Polished Concrete: What it is, benefits and main uses

March 25, 2022

Almost all of us have heard about polished concrete at some point. It was one of the materials most heavily used in 20th century industrial spaces and apartments, thanks to its aesthetic compatibility with different decorative styles. Today, it is one of the options available to us to transform the floors in our homes.

But before thinking about coating any surface, you must be clear about what polished concrete is and the advantages it offers. It's a material often confused with microcement, which has dominated interior and exterior decoration in recent years, but there are important differences to keep in mind.

In this post, we tell you everything about polished concrete and what it contributes to decoration. Keep reading and take notes!

Living room with polished concrete floor
Living room with a small reading area where polished concrete has been used on the floor

What is polished concrete? Industrial finishes for floors

Polished concrete is a material created from a mix of aggregates, additives, water, and pigments. Specifically, it is a layer of refined concrete to which a dye is added which is then polished with a special machine. As a result of this process, a continuous pavement about 5 millimeters thick is created, perfect for interior and exterior coatings.

As a decorative coating, it is applied directly to the floor creating a uniform and modern finish, becoming a great ally to achieve rooms with a contemporary and avant-garde atmosphere.

This material, whose application is exclusive to floors, was one of the first coatings used to cover the floor of commercial establishments like factories, offices or stores. As years went by, these began to transition to the domestic sphere and it was realized that floors coated with polished cement were a great option for everyday life. Besides providing resistance and transforming homes into more comfortable places, it also enhanced aesthetic attributes.

The best of polished cement: most outstanding advantages of applying it

Polished cement is a paving technique that prioritizes functionality and durability over aesthetics. This technique is characterized by its remarkable resistance and durability, which makes it an ideal option for spaces that require a high resistance to pedestrian traffic and daily use.

In addition to its durability and resistance, polished cement has many other properties that make it a highly versatile and economical material. Below, we detail all the characteristics of polished cement that make it an ideal option for any construction project.

Firstly, polished cement is highly durable and resistant to pedestrian traffic and daily use. This material is very resistant to friction and wear, making it ideal for use in high traffic areas.

The cement polishing process involves the removal of the top layer of the surface, which eliminates any defect or imperfection and leaves a smooth and uniform surface. In addition, polished cement does not scratch easily, making it ideal for use in high traffic areas.

Secondly, polished cement is a versatile material that can be used both indoors and outdoors. It can be customized to suit any decorating style by adding pigments and other materials to change its appearance and texture. In this way, polished cement can adapt to any design, whether it is industrial, modern, rustic, classic or elegant.

Thirdly, polished concrete is easy to clean and maintain. It doesn't require costly maintenance or additional sealing. To keep polished concrete clean, a damp cloth or mop can be used to remove dirt and dust.

A mild cleaning solution can also be used to clean stains. In addition, polished concrete is antistatic and does not attract dust, which makes it ideal for people with respiratory problems or allergies.

Finally, polished concrete is a cost-effective option compared to other finishing materials. The concrete polishing process does not require the installation of an additional coating layer, which saves time and money. Furthermore, polished concrete is a durable material that does not require frequent replacement, which also reduces long-term costs.

Cons of coating floors with polished concrete

Opting for polished concrete is perfect for achieving an industrial atmosphere reminiscent of the large New York lofts that became so famous in the 90s, but it also has disadvantages as a coating.

Lounge with polished concrete floor
Modern living room where the floor has been covered with polished concrete.
  • Over time, polished concrete may lose its initial shine.
  • Unlike other decorative coatings, it requires large polishing machines to achieve quality finishes. And, it should be taken into account, that this type of machinery, as a rule, does not reach every corner.
  • It is an inefficient material if we want it to act as a thermal and acoustic insulator.
  • Liquids spilled on the surface should be dried up before they are absorbed.
  • It is a low porosity coating.
  • Polished concrete has joints, which prevent the infinite visual sensation generated by coatings that guarantee the absence of these.
  • It is sensitive to temperature changes, which results in the appearance of cracks. This ease of cracking compromises the durability of the finishes.
  • It is a product that has a high weight and a great thickness.

