Concrete is one of the most popular choices for flooring solutions in commercial buildings — and for good reason.
Concrete floors offer many benefits to commercial spaces that are valuable to every business owner. They are also a good investment.
Are you considering concrete floors for your next commercial project but want to know the types and options available?
This article will discuss your choices regarding commercial concrete flooring and when you should — and shouldn’t — use it.
When it comes to concrete, there are several different flooring options to choose from. Each has its own unique set of benefits and best uses.
Just as commercial spaces vary, so will the flooring needs accompanying them.
Read on to determine which design option for concrete floor installation is best for your flooring system.
One of the most common types of concrete flooring is epoxy concrete floors. Epoxy is a protective coating that seals concrete made from resin.
Epoxy floors deliver quite a few benefits for commercial structures.
For example, epoxy blocks all moisture and is chemically resistant. That means it prevents the corrosion of reinforcements in concrete. Epoxy also makes the floors extremely easy to clean and — even when dirty — look sleek and shiny.
It can be a great way to cover stained concrete, mixing both decorative and durable in one great floor. Even still, epoxy comes in its own wide array of color choices.
Epoxy is less abrasive and more slip-resistant than plain concrete, making it a safer choice too.
This type of flooring is also helpful in marking traffic boundaries in buildings with restricted areas or a preferred traffic flow.
Epoxy concrete floors are one of the most popular choices for industrial concrete flooring. They’re often used in warehouses with heavy forklift traffic because of their durability.
Epoxy flooring is also popular in the automotive industry, since the concrete is sealed. This feature makes it resistant to chemicals like oil and gas from vehicles.
There are a few alternatives to epoxy coatings. These three sealers are often a substitute for epoxy:
This coating may look very similar to epoxy, but it’s different in that polyurethane is soft and bouncy instead of being hard as a rock. Therefore, it’s better for areas with more foot traffic than vehicles.
This type of concrete flooring is most common in shopping malls, hospitals, and airports.
Polyaspartic floor covering’s main benefit is its dual usage. It can work as both a bottom and topcoat. So, instead of needing two coats — as epoxy would — it can be a complete flooring system in just one coat.
Of course, this saves time and labor costs.
Acrylic coatings are usually reserved for decorative concrete or areas with little to no traffic.
In simple terms, they’re not as durable as their counterparts. The only real benefit is the lower cost and faster curing times.
Another sleek and durable option is polished concrete flooring, and there are several different floor finishes to choose from. For example, you can select your level of sheen, from satin to high gloss.
Polishing concrete is a bit simpler than applying epoxy, making it a more popular choice for contractors pressed for time.
Concrete undergoes polishing with a machine that grinds it down to a smooth finish, similar to what a sander would do to wood.
Just as a finer grit of sanding paper would make the wood smoother, concrete polishing goes through several levels of grit.
There are two different methods of polishing concrete: wet and dry.
Wet polishing — as you may have guessed — uses water to cool the abrasive and eliminate dust while polishing.
Wet is messier and needs extensive cleanup afterward. However, it makes the grinding disks last longer by cooling them down.
Dry polishing uses machines that buff and eliminate the dust as you go, with virtually no required cleanup.
Most crews usually start with dry polishing and finish with wet polish.
You can also apply dyes to polished concrete floors to add a unique design. The dye application happens right before the final polishing step to keep it from being ground away from the polishing.
Polished concrete comes with several benefits. It’s durable against heavy traffic and requires less maintenance than many other concrete flooring choices.
Polished concrete has a longer service life and is cost-effective. It’s sustainable, too (no chemicals, cleaners, or adhesives required). Not to mention, it also reflects light very well, aiding in the illumination of a large room.
Most polished concrete exists in interior concrete floors.
It’s most popular in less industrial commercial spaces, such as:
Staining concrete is an easy and cheap way to dress up dull gray concrete floors.
You can choose to use one or multiple colors in a set design. The process of staining concrete seems relatively simple. Yet, remember that staining is permanent and is a task a professional should tackle.
Acid stain is a mixture of water, hydrochloric acid, and acid-soluble metallic salts. This type of stain has limited color availability but penetrates deeper into the concrete.
