January 28, 2020

This Is How You Get Polished Concrete

You're wanting polished concrete, but it all seems so confusing, right? Well let us help you with a really helpful and easy to follow guide to making the right polished concrete choices.

A factory with a polished concrete floor by CARRcrete

A question we’re asked almost every day during our working week. ‘How Do I Get Polished Concrete?’

Polished concrete is hugely popular at the moment. Simply put, it is the product of quite a labour intensive set of procedures that we go through, in order to refine the concrete surface using diamond polishing and a concrete grinder. Polished concrete cannot technically be referred to as such unless it’s gone through the process of being mechanically ground and polished. It looks amazing and is suitable for a wide range of applications in office buildings, commercial premises, industrial sites and of course residential settings

Polished concrete is fully compatible with water fed underfloor heating and one of the best benefits of this type of floor is that it’s completely unique to your installation. In our experience, no two floors look the same and this is largely in part down to the very random way that concrete is mixed and laid. It’s also attributable to the fact that natural variances in organic products such as cement, sand and aggregates do occur in different geographical locations. Concrete in the north of the country doesn’t have the same appearance as concrete in the south.

An example of CARRcrete InfinityFloor Cream

Concrete is incredibly hard wearing, durable and easy to clean. It offers the lowest maintenance of any premium flooring option on the market but we would always recommend that you do read our article about protecting your concrete surfaces, as it isn’t as impervious to damage as is widely believed. Please do arm yourself with the knowledge you need to create the best wearing concrete surface you can and one that will last you for many years to come.

But How Do You Get Polished Concrete?

You would think getting decorative concrete flooring would be straight forward; pick a look you like and go to any polishing company and place your order. It should be that simple shouldn’t it? At this time I would say it isn’t. The polished concrete industry is largely unregulated and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. We speak to clients every day that mention they just don’t know where to start. The UK market is growing fast and it’s our aim to produce plenty of relevant information for our clients, architects and dare I say it; the majority of the polishing industry that are dipping a toe into the water and don’t have a vast amount of experience.

At the moment there are a handful of decent professional concrete polishing companies which specialise in our art/craft. Concrete is a very imperfect medium to work with and we frequently have to adapt our grinding and polishing style to get the best results from the slab we are working on.

We would always recommend you do your due diligence and check out any company’s credentials. Take a look at the body of work they have done; at CARRcrete we have the largest portfolio of work of any concrete polisher in the UK. All photos are work are ours, gained over our many years in the business.

An example of diamond tooling manufactured by CARRdiamond

We have written a separate article detailing polished concrete floor cost which we do recommend you take a look at, but prices are normally calculated on a square metre or square foot basis. We also have to take a look if and how much grinding is required and what tooling needs to be utilised

When you’re looking to incorporate a polished concrete floor into your new build, extension or project, you’ll likely fall into one of the following 3 camps. Do you have an existing floor or are you laying a new one? Let’s have a look at the concrete polishing process and explore the options that may be open to you:-

Here’s A Few Regions We Have Worked
But please do not forget we undertake project throughout the UK
Birmingham - Cardiff - Derby - Exeter - Leicester - Lincoln - Nottingham - Sheffield - York

Scenario 1: You Are Pouring A New Slab For A New Build Or Extension.

There are two ways of achieving a polished concrete floor and the correct one for you will depend on your vision, your timescales and your budget. If you are undecided I would invite you to speak with us so that we can point you in the right direction,

Choice A:

Have a concrete slab professionally laid over your insulation and underfloor heating pipes to a thickness of 100mm. Not all concrete is polishable and while we do not offer concrete laying services, we will provide you with a comprehensive concrete specification to ensure the concrete mix you use will produce good polished results and will give you the look you have requested at the end of the process.

It is very important in all circumstances that the concrete is well laid, flat and smooth. All tool marks, gouges, tamp marks, footprints and ripples should be removed. It’s important to point out that even with our years of experience and top quality tools and chemicals, it is inherently more difficult to provide a quality polished surface on a concrete floor that has been badly laid.

An example of badly laid concrete

Badly laid concrete can be highly abrasive to our diamond tools, may not polish to a reflective gloss level and also is likely to require much more work. It can be soft which will resist refinement and show scratches more easily. It may also have areas of discolouration or have marks and/or lines in the surface; all things best avoided. Our grinders and polishing machines may not be able to make up for the inconsistencies in an incorrectly laid slab.

This is how polished concrete is normally done and is certainly the quickest and most cost effective option available. Once laid, concrete will require a 28 day curing period before we can polish it but don’t worry, if properly protected the floor can be walked on and other trades can get on with their tasks. Works won’t totally come to a halt.

This is the most cost effective option because we, as professional polishers, get to works with what is there rather than having to place another layer of concrete on the surface. We do this by placing our machinery directly onto the surface and using diamond tools to polish the surface.

We offer 3 different finishes through our InfinityFloor system, one without exposed stone and two where you can see the aggregates but to differing degrees. The concrete needs to be laid slightly differently for each finish so you must work backwards with polished concrete and know what you are trying to achieve before the concrete is laid. Our polishing machines enable us to offer you beautiful, decorative concrete in a matte finish, or the more reflective satin and high gloss finishes.

Where the aggregate is to be exposed we need to grind some of the concrete material away and we do with abrasive diamond tools of differing grit values. The more surface material we grind away the more the aggregate is exposed.

The biggest downside to working with concrete from a client’s point of view is that you can’t control everything when working with a concrete slab. Colour is often a big concern for clients and unfortunately you can’t control the colour of concrete unless you arrange for a pre-pigmented slab to be installed. It is possible to acid stain the concrete at the diamond grind stage, however we don’t offer this to our clients as the results are patchy and unpredictable.

