Decorative Concrete Floors - PRICE?
Everyone naturally wants the best floor for the dollar. But, buyers beware! There are a few truisms in decorative concrete floors; you get what you pay for. If you are interested in a polished concrete floor, do your homework. First, if it sounds too good to be true, it is!
If someone is telling you a polished concrete floor doesn't require maintenance, stop and think, does that sound too good to be true? As a polished concrete contractor, let me assure you, there is no such thing as a " no maintenance” floor. Unless, of course, you are willing to accept a floor that looses it shine, its clarity and looks worn and scratches quickly.
The following are pictures of incomplete polished concrete, and inexperienced workers. Several pictures show poor edging , not blending in the edges to the same degree as the rest of the floor. If you ordered polished granite countertops, would you accept a countertop with a 7 inch scratched and gouged ring around the whole perimeter? I don't think so. So why accept a floor with the same defects? Other pictures show how inexperienced contractors pass off dull, blotchy polished floors, and staining jobs that look like they spilled the stain on the floor.
Click on the thumbnail image to see a larger view and a slide show of poor quality polished concrete.
I will tell you polished concrete, properly done, is a very durable, LOW Maintenance floor. But if you like the polished high shine, good clarity and durability, it will require some periodic maintenance. Some Architects and designers even build in the first year’s maintenance costs into the project, because they understand the floor will wear down over time. Maintenance managers can schedule the maintenance over weekends, holidays, or if in a school, during vacation periods.
Compare "apples to apples".
Also, make sure if you are shopping for a concrete polishing contractor, you are looking at “apples to apples”, and not “oranges to apples". You might find one contractor is planning on using only 3 to 4 steps of diamond abrasives, and the other a full blown 9 step highly refined high shine program.
Think about this, if you ask for a bid to paint your house with one coat of paint from one contractor, wouldn't you expect the painter who spends more time in prepping and gives you two coats of paint to bid at a higher price? Surely you would, and the same is true of a polishing contractor. The higher the shine, the more it will cost in time and materials.
What is Polished Concrete?
Let’s discuss what really is “polished concrete.” Polished concrete is a concrete floor that has been mechanically ground, hardened, densified, and polished using finer and finer industrial diamonds, until you have reached the level of shine the floor is capable of, and or to your customers desired level, or budget.
Someone might try to sell you on a less expensive option, ground concrete with a sealer on it. This will probably be less initial cost, and can look very nice, but at a cost of higher, more frequent maintenance to either reseal or to protect the sealer, through waxing for instance. This option IS NOT polished concrete; its ground and sealed concrete.
A true highly refined concrete floor is art,
it takes craftsmanship, and that means time.
Another popular “system” being sold as “polished concrete” is a concrete floor with a few grinding steps, up to about 120 to 200 resin, and then a “Guard” type penetrating sealer, that gets burnished, (high speed buffer) to obtain its shine, rather than true mechanically polished concrete. This is a less expensive option than true polished concrete as well, and will not have anywhere near the durability. But in my own experience, I lose bids to people selling a 3 step process, when the bid calls for a high shine, meaning at least 5-6 steps. But often the Architects and General Contractors can’t tell the difference, they just see “shine”, and assume it‘s done, until 6 months later when the high shine sealer wears off.
There is a lot of blame to be shared for this development. I see and hear people all the time saying they want a highly refined floor. Yet when it comes time to look at the bids, they will 99% of the time go with the LOWEST BIDDER! Does this make any sense? It doesn't to me, because a true highly refined concrete floor is art, it takes craftsmanship, and that means time. Time equates to money, so assuming you are going to get a lot more than you are paying for just doesn't add up. You most likely will always be disappointed with the work a low bidder provides.
A low bid mentality has to get in and get out to make any money, so steps are rushed, or skipped; hardeners are watered down or left off. In the end the floor will tell the truth. The best way to look at a highly refined, polished concrete floor is a long term investment. It’s an investment in lower maintenance, much lower cleaning time, higher reflection, cleaner indoor air quality, and sustainability. For the most part, we are usually always glad to spend a little more up front money for quality and longevity. Years down the line, you can look back at your decision to purchase a high quality flooring option as a wise, sound investment.