Concrete Floor Finishes (Ultimate Design Guide)

Welcome to our concrete floor finishes ultimate design guide, including the most popular types for your home.
Contemporary kitchen with polished concrete flooring, gray cabinets and white counters

Concrete floors are becoming popular because of their durability and stylishness. Stylish, you ask, yes indeed. Thanks to the different types of concrete floor finish options available, there are now durable and versatile flooring types that can suit almost any architectural style.

What is the best part of having concrete flooring in your home? They provide you with a rugged and low-maintenance surface that can withstand almost anything.

Concrete is hard to put a dent in and resistant to chemical damage. You don’t have to worry about scuffs or scratches. Concrete surfaces are also relatively easy to clean as they are water resistant. If liquid spills, wipe it up.

This water resistance also makes it easy to clean as all you have to do to clean the surface quickly is to wipe it down, maybe with a bit of water. The only maintenance you will have to do is occasionally waxing or resealing the floor. [toc]

Types of Concrete Finishes

Depending on your taste, style, and needs, there is a wide variety of concrete floor finishes that you can choose to use in your home.

Concrete floors can be installed both indoors and outdoors, and different types of finishes are sure to suit any need. So, what are the best concrete floor finishes? Here are the most popular options.

Broom finish Broom Finish

This is one of the most simple and basic forms of finishes. To broom finish concrete, all that is needed is to take a broom to the surface of newly placed cement before it fully dries.

Dragging a broom over the surface of drying surface leaves behind small textured ridges. These ridges create an interesting and eye-catching pattern. That’s not the only advantage of a broom finished surface, however. The biggest advantage is that the ridges left behind by broom finishing increase the traction of a concrete floor.

This simple yet effective surface is great for both the indoors and outdoors, but it is especially good for outdoor features like pathways and steps as it will keep them from becoming too slippery when wet because of rain or melting snow.

Salt finish Salt Finish

This is another simple way to add an interesting bit of texture to a concrete floor or surface. When you salt finish concrete, you simply apply a sprinkling of rock salt on top of the surface before it completely dries.

When the concrete is dry, you then splash water on the surface, until the layer of salt melts and washes away. An interesting pattern of small pits and indentations is left when the salt is gone – from where the salt was laid.

This is also a particularly good resurfacing texture to use on outdoor concrete floors and surfaces as the pits and indentations help create good friction.

Sand finishSand Finish

Also known as sand wash, a sand finish concrete floor is treated to have the texture and color of sand.

To get a sand finished floor you need to choose a mixture that uses sand as an aggregate. When the surface treatment is laid out and is drying, a chemical is then left on the surface overnight.

This chemical slows the drying of the top level of cement. The next day, the top layer can be washed off, exposing the sand below.

Trowel finish Trowel Finish

Trowel finish concrete is achieved by using trowels to smooth out a newly installed surface. To achieve a trowel finished floor, you need to lay out the concrete and – before it dries completely, go over it with a trowel leveling and smooth it out. A hand trowel or power trowel is moved over the surface to smooth it.

Float Finish

A float finish concrete floor creates a compact, smooth, and sturdy surface by running a float over laid cement. Similar to trowel finishes except for the fact that it uses a tool known as a float, that comes in a variety of sizes.

Trowel vs Float Finish Concrete

Trowel and float finish concrete floors look quite similar. Both these finishes produce a smooth and dense surface. The difference between these two finishes lies in the tools that they use.

Float finishes are a little easier to achieve as floats often have long, extendable handles that allow you to smooth the surface at a comfortable standing position efficiently.

Think long and hard about using trowel finish or float finish on outdoor floors or areas with high traffic. Smooth concrete can be slippery, especially when wet.

Feather Finish

Feather finish floorYou need to apply a commercial feather finishing compound for this surface treatment. Feather finishes are a good way to breathe new life into an old, uneven cement floor as they smooth out imperfections and leave you with a smooth yet textured surface.

You can easily buy a feather finishing product in a hardware store and apply it yourself.

