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How much do these floors cost?
$1.50-$25/sf. More than 80% of the floors we make are around $4/sf. They tend to be new construction projects working through builders or architects and even after their mark-up it's surprisingly inexpensive.
Aren't those shiny floors slippery?
Some are, some are not, and here's why:
Our diamond polished floors can be extremely shiny, but since there is no plastic sealer on the top they are surprisingly slip-resistant when wet. Regular dust-mopping is required to keep them as safe as possible.
Floors coated with acrylic, urethane or some other plastic (not how we generally do it) are slippery when wet unless grit is added to the top-coat. Gritty and pretty are inversely related: the more gritty the less pretty (in general). Coated floors are very chemical resistant so we do occasionally install coatings.
What is an overlay?
An overlay is a good solution to concrete that cannot be ground and polished into something sufficiently attractive. They can be resinous or cement-based. Regardless of what the makers of these materials claim, none of the cement-based overlays are as hard/durable as real concrete. We say that humbly: nobody wishes these materials were truly great more than us.
That said, we have devised a process for interior overlays that is not cheap, but often worth doing. We figured out how to diamond polish troweled-down polymer-modified mortars rather than using self-leveling materials that are designed to be polished. That is because those self-leveling materials are gorgeous when first installed, but tend to crack up badly over the years. At more the $10/sf, we would not want to be on the other end of that deal, so we do not generally install those.
What is diamond polishing and why bother with it?
Diamond polishing is finishing concrete by "sanding" it with progressively finer abrasives made of diamonds impregnated in metal or resin. The alternative is finishing concrete by coating or forming a film of sealer. We diamond polish almost all the interior floors we make because we believe concrete floors ought to wear like a pair of blue jean, and one doesn't get the durability and graceful patina intuitively expected of a concrete floor without chemically hardening and diamond polishing it.
Most end up with stained concrete floors that are sealed, waxed and/or coated rather than chemically hardened and diamond polished for a lot of reasons. First off, it's much easier to do - so there are much more installers proposing to seal, wax or coat concrete instead of polishing. Secondly, it is faster/cheaper to apply sealer to concrete than polishing it. Also, most installers are nowhere near as concerned as we are about performance of the floor at year 5 or 10.
What type of concrete do you need to make a stained floor?
Short answer: 28 days old or older - we can polish almost anything you give us into a great floor. That said, investing in a more cement-rich mix for the "cap" of the structural slab may be money well spent. The industry standard is usually a 4-sack mix, rated for 3500PSI. An additional 93 lbs. of cement for every yard will make that a "5-sack mix" and will generally increase compressive strength (expresses in PSI). Though "PSI" (compressive strength) has almost nothing to do with the performance of a polished concrete floor (even cracking is generally a result of poor sub-grade preparation or misplace rebar creating a lack of tensile strength), cement-rich mixes make for better floors. 6-sack or 7-sack mixes are considerably more dense at the surface. The greatest opportunity to make a great concrete floor comes in good placement practices. For that reason, we generally defer to the placement team. If they can do a better job placing a "richer" mix or a mix with more fly ash or whatever, that will be a better floor than if we try to drive the concrete specification too much.
Do you install water-based, soy-based, or solvent-based stains outdoors?
No. After more than 2000 projects, we have tried almost everything. Nothing other than color hardener, integral color or acid stain is sustainable outside. Concrete outside normally passes a lot of moisture (generally more than 1/2 gallon for every 1000sf every day). So, pigment particles, if they don't break down in the sunlight first, get pushed out of the pores over time. Also, if sealer is installed over a paint-like stain, when that get scratched, the color tends to come with it. I get it though: we wish there were exterior stains that came in more colors than acid stain. It would be nice to offer a wider array of colors, and those stains are more consistent at first: since they are more like a paint product than acid staining or integral color the finished job usually matches a mockup almost exactly. We would encourage your client to select something from an acid stain chart or to embrace the natural color of the concrete with a clear finish
How should I maintain polished concrete floors?
Step 1: relax.
Herein are best practices, but know that whatever you want to do is probably fine. Concrete flooring, the way we do it, is designed to wear like a great pair of boots or jeans. So if you love the smell of Fabuloso, or have a dance you like to do with an old towel under your shoes after mopping, by all means, go for it!
Dry dust mopping is the most efficient way to clean your floor.
Condition the floor as you clean: ask for a free quart of AmeriPolish Rejuvenating cleaner.
If you want to disinfect without chemicals, check out Norwex’s wet mop (there is an antimicrobial fiber woven into it - truly an amazing product. Sold for $35.00
If you want to disinfect with chemicals, search “quat cleaner” online to find dozens of options.
