“To Do or Not To Do?” – A refinishing concrete floor project

Whenever we visit with a client, one of the first questions we get is whether the floor will look good after staining. The answer really depends on what you are expecting as the final result. Typically we can offer two options, one is what we call a direct acid stain where we go in, pull everything off the floor (carpet, tile, wood, linoleum, etc.), clean it as thoroughly as possible, then stain and seal it. The second option is an overlay where we pull everything off and then go through a refinishing concrete floor process that involves us putting down a thin layer of fresh concrete over your existing floor (hence its name-overlay) that we then stain and seal.

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So what difference does it make? We normally recommend going with a direct acid stain for new construction or exterior surfaces that hadn’t been previously painted or stained. It is an economical way of creating a very beautiful floor without having “problem areas”. If you had any other type of flooring previously installed and want to stain the same area, you are going to have to compromise. Keep in mind that when they were building your home, the last thing the contractor cared about was the floors; after all they were going to get covered up with carpet, tile, wood, something, so who cares if a little paint got spilled, or someone decided to varnish the cabinets in the middle of the room, or somebody wrote with magic marker where some electrical plugs were going to be installed; it’s getting covered up. Of course, we get sideswiped whenever we pull up whatever was installed and find this mess below. Try as we may to clean, sand, scrub, and scrape it up, we won’t ever get it all off and since acid staining is a translucent process, anything that didn’t come up will be visible in the final finish.

To eliminate these “problem areas” we always recommend the refinishing concrete floor process. With the application of a thin layer of new concrete (an overlay) we bury all the problems so that they don’t show up in the final finish. This works for both interior and exterior flooring, what does vary is the finish we leave it with. For interior floors we apply the material and hard trowel it, i.e., we pass a steel trowel over the surface repeatedly while it is setting up, creating a smooth, burnished finish that is easy to keep clean with moping or sweeping. We typically call this process a microfinish overlay. For exterior surfaces, we leave the refinishing concrete floor surface with some graininess. This gives it a little more grip if it gets wet and while it’s a little harder to clean, you can normally just hose it off with no problems. These are typically skim coat, trowel down, or stamped overlays, depending on what you are looking for.

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Of course this costs a little more than if we just directly stain your existing concrete. There is a prep step that usually requires grinding to open up the floor so that the refinishing concrete floor material will stick tightly. Which option you choose really just depends on what you would like to see in the end. In this project, our homeowner decided to go with the refinishing concrete floor process for peace of mind and it gives them a wider range of flexibility, from finishes to colors.

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