Check the label of the feather finishing product you bought, and then pour the recommended amount of water into a container and mix in the feathering mixture.

Make sure that you do not overwater the mixture, as it will lower the strength of the resulting compound. Apply feather finishes to your floor using a steel trowel and wait for it to dry.

Brushed finishBrushed Finish

A brushed concrete finish is achieved in much the same fashion as broom finishes, except instead of dragging a broom over the surface of drying cement; here you drag a brush over it.

You can create a variety of differently textured concrete floors this way as the ridges that will be left behind will depends on the type of brush that you use. The size of the brush bristles as well as their hardness of softness will leave different types of ridges.

Smooth Finish

Kitchen with smooth finish concrete floors

Smooth finish floors are the most basic type of concrete floors. They are achieved by simply smoothing and leveling the surface of drying cement.

The polishing of a smooth finished floor is achieved usually by means of either trowels or floats. However, if you truly want to achieve a smooth surface with no imperfections it’s best to first use a float over the top layer of drying cement and follow it up by running a trowel over it to ensure that there are no imperfections.

Top-Cast Finish

To achieve a Top-Cast concrete finish, you will need to use a commercially available surface retarder called Top-Cast.

Using Top-Cast on your cement floor produces a similar effect to an aggregate finish, as the compound is designed to expose the aggregate in the cement.

Because of this, Top-Cast is capable of creating a surface tretment that comes in a variety of colors and texture – it depends on the type of Top-Cast that you use. It is easy to use and apply, all you have to do is decide on the effect you want.

Acid Wash Finish

Bedroom with acid wash floors

An acid wash concrete finish gives you a floor with a mottled patter – much like what you would find in a pair of acid washed jeans.

To get an acid wash textured floor, you need to apply an acid wash solution. You can buy acid wash commercially or mix some of your own. Acid washes work by dissolving some of the upper layers of laid cement and exposing some of the aggregate below.

If you decide to mix your own acid wash, you need to buy a safe acid from a home improvement or hardware store. We recommend either muriatic, phosphoric, sulfamic, or citric acid.

Fill a watering can with a mixture of water and your chosen acid. You can probably use 1 gallon of water for 60-75 square feet of concrete. As for how much acid to mix in, you should check the label. Depending on the acid, it might recommend you use 10 to 50 percent acid.

Sprinkle the solution over the surface and scrub it in with a broom. The solution should create some bubbling on the surface. Leave it on for about 10 minutes or till the bubbling stops.

Wash off the acid solution with a solution of water and baking soda. We recommend 1 gallon of water to one box of baking soda. Let the floor dry.

Epoxy Finish

Epoxy finish garage

To epoxy finish concrete, you need to apply epoxy coating. You can buy epoxy coating in a variety of colors at hardware or home improvement shops.

This type of surface treatment gives your floor a glossy sheen and usually comes in solid colors. Epoxy finishes are especially good for concrete floors in high-traffic areas such as the garage as it is very resistant to abrasions and scuffs.

If you want to brighten a space, you should look for a metallic epoxy finish. This finishing technique mimics the sheen and color of metal and is about as durable and water resistant as metal itself.

If you’re planning to epoxy finish a new concrete floor, we recommend you wait 28 to 2 months before applying epoxy coating. This will allow your floor to dry and set thoroughly. Clean the floor and let it dry overnight.

There are usually two types of epoxy coating, solvent-based and water-based. Water-based are usually clear, so if you want to maintain the solid grey look of bare concrete but add a bit of shine, this is what you should use. It is solvent-based epoxy coating that comes in solid and metallic colors.

You might want to apply a coat of epoxy primers first and this will create a better bond between the coating and floor and increase the floors durability. Use a roller brush to apply the primer and let it dry for about 12-24 hours.

Apply two coats of epoxy coating using a roller brush. Check the label at the store, it will usually tell you how many square feet the epoxy can cover. Make sure you buy enough to coat your floor twice. Leave the first coat to dry for 24 hours. Apply the second coat and wait another 24 hours.

