From complementing a contemporary self-build to adding a modern twist to traditional renovations, polished concrete is a long-lasting and stylish design solution. Here, the experts from decorative concrete specialist Lazenby reveal the key things to consider when deciding if this iconic surface is right for you.
Process: the nitty-gritty
Polished concrete flooring is the perfect option for new builds, extensions and large-scale renovations. You only get one opportunity for a perfect finish with concrete, so preparation and research are integral to that perfect first-time fit.
In many respects, polished concrete is a one-stop shop, eliminating the need for screed and tiles. The concrete is installed at 100mm deep. It needs to be installed earlier than you might anticipate: before stud walls are in place and before wall build-out and plastering have commenced. This helps to ensure the best possible finish around the edges.
We recommend that external windows and doors are fitted before the installation of your polished concrete floor, but this isn’t essential. However, if doors are installed after the floor, it’s vital that a shutter is fitted to the finished floor level and that all openings are adequately weatherproofed.
Installation is relatively quick, taking as little as three days. The floor is then left to cure for a minimum of 28 days, protected from the rest of the building works. At the end of the project, there is one further day to clean, polish and seal the floor.
Colour: more shades than grey
If grey comes to mind when you think of concrete, you’re not wrong. Grey interiors have been cemented among the chicest neutral shades: on-trend and timeless. But polished concrete also comes in a range of bright and bold or mellow and muted colours.
Lighter shades, like cream, feel fresh and inviting with dazzling light-reflecting properties. Darker shades are luxurious and evocative, adding drama to any space. For an organic, earthy quality, browns and greens are a classic choice, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, pink is an increasingly popular option.
Your chosen shade is applied to the concrete surface and power floated to create an entirely unique cloudy texture with a mottled effect. If you prefer, the surface can be diamond polished to expose the stones within the concrete.
Floors can be sealed in either a matte, satin or gloss finish. With a special textured option for exterior surfaces, polished concrete can also be used to create a space that flows effortlessly from home to garden.
With endless bespoke colours and finishes, concrete is the ideal medium to get creative.
Maintenance: easy breezy
Concrete is one of the most durable surfaces on earth, so it’s no surprise that polished concrete floors are low maintenance. If a quick sweep doesn’t do the trick, a PH-neutral cleaner certainly will. It’s important to avoid using aggressive bleach-based cleaners that can strip the sealant.
Like all hard surfaces, concrete can crack or scratch. An expertly-laid polished concrete floor will have crack control joints placed approximately every 5m to limit the risk. These joints are seamlessly filled with complementary coloured mastic. Natural wear can add to the unique aesthetic of polished concrete, but if you want to maintain a perfect finish, repairs can be done.
The colour of your floor is as durable as the concrete itself and should never change. In commercial settings, the sealer may dull slightly (and can be re-sealed), but most residential homes will never need re-sealing.
Your contractor will be able to advise you on how best to care for your floor.
Sustainability: long life
Far from the negative connotations of the concrete jungle, this misunderstood surface is actually sustainable. The main raw material in concrete is limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth. Many specialists now even use recycled cement and thinner floor designs.
Concrete has amazing thermal properties and is a great conductor of heat, making it extremely energy efficient. It’s the perfect partner to underfloor heating and can be laid directly over the pipes. Impressive heat-retaining properties mean that concrete uses less energy in the long term than comparable building materials.
Cost: all in one
With no set price for polished concrete, it all depends on the individual project requirements. A common misconception is that decorative concrete is a more expensive option. Although initial costs can appear higher, as concrete incorporates everything needed, it can often work out cheaper once the overall price of alternatives (including screed, adhesive, tiles and a tiler) has been factored in.
Generally, the greater the area, the cheaper the price per square metre. Prices typically start from around £100 per square metre for larger spaces.
Take aways: concrete to go
If you think polished concrete might be your forever floor, here are a few things to consider along the way:
• Check with a specialist whether your renovation project is suitable for a concrete installation. For example, a kitchen renovation where the units are not being removed wouldn’t be an ideal candidate
• Unlike resin or tiles, a polished concrete floor is bespoke, and hand-laid – small cracks and imperfections are natural and give your floor character
• Picked your perfect finish? Concrete is no more slippery than wood, and much of that surface texture will be determined by your sealer. However, in external environments, opt for a textured finish to adhere to safety standards
• Are you working with a sustainable supplier? Experts in decorative concrete know how to source raw materials locally to keep the carbon footprint to a minimum
• And finally, we know it’s tempting to try out your new underfloor heating, but when it’s first used, bring the temperature up slowly. This reduces the risk of cracking and preserves that perfect finish while keeping your toes nice and toasty.