Color can also be applied to hardened concrete in the form of a reactive stain or penetrating dye after the polishing process.
Whether the concrete is plain gray or integrally colored, the application of a reactive chemical stain will create translucent and variegated colorations. Color options range from industrial gray to reds, blues, and greens. Once the floor has achieved the desired polish and color, it is still comparatively soft. A high gloss can be obtained by polishing concrete, a common misconception is to believe the process has closed up the floor when the exact opposite has occurred.
It is imperative the finish always be protected with an odorless, non-toxic chemical hardener and densifier. In simple terms, proper chemical treatment restores strength to the abraded ‘near surface wear’ zone of the concrete (i.e. the top 1.6 to 3.2 mm [1/16 to 1/8 in.] of the floor). Chemical treatment also makes the concrete surface harder, denser, and more abrasion- and contaminant-resistant. There are several formulations of liquid hardeners on the market. In our opinion, a densifier is best applied after polishing, as opposed to during the process. However, this depends on original floor condition and manufacturer recommendations.
Maintaining a polished surface
Adherence to a recommended cleaning schedule also helps the floor hold its mechanically polished gloss longer and greatly reduces the absorption of spilled liquids (except for strongly acidic or alkaline materials), without the application of maintenance sealers or waxes. Floor wax or topical sealers are never needed on a polished concrete floor. Maintenance costs stay low, usually in the range of $0.25 to $0.75 per square foot per year. This cost estimate is less than half the estimated annual cost to maintain a simple floor wax. Installing a polished concrete floor can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the building on an area measuring 929 m2 (10,000 sf). The treated concrete floor is easily maintained by regular cleaning with periodic dry and wet mopping. Mild, non-acidic, concrete cleaners and conditioners are recommended for everyday care.
For a successful project we recommend the design team consider the following:
1. There are national programs using certified and trained applicators and it is wise to insist on employing only approved installers, equipment, and products.
2. Color and color types to be used (e.g. shake-on hardener, integral color, reactive stain, penetrating dye) should be clearly specified.
3. A minimum five-step process for a base bid is recommended, with incremental steps bid as an addendum once the final finish is determined by the project conditions and owner’s representative.
4. A compatible chemical hardener and densifier must be applied at the end of the process. It should be certified as non-slip, and if possible, carry the NFSI designation for high traction.
5. Mock-ups are recommended, and should be installed using available materials and equipment, demonstrating aggregate exposure, shine, and color options.
6. Polished concrete work should be protected after installation until the owner takes possession; i.e., covering the surface with tarps, plywood, or the like.
Benefits of Polished Concrete
There are four significant reasons why polished concrete is a better alternative as a long-term flooring solution.
One time installation with minimal maintenance
- Ease of maintenance is one of the primary reasons why architects, developers, contractors, facilities managers and property owners are choosing polished concrete. Not only are polished floors easy to clean, requiring only occasional damp mopping or buffing with an off the shelf floor cleaner, they also hold up extremely well to heavy forklift and foot traffic.
- They also eliminate the need for waxes or in some cases toxic coatings, as well as the associated labor, time, and expense to apply them. Its dense surface also inhibits stains from oils or liquids.
- Polished concrete has a longer lifespan than materials such as vinyl composite tile (VCT) or upgraded stone tile. Polished concrete only needs to be refinished once every five to ten years – again – depending on the traffic, and craftsmanship.
- In addition, the downtime required for the polishing process is minimal, and service or traffic on the surface can start almost immediately.
“Stunning, Gorgeous, Brilliant!” These are just a few of the words that come from customers once a job is completed. Perhaps the most desirable feature of polished concrete is the endless array of decorative options available. This complete design flexibility allows KBV CONCRETE DESIGN to create beautiful floors unique to your particular tastes and desires.
In the end, the floor truly should fit the character of the space. Some people call this organic where you see the natural qualities of the concrete. You can see areas of coarser aggregate and unevenness of veins and aggregate. This is often one of the most appealing characteristics for people who want a natural and still functional look.
Ambient Lighting Increases
The high light reflectivity of polished concrete is another important benefit, especially for office buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other public facilities that want to project a bright, clean, professional image. Some clients simply want a look that’s unique. Polishing can give concrete a higher degree of shine, similar to polished marble or granite, than can be achieved with a high-gloss coating. This means greater visibility and fewer overhead lights required in buildings with polished floors. This is the reason light reflection has become so important to people interested in polished concrete floors, and should be discussed prior to deciding what sort of image and or feel you would like your space to evoke.
Environmentally Friendly/Polished Concrete is GREEN!
Over the past year or so, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of architects, designers, and developers that are specifying polished concrete as a finished floor surface specifically based on the “green” and sustainable qualities of the new generation of polishing products. There is no other flooring on the market that beats processed and polished concrete based on an assessment of eco-responsible and sustainable attributes that lessens the environmental footprint of the project.
