Concrete has been used as a flooring material for ages, but most people consider it suitable only for industrial environments. The dull grey paving stones or blocks are commonly seen in outdoor spaces or on the floors of car parks and garages in commercial buildings and shopping malls. However, like with other flooring materials, the techniques of installing and decorating concrete floors have evolved over the years, making it a versatile material that adapts to almost any design or budget.
Nowadays, stained concrete floors often replace natural stone or ceramic tiles even in modern-style homes. Their durability makes them suitable for almost any environment, and concrete flooring is inexpensive compared to other types of materials such as wood, ceramic and natural stone.
Like any other material, polished concrete floors come with certain disadvantages. Today, we take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of concrete floors to understand whether they are suitable for modern homes.
There’s a reason why concrete is used in industrial environments and commercial establishments with high traffic. The material is extremely resilient and can withstand almost anything, whether it’s heavy furniture, high temperature or the risk of scratches on its surface from pointed heels or pets’ claws. Using polished concrete floors inside a house guarantees peace of mind as it will last for years with very little maintenance, unlike other materials such as vinyl, ceramic or wooden floors that are more prone to scratches, cracks and tears, which require them to be replaced every few years.
Plain concrete floors cost only INR 55 per square foot, making them an economical option that are almost on par with the terracotta or basic ceramic floor tiles. The more expensive variants, such as concrete with micro topping, cost around INR 250 per square feet, which is still cheaper than some of the other types of flooring materials such as natural stone or decorative ceramic tiles. Additionally, concrete acts as the base for many other flooring materials such as vinyl, ceramic tiles and wood, so the only cost incurred in renovating the floor, in such cases, will be to remove the tiles or coating from the existing base, applying a concrete stain or sealant and polishing to decorate and protect the floor.
Concrete flooring is easy to clean and relatively maintenance-free because it is tough and resistant to damages and stains. For daily cleaning, they can be swept and mopped with a neutral cleaning agent, just as you would do to a ceramic, stone or vinyl floor. They can even be washed occasionally, without having to worry about the floor getting damaged due to excess moisture. The only maintenance that polished concrete floors require is the periodic application of a sealant or wax to protect the surface. This can be done every six to nine months to preserve the floor and to keep it in perfect condition for many years.
Over time, concrete can develop cracks on the surface, due to temperature, moisture or settling. However, these cracks can be repaired easily by patching up the surface with coloured cement paste or other similar materials and then smoothing, polishing and sealing the surface.
While concrete floors are associated with industrial design, they can look just as good in any other style, whether it’s modern or rustic. All that is required is the right accessories. These floors are also versatile as they form a base on which almost any other type of flooring, such as wood, vinyl or carpet, can be installed, using an underlay between the concrete and the surface layer. In colder regions, electrical cables or hot water pipes can be embedded into the concrete floor as a radiant floor heating solution to keep the interiors warm.
Concrete flooring doesn’t have to be grey and dull. While the raw look of polished concrete is perfect for a home with an industrial or minimalist theme, with advances in technology, colour and texture can be added to concrete to make it resemble ceramic or stone tiles. While the variety of designs may seem limited compared to natural stone or decorative ceramic tiles, by combining colours, textures and patterns, along with polishing, etching and finishing techniques, concrete floors can be customised to suit any design style.
For new floors, colour can be mixed into the raw concrete before the slab is set. In the case of existing floors, the surface can be stained using acid or concrete floor paint, comprising waterproof latex, to brighten up the room. Additionally, decorative techniques, such as stamping and staining, can be carried out with the help of rubber stencils and pigments to create texture and patterns on the surface of the floor while it is still curing.
Varied viewpoints exist regarding whether concrete is an environment-friendly building material. Undeniably, the process of manufacturing raw concrete, contributes to a significantly higher carbon footprint. However, considering the durability of the material once it is installed, it reduces the overall impact on the environment that would otherwise be caused by discarding old flooring and consuming new materials.
Due to its durability and resilience, concrete can withstand the effects of the natural elements such as the sun and the rain. This makes concrete floors particularly suitable for outdoor areas such as terraces and patios, which are exposed to the weather elements. It is also an ideal choice for indoor areas that are connected to an exterior space. This could be living rooms that open out to the veranda, or dining areas that are linked to the backyard.
Disadvantages of concrete floors:
While the toughness and strength of concrete are an advantage, this can also work against it as breakages are unavoidable if glass, ceramic or any other delicate material accidentally drops on it. Additionally, the hardness of the material makes it unsuitable for standing or sitting on it for long.
In homes in coastal or river-side areas that are prone to moisture in the ground, concrete floors can get damaged by dampness seeping through from below. This can affect the stain or coating on the surface.
Although it is a low-maintenance option for flooring, concrete develops cracks over time and will require patching up.
While its long-lasting property is an advantage, and it is bio-degradable, the process of manufacturing concrete is not environment-friendly as it uses a lot more energy and emits greater volumes of carbon di oxide than other construction materials such as steel and glass.
Not everyone likes the cold feel of concrete under their bare feet, when they get out of bed in the morning. However, this problem is easily solved by covering the floor with rugs.
So, are concrete floors suitable for modern homes? While they are relatively easy to install, compared to ceramic tiles, natural stone and wood, it’s best to use skilled professionals to lay them. This will not only ensure the desired finish, but also prove more cost-effective in the long run as it will require very little repair and maintenance. In addition, using an interior architect will assure expertise in customizing these floors with design, texture and tools, whether it’s radiant floor heating or beautifully patterned concrete flooring that has the effect of faux-tiles. Its multiple benefits are the reason that concrete is becoming a popular option for floors in modern homes.
If you found this article useful, discover the different types of flooring materials and how they compare with each other.