Residential property

Our guide to polished concrete interiors | Strutt & Parker blog

Q1 2017

As an interior trend, polished concrete is one that makes a big impact. We take a closer look at what it involves, how to get the look and where to use it…

From floors to worktops,polished concrete has been growing in popularity as an alternative surface for interiors.

What is it?

It’s pretty much what it says on the tin - concrete, that’s been made dense with chemical treatments,and then ground down with progressively finer grinding tools until it has a perfect shine. The concrete can be the base that’s already there or added at a later date.

What’s it good for?

While it has a long history of use in places like offices, shopping centres and warehouses, it’s recently been brought into our homes.

The main benefit of it in new homes is that it works with what’s already there. Instead of using more materials to create new flooring like wood, builders can simply polish the current concrete used in the foundations.

It also has a longer life than most floors if installed correctly. Compared to similar surfaces like tiles, which last up to 20 years, polished concrete can give well over 100 years if looked after properly. Because of these reasons, it’s seen by some as a more sustainable flooring option.

It’s also much lower maintenance than similar floors as it is highly durable and easy to clean. Though it is recommended that any spillages are cleaned up as acidic materials left for long periods can penetrate the surface and crate stains.

Plus, despite its polished appearance, it’s has non-slip traits. And it’s anti-mould, so is good for people with allergies.

It can be created with colours, designs, added materials or with a natural look, as in this property in Fulham

Where to use it?

Because of moderntechniques, polished concrete can come in a variety of designs, colours andshines, from matt to high gloss. And can be used in a number of areas in thehome…

  • Floors. As mentioned above, thanks to polished concrete’s positive properties and the fact many homes and even flats already have a layer on concrete in place, it makes great flooring. It’s great for high usage areas like kitchens and hallways as it can be cleaned easily and will handle pans being dropped, heavy boots and even bikes ridden on it. Under floor heating works really well with concrete floors as the concrete retains the heat providing an even, warm feel.
  • Work topsand units. For the same reasons as flooring, it can be used to create feature worktops. Because the concrete can be poured in, it can be used to create unique shapes and to fit around existing taps, sinks and units. The anti-mould properties are also useful. Or you can go one step further with polished concrete units like floating islands o rbreakfast nooks. Though free-standing units should be secured to the floor and have support in base units to prevent buckling from the concrete’s weight.
  • Stairs. These can be created as a single unit or as separate treads and risers, each installed separately. They work both well inside and out. Texture can be added to the top to increase the anti-slip properties.
  • Bathrooms.Polished concrete works really well in wet rooms, as you can have a seamless connection between wall and floor, which means no more grout to clean.A special moisture vapour permeable concrete can be used to help the room to breathe. Under floor heating can be added to keep things warm. Go a step further and use it to construct your bathroom units and sinks.
  • Exteriors.If being used for patios, sealers should be added to improve the non-slip attributes. The weather will, over time, affect the look and finish of the concrete but it can be brought back to life with by being ground and re-polished.

How much would it cost?

Costs depend very much on the design of the project and the property itself. Simple flooring would cost around £100/m². This includes placing, finishing and sealing. But more complex projects like units and stairs will obviously be more costly.

Then you’ve got to consider the condition of any existing concrete floor plus the addition of any aggregates to liven up the design.

Over time, you might need to pay for resealing or re-polishing, while stain-removal treatments and aftercare products can be bought as well.

Is it suitable for my home?

Polished concrete is often installed in new homes, and is specified early on in the design process.But it can be retrofitted into existing homes, especially if you’re creating anew extension.

Putting a polished concrete floor into your existing homes means that you’d need to replace the current suspended timber floor with at least 50mm of concrete - though the space may need building up to retain the existing floor level.

For apartments or upstairs floors, consider whether the structure can handle the extra weight.For older properties this means checking the state of roof beams. Get your contractor to investigate before you commit.

For concrete floors that are suspended, as opposed to being supported by the ground, ventilation underneath can be an issue. A block and beam system can be used to solve this problem.

When using with extensions, put the concrete flooring in first as if you apply it over door tracks it could corrode the aluminium.