Uses of polished cement

As we have already mentioned, polished concrete is limited to the world of pavements. It is a material prepared to be applied indoors and outdoors and works perfectly in both domestic settings (floors and stairs) and industrial environments (factories or airports).

It also pairs very well with underfloor heating, as when this type of flooring is installed, a material that provides solidity and is prepared as a thermal conductor is needed.

Polished cement in the bathroom

Polished concrete is waterproof, which makes it an ideal material for humid environments. Bathrooms are the quintessential humid scenario. The finish of this covering is perfect for the sink, shower or bathtub, but it will need to apply some protection so that the surface does not absorb too much water in an environment with so much steam and vapor.

Polished concrete bathrooms associate perfectly with the minimalist style. This orderly, ornamentless aesthetic is ideal for giving a unique touch to this part of the house. Functionality and smooth finishes are the best ally for the elegance of the bathroom.

Resistant and shiny floors

Polished concrete floors provide a smooth finish with a shiny effect that enhances the beauty of the space, whether it is indoors or outdoors. It is a perfect finish for this type of surfaces. Polished concrete adapts perfectly to different geometric shapes and styles.

Thus, it creates a resistant and safe pavement anywhere in the house. The application of polished concrete on the floor is ideal for making the pavement shine with its own light and, as you already know, brightness captivates attention and expands in luxury compositions.

Tasting delicious atmospheres in kitchens

Kitchen with polished concrete floor
Kitchen in which the polished concrete floor combines with wooden stairs.

Polished concrete kitchens work perfectly and integrate with glass, metal or stone to create exquisite atmospheres. The taste for combining shapes and materials allows for customized finishes. The shiny finish of this material is combined with the variety of colors it accepts. Although the most common tone is gray, we can always turn to more cheerful shades, like red, or elegant ones, such as black.

Moreover, it is a material that, aesthetically, adapts very well to various materials that usually inhabit kitchens such as the wood of tables, chairs or some auxiliary furniture, or the metal of some appliances or utensils. Even with ceramics or glass from plates and cups, it combines tastefully.

Polished concrete also for exteriors

Polished concrete is a versatile and durable material that has become very popular in interior and exterior decoration in recent years. One of the most common applications of polished concrete is in the creation of external floors.

One of the main advantages of polished concrete for exterior floors is its resistance to weather and external conditions. It is capable of withstanding constant exposure to the sun, rain, and other weather elements without significant damage. In addition, it is resistant to wear, making it ideal for spaces that experience a large amount of pedestrian traffic.

Polished concrete is also very easy to maintain. It is highly resistant to stains and can be easily cleaned with a damp mop or a vacuum cleaner. Moreover, it does not require any special sealer, making it very convenient for homeowners who wish to maintain their exterior floor in excellent condition.

Another advantage of polished concrete is its ability to be personalized. Homeowners can choose from a wide variety of finishes, including gloss, opacity, and texture. Moreover, pigments and other materials can be added to the concrete to create a unique and personalized appearance that suits any decorating style.

When installing a polished concrete floor outdoors, it is important that the work is done by an experienced and qualified professional. The installation process of polished concrete can be complicated and requires a high level of skill and experience. In addition, it is important that the contractor uses the right materials and tools to ensure quality results.

It is important to bear in mind that, despite its resistance, polished concrete can suffer damage if not properly maintained. It is important to avoid the use of abrasive cleaners or strong chemicals that may damage the concrete finish. In addition, heavy or sharp objects that could scratch or crack the surface of the floor should be avoided.

Differences between polished concrete and microcement: their resemblance is only visual

It is relatively easy to confuse the finishes of polished concrete and microcement, as at first glance they may appear identical. The main difference between both coatings lies in the structural weight of the two materials. The thickness of the microcement is only 3 millimeters, while the polished concrete counts with a minimum of 5 centimeters.

The microcement, unlike polished concrete, it does not require expansion joints and translates into continuous surfaces that enhance the brightness of any space. Additionally, the application of microcement is done without the need to use heavy machinery or tools.

The polished concrete needs a polishing machine after its application, which complicates its application in spaces located on high floors. Microcement is applied on the existing surface without the need to remove the existing pavement.

