YESChef! Blog

Polished Concrete - Resin Option

Jack Josephsen

Anyone who has ever seriously considered polished concrete probably would've discovered somewhere along the line that an alternative is possible using resins - the so-called polished concrete "look".

Horses for courses

The million dollar question is obviously, “which one should I use?” The short and perhaps frustratingly vague answer is – whatever suits you best. As we’ve already discussed, genuine polished concrete uses mechanical grinders to successively remove finer and finer layers until it reaches the desired level of sheen. The resin option, on the other hand, uses a grinder to expose the aggregate and the application of a clear resin instead to bring out the lustre. While they both produce a smooth, hard surface with that classic exposed aggregate look, there are significant differences in key areas and you have to consider what these mean for you.

Polished concrete look with an extremely glossy finish.

Let’s weigh it up

For genuine polished concrete it’s very hard to determine beforehand whether a concrete slab is suitable to grind, how much concrete will need to be removed and how readily it will take on sheen (Suitability). It will also take longer, cost more (about twice as much) and gloss levels won’t be as predictable as the resin alternative. On the other hand, if it all goes to plan, it will provide a lower maintenance surface that’s more resistant to scratching, scuffing, yellowing etc. You need to ask yourself - do I go the cheaper, perhaps more controllable resin option and put up with more maintenance, or, do I invest more in the hope my concrete slab responds well and behaves like a textbook polished concrete surface should? That’s about the crux of it.

Concrete slab that's too soft to grind and not suitable for polished concrete.  

Look out for the polished concrete “look”

If you decide to go with the resin-based alternative, there are a couple of things you should know. Firstly, choice of resin and applicator is crucial (Right Applicator). Not all are capable of delivering a quality finish. Secondly, you need to know what to expect heading into it. You will be required to maintain the floor regularly, especially if it’s high gloss, and small imperfections, like bugs and dust, can cause headaches with resin-based floors if installation isn’t meticulous.

If you have any questions about the resin-based polished concrete “look”, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Keep Smiling,

Jack Josephsen
Head FLOORChef

FLOORChef's Chef Hat.

Polished Concrete - Maintenance

Jack Josephsen

Some other areas where the reputation of polished concrete has tremendous strength are durability and its closely-linked friend, maintenance. It seems you don’t have to look very far with polished concrete to come across claims all but guaranteeing decades of service can be yours without so much as a mop in sight.

Polished concrete also needs some TLC

When done properly polished concrete can be extremely resilient, however any notions of maintenance-free flooring are more than a touch fanciful. The reality is all floors will need to be looked after if you want to preserve aesthetics. Good practices like regular cleaning and inspection, careful movement of heavy items (e.g. lifting not dragging), use of mats at entrances and suitable traffic use are simply not negotiable. If a high-gloss finish is desired, most will tell you extra treatment will be required down the track to refresh and rejuvenate.

Looks aren’t the only thing that can suffer on a neglected polished concrete floor either. The longevity of the floor can be compromised if owners fall into the bullet-proof thinking trap.

Polished concrete that's 18 months old showing already showing some wear and tear.

Polished concrete is still concrete after all

When it’s all said and done, polished concrete is still ordinary concrete at heart and it comes with the same potential weaknesses. For instance, joints will still look like joints, cracks will still be cracks and underneath it all you are still dealing with a porous material. If these matters aren’t addressed properly then you could still be exposed to the same type of risks we discussed in a previous series on this blog (re-visit why coating concrete floors will save you money here).

Polished concrete with visible cracks running across the surface.

A couple of things to keep in mind

It’s worth noting that the densifiers used for hardening typically don’t seal the surface like a coating would. For instance, spilled red wine left overnight can result in a permanent stain rather than remain a cleanable puddle. Also, some hydrophobic sealers can be extremely difficult to bond to and, therefore, limit your flooring options down the track.

If you have any questions about maintenance of polished concrete, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Keep Smiling,

Jack Josephsen
Head FLOORChef

FLOORChef's Chef Hat.

Polished Concrete - Suitability

Jack Josephsen

In the previous post (Design Not Default) we started our polished concrete series by challenging the wisdom of the “go to” flooring option. In the case of polished concrete, the biggest danger with this thinking is the fact that not all concrete slabs can be polished to begin with.

As we said at the time, if everything is designed from scratch with careful selection of aggregates and expert installation, the result can be marvellous. The big mistake many people make is assuming any old existing concrete slab can be polished to the same standard. Unfortunately you cannot control what’s already in place and, in reality, not everyone will be so lucky!

It’s not you, it’s your concrete

There are a number of stumbling blocks that can make a concrete slab unsuitable for polishing. For instance, some slabs will be too soft and won’t respond well to the grinding process. Others may not be entirely level, with high and low spots that can show through as patchy and inconsistent when polished. The same can be said if the concrete has poor, uneven or just plain ugly aggregate mixed throughout. In some cases, foreign matter like sticks, plastic and/or their imprints can cause headaches. Finally, cracks and previous repairs will be visible in the finish, which might seem obvious but is very easy to overlook.

Polished concrete surface showing how much variation there can be in the aggregate mix.Polished concrete patchiness can occur if the concrete has high and low spots.

Some character with you floor, perhaps?

For those into quirks and idiosyncrasies on a floor, all the talk above may be music to your ears because they “add character”. For the majority, however, the “magazine cover” look is what they imagine polished concrete will deliver and they won’t accept anything less.

With the strong possibility of at least one of these issues affecting any concrete slab, you can see why we we’re not advocates of the “go to” flooring policy. There are just too many variables from project to project and no flooring is a perfect fit for all situations.

If you have any questions about the suitability of polished concrete, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Keep Smiling,

Jack Josephsen
Head FLOORChef

FLOORChef's Chef Hat.

Polished Concrete - Design Not Default

Jack Josephsen

Polished concrete’s popularity has soared in recent times on the back of several factors, none more powerful than its sudden reputation for being the easy or “go to” flooring option.

Does “go to” really exist?

Despite taking many hours and multiple passes of a grinding machine, followed by the application of a hardening or “densifying” solution, polished concrete is widely seen as a bankable default option – the floor to get when you don’t have a floor in mind. Why? Maybe the process isn’t fully understood? Maybe the simple yet sophisticated look possible with materials already in place tips many in its favour? What we do know for sure is that treating any flooring option as the answer to everything isn’t a good idea. Polished concrete, despite its reputation, is no different.

Polished concrete being created on a small area by a grinder.

Polished concrete by design, not default

Like any flooring system, polished concrete should be designed from the ground up and in accordance with the surrounding environment to get the best results. If everything is done well right from the start, from selecting the aggregate blend through to an on-site pour, polished concrete can look brilliant; there’s no question about it. It’s only when flooring is an afterthought and lazy choices are made by blindly following popular trends or reputations that problems can emerge.

Polished concrete won't be suitable for concrete slabs with patches like this one.

Not all slabs can be polished concrete

In the particular case of polished concrete, the main danger is not every existing concrete slab can be transformed into a showroom finish (more on that in the next blog). If you go ahead regardless, it can end up looking like you either ran out of money or went for a cheap option instead. The take-home message is – you have to determine if polished concrete, or any other system for that matter, will work first rather than just assume so. If, for some reason, your concrete slab is not suitable then another flooring option should be chosen.

If you have any questions about the design of polished concrete, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Keep Smiling,

Jack Josephsen
Head FLOORChef

FLOORChef's Chef Hat.