrete floor polishing makes it possible to purchase a coating of the highest quality, similar to natural stone, but more wear-resistant and tough.So, the surface, apart from this, is resistant to peeling or flaking of concrete.
The main goal of grinding a cement floor is to obtain a completely flat surface, on which there are no cracks, chips or any kind of flaws.There are a couple of steps to sanding the surface.To carry them out, you will need special equipment with diamond and abrasive nozzles.
In addition, at the end of the concrete floor polishing, it is subject to additional decoration painting, painting.The scope of implementation for the floor is related to its use in public or residential premises.Much more often this type of floor is seen in nightclubs, cinemas, shops, shopping centers.
In the 2nd version of the equipment, a special planetary mechanism is used, the speed and productivity of its work is significantly higher than that of household devices.The principle of this mechanism is based on the operation of the disk on which the satellites are fixed.On the latter, diamond-coated nozzles are installed, which rotate in the opposite direction from the circle.Due to the fact that the circle makes super-complicated movements, the floor comes out completely flat and smooth.
The efficiency of the work will be directly affected by the weight of the device itself, its increase, and the level of the floor grinding property increases.The cost of work with the use of an experienced car for floor polishing floors is significantly higher than with the use of household devices.But, the level of grinding properties corresponds to the cost of its implementation.More economical options for cars have only one diamond disc, they are smaller than the experienced devices.
Grinding and floor polishing the floor is done in a couple of steps.At first, all imperfections are removed from the surface and it is completely leveled.Remove all finishing from the worn-out coating.For this, you will need to have discs, the grain size of which creates 24-30.Just with the help of them it will be possible to remove the filler layer.
Later, the surface treatment process is guided by means of discs with the highest grain size.In this particular step, the concrete is made very strong and tough.To give the base a perfect smoothness, it is polished.
Polishing is the final sanding of the cement base.It is with its help that it is possible to make a highly decorative surface.The tool for floor polishing a cement floor is smaller than a grinder.Based on this, it is used for polishing floors both in public premises and in small apartments.
The floor polishing process does not take much time compared to grinding.But, the cost of performing work with the use of professionals is the highest.These costs are fully paid off in operation, since a sanded and polished coating will serve its owners for more than 30 years.
If there is no special equipment for grinding, then it is possible to carry it out using special metal brushes.With such criteria, a grinder is used as an auxiliary element.Work is carried out on a completely dry cement floor.