Finishing the floor by polishing the existing slab, produces no hazardous waste and saves on everything from natural resources to the pollution and costs associated with manufacturing and shipping, and eliminates the after installation waste that is typically hauled to landfills. These benefits contribute toward the accreditation of buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Specifically, polished concrete floors can assist in obtaining one credit under Materials and Resources (MR), Credit1, Building Reuse.
ENERGY & ATMOSPHERE
Optimized Energy Performance
The concrete polishing process does not affect the thermal mass of the concrete floor. This credit can be identified because the aesthetic beauty and ease of maintenance of the polished concrete surface does help in the decision to select concrete as the primary floor substrate. Also, the polished concrete requires less maintenance over other flooring materials like VCT or carpet. As a result the energy needed to run maintenance equipment and the energy used for lighting that is needed for night cleaning is almost entirely eliminated.
MATERIALS & RESOURCES
Concrete polishing rehabilitates and/or enhances “existing” concrete floors. This eliminates the need to have other types flooring materials put through an energy draining manufacturing process and the need to use fossil fuel to transport flooring material to a job site.
Like the optimized energy performance credit it is the concrete that earns the credit and not the polishing process. The use of recycled content in the concrete such as fly ash and glass will help gain credits in this category. Items such as glass can be used as a decorative enhancement when ground to exposed and polished.
INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Construction IEQ Management Plan – During Construction
The concrete polishing process can be done either wet, or in a combination of wet and dry, or dry only – it’s a contractor by contractor preference. In either situation, when the polishing process is properly done air quality falls within expectable limits.
Low Emitting Materials – Adhesives and Sealants
The concrete polishing process uses solvent free, non-toxic chemicals that exceed expectable VOC limits.
The polished concrete surface does not hold water like other flooring materials such as carpet and is easily maintained with cleaners to prevent mold.
INNOVATION AND DESIGN PROCESS
The concept of processing concrete to a polished finish is in itself innovative. There are three benefits to green or sustainable building – Indoor Environmental Quality, Overall Reduction of a Building’s Environmental Footprint and Energy Efficiency. Polished Concrete addresses all three of these benefits.
Can All Concrete Be Polished?
Almost any concrete floor can be polished as long as the floor is structurally sound. There are a few exceptions for both new and existing floors (see Existing Floors below.)
What About New Floors?
At least 28 days must pass before freshly poured concrete can be polished. This ensures that the concrete has had enough time to cure and harden before polishing begins.
For a floor that is already in place, it is best to discuss this first with us. If your floor is suitable for polishing. Usually, some surface preparation is required for removing dirt, grease, coatings, or blemishes. Types of floors that would not be good for polishing include those that are wavy, need extensive patching, or are extremely porous.
Is polished concrete slippery?
Because of polished concrete’s unique shine and slick appearance, many people question if it is a slippery surface. When the concrete is clean and dry, it is generally no more slippery than plain concrete surfaces. In fact, polished concrete tends to be less slippery than waxed linoleum or polished marble.
There are anti-slip conditioners that can be applied to a polished concrete floor for extra protection against accidents. The special additives in these products are designed to improve traction and make wet surfaces safer. They don’t require any additional cleaning needs than the usual damp mopping during routine cleanings. However, they must be reapplied periodically
Levels of Reflectivity
Polished concrete floors can be categorized as:
Level I – low reflectivity (400 grit diamond polish) – ideal for warehouses, shops, factories – any facility where a tough, low maintenance, easy to clean surface is required. Can be natural or multi-colored.
Level II – medium reflectivity– (800 grit diamond polish) the perfect floor for schools, retails stores, restaurants, anywhere a glossy finish is desired. Decorative colors and designs make this level an extremely popular process.
Level III – high reflectivity – (1500 – 3000 grit diamond polish) this is a high gloss finish with an almost mirror like reflection. The most unique finish on the market!
Your Polished Concrete Floors will be Glossy not Slippery
Typically, a polished concrete floor meets or exceeds OSHA recommendations of a static coefficient friction of 0.5.
- The process of polishing concrete requires no down time to existing business. Work can be performed during off-business hours and reopened to traffic immediately.
- No chemicals or coatings are used that produce strong odors or require extended drying or curing times.
- No dust left behind to worry about.
- Lower initial costs compared with other floor coverings.
Diamond Cutting Grits
The shine of polished concrete comes from repeated polishing steps using finer and finer, high quality diamond grits – NOT from applying coatings, acrylics, urethanes or epoxies that contain harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds); no waxes, strippers or cleaners to use or dispose of; no odors associated with installation and maintenance.
Contributes to energy efficiency
The reflective nature of polished concrete reduces the amount of artificial illumination needed by maximizing the natural and artificial lighting available, thus improving the energy efficiency of the lighting system as a whole.
Concrete is a fully sustainable product.
Indoor Air Quality
Concrete floors make a huge contribution to indoor environmental quality, simply because of the fact that cured concrete is completely inert and eliminates the need for carpeting or vinyl that can release VOC’s into the air.