Microcement on the floor of a living room equipped with an armchair and an extensive sofa
Bright living room in which the floor has been coated with microcement

In addition to not generating debris, the microcement offers a greater versatility. Its application is not limited to floors, as it is a material made to cover both vertical and horizontal surfaces in both interior and exterior spaces. It can be applied to floors, walls, furniture, stairs, bathrooms, and kitchens.

The decorative possibilities of microcement are infinite and it is a continuous coating that adapts to any decorative style, as it provides a uniform and durable tone. Polished concrete tends to crack over time. Thanks to the resins and the sealing process, microcement offers an aesthetic result and resistant to the passage of time.

If the time has come to transform the floors of your home or your business, polished concrete and microcement are two good allies on the road to exquisiteness. Now, knowing the differences and similarities between the two, you only have to choose one of the two materials to achieve an original surface that helps you create a unique atmosphere.

Polished concrete: cleaning and maintenance

Polished concrete is an excellent option for both indoor and outdoor floors, but its maintenance and cleaning are essential to maintain its appearance and durability over time. In this article, we will discuss the guidelines you should follow to properly clean and maintain polished concrete floors in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Cleaning of polished concrete floors indoors

Firstly, it's important to note that the cleaning of polished concrete should be carried out regularly to avoid the accumulation of dust and dirt that can affect its natural shine.

It is recommended to sweep or vacuum the floor daily, and for deep cleaning, use a pH neutral cleaner and a damp cloth. Avoid the use of abrasive or acidic products, as they can damage the surface of the polished concrete.

Also, if you spill liquids on the floor, clean them up immediately to prevent them from drying and causing permanent stains. In case of stubborn stains, use a specific cleaner for polished concrete and follow the manufacturer's instructions for its correct application.

Maintenance of polished concrete floors indoors

Indoor polished concrete also requires regular maintenance to extend its lifespan and maintain its appearance. To avoid scratches and marks, use mats or rugs in high-traffic areas and do not drag heavy furniture across the floor.

In addition, it is important to seal the polished concrete with a specific sealer layer every 1 or 2 years, depending on use and area traffic.

Cleaning of polished cement floors outdoors

For outdoor polished concrete floors, cleaning is even more important due to exposure to the elements such as rain, sun, and wind.

It is advisable to sweep or clean the floor with pressurized water weekly to prevent the build-up of dirt and prevent the growth of moss or algae. If necessary, use a specific cleaner for polished concrete and follow the manufacturer's instructions for its correct application.

Maintenance of polished cement floors outdoors

To keep your outdoor polished concrete floors in optimum condition, it is important to apply a specific outdoor sealer every 2 or 3 years. This will help protect the polished concrete from the elements and extend its lifespan.

Furthermore, make sure the area's drainage is working correctly to avoid water accumulation that can damage the polished concrete surface.

How much does polished cement installation cost?

Kitchen with polished concrete floor
Microcement on the floor of a living room equipped with an armchair and an extensive sofa

The price of installing polished concrete on a floor can vary depending on several factors. One of the main factors affecting the price is the size of the area to cover. The larger the area, the higher the total cost of installation. It's also important to note that the complexity of the installation, such as the need to level the floor previously, can also increase the cost.

Another factor to consider is the type of cement used. Polished cement can come at different qualities and prices, and some may require an additional preparation process before installation, which could also affect the total price.

Labor is also a factor significantly impacting the total cost of polished concrete installation. The installation process is labor-intensive and requires the expertise and skill of trained professionals. Labor costs can vary depending on the geographical area and the availability of contractors skilled in polished concrete installation.

Beyond the cost of installation, it's also important to consider the long-term maintenance cost for a polished concrete floor. Even though it's a durable material, it's important to note that polished concrete may necessitate regular maintenance to maintain its appearance and durability. This could include the application of sealers and polishers, which could boost the long-term cost.

In general, the average price for installing polished concrete on a floor can range between 50 to 100 euros per square meter, depending on the aforementioned factors. It's vital to consider that the exact price can vary based on geographical location and other project-specific factors. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain detailed quotes from several specialists before making a final decision.