Polished concrete: what it is, advantages and main uses

March 25, 2022

Almost all of us have heard of polished concrete. It was one of the most used materials in the twentieth century in industrial spaces and apartments, thanks to an aesthetic compatible with different decorative styles. Today, it is one of the options we have at our disposal to transform the floor of the house.

But, before thinking about coating any surface, we must be very clear about what polished concrete is and the advantages it offers. A material that is usually confused with microcement, absolute conqueror, in recent years, the decoration of both indoor and outdoor spaces, but they have big differences to consider.

In this post we tell you all about polished concrete and what it brings to the decoration. Read on and take note!

Living room with polished concrete floor
Living room with small reading area in which polished concrete has been used on the floor.

What is polished concrete? Industrial finishes for floors

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

As a decorative coating, it is applied directly on the floor creating a uniform and modern finish, becoming a great ally to achieve rooms that breathe contemporaneity and avant-garde.

This material, whose application is exclusive to floors, was one of the first coatings used to cover the floor of commercial establishments such as factories, offices or premises. Over the years, they began to convert to the domestic sphere and realized that floors covered with polished concrete were a great option for daily life, since, in addition to providing resistance and, in turn, transforming homes into more comfortable places, it also increased the aesthetic performance.

The best of polished concrete: the most important advantages of applying it

Polished concrete is a building material that is applied manually by trowel. It is a coating suitable for the decoration of surfaces that offers high adherence and excellent impermeability. It can be used to cover floors, offices, commercial spaces or bathrooms.

Its high performance translates into a continuous pavement that enhances the feeling of spaciousness and luminosity in any part of the house. This effect of continuity becomes the best ally to create modern atmospheres.

This material visually increases the spatial dimension. The polished concrete does not require much when we talk about maintenance, being a coating that is easy to clean, although certain considerations must be taken into account to do so as it is advisable to do it wet and with a solution of water and neutral pH chemicals. This will be enough to achieve a great durability.

It has a high resistance to compression, which translates into a perfect construction material for application in garages and industrial buildings. It is ideal for coating this type of flooring.

Cons of polished concrete floor coverings

The use of polished concrete is perfect for achieving an industrial ambience that evokes the great New York lofts that became so famous in the 1990s, but it also has a number of drawbacks as a cladding.

Modern living room with polished concrete floor covering
Modern living room with polished concrete floor covering.
  • Over time, polished concrete can lose its initial luster.
  • Unlike other decorative coatings, it requires large polishing machines to achieve quality finishes. And, it must be taken into account, that this type of machinery, as a general rule, does not reach all the corners.
  • This material is not very efficient if we want it to act as a thermal and acoustic insulator.
  • Liquids spilled on the surface must dry before being absorbed.
  • It is a coating of low porosity.
  • Polished concrete has joints, which avoids the infinite visual sensation generated by coatings that guarantee the absence of joints.
  • It is sensitive to temperature changes, which results in the appearance of cracks. This ease of cracking compromises the durability of finishes.
  • It is a product that has a high weight and great thickness.

Uses of polished concrete

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

It also forms a very good match with underfloor heating, since when this type of flooring is installed it is necessary to use a material that provides a floor screed and is prepared as a thermal conductor.

Attic with polished concrete floor
Microcement on the floor of a living room with an armchair and a large sofa.

Polished concrete in the bathroom

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

Polished concrete bathrooms are perfectly associated with the minimalist style. This tidy and uncluttered aesthetic is ideal to give this part of the house its own touch. Functionality and smooth finishes are the best ally for the bathroom to transmit elegance.

Resistant and shiny floors

Polished concrete floors offer a smooth finish with a glossy effect that enhances the beauty of the space, whether 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 in any part of the house. The application of polished concret on the floor is ideal to make the pavement shine with its own light and, as you know, the brightness captures the attention and amplifies 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 concret 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 glossy finish of this material is combined with the variety of colors that can be used. Although the most common tone is gray, we can always resort to more cheerful colors, such as red, or elegant, such as black.

In addition, it is a material that, aesthetically, adapts very well to different materials that usually inhabit the kitchens such as wood tables, chairs or some auxiliary furniture or metal of some appliances or utensils. Even with ceramic or glass plates and cups, it combines with taste.

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

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

Microcement, unlike polished concrete, does not need expansion joints and results in continuous surfaces that enhance the brightness of any space. In addition, the application of microcement is done without the use of machinery or heavy tools.

Polished concrete requires a polishing machine after application, which makes it difficult to apply in spaces located on high floors. Microcement is applied over the existing surface without the need to remove the existing pavement.

Living room with large windows and microcement floor
Bright living room in which the floor has been covered with microcement.

In addition to not generating debris, microcement offers greater versatility. Its application is not limited to floors, as it is a material manufactured to cover vertical and horizontal surfaces both indoors and outdoors. It can be applied on floors, walls, furniture, stairs, bathrooms and kitchens.

The decorative possibilities of microcement are endless 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 that is resistant to the passage of time.

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