Swirl Finish Concrete

Living room with swirl finish floors

A swirl finish concrete floor is one that is textured to create overlapping circular swirls. This interesting and unique pattern is achieved by moving a trowel over the drying surface of the cement in a circular or curving pattern. The swirls can be as deep, big, or small as you want.

The unique textures and patterns achieved by this finish also have the added benefit of increasing the traction of the surface and decreasing the chances of slips and falls.

Concrete Aggregate Finish

Home driveway with concrete aggregate finish

Also known as exposed aggregate finish, this is basically a finishing method where the top layer of a concrete floor is washed away so that the aggregates can show through.

Concrete is a mixture of Portland cement and an aggregate, which is usually some sort of rock or stone. Mixed together with water, the cement becomes a paste that covers the aggregate.

The aggregate used is chosen for its attractiveness in a concrete aggregate finish. It could be bits of granite, sea shells, colored glass or colorful stones. When the material is set, it is treated with a chemical that will slow the hardening of the cement.

After leaving the chemical in overnight, the surface water is then used to wash the surface and the top layer of cement is removed and the aggregates are left exposed. This results in an variety of unique patterns and textures that also provide a durable yet non-slip surface.

Concrete Finish Options

Because of the variety of concrete finish options available in the market, a concrete floor can be made to suit almost any room, regardless of the style.

As we mentioned, the different types of floor finishes come in a variety of colors and stains, so you can choose one that matches the overall look of the room.

You can also choose to get finishes that will allow your paved floor to mimic other flooring materials, such as marble or slate. You can easily apply decorative touches like stenciled designs to ensure that you get a truly unique floor.

Cost to Finish Concrete

Modern kitchen with concrete

The cost of finishing a concrete floor will depend on the type of finish you use and the size of the area that you will be finishing.

A simple polish finish or stain will cost your about $2-6 for every square foot. A more elaborate finish, such as a complex stain like the acid wash, could cost $5-8. A highly decorative application, for example one that mimics the color and texture of marble or that incorporates stenciling could cost about $7-15.

If your finish requires you to apply a special solution or compound, the price will depend on the cost of the compound and the area you are going to cover.

• A popular feather finish brand is Ardex, you can get a 10 lb bag for about $19 and it’s supposed to have a coverage of 16.7 square feet per bag.
• Water-based epoxy coats cost about $30-50 a bucket while solvent-based epoxy coating comes at around $45 a bucket.
• A gallon of Top-Cast can cover 200-300 square feet and a five gallon pail will cost around $230 depending on the type.

Most Popular Concrete Patio Finishes

Stamped concrete patio with outdoor furniture

Because of concrete’s strength and durability, it is a popular material for use in creating outdoor landscape designs.

Concrete patio and patio floors are a hardy but elegant addition to any home garden, creating a beautiful and comfortable space for homeowners and their guests to enjoy good weather and fresh air.

Stamped Concrete

When we are thinking about concretepatio floors, some of the best and most popular surface treatments to use are those that leave a textured pattern (also called stamped concrete) on the surface to increase the friction of the floor.

Because a concrete patio is outdoors it tends to be exposed to the elements and smooth finishes can be slippery when wet. Textured or rough concrete finishes are the best choice here, so go with these popular patio finishes to avoid a slipping hazard.

A simple yet elegant solution to create a beautiful but slip-proof concrete patio floor would be to use broom, salt, or brush finishes. Swirl finishes will also suit a patio and is relatively easy to apply.

Of course, concrete floor finishes that leave roughly patterned surfaces will also help increase friction. If you have the time, you can also use sand, Top-Cast, acid wash, and aggregate finishes on areas that are high-traffic.

It’s best to use masonry finishes that leave you with a smooth surfaces in areas that are not high traffic or for other features such as planters, railings, and benches.

Trowel and float finish concrete would provide a nice surface to sit so consider using this to create raised benches around your patio.

For decorative touches and spots of color, consider creating borders or decorative patterns using epoxy finish concrete.

How to Finish Concrete Video

For more related information check out our gallery of concrete kitchen countertops here.

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