People are pouring on the creativity and using poured concrete designs inside their homes like never before.
It can be made to resemble stonework, woodwork or brickwork, says Jamie Farny, Portland Cement Association spokesman, based in Skokie, Ill.
“Concrete also works with many styles, whether a home is more contemporary or has a farmhouse appeal,” Farny says.
Charlotte-area concrete specialist Willie Jenkins of Jenkins Concrete says the recent trend in concrete flooring appeals to homeowners who want to make a durable, long-term, attractive improvement rather than move.
Concrete floors can also be a “green” option for those in existing homes. Most homes built on slabs have existing concrete floors that can be spruced up. All they need is staining. In homes with a wooden subfloor, a thin layer of concrete called a “micro-surface” is applied and then stamped or stained to your taste.
Who’s using it?
Vachik Gasparyants, owner of Charlotte Concrete Resurfacing, said his customers tend to be on the young side and like the contemporary look of stained concrete. It’s also gaining popularity as a floor finish among the high-end condo dwellers in trendy parts of town like South End.
Some older customers are less interested in the way stained concrete looks, but simply prefer it as a floor finish because concrete stain requires virtually no maintenance.
Gasparyants said his clients are usually pretty well-heeled. Many of the homes where he applies acid-stained concrete average around $250,000 and up. Interest in stained concrete floors drops off at about $800,000 and up. Those homeowners, he said, usually go for hardwoods or more traditional floor finishes.
What does it cost?
Tile finishes in bathrooms and kitchens vary widely depending on materials, but may run as much as $20 per square foot, installed. A stained concrete floor costs about $4 per square foot. And its seamless finish also makes it attractive. “It’s a modern look,” Gasparyants said. “It’s easy to clean and it’s cheap.”
Farny says concrete floors in new construction can be cost-effective, since it can be poured on grade. Texture can also be achieved through stamping – patterns are pressed into wet concrete. Colorants can be spread over the top of stamped, wet concrete so floors can emulate stones, bricks or wooden planks.
Acid-stained concrete is one answer for those who want to color an existing concrete surface. “A concrete acid stain can create a mottled, variegated, stone-like look,” Farny says. After acid-staining, contractors can use special saws to score or engrave patterns into it. The carved-out sections are uncolored, which creates geometric interest or the illusion of grout lines.
Does it have disadvantages?
Still, a concrete floor has certain limitations. You wouldn’t want to install it on a second floor; it’s just too heavy.
Some homeowners worry it will be loud and cold. But area rugs, furnishings and drapes absorb sound, Gasparyants says. He has never had anyone complain about echoing or clatter because of a concrete floor.
Concrete may not appeal to people looking for a warm, inviting home environment. Stains can warm up the look, but those who use concrete usually want a more contemporary look.
“Some people actually prefer a colder, minimalist look,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taste.”
On rare occasions people ask about heating a concrete floor, Gasparyants says. Heating coils can be installed when concrete is poured, but he doesn’t recommend it.
“If something goes wrong with the coils, then you have to bust up the concrete,” he said.
How is it maintained?
Concrete should be sealed with an epoxy or urethane sealer, which can be done immediately after an acid stain or scoring treatment. Stamped concrete requires, on average, 28 days to cure before adding any sealants.
After sealing, a natural carnauba wax will bring out the shine. Regular maintenance includes keeping it free of sand or any other gritty, abrasive material. Use a broom or slightly damp mop with a pH-balanced cleaner for regular upkeep.