Thanks to the most recent trend of polished concrete, concrete can be as beautiful or ugly as you want it to be. With just a little bit of imagination and the right help you can turn a drab concrete slab into a show stopping masterpiece.
We decided to do polished concrete down in our kitchen for a few reasons. Firstly it is incredibly easy to maintain and secondly as the area gets a lot of natural sunlight, concrete will help to retain the heat in the house in winter and keep the area cool in summer.
In terms of cost, for us it was slightly more cost effective to do the polished concrete as opposed to tiles (depending on your tile choice of course) because we had to pour a new slab anyway. By the time you pay for materials and labour the outlay is roughly the same. The finished product, however, is in my opinion, one hundred times more stunning than any tile you could possibly lay!
We chose to use a dark aggregate and throw our own stones into the mix, but you can go to building stores and pick a pre-made mix as well. I recently saw a slab done on Grand Designs that was gold with gold and white stones thrown in.
I spoke to Sam Brack of Brack Concrete Designs who we used to do our polished concrete floor as well as vanity benchtops and a feature shelf in the kitchen. He's the best, so if you are thinking about polished concrete, keep reading!
1. What do you need to consider before polishing a space?
The only issue you need to consider when thinking of adding polished concrete is access to the concrete slab. You also need to be prepared to pull off any existing floor coverings that may be in the way when polishing the concrete. Skirting can be left on, but it is more appealing if these things are removed because we can only get within 2mm of any edge. It won't cost too much to have a chippy pop over to replace the skirtings which then gives the space a fresh new look.
2. Can any concrete floor be polished?
Yes, any concrete floor can be polished, the process is different for older concrete because the concrete will break down with age and you need to harden it back up by chemically treating the floor. Having said this, it can be done, have a chat to your local polisher!
3. What would you expect to pay for polished concrete?
Polished concrete is a 16 stage process, so when it comes to price we can make your budget work. Polish concrete starts around the $90 per square metre mark with an unexposed polish finish, the price can go up to around $140 per square metre for a full mechanically polished finish. Price can be determined by the amount of stone exposed and by what shine you are after.
4. What are the different finishes you can get?
There are a number of finishes available depending on whether it will be used indoors or outdoors. Polished concrete can not be used outdoors in direct sunlight because the chemicals in the slab can be broken down by the weather, and it would be way too slippery in the rain. So we provide a product that is still very visually pleasing and will withstand the harsh Australian weather. We start by honing the concrete, removing all scratching, grout to fill and pitting in the concrete at an extra cost, then seal with a two-part polyurethane sealer which can be reapplied if required.
5. How do you keep polished concrete looking good?
If the polishing process is done correctly then keeping it looking brand new is easier than you think. We would recommend cleaning the slab at least once a week using warm soapy water and a microfibre mop, look after it and treat it with care and it will remain as good as new. As we use a thin penetrating sealer there will never be dull spots in high traffic areas.
6. What else can you do with polished concrete?
The sky is the limit with polished concrete, people have been pushing the limits with polished concrete for years now, if you can form it in concrete it can be polished 'to an extent'. It is now being used for kitchen benchtops, furniture - both indoors and outdoors, structural precast concrete walls and shelving to name a few options.
7. What are the benefits of polished concrete as opposed to tiles?
The benefits to polished concrete opposed to tiles are endless. Polished concrete that is done correctly can last upwards of 25 years if treated correctly, there is next to no maintenance with polished concrete. It is also proven that polished concrete is warmer than tiles. If used in direct sunlight, it can act as an effective thermal mass, meaning it absorbs heat, stores it and then slowly releases it over the rest of the day and into the night in a way that timber and tiles cannot. This is why many solar passive houses have concrete floors.