The tremendous design flexibility that concrete offers makes it a popular flooring option among designers. Besides being able to colour or stain a concrete floor to match any tone or shade, designers can opt for concrete flooring that looks like other materials such as marble, slate or tile. Here is an overview of the concrete flooring options that are at your disposal:

1. Custom graphics
For a one-of-a-kind look, you can have a customised logo or graphic depicted on your concrete floor. Displaying a company logo or sport team slogan in an entryway or office foyer is becoming increasingly popular. Some of the ways to achieve this look include stencilling, engraving, overhead projection, free hand designs with epoxy paints and pigmented cement-based skim coats, tints and dyes, adhesive-backed stencils, and technology that makes it possible to place high quality images on the floor.

2. Acid staining
An acid-stained concrete floor can be uniquely beautiful and can transform a floor into a statement piece within a space. With acid stains, the pores of the concrete slab are opened via a mild acid (typically hydrochloric acid) so the metallic salts of the stain can react with the free lime in the cement paste. The chemical reaction in the concrete then produces the colour variation that has been specified.

Because the acid stain is achieved through a chemical reaction as opposed to added pigments, the colour on the floor can vary dramatically from a colour chart. The stain enhances what is already there and it cannot be used to cover or hide imperfections. Ensure that your customer has realistic expectations.

While many contractors claim to be experts in acid stain, you need to do your research and hire one that has successfully mastered this trade. A floor that readily accepts acid stains is dependent on a properly poured and properly cured concrete slab. Specify an acid stain from a company that specialises in concrete curing compounds or specialty concrete coatings.

3. Trowel-on
A textured finish can be trowelled down over regular concrete to mimic the patterns of natural slate or other smooth or rippled stone finishes. The process involves adding a thin layer of wear-resistant cement and the coat can be tinted in a wide variety of shades and hues.

4. Stamped overlays
You don’t have to tear down an already laid expensive concrete slab to make it look like rows of pavers, bricks or another type of stamped concrete effect. Similar to trowel-on concrete, a thin layer of wear-resistant texture is placed over the top, but instead of trowelling, the layer is stamped with the desired texture.

Photo: Chryso SA

Stamped concrete uses a process that creates unique horizontal surfaces by realistically reproducing the appearance of natural materials or contemporary patterns. One of the latest trends is to use this technique to replicate metals like rust, grates and grids. Each look can be combined with a different colour, which opens up hundreds of possible combinations to offer a natural and unique rendering.

With the new products on the market, the possibilities of what can be achieved with stamped concrete have increased tremendously. Concrete products can create stamped, polished and micro-topped coatings so that a metallic, granite, marble or stabilised sand effect can be achieved. For renovation projects, look for ultra-thin screed products that make it possible to customise outdoor horizontal surfaces with a millimetric coating to achieve the same aspect as stamped concrete.

5. Carved patterns in concrete
For a one-of-a-kind look, decorative concrete products allow you to create different effects by carving unique patterns into interior or exterior applications. An artist or applicator can create large graphics or subtle effects such as brushed, grooved or bush-hammered, for different looks. While this isn’t necessarily difficult, it does require a skilled applicator. The result will be different for each concrete installation as it’s up to the artist’s hand to bring an idea to life in concrete in this way.

6. Exposed aggregates
Surfaces can be given a warm, natural look with exposed aggregate concrete, which lets you modify the appearance and texture of the concrete. It is only possible to expose aggregate within a couple of hours after the slab was cast by spraying a surface retardant over the newly poured concrete and removing this a couple of hours later after the main slab has set. You can choose the colour of the aggregates and cement paste to give a varied, durable, aesthetic solution. This creates a non-slip surface that is easy to maintain.

7. Knockdowns
Knockdown concrete applications create texture that enhances the appearance of concrete and creates a non-slip surface. This finish is usually used for pool areas, garage floors, decks, and other areas where slipping could be a problem.

8. Polymer cement overlays
Polymer cement overlays have been available in the flooring market for over two decades. This is an economical way to add colour and texture to concrete and also adds more strength to the floor.

9. Metallic epoxy coatings
Special reflective pigments and real metallic powders are added to metallic epoxy coatings to give concrete floors a shimmery patina that resembles aged bronze, nickel, silver or copper. Epoxy systems are available in many colour choices and can be enhanced with everything from colour chips to decorative quartz.

Photo: Chryso SA

10. Polishing
Mechanical floor grinders and diamond pads with varying grit sizes are used to polish concrete. By polishing this material repeatedly with the correct diamond pads, the concrete retains a smooth shiny, glossy finish that resembles polished stone. The advantage of polished concrete flooring over stone is that it never requires waxing.

Besides being able to impart colour and texture to your floors with decorative coatings, many of these coating systems are able to protect the floor from grease, stains, scuffs, and moisture. Be sure to inquire about the floor preparation and application process planned for your concrete floor.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.concretenetwork.com, www.za.chryso.com, www.ctindustries.co.za, www.diamondpc.co.za, www.titusrestoration.com, www.concreteconstruction.net, www.dornbrookconstruction.com and www.turnbullmasonry.com for some of the information contained in this article.

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