Polished concrete floors: a buyer’s guide

Get to grips with the reality of choosing a polished concrete floor for your project, from cost to installation and aftercare.

By Jo Messenger | 8 April 2020

Sleek, modern and industrial, polished concrete is a much-desired look for flooring. Find out how it’s installed, how much it costs and how easy it is to maintain…

Ar Design studio stables with modern concrete poured floor

Image: AR Design Studio transformed a dilapidated stable block into a three-bedroom home. The polished concrete floor is teamed with underfloor heatin. Photography: Spacial Images 

Once used just for warehouse, garage and basement floors, hardwearing concrete is now the flooring materials of choice for residential projects, from contemporary new-builds to period renovations, offering a seamless wall-to-wall finish with depth of character.

However, with polished concrete flooring not the easiest of flooring to install, and decisions will need to be made early in your build, both allowing builders to install it at the correct time, adjusting timelines for curing and also adopting the cost into your budget.

Benefits of concrete floors

polished concrete floor Space Group Architects in a kitchen - home improvement - grand designs

Image: Space Architect Group achieved a cohesive look in this extension by continuing the poured, polished and sealed concrete floor outside. Concrete was also used for the steps, benches and other surfaces and cost £40,000. 

Concrete flooring is extremely tough and difficult to damage. It may need regular sealing, but a well-maintained floor will last indefinitely. It has a more natural appearance than resin and can be polished smooth or etched for a decorative effect.

Thermally efficient, concrete flooring is considered to have eco credentials; it is, of course, made from natural materials, lasts a lifetime and negates the need for another flooring layer above. However, it uses a lot of water in production and it is not biodegradable, plus cement manufacturing is heavy on energy use and releases high levels of carbon dioxide, so the debate continues.

Its compatibility with underfloor heating means this durable materials are also wonderfully warm on the foot.

Material innovations

A2 Studio kitchen with polished concrete floor - home improvements - grand designs

Image: Microtopping, a polished concrete overlay, forms the floor in the  kitchen extension of this home, designed by A2 Studio. It cost £85 per square metre, from Polished Concrete Specialists. 

The latest micro concrete and micro cement systems are ideal for home installation. This method is usually trowel-applied by hand, so there is minimal upheaval during installation, and no heavy machinery or on-site mixing is required. Applied as a thin coating (2-3mm), these floors are cheaper, quick drying and without the weight of real concrete. Added ingredients, such as polymers, also make them less brittle. With a polished concrete floor, the finish depends on the mineral content, but with a micro concrete system, you can choose the exact shade.