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How to Choose a Concrete Floor for Your Home

Concrete is a composite material made of cement, water and aggregate (gravel, sand or rock). When it comes to residential flooring, this hard-wearing material can be a good choice. It’s strong, durable and has a modern look. It also provides a lot of design options.

A concrete floor can be poured, polished or stained, depending on the aesthetic and budget. Whether it’s a new construction project or a renovation, the concrete slab can be designed to accommodate the required loads, such as forklift traffic. It may also be etched or scored to achieve a particular surface appearance, or it can be textured with troweled textures for slip resistance.

When considering a concrete floor, homeowners should consider their climate and local building codes, says architect Gideon Mendelson. Concrete is porous and will absorb and release moisture, which can lead to problems in humid areas, such as the growth of mold or mildew.

He also recommends that owners take into account the coldness of a concrete floor expansion joints in the winter and consider laying down textural area rugs to soften the feel underfoot. Another issue to consider is that a concrete floor will be very loud when you walk on it, especially in bare feet.

Concrete floors are very popular in garages and workshop areas because they’re utilitarian first and foremost, and can withstand a high volume of vehicles driving over them daily. They’re also a common choice for commercial settings like warehouses because they’re able to withstand a high amount of foot traffic and heavy machinery such as forklifts.

When used as a primary flooring surface in a home, concrete can be poured as a solid slab or an overlay and then polished and colored to taste. A concrete floor can be acid-stained, in which the surface is treated with a variety of mild acids that interact to create a mottled finish, or it can be dyed, in which case a solid color is applied over the top of the finished concrete.

Both of these techniques require a sealant to keep out moisture and protect the concrete from scratches, which needs to be reapplied regularly. It’s also a good idea to have the floor resealed every two or five years to prevent small cracks from developing into bigger ones.

If you choose to refinish an existing concrete floor, the process usually starts with removing any old carpet or vinyl and grinding the surface to expose the raw concrete. It can then be honed with abrasive pads of progressively finer grits to create a glass-smooth finish that’s often used for polishing. It can also be dyed or acid-stained, or it can be textured by adding in a variety of aggregates to increase its wear resistance. All of these options add to the overall cost of the project. In addition, you should expect to spend extra on hiring a professional for the work because it is more labor intensive than other types of flooring.