Can All Concrete Floors Be Polished?
It’s possible to polish most concrete floors, but some will require some prep work.
- Most concrete can be polished
- Some surface preparation will likely be necessary
- This preparation removes blemishes and previous coatings and can help even a concrete surface
- Polishing might not be the best option if the floor is in very poor condition
“Can’t” isn’t a word customers like to hear, nor one that contractors like to use. Thankfully, we rarely have to use that four-letter word when it comes to polishing concrete! It’s versatile and tough stuff that has to be quite far gone to be disqualified from polishing, so you’re really sitting pretty if your concrete floor is brand new and has been well-laid by professionals. Just make sure it’s had enough time to cure first!
The older a floor gets, the more likely it is to need some prep work to remove imperfections and other enemies of the concrete polisher, such as dirt, debris, and old coatings. It all depends on the surface and a handful of other variables. Here’s a quick guide on what makes a floor polishable and why some slabs may have to skip the shine.
Deteriorating concrete may need some densifying
Concrete floors deal with a lot of stressors during their life cycle, any or all of which can cause them to weaken. These hardships range from chemical abrasion and corrosion of embedded metals to water damage or wear from feet and furniture. The shaky structure of weaker concrete can often be strengthened by using densifiers: liquid chemicals that seep below the surface to improve the binding beneath.
Densifiers have a few more benefits. They make the concrete tougher against abrasions, more likely to hold an effective polish, and better at resisting liquids. Alas, they’re not all-powerful. They don’t work on every concrete surface, their effect can be significantly reduced where water damage is involved, and they won’t eliminate imperfections in the slab.
Two other methods are available in addition to densifiers. They’re not well-suited to older and weaker concrete, however, so your contractor will only go ahead with these if the surface is structurally sound enough to handle some tough treatment.
Shot blasting before the shine
Effective concrete polishing requires a surface that’s as smooth and even as possible. This means your contractor may have to remove old coatings of paint, carpet, or tile, plus any gunk or stains left behind from adhesives. Maybe your concrete is water-damaged or eroded, which can also make the surface uneven – or in need of some hardcore exfoliation.
Shot blasting is a relatively quick and powerful way to beat the blue blazes out of the concrete’s top layer using beads of various materials (usually metal or steel). The beads are shot out at high velocity and pummel the slab until imperfections are smoothed out, and any old coatings and their residues are history. Notice we said imperfections are smoothed out with shot blasting – we didn’t say removed.
If you’ve got concrete that’s particularly stained or has imperfections beyond a certain depth, they’re still going to be visible after shot blasting and polishing are complete. They’ll just look really shiny and smooth – assuming a very shiny floor is what you want.
Otherwise, those old marks and cracks will look matte and smooth, glossy and smooth, or semi-glossy and smooth. Here’s another way to prep concrete floors for polishing that takes longer than shot blasting but can be just as effective.
Get gritty, polish pretty
Grinding uses diamond-studded abrasive pads of various densities to get rid of old floor coverings of all kinds and makes the surface as clean and level as it can be – which, as previously mentioned, is a huge help for polishing. Using grinders with different diamond densities will dictate the grit level of the surface. Or, put more simply, how shiny you want it to be. Grinding can also get rid of some of the stains, but likely not all of them.
Can all concrete floors be polished by one of the three processes we’ve highlighted? The tough answer is “no.” Realistic expectations must come first. Having a team of experts densifying, shot blasting, or grinding the concrete isn’t the most important element of success.
That rests with the customer, who must accept that some floors are too weak, many imperfections are unfixable, and any repairs that are possible are also going to be visible through the finished, polished surface.
Perfect polishes aren’t impervious
Then there’s accepting the vulnerabilities of polished concrete after the job is finished. Even when you end up with an amazing polished floor, don’t assume it’s invincible. Polished concrete can still stain, especially when exposed to acids and oils.
This is because concrete is porous, and this doesn’t change by polishing it. The good news is that polished concrete is very easy to clean. Here’s our guide to preventing the worst staining outcomes.
If there’s a high likelihood of liquids splashing on its surface, it may be wiser to go for sealed concrete.
Sealed concrete is often confused with polished concrete, but the two processes are significantly different. Sealing uses polyurethane, acrylic plastic, or epoxy to coat the floor and fill in any imperfections.
This process is more practical in spill-heavy areas and is much better suited when used in low-traffic spaces. It’s also highly stain-resistant and can be paired with a moisture barrier to give it an extra layer of protection against liquids.
Contact the concrete polishing pros with any questions
Don’t bother Google by typing in “concrete polishing near me.” Those little search engine elves are already overworked. Just give us a call, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how well your concrete polishing goals can be realized, and we’ll supply the experts who can do it right.
In fact, we can help with every kind of concrete project except pouring it. Just contact our team, and we’ll help you make the most of your floor!