CARRcrete InfinityFloors are all the rage at the moment, so how do you get a decorative concrete floor in your home or commercial premises? What do I need to do with my concrete in order to be able to get it?
If the finish you are after is our InfinityFloor Cream, you’re in good company! Since this contemporary cloudy, swirly concrete appeared in all the architect’s brochures and interior design magazines we have been inundated with requests to provide it. The truth is however, that in order to achieve it your concrete will have to be laid in a very specific way, namely it will require a ‘heavy’ power trowelled finish.
A power trowelled concrete is the best base from which to create a beautifully polished floor there is no doubt about that. Lots of people ask us why this is and if power trowelling is absolutely necessary? What actually is a power trowel and what does it do? These are just some of the questions we’re going to answer in this article which we hope will explain a few points and give you a little clarity, particularly if you’re at the planning stage of your project. If you have an existing floor, don’t worry, we have advice for you too!
What is a power trowel and what does it do?
A power trowel is a piece of equipment that is often used on job sites and construction sites today, for the purpose of high end concrete laying. It is also known as a power float. It is quicker and more effective that achieving a trowel finish by hand.
There are many brands of electric power trowel available on the market however the most widely used are from Wacker Neuson or the Husqvarna Group where a high quality Honda gx engine is incorporated. Wagman metal products are a great supplier of blades, pans and accessories.
A powerfloat is used to smooth, and to some extent level a newly concrete floor. The process smooths high spots and fills low spots in the slab, all while compacting the surface, hardening it as it goes. The process of compacting the surface brings laitence to the surface. This is often referred to as the ‘cream’ or the ‘fat’ of the concrete and it is this that produces the beautiful, swirly and cloudy pattern that is left on the concrete surface.
Power floats come in many different sizes depending on the size of the slab and the areas that are being worked on. Walk-behind power trowels are typically used on jobs smaller than 5,000 square feet and range from 24 to 48 inches in diameter. The smaller size makes them well suited for working around obstacles or for applications with access issues, such as finishing basements or garage floors.
For large jobs with square footage of 5,000 or more, it’s much more efficient to use a ride on machine for most of the works. Ride-on power trowel machines are more powerful and cover significantly more square meterage than their walk behind counterparts. In fact, an 8 foot ride on machine can do the work of roughly 3 men with smaller walk on power trowels in the same amount of time.
Some companies will power float a concrete and then apply a resin or epoxy coating to the surface. This cannot really be compared to polished concrete as it hasn’t been through the mechanical process of diamond polishing
It has to be said that the process of power trowelling the concrete slab is not an easy one. The timing has to be just right as the concrete needs to be wet, but strong enough to take the weight of the power float and an operative. If the concrete is too dry, the surface will not smooth out and you won’t get the laitence rising as you need it too.
I’m just about to install a new concrete
Now if you have not had your concrete slab installed yet, you’re in the perfect position to plan the perfect installation with your chosen concrete contractor to make sure you receive the perfect finished concrete floor. There is every possibility that you can achieve the CARRcrete InfinityFloor Cream finish using regular concrete. You just need to ensure the floor installed by a professional concrete layer and power trowelled to industrial floor standards. We can provide a specification for this with lots of helpful information on there for you and your contractor however, be mindful, we always recommend using an experienced team to lay the concrete. Power floating is easy to get wrong.
It is sadly an inherent downside to the process that you are relying on your contractors to do the work correctly. It is very important to check that they:-
- Have seen the required specification
- Are capable of undertaking the work to spec
- Understand that they are installing the floor as a finish floor finish
Follow these pointers and you’ll be fine to get us to polish your floor to our InfinityFloor Cream standard.
Help! My current floor is rough concrete
If you’re in the frustrating position of having a rough looking concrete slab in your premises, whether it’s newly laid or not, you do still have choices.
We can of course grind the concrete in order to remove the rough surface and polish it from there. Flat floors will always yield a better polished surface that a rough one. How much work is included in this has to be assessed on a floor by floor basis but is something we do a lot of and you’d be surprised at what our expertise can achieve. Of course, by doing this we will expose the aggregate in the slab so you’ll end up with a finish in line with our InfinityFloor stone look.
If it was the ‘no stone’ look you were going for, don’t worry not all is lost. You can still achieve this with the application of our Microfloor overlay to the surface. Our overlay is applied in multiple thin coats with a hand trowel and it is these thin coats and trowel movements that create those stylish swirls and subtle cloudy textures that you would also get with a power trowelled finish. The moisture content in the slab needs to be low before the overlay can be applied as too much moisture can be detrimental to the finish long term.
The use of a CARRcrete Microfloor overlay opens up a wide range of choice with stacks of colour options available to give you the power to totally customise your floor. Different application techniques and sealers further enhance the options you have. We work with all of our clients on a bespoke basis with this system, it’s not mass produced. It’s premium flooring option that is genuinely manufactured to your requirements at our facility in the UK.
