What is Polished Concrete?

Indoor polished concrete living room residential

Polished concrete floors are floors which have undergone the multi-step process of being ground, treated and polished (generally) with resin-bond diamond. The technique was invented around 15 years ago and has recently gained traction as a minimalist and futuristic alternative to traditional flooring.

Another factor in the rise of polished concrete’s popularity is its upkeep; concrete polished floors are notoriously easy to maintain and require very little effort to clean. Polished Concrete is impervious to water and very rarely wears or scratches.

This upward trend for polished concrete is likely to continue well into the next decade as low-maintenance sustainable flooring is set to become the industry standard.

Polished concrete exposed aggregate

There are many creative opportunities with polished concrete floors as they can be textured, painted, contrasted, or even ground down to polished exposed aggregate as a decorative statement. Some choose to maintain the natural grey style, but Polished Concrete looks equally good in black or white as well as other lighter pastel colours.

This is a huge benefit to Polished Concrete because it creates a neutral look, which allows interior designers artistic freedom in terms of colours, style and textures in décor. For examples of Polished Concrete flooring employed in contemporary design, take a look at this list of beautifully brutalist residential interiors.

Main Types of Concrete Floors

1. Polished (General)

Polished concrete indoor exposed aggregate kitchen

Polished concrete comes in a few different finishes, levelled 1-3. The most popular form of polished concrete is level 2.

  1. Polished just below the 100-grit resin bond. Will appear somewhat hazy / limited reflective capabilities. (Soft) Matte finish.
  2. Polished to the 400-grit resin bond. Will appear slightly reflective. Low sheen finish.
  3. Polished up to the 800-grit diamond abrasive. Will appear much glossier than level two and should reflect light well. Semi-polished.
  4. Polished up to a 3,000-grit resin-bond diamond.

indoor polished concrete residential flooring

A testament to the versatility of polished concrete, these differing levels allow for flexibility in home design. Neutral polished concrete has an industrial elegance (particularly at level 2) and keeping the understated grey colour means that the floor will tone well with the majority of furniture and décor choices.

How to clean: Polished Concrete is best cleaned with a mop. Routine maintenance may involve dust mopping depending on the situation of the household.

Polished Concrete can also be made out of any structurally intact concrete floor or pre-existing concrete slab, which can save a lot of money on new concrete. For leading edge Australian companies with proven Polished Concrete experience, look to Covet or Pro Grind.

2. Burnished Concrete

Burnished concrete indoor residential kitchen

Burnished finish concrete is often mistaken for polished concrete as the processes appear superficially similar. Both are mechanized, but the main difference between Burnished Concrete and Polished Concrete is that concrete Burnishers are not as powerful as the diamond-bonded abrasives used in concrete polishing. This means that instead of grinding down the actual concrete, Burnishers are used to prepare, melt and buff a chemical coating which seeps into the small pores of the concrete. The surface is then sealed to protect against stains/liquids.

Burnished concrete is the cheapest form of concrete flooring, but it is also extremely finicky and difficult to DIY. The main reason for this is that the burnishing process will warp the floor if the concrete has been imperfectly poured.

3. Honed Concrete

Honed concrete outdoor polished concrete pool

Honed Concrete undergoes the same process of Polished Concrete – i.e. grinding down the concrete surface – except honed concrete has a topical sealant applied to its surface rather than undergoing the chemical hardening / densifying process that creates a polished concrete finish. This means that Honed Concrete requires resealing every 3-7 years as the sealant will wear, unlike Polished Concrete.

Honed Concrete therefore presents a complicated cost-analysis; its initial installation is much cheaper than polished concrete, but the price of upkeep makes Polished Concrete the cheapest option in the long-term. However, honed concrete can be made with less slip and is superior to polished concrete in outdoor situations.

Is Polished Concrete Floor the same as Polished Concrete Tiles?

Polished concrete tiles

When considering polished concrete floors pros and cons, one might be tempted to turn elsewhere. For those who wish to avoid the costs of a polished concrete floor, tiles which emulate the polished concrete look can be purchased at a much lower rate. Tiles are also durable and can usually withstand a similar level of wear as Polished Concrete. Tiles are less affected by temperature changes, reducing the risk of cracking, and meaning that they are less likely to leech warmth in winter.

However, tiles are more expensive than Polished Concrete. One of the main benefits to Polished Concrete is that, unlike tile, it has no grout and is therefore lower maintenance. Tiles are also more prone to chipping or cracking as a result of blunt force, which Polished Concrete is generally strong enough to resist.

DIY Concrete Polishing

DIY polished concrete concrete grinder burnisher

While DIY concrete polishing appears to be simple and many websites may recommend renting concrete-polishing equipment from the local store – such as epoxy rollers – there is some division as to whether polishing concrete ought to be left to experienced contractors.

