Floors in industrial or commercial settings, such as department stores and warehouses, are under a lot of strain from constant traffic. When looking for a flooring option, functionality is a primary concern. In addition to epoxy, vinyl composition tile (VCT) or terrazzo, polished concrete is gaining traction as an option due to its strength, abrasion resistance and low maintenance. It is also aesthetically pleasing. Since polished concrete is relatively new compared to other flooring types, it is important to understand why it is a good option for industrial/commercial floors.
There are several applications on the market that can make a floor look like it was polished when it wasn’t. It is important to know the differences between a polished concrete surface and coating treatments to ensure the end result is what architects and building owners intended.
Polished concrete has a wide array of finishes and variables to consider. These include different aggregate exposure levels, gloss levels and even whether or not to dye the surface with one or several colors. With that said, most industrial and commercial floors tend to have a low to medium gloss finish with semi-exposed or low-exposed aggregate floors. A salt and pepper finish is very common. This level of exposed aggregate opens up the concrete enough for a densifier to soak in and react with the concrete. Costs associated with exposing larger aggregate would increase project costs significantly. Also, the gloss levels on commercial and industrial projects tend to be lower than a highly decorative finish, not only due to the price but also because slip resistance is greater when not highly polished.
Where once epoxies and VCT were the norms, building owners are seeing the benefits of polished concrete. With polished concrete, floors do not have to be re-epoxied every few years due to the epoxy failing from fork truck traffic, water issues, oil entrained floors, poor surface preparation, etc. Over the long term, polished concrete is a much more cost-efficient floor, both because of longevity and due to less downtime from having to move equipment to re-epoxy every few years. Polished concrete is a long-term flooring solution with the right maintenance program. Using concrete is also a “greener” building material option because there are no additional materials needed.
Commercial/industrial floors typically need to be flat, and in some cases, floors have specific specifications. Since polished concrete starts with grinding, a flat floor can be achieved. Most of the time flattening a warehouse floor is required when there is heavy forklift traffic. Uneven floors can be caused by control joints heaving due to the floor moving, in turn creating a lippage. This lippage can be very dangerous because every time a forklift runs over it the bump could cause the load to fall off the lift. To solve this problem, the use of an aggressive grit metal tool effectively cuts off the lip. However, a different aesthetic look will result where the previously high side of the heave will have exposed aggregate and the low side will have the same overall look. This can be avoided if the entire floor is cut down to an exposed aggregate level.