Water-based stain is a blend of acrylic polymers and pigments. While this stain is more surface level, it comes in a wider variety of colors.
Neither stain will peel, chip, or fade over time. Instead, the stain becomes a part of the concrete.
The biggest benefit of stained concrete is that it adds a beautifully luminous effect for a more decorative concrete floor. This optional flair is also relatively cheap.
Staining can be used on both interior and exterior concrete, and is long-lasting since it penetrates the concrete.
You’ll most often see stained concrete floors in high-class showrooms.
You’ll also find it in restaurants, bars, and on the interior and exterior floors of more expensive hotels. Conference areas could also use stained concrete floors.
But what if the class isn’t yet determined?
Concrete contractors need to know certain specs before beginning work on a concrete floor for commercial spaces.
That means you’ll need to determine the following specifications:
The integrity of the concrete slab your contractor will lay depends largely on the base and subbase materials on which it’ll be laid.
Concrete slabs are laid on layers of materials that help support the slab. In addition, the type of layered materials will determine how the contractors will need to proceed.
The subgrade is the soil, which will need to be well-compacted. The subbase is often a layer of gravel.
The base layer is between the subbase and the concrete slab. The base is usually a finer grade of gravel. It’ll sometimes have a vapor barrier on top before laying the slab, which helps contain some moisture.
Based on the materials and system set up under the slab, the designer of the concrete slab will be able to determine what thickness and reinforcements will be necessary for the slab to bear the loads without cracking.
The concrete’s thickness is one of the biggest and most determining factors of the concrete floor design.
As we’ve already discussed, the requirements for this thickness will depend on the strength of the subbase. But it’ll also vary based on the anticipated loads it’ll need to bear.
A contractor can decide to make it thicker if they prefer. Yet, it’s worth mentioning that a thicker concrete floor will also be more expensive.
(Spoiler Alert: Concrete and cement are not the same!)
Concrete with a lower water ratio produces a stronger slab. However, it is much more resistant to smooth pours.
Contractors need to calculate the correct water-to-cement ratio for your concrete floor that best suits your needs.
Depending on the environment in which your concrete floor will be poured, your contractor may use admixtures in your concrete. For example, extreme temperatures, fast curing, etc.
Some popular choices include:
Your concrete slab may benefit from adding a surface treatment that hardens the concrete. Two common types are metallic or mineral treatments.
When choosing polished concrete, the level of sheen desired will require a level of aggregate exposure to create.
The tolerances required by your concrete floor will depend on the guidelines in the ACI-117.
The calculations determined by the specifications in this document that coincide with your concrete floor specifications will need to match or exceed the expected load bearings.
Curing times of concrete depend on many different factors, such as:
There are several benefits to all variations of concrete floors. But concrete flooring itself — no matter which type you choose — has its benefits.
First and foremost, the durability of concrete exceeds that of other construction materials. Not only is it extremely durable under heavy foot traffic, but it can also handle heavy machinery.
Concrete is a high-performance material known for its sustainability. So you can rest assured that your concrete floors will last a very long time.
You can design concrete floors for just about any need or space and adjust the look, feel, and maintenance to your preference.
Speaking of maintenance, the ease that concrete floors present is very pleasing to project owners. A little waxing can also make concrete floors look like brand-new floors.
Should any dents, chips, or abrasions come to your concrete floor, resurfacing is as easy as applying an overlay and adding a sealant.
Concrete floors are great, especially for commercial structures. Yet, they also have their downfalls.
Installing a concrete floor requires meticulous sealing to prevent moisture absorption. But, of course, not doing so could lead to corrosion and concrete damage.
The hard surface of concrete can also be uncomfortable when standing for a prolonged period. Fortunately, using a polyurethane coating can help to alleviate some of this.
Lastly, concrete can be noisy. It does little to absorb the noise from drops, bangs, or even the clack of high-heeled shoes.
It’s no wonder concrete is one of the best flooring materials for commercial projects.
The evidence is clear.
Concrete floors are durable, low maintenance, sustainable, and energy-efficient.
Also, there’s a type of concrete floor for just about every commercial need.
But keep in mind the quality of concrete floors depends on the expertise of the concrete contractor.