There is a steep learning curve and the finished project of a DIY concrete job is unlikely to be as smooth as it could be. Generally, Polished Concrete is a job that can be quite demanding and is unlikely to turn out perfect if done by a beginner. However, if you wish to DIY, have some experience in laying concrete, and don’t particularly mind if the finished floor looks a little different to your plan, perhaps one of these types of concrete would suit you.

Polished Concrete Ideas: Top 5

5. Outdoor Honed Concrete

Outdoor honed concrete patio ideas

Mechanically polished concrete is not recommended for use outdoors due to the likelihood that it will become wet and slippery. However, less-slippery Honed or Burnished Concrete creates a sleek, contemporary and practical flooring option which will maintain the test of time. The price per square metre will generally be upwards of $80. See Pro Grind for a more accurate price estimate.

4. Poolside Honed Concrete

Honed concrete pool poolside concrete

Again, Polished Concrete will run into the dangers of its low slip resistance in an outdoor, high-water contact context. Honed Concrete has a much better Australian Standard anti-slip rating and there are a myriad of other benefits having Honed Concrete around pools. Exposed aggregate adds an artistic element, it is low maintenance / very easy to clean, resistant to oils, and will last an extremely long time. See architectural concrete specialists Terrastone for more Honed Concrete opportunities.

3. Honed Concrete Bathroom Floor

Honed concrete bathroom indoor polished concrete

Concrete shares many of the pros and cons as ceramic tile in flooring. Durability, water resistance, and easy maintenance make a strong case for Polished or Honed Concrete in the bathroom. It is also the efficient financial choice, and flexible depending on desires (i.e. which grade of concrete, aggregate visibility, colour staining/stamping).

However, the drawbacks of before still apply; depending on the surface finish, the concrete may be slippery when wet. This makes Honed Concrete or other forms of surface treatment a safer and more economic option. Depending on the state of the bathroom (i.e. if there is a shower recess, concrete may be the perfect option as the risk of water slippage will be significantly lower) Polished Concrete may be the perfect choice.

3. Honed Concrete Driveway

Honed concrete driveway outdoor polished concrete ideas

Driveways are extremely well suited to Polished Concrete. This is because Polished Concrete has the strength and durability to withstand the weight of cars (both moving and stationary) without wearing. It is easy to maintain and will add an industrial romanticism to your driveway. Concrete’s structural integrity and ability to withstand the elements makes it a strong contender – perhaps even beating out the more popular gravel choice, which can be easily washed away in heavy rain.

A higher level of exposed aggregate is a good idea for the Polished Concrete driveway as it will increase traction for the car wheels and prevent slippage. However, a disadvantage to Polished Concrete driving might be that there is potential for cracking in the future.

2. Residential Concrete Flooring

Polished Concrete flooring is overwhelmingly used in industrial areas with high foot traffic such as shopping centres, offices, grocery stores etc. This is because of its ability to withstand wear more effectively than most other flooring options.

However, the attributes which make Polished Concrete so appealing for commercial use are exactly what makes it an ingenious choice for the residential home. With less foot traffic, residential Polished Concrete will last decades longer than its industrial counterpart. It also requires even less maintenance and is very unlikely to crack under the low-strain and regulated temperatures of a residential home.

It is also very versatile and can be coloured/stained,

Coloured polished concrete residential indoor concrete flooring

Or ground to expose a specific level of aggregate,

Indoor polished concrete exposed aggregate

Or even stamped to look like other materials such as wood tiles.

Stamped concrete polished concrete wood stamping

See Boral for quality polished concrete services and to receive an efficient quote.

1. Bedroom

Polished concrete bedroom indoor concrete flooring

Perhaps the most bold and striking place for Polished Concrete is the bedroom. A Polished Concrete floor defies the assumption that bedrooms ought to be soft or carpeted – and for practical reasons.

Polished Concrete can reduce the allergens often found in bedrooms, and is easier to keep clean than carpet. On top of this, they are scratch resistant, making them the ideal flooring for a pet friendly home. Given that there is low risk of water soaking the floor, slipping is no longer a big concern (though an anti-slip treatment may still be a good idea). Finally, Polished Concrete is a far more cost-efficient option when compared to flooring with similar visual effect – such as marble or slate – only at much higher prices.

Polished concrete bedroom indoor concrete flooring

A potential issue for Polished Concrete in the bedroom is that concrete does not regulate temperature well and will likely be cold to walk on during winter months. This can be rectified by installing hydronic underfloor heating beneath the concrete, which will evenly disperse heat throughout across the floor of the room. Policrete, a Melbourne based construction company, has more information and the opportunity to purchase hydronic heating services here.