This isn’t always a concern as the biggest draw to working with concrete is the rustic, organic appearance it gives that tends to work so well when paired with modern, comfortable furnishings and fabrics. However, if the colour of your floor is something that you do want to be in control of, we suggest looking at choice B below.

Choice B:

Have a pourable self levelling, cement based screed applied over the insulation and underfloor heating to a thickness of 55-75mm. This should create a smooth and flat surface over which a concrete overlay can be applied to provide the wearing layer to the floor. Overlay products are manufactured with ingredients and colour pigments that allow far greater control over the finished look of the concrete. If you have a particular requirement you wish to fulfil, a certain colour or particular large aggregate perhaps, then an overlay such as our environmentally friendly PROtop and MicroFloor microcement is the flooring solution for you.

A concrete overlay provides you with the highest possible quality finish as it is far more controllable that working with a concrete slab. It is often also a more durable surface than standard concrete but this takes it for granted that the overlay it is applied to is a strong and stable screed substrate.

Overlays are applied to the screed base to a depth of between 3mm and 10mm. This makes them suitable for most applications as it doesn’t increase floor height to an unworkable level and building plans don’t have to be rewritten, even if you opt for an overlay when your project is already underway.

The main bone of contention when talking to clients is that we are unable to apply an overlay to a screed slab unless that screed is fully dried and cured. Getting to this point takes a good deal longer than the 28 day curing time of concrete, so you do have to be more organised when choosing this option.

The reason that this is adhered to however is an important one. If an cementitious layer is placed over another cementitious layer that is wet, the moisture is likely to rise over time and gather in the space where the two meet. Too much moisture will cause problems with the overlay over time and can even cause it to detach from the screed completely.

Curing time for a screed is usually between 8 to 12 weeks, however It should be noted that there are certain screeds out there, Ardex and Mapei produce good ones, that are particularly fast drying and will be suitable for an overlay application after approximately 4 - 6 weeks. We will be happy to give you as much help as we can when planning out your project in regards to this.

Scenario 2: You Are Wanting To Completely Cover An Existing Floor.

An example of CARRcrete MicroFloor

If you are doing some remodelling and have an existing concrete or screed floor that no longer fits with your decor or you want to give a completely refreshed look to, your option is to apply a CARRcrete PROtop or CARRcrete MicroFloor micro topping to the surface.

Any existing floor is suitable as long as it is sound and stable and not susceptible to damp or movement although there are certain floor coverings that are not compatible with concrete products so these would need to be removed and the overlay placed on the substrate underneath. So, if you have tiled floors laid onto a solid floor, you can remove the tiles and apply the overlay to the solid surface underneath.

It’s always best to speak to us if this scenario resonates with you as while there are plenty of circumstances that we can work with there will be some that bring up compatibility issues. For example, concrete is Not suitable for use on timber floors. The way these two flooring mediums react in different temperatures is completely different and as an overlay is typically laid to thin depths the risk of cracking would be high.

Scenario 3: You Have An Old Concrete Floor In Good Condition You Would Like To Refresh.

An example of CARRcret InfinityFloor Stone

If you have an existing concrete floor which you like the look of and is in good condition, it is possible that we can give this concrete a new lease of life and a pleasing, refreshing look. Perhaps you found this floor under another flooring type such as tiles or linoleum? Perhaps you’ve had a concrete floor polished many years ago that needs sprucing up and retreating?

Very often, the surface can be diamond ground which will leave it clean, looking new and ready to be polished with our resin diamond pads. This adds no extra height to your floor and as we don’t have to factor in any drying or curing times, can be arranged quickly and easily

Of course, the quality of the finish we can achieve is dependant on the quality of the concrete you give us to work with. If a concrete repair (or repairs) are needed, they won’t colour match in 99% of cases as this is almost impossible to do. Therefore, if multiple repairs are required it might be worth considering an overlay to maintain the integrity of the concrete.

When A New And Existing Floor Coexist

It’s very common when planning an extension for example to be in the situation when an existing floor and a new floor are going be placed next to each other. It’s very hard to know how best to approach this situation when it happens and what flooring solutions are going to work best for you.

Our recommendation, particularly if this is going to be one open plan space when it’s renovated, is to opt for our overlay or microcement. Unfortunately, even if you have a brand new concrete laid, it won’t match the existing floor even when polished and it will be obvious that there are two separate floors in situ. Grinding and polishing the existing floor will not change the colour of the concrete and there is nothing that we can add to the concrete in order to change the colour once cured.

The application of an overlay to both surfaces, when safe to do so, is a foolproof way to turn two separate spaces into a seamless, flowing room.

Maintenance Of Polished Concrete Floors

When you’ve invested so much of yourself and your time in concrete flooring, it’s only right that we give a thought to maintenance. As standard, CARRcrete use a quality hardener and sealer on every job. These work together to guard against accidental spills and prevent a stain from forming.

A routine of daily dust mopping using a dry microfibre dust mop should be incorporated and it is often dry dust, debris and grit that can get under your shoes or furniture and cause damage. Weekly wet mopping using a ph neutral cleaner is also recommended to minimise the risk of staining.

Ask us about what a high-speed burnisher can do to refresh the surface of your floor and bring back a high level of shine for special occasions or just as part of your maintenance routine. We have lots of great aftercare tips that we’ll be happy to share with you.

Our concrete polishing service is second to none. Choose CARRcrete’s decorative flooring services for your next project, our teams only use the best quality tooling and produce our own metal grinding pads, resin polishing pads, densifiers and sealers right here in the UK. Dry polishing services to refresh a recently polished existing floor are available too.