To use vinegar, dilute it well (10 parts water or more to 1 part vinegar). Strong mixtures of vinegar will make is less shiny.
As with most things shiny, if you get it wet and let it dry, you will likely leave streaks or residue from the minerals dissolved in the water. So, if you are using a cotton mop, you will likely want to pick up your mop water with a towel for best results.
Though I and many of our customers have gone several years between re-applying stain guard (I went 7 years with “rescue” dogs, 2 kids, and a wife with friends who might be alcoholics), the makers of such materials recommend re-applying every 2 years.
Stain-guard is expensive (>$90/gal.), but it goes down thin (1000-3000sf/gal. Depending on the brand).
Ideally stain-guard materials for polished concrete are burnished with heavy propane-powered burnishers after installation. We are glad to do this for our customers for a modest fee.
Stain-guards are not coatings: the floor will likely darken when it gets wet even after re-application, and some solutions may still stain the concrete. They offer the best combination of abrasion resistance, stain resistance, and graceful wear.
If you want your polished concrete floor to be shinier and more stain resistant, you may use floor wax. It will fill in porous parts and build up a thin layer of acrylic.
Be careful not to do this too much: build-up means stripping, and that is less fun than waxing.
Do you pour concrete?
The short answer is not really. We discovered our niche 2 years ago after 18 months of a placement division that lost money on almost every job. An analogy: in woodworking, there is usually a framer and a trim-carpenter and those are 2 very different guys. One is not better than the other, but they are very different. Similarly, with concrete there are placement contractors (like framers) and applicators of decorative finishes (trim carpenters).
We aren’t better than placement guys - they are not better than us - we are very different. We can do each other’s job, but not nearly as well as we can all play to our strengths. We add value by having the ability+desire to design spaces with decorative concrete, guide customers through color selections, make scaled down mock-ups that require precise measurements of color, use exotic admixtures and techniques to make our designs work in the real world. We still pour countertops and fireplaces as the architects and builders we work with need us to.
My element7concrete floors seem to absorb water - are they not sealed?
Our polished floors are stain-guarded, but not coated. Coatings are more chemical resistant, but are generally less resistant to abrasion, moisture vapor transmission, and are slippery when wet (see FAQ above).
The stain-guards we use (AmeriPolish SP, SR 2, etc.) are developed to resist staining, but to not bead up water as that is what makes floors slippery when wet. This is highly intentional.
The business of slipping, falling down, and sueing somebody about it is now bigger than the entire flooring industry. So, the makers of stain-guards make sure the dynamic coefficient of friction when wet (DCOF) is > 0.42 for finished floors. In so doing, they have made materials that purportedly coat the pores of the concrete such that the liquids will penetrate and darken, but not stain the concrete. After 7 years of living with these floors in my own home (with one kid now in high school, another in middle school, and a wife with a bunch of alcoholic friends), I can say it totally works.
That said, floors do take on a patina from within if nothing else. Please check out this video for more information about what to expect as an end-user.
My floor has a tape line in it now, what do I do?
Step 1: Lament this fallen world. I know it’s almost ridiculous how one could do donuts with a 4-wheeler on a polished concrete floor and create less problems than sticking tape to it. Tape is the “achilles heel” of stained + polished concrete floors.
That said, here is “Step 2”. If it is a floor we did, and we are have a final polish to do for you yet, we will handle it.
If not, the best way to make that go away is generally with an orbital sander with good 120 grit paper and “wood stain and sealer in one.” Use the orbital sander to soften the hard line made by the tape and to make an irregular blob. Get a few shades of brown or grey or whatever color floor you are matching. Apply the lightest color first and “sneak up” on the color you are after. Apply the wood stain with a chip brush followed by a rag blotting up the stain+sealer with irregular motions to blend it in. The sealer in the stain will make the floor shiny despite the lack of polishing. After it hardens, it can be distressed with high-grit sandpaper or steel wool to more closely approximate the sheen of the floor. Note: this only works for small areas. If you have long tape-lines in the middle of the floor, large areas of the floor will need to be re-done to get those out.
Re-doing a finished floor is risky. The materials used to stain and polish concrete are designed to permanently color and penetrate the concrete. When honing a floor that has already been stained, occasionally the stain will go into solution and penetrate the concrete in ways otherwise unintended (squeegee and mop-marks seem to occur around 10% of the time with no clear correlation of something that should be avoided).
Again, tape lines are the most important thing to avoid with a stained and polished concrete floor. Graffiti, burnouts, small fires, nothing I can think of or have seen is such a surprisingly big threat to stained and polished concrete as tape. Contact us for signs, best practices, etc. to avoid this on your project.