Microcement floor vs polished concrete floor – what to choose?
Many lovers of modern interiors dream about a beautiful, industrial concrete floor. Delighted by its harsh beauty they want to apply it in their homes or offices. However, when it comes to the choice of technology and contractor, they often feel lost in the sea of specialized terms – polished concrete, floated or trowelled concrete, microtopping, microcement – what to choose? When to decide on a polished concrete floor and when on a microcement floor? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions? Today we will try to answer these questions.
Polished concrete, floated or trowelled concrete, microtopping, microcement floor…
Floated concrete is the concrete used for internal floors, which is finished by mashing with special trowels. A trowel concrete floor is often finished with mineral sprinkles in the DST (dry shake topping) process, thanks to which it obtains greater resistance and better appearance. Such a floor is usually used in production halls or warehouses. This floor requires dilation every 4-5 m, which – unfortunately – still does not guarantee that there will be no cracks accompanying the contraction of the concrete.
Polished concrete is a floated concrete floor subjected to grinding, chemical impregnation, polishing and – if used as a decorative floor, eg in homes – sealing. This method is used to regenerate existing concrete floors (if they are made of good quality concrete) or to make new floors, both industrial and decorative – in shopping centers, museums, restaurants, airports. The advantage of polishing is that instead of a gray, matt and easily dirty surface, we have a smooth and shiny floor with characteristic shiny flecks.
Microcement / microconcrete / microtopping is a mixture of common cement and special resins. After mixing, it is applied in thin layers (about 1-2 mm each) and then impregnated with a polyurethane sealer with a matt, satin or gloss finish. The microcement can be used on new floors or on existing substrates – on tiles, terrazzo, OSB board, etc. Despite the thin layer, the system is extremely durable, abrasion resistant and easy to maintain. It allows to obtain a uniform effect without joints, dilatation and without fear of cracking the floor.
Generally, you can say that polished concrete looks good on large open surfaces, where minor flaws or worse polished corners will not be so noticeable. It can be used in homes when we have, for example, 100 m2 of space (eg the whole ground floor in a detached house – hall, corridor, living room with kitchen). In the case of smaller areas, a microcement / microconcrete / microtopping floor will be a much better solution.
To better illustrate what the choice of both technologies involves, we will present a specific example. Below, we describe the process of making a polished concrete floor and microcement floor.
Making a polished concrete floor
The owner of a detached house decides on a floor made of polished concrete on the entire surface of the ground floor. First, he will need to order appropriate class of concrete, which will be poured on the substrate. It is good to add polypropylene fibers to the mix, which will limit the contraction of the concrete. Then the crew will spread the concrete evenly and after about 2-4 hours it will be rubbed using special trowels and simultaneous rubbing of DTS sprinkles. Smaller, hand tools will be used at corners and close to walls. This operation will be repeated 4-6 times. After 24-48 hours, the team will perform dilations and fill the gaps with expansion joint. Then you will have to wait about 2 weeks for the floor to bind completely.
After this time, professionals will polish the surface with corundum or diamond discs, spread the impregnation and polish the floor to a high gloss. At the end, the surface will be sealed.
Making a microcement floor
The existing substrate will be cleaned and primed (eg with FestGrunt). In the case of tiles with large joints, it may be necessary to place the fiberglass mesh and bonding bridge. The installers will then apply the first thin layer (about 1 mm) of the microcement (eg Festfloor Life) using metal trowels. After waiting for approx. 2 hours, they gently sand the surface with hand sanders or, for large surfaces, with a sanding machine. Then the team will vacuum the dust created, apply the next layer as well as the first one and start grinding. Finally, apply a water-resistant polyurethane varnish using rollers (Read more about microcement application). The varnish is dry to touch after about 2 hours. The varnish reaches 80% of its strength after only 24 hours, and full durability after 7 days.
As we can see from our comparison, the floor made of microcement and the floor made of polished concrete are made in a completely different technologies. Remember that concrete is a construction material whose use on the decorative floor requires a lot of experience and knowledge of the installers. The microcement, in turn, is a modern system that combines the visual advantages of concrete, but is free from its disadvantages. Microcement technique is much more friendly for an individual investor and it is much easier for contractors to work with it.