Height concerns aren’t really that much of an issue as CARRcrete Microfloor is installed at around 3-4mm thick which is similar in depth to 3-4 stacked playing cards. This shouldn’t cause any problems with existing doors or any installed fixtures and fittings. Even better, our overlay products can be applied on concrete slabs, sand:cement screeds, over tiles and are fully compatible with underfloor heating.
InfinityFloors and Power Trowelled Concrete
In this article we’ve talked a lot about the importance of quality power trowelling as a finishing process in order to achieve the very popular InfinityFloor Cream finish. However, it’s important to recognise that powerfloating the concrete slab actually appears in our recommended specification for all finished and serves to benefit the end result for all three of our InfinityFloor finishes.
InfinityFloor Salt:Pepper is a stunning, quite industrial looking floor where the small pieces of aggregate and small sand pebbles are exposed. As the powerfloating smooths and flattens the floor, this removes the need for us to have to excessively grind the concrete to get it smooth enough to polish. Typically, we only want to grind away 1mm from the surface and that should be made up of the surface laitence and a small amount of surface material.
Another benefit of powerfloating the concrete slab heavily is that the aggregate within the slab will start to retreat from the surface and sink into the slab. This is massively helpful to the end product when stones are not required to be seen. Ideally, our Salt:Pepper finish shouldn’t expose larger aggregate at all, the effect is better achieved with the small 2mm pebbles that are present in the sand portion of the concrete mix.
A correctly power trowelled, smooth surface is rarely from crumbly or dusty due to the compressing action of the machine. Crumbly or dusty surfaces often need excessive grinding and polishing or intensive treatments with a densifier before a reasonable finish can be achieved and this is why we also specify this procedure for our InfinityFloor Stone floors too, albeit only a light powerfloat unlike with our other two options.
This is because we want to take advantage of the smooth, hard surface to achieve a better polish but as we’re removing 2mm-3mm to expose the aggregate, we don’t want them to have sunk too deeply into the slab so that we can’t find them. Any works that take place when the concrete is being laid should take into consideration that the end product is a finished floor and also what look you are wanting to replicate. You almost work backwards with polished concrete.
When power floating goes wrong
At CARRcrete, we can honestly say we’ve seen some sights! The difficult thing about the power trowelling process is getting the timing right. It’s very difficult to begin the process to early as the concrete has to have hardened sufficiently so that it will take the weight of the machinery and the operative. We do see lots of instances however where powerfloating has been attempted too late in the hardening process though and it can have a very detrimental effect on the aesthetics of the concrete.
The power trowelling process actually comes in two parts. Firstly the floating happens and this is where the concrete is smoothed out. High spots are flattened down and any depressions in the concrete are filled in. This is also when the laitence comes to the surface.
Any bleed-water (concrete moisture) that has risen to the surface in the time that the concrete has been laid to the point it’s ready to be powerfloated should be removed manually. Ideally the bleed-water would have evaporated but sometimes the evaporation rate and the bleed rate of the concrete are not in sync which can leave some on the surface. Working the surface and mixing any bleed-water into the concrete is not a good idea and can lead to the surface peeling and flaking when dry. Of course this cannot then be polished and has to removed with a light abrasive.
Once the floating has been completed, the tools on the power trowel should be changed from float pans to finishing blades that have a straight flat edge. If this occurs too late, when the concrete is becoming too hard, we have seen ridges and even light burn marks in the concrete slab.
If your concrete has been laid outside or in premises that are not watertight, it can be a disaster if rain is allowed to fall on the concrete surface, especially if you’re trying to achieve our InfinityFloor Cream look. While damage is only likely to be surface deep, these imperfections will need to be ground out or an overlay applied to resurface the concrete. All of this adds extra cost to your project.
How do I maintain my contemporary polished concrete floor?
The cleaning and maintenance of all CARRcrete floors is easy and stress free. As standard with all of our InfinityFloors, we will apply a chemical densifier and a quality sealer to give additional stain resistance to your floor.
We recommend a two microfibre mop system - one wet and one dry. A dry mop should be carried out on a daily basis in order to remove dust, grit and other surface contaminants that make their way indoors and can potentially scratch the sealer. On a weekly basis or as required, a wet mop using a ph neutral cleaner should be undertaken to keep the floor looking it’s best. The use of a ph neutral cleaning is imperative. Using harsher or more acidic cleaning agents can actually strip the sealer away from your floor over time, decreasing it’s stain resistance and generally spoiling the overall look of the floor. Our product, CARRcrete PROcare is available via our online store and recommended as it contains a sealer maintainer to keep the sealer working optimally.
CARRcrete are always on hand for aftercare advice, for all options whether for a concrete slab or a Microfloor overlay. We’re always happy to help with questions and we’re always on hand to offer advice.
It is our aim that everyone who opts for a polished concrete floor gets the best version of what they can have and we do hope this article explaining a little about power trowelled floor has made it clear why this process makes such a big difference to both us as polishers and to our clients who don’t want to pay over the odds for extra grinding or unnecessary works.