Are you planning on investing in polished concrete floors, but you’re worried about how long will they last? Or maybe you have an old polished concrete floor and you’re looking for info on how long is the life cycle?
I’ll try my best to answer both of these questions in this article. The life of the concrete is usually quite long, spanning over decades.
That might not hold true with polished concrete floor finishes as you know, there are traffic and other things on the floors. But it’s the same with any other kind of flooring as well.
Floors are worn down by our feet and shifting furniture, even UV light will slowly affect the floors. There is also the fact that reinforced concrete will slowly start to deteriorate after as little as 10 years even.
Now it doesn’t mean that the house build of concrete is trash after 20 years, but there are conditions for concrete to survive as long as possible. More about that after a short look at what is polished concrete and the process of making it.
After those are explained, it’s easier to talk about floor age.
Polished concrete floors in homes
There are pretty much 3 kinds of polished concrete floors I can think of as I’m writing this. Stained and polished concrete, exposed polished concrete where aggregates are showing, and regular polished concrete.
Stained polished concrete
When you stain concrete it either penetrates into the pores and fills them or you use acid and it reacts with the minerals in the concrete. I know that you can polish at least the acid-stained floors as the color change is in the concrete.
Polished concrete is stain resistant in itself as a concrete densifier has been used on it while it was ground smoother and smoother after every grit. It will fill the pores and make the surface more solid so it would be hard to stain.
Exposed polished concrete
Exposed polished concrete is made by grinding the top layer of concrete away and exposing the aggregates in it. Various degrees of exposing can be done so the look of the floor is unique.
This is most often seen outside, but can be done inside as well. The aggregates and concrete color can be altered so truly unique floors are possible.
This is all that was mentioned before, but the polishing has been done to the surface level of the concrete. The top of the concrete is the “cream” that has risen to the top when it’s floated.
Now, when that top layer is polished with various grits and densifiers used in between, it can reach the level that it reflects like a mirror. As you can imagine, it’s a stunning floor that can compare to any other expensive alternative.
How is polished concrete done
There is a post on this website about how is polished concrete done and also how to hone concrete. These two are close to each other when it comes to the process of making them.
So here we won’t be going through the process, but just take a quick glance at how it is done. It will reflect a little on how long the floor lasts.
When the floor is polished, various grits are used for grinding the floor. Starting from something like 100 grit and moving finally to 1500 grit and 3000 grit. Closer to the end, a concrete densifier is used for making the surface even harder.
High-end polished concrete is ground until it reflects while honed concrete is left on a matte surface and only sealed. No concrete densifier is usually used as that is more of a polishing thing.
When it comes to residential polished concrete floors, most of the wear comes from foot traffic and moving of furniture. Then there is the cleaning and outside light that wear the surface.
To keep the polished floor in top shape, a concrete sealer has to be used. After it wears off, it has to be sealed again for maximum age.
How to seal polished concrete
If you have a DIY polished concrete floor you will probably know how to seal concrete. Still, for everyone else let us go through this process as well.
Step 1: Clean the floor with a vacuum and mop until it’s clean and free of dust. Then open some windows so the air changes.
Step 2: Now we start applying sealer with painting tray and paint roller. My way of doing this is to pour some sealer on the painting tray and start doing the borders of the floor with a paintbrush.
I generally only apply it to the room end where I start from and when I go, I’ll use it to the 2 other walls as I roll. This way it won’t dry before I get to sealing the spot with a paint roller.
Step 3: Apply the sealer with a paint roller. I start from the furthest end from the door and back myself to the door.
There are legends of people who sealed them on a corner and I know 1 guy who managed to do this as well.
Step 4: Let it dry for as long as the label on the concrete sealer says. Manufacturer info is always the best source.
Now when the floor has to be resealed, it is usually just vacuumed and washed. It’s important to apply a sealer that goes well together with your old sealer for it to look good.
Acrylic sealers are good against UV while polyurethane concrete sealer could be best for high traffic area. There are many products on the market so it’s good to write down what you used for the time when you have to reseal.
How long do polished concrete floors last
Now we finally get to the point of how long polished concrete lasts. It can last up to 20 years or more if you care for it properly like described before.
The ground concrete floor has the top layer worn down, but if the process is done carefully it could still be repolished carefully with the finest grits and buffed and sealed I think. I’ve never done it, but I see no reason not to.
Concrete foundations should last for a lifetime. So if you have a healthy concrete floor under 30 years, you should be more than fine to polish it again.
Even if there is no top layer to the surface you could resurface the concrete and polish it. For a polished concrete slab, as a patio could be, this should hold true as well, these can last half a century if maintained well.
The honed concrete floor is the same, in my opinion. Depending on how it is honed, it could be honed even further and sealed again.
You might be thinking do polished concrete floors crack as this isn’t mentioned in here. At some point, all concrete will crack, but if it has survived decades it might survive some more.
In the end, polished concrete durability is very high as all the pores have been sealed by a concrete densifier and the surface is sealed. If you maintain and care for it, you shouldn’t have to do it more than twice in your lifetime.
You should have a good picture of how long does polished concrete lasts now. I know it was a pretty long explanation on something that could be answered with 2 numbers.
But to me, it’s not that simple. Concrete has a long life, how you maintain it affects a lot of things.
If you maintain a polished floor for 20 years, it might not be good for maintaining after that. But maybe with a little fix and polish, it could be again.
That being said, if there are cracks in your polished concrete, here is a guide on fixing them. Fixing cracks is important and should be done as fast as they appear.
If you fix small hairline cracks with something like epoxy injections, it’s quite probable that they won’t get much wider. It’s also part of maintaining and preventing concrete damage.
If you’re skilled, you can even mask some of the damage and polish those spots so that they will be hard to notice or no one sees them at all.
Also, when it comes to cracks you don’t have to mind hairline cracks too much. All concrete will have some after curing. The concrete shrinks when it gets hard so it’s natural that surface cracks appear.