How to achieve a perfectly polished concrete floor

by Francesca

Concrete has been a valuable construction material throughout history — in fact, many Roman buildings are still standing today because they were built from concrete. While a resilient material, if not prepared effectively even concrete won’t last, particularly in floor preparation. Here Dave Bigham, global director of training at surface preparation equipment manufacturer National Flooring Equipment, explains how contractors can effectively prepare concrete during surface preparation work.

While contractors have used concrete as a construction material since Roman times, it has mainly been used for structural integrity, rather than aesthetics. This is particularly true in flooring, where wood, carpet, and tile have been a flooring staple for residential and commercial buildings for years. However, more recently, customers are requesting polished concrete floors to achieve a minimalist and contemporary appearance. Its durability makes concrete a great, low maintenance flooring choice for high traffic environments, such as commercial and industrial spaces. Concrete floors also offer additional benefits, such as creating a reflective floor surface that increases natural light in the building, reducing energy usage.

Get to the substrate

Every concrete floor is different, so when approaching a new job, contractors should take the time to understand the customer’s individual requirements and desired finish. Visiting the site before the work begins enables contractors to review the existing floor to see the type and condition of the current covering, the adhesive bonding the covering to the substrate, and the quality of the concrete underneath.

This initial visit to the site gives contractors an opportunity to remove a small area of floor covering to understand the work they’ll need to complete to help them manage the expectations of the customer. The finish of polished concrete is heavily dependent on the original condition of the concrete, so contractors should highlight any potential issues, such as cracking, at an early stage.

Once they’ve determined the size of the project and the condition of the floor, contractors can begin removal of the existing covering. Floor scrapers will remove material and adhesive quickly and efficiently — the size and requirements of the job will determine which machine and blades are best to use. Ride-on floor scrapers are suitable for large scale heavy goods removal, whereas walk-behinds are more suited to smaller rooms or confined spaces to remove soft goods such as carpet.

Concrete surface profile

Once contractors reveal the substrate, they can determine the condition of the concrete and its surface profile to determine how to prepare and polish the material. Depending on its surface profile, concrete may require a simple polishing of the top surface, or a deeper grinding that reveals the aggregate stones. Hand grinding a small sample area early into the job will give a good indication of the finished result. Evident cracks can be left and stabilised or filled and colour matched for a more uniform result.

When choosing a machine for concrete profiling, scarifiers are a good option. Once a scarifier is switched on, the drum rotates to generate centrifugal force, which throws the cutter at the surface, causing a mechanical cutting action. Dust and contaminants are moved to a dust collector and only heavier debris might remain on the floor.

Grinding and polishing

After profiling the concrete, contractors can move on to grinding and polishing to achieve the desired finish. Depending on the job, contractors can pick from a single headed disc or planetary grinder and once they’ve selected a machine, contractors can choose a range of diamond tooling, from coarse to fine.

Untreated concrete acts like a sponge and stains easily. To prevent this, it is important that contractors densify the top layer of the concrete once polished. The durability of concrete is what enables ancient structures to remain standing today. However, by carefully removing existing floor coverings and profiling the substrate, contractors can also showcase the beauty of this versatile material.

Need advice on choosing the right machine for your next surface preparation job? Contact the experts at National Flooring Equipment by visiting

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