Interior Concrete Floors

Concrete overlays add color and texture

Almost no shelter magazine is printed these days without some kind of interior concrete installation whether it is a sink, floor, or counter. Concrete is cool, clean, easy to live with, and very durable. It can be a neutral surface at home with any style, or textured and colored for a specific application. However, though the materials that comprise concrete are fairly inexpensive, the skill it takes to create a high grade surface can make it as expensive as high end flooring.

Concrete has been used extensively for structural applications like foundations and in paving for decades. Concrete is a mixture of Portland cement, sand or crushed rock, and water. When mixed with water, the cement and sand or gravel hardens to create a strong, durable material. It can be colored, etched, and textured in an infinite number of different ways.

Advantages

Concrete is versatile. It can be designed to fit almost any kind of room making it easy to blend indoor with exterior spaces by visually continuing the floor surface as it flows from one space into the next.

Concrete is easy to maintain. It's easy to clean and allergy free. Little more is needed than sweeping and damp mopping. If sealed correctly, it's stain resistant.

Add a radiant floor system by embedding a hydronic system into the concrete substrate itself. Radiant flooring is efficient at maintaining a consistent ambient temperature and can substantially reduce your heating costs.

Concrete floors can be customized according to your design for a one of a kind installation using colors, textures, and various aggregates. To create a unique terrazzo-style floor, use colored pigments to color the concrete matrix and embed glass, metal, or other objects.

It's easy to install other flooring over the top if you or a subsequent homeowner wishes. Concrete serves as subflooring for homes with a slab foundation, over which a vapor barrier and other flooring or wall-to-wall carpeting is installed. Floating floors won't damage the concrete, so you could conceivably change it whenever you wish.

Textured floors are skid resistant and sealed concrete is both fire and stain resistant. Concrete lasts for decades with minimal repair.

Disadvantages

Concrete can't be installed everywhere. Before considering a concrete floor, consult an experienced concrete contractor who has installed similar floors. In some cases, the engineering needed to create the correct solution can be more expensive than many other materials. That said, the limitations on where you can install concrete are not as restrictive as you would think. With proper preparation to the subsurface and structural support, it can even be installed in upstairs bedrooms.

Like tile, concrete can be very cold and hard. Walking on concrete floors or spending hours standing can result in backaches. And as with tile, if you drop a glass, the shards will scatter to the four corners of the room.

Concrete is expensive, especially in any installation that requires substantial floor preparation.

Concrete floors should be installed by a professional for best results.

Installing a concrete floor

There are many different types of concrete for various applications. The water, sand, and cement base can be modified with additions of various polymers to make the concrete self-leveling, moldable, or quick drying, for example. For a home with a concrete slab foundation, a concrete overlay is a relatively easy floor to achieve. Many manufacturers, in fact, recommend that their cement products be used exclusively on concrete substrates.

For installations without a concrete subfloor, you'll be venturing into a somewhat grayer area. Installing over wood subflooring, for instance, requires installing a cementitious backer board.

These prerequisites may raise the floor as much as an inch. Also, the joists and subfloor must carry much more weight even without the cement. Structurally, you may run into problems as well as connecting with adjoining rooms.

For the novice do-it-yourselfer, we recommend that cement floors be installed by a professional, experienced concrete contractor. For experienced do-it-yourselfers, our advice is to proceed with caution and practice working with the materials before executing your installation. The best source of information for installation is the manufacturer of the products you select.

Concrete floor maintenance

Where concrete excels is its ease of maintenance. Rarely will you need to do more than take a damp mop to it.

Regular sweeping and picking up dust bunnies with a dust mop will keep your floor presentable. Use a damp mop for weekly cleaning.

For deeper cleaning, a water and ammonia solution (3:1) will pick up most spills and dirt.

Over time, traffic patterns may reduce the shine of your floor. Often, the solution is to repolish the floor, then reseal.

Check with your contractor to ensure that you know what cleaning is recommended and how often the sealer must be renewed to keep your floor looking beautiful.


If you want to add a concrete floor, you might need the advice of a licensed structural engineer. ContractorNexus can point you in the right direction.

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