As with all flooring materials concrete has a variety of benefits that installers and salesmen will tout when trying to promote their product. However there are also a number of drawbacks to using this in certain places. That is why it is important to understand the good and the bad, before choosing to strip out other floors and go with bare or treated concrete in a specific location.
The Positive Characteristics of Concrete Flooring
Durability: Concrete flooring is extremely tough and resilient, and is able to withstand the pressure from very heavy equipment such as cars, trucks, forklifts, and stacked crates. That is why it is such a popular material for hard working commercial areas such as garages and warehouses.
Durability also means that the material is difficult to damage. High heals, furniture legs, and pet claws will not scratch the surface. You also don't have to worry about damage from most dropped items. While it is possible to chip or scratch a concrete surface, you will generally have to work pretty hard at it to succeed.
Easy to Maintain: Keeping a concrete floor looking its best will only require a minimum amount of maintenance. It will need to be sealed or waxed every 3-9 months depending on the level of traffic in order to maintain the protective layer over its surface. Other then that you can use a neutral cleaning agent to mop the floor clean periodically. A blue utility pad can be used for particularly stubborn stains.
Environmentally Friendly: In most cases a concrete subfloor already exists beneath another flooring material in grade and below grade locations. That means that installing a concrete floor is actually just uninstalling anything that has been placed over it. Because no new material is produced, there is no carbon footprint or depletion of resources.
Versatile: As long as the concrete is smooth and free from holes, bumps, and defects, you have the choice of installing any floor surface covering that you want over it at a later date. This gives you a lot of design freedom going forward. Please note that an underlayment may need to be installed between the concrete and the new material that you select.
Long Lasting: A sealed and properly maintained concrete floor can last indefinitely. Even in commercial applications it can survive under high traffic conditions for years to come. This saves you money, while also preventing the hassle of having to get new flooring installed periodically.
Design Options: When most people think of concrete floors they think of ugly gray utilitarian surfaces with sharp bumpy textures. However modern advances in concrete mixing and setting have allowed designers to achieve an endless variety of color and texture effects using this versatile material.
In some cases coloration will be mixed directly into the concrete before the slab is placed. For already installed floors you can either acid stain the surface, use an appropriate dye or staining agent, or paint over it with a water proof latex paint.
The texture of the concrete can be made smooth during the installation process. Alternatively decorative textural patterns can be carved into the surface while it is still setting. You also have the option of polishing the material to a smooth sheen, or etching it to create a faux tile effect.
The Drawbacks of Concrete Flooring
Hardness: The strength and durability of this material can also be a liability. The surface of a concrete floor is very hard. If you trip and fall on one then you are probably going to hurt yourself. Items dropped on these surfaces are also more likely to shatter or crack. That is why these floors are not recommended for areas which will be frequented by children or elderly people.
Uncomfortable: The hardness of concrete also makes it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time. Concrete doesn't yield, and if you are forced to stand on it for an extended period your feet wills feel the fury of its stoic stony demeanor.
Cold: Another drawback of concrete floors is that they do not tend to retain heat very well. That means that on a cold winter morning the surface of the floor is going to feel chilled against bare toes. This can be offset to some extent through the use of carpets and throw rugs.
Moisture: If not properly sealed on both top and bottom surfaces, concrete will be very susceptible to penetration by moisture. If liquid does manage to make its way into the pores of a concrete floor, it can sit there and lead to the growth of mold or mildew in your home. In some environments you will also have to worry about the moisture freezing, which will cause it to expand which can crack the floor slab through its center.
Environmentally Unfriendly: While using an already existing concrete slab as your floor surface uses no new materials, the manufacture of concrete for a new floor can actually have a negative ecological impact. This is due to the presence of cement in its material makeup, which requires a significant expenditure of energy and carbon dioxide in order to manufacture.
More Information About The Ecological Impact of Flooring