modeconcrete

Q/A Concrete Session - Concrete floor, concrete countertop and concrete fireplace discussion

MODE CONCRETE
December 13, 2012
We are new to Houzz and have noticed a lot of requests for a 'concrete' specific forum, to answer and address some decorative concrete questions.

When deciding if concrete is for you, think of concrete as comparable to any natural stone, in relation to imperfections, irregularities, and how it would react to staining. As long as you take care of it and have good sealers/waxes on the surface of your concrete, it's going to hold up well over time. Food grade sealers or waxes are used on kitchen countertops, so there is a barrier between the concrete and any food it might come into contact with. Make sure you do your research and use a reputable concrete contractor that uses high quality products, for a high quality long term result you'll be happy with. To clean and maintain concrete, we recommend natural non-abrasive cleaners.

Some other things home owners or clients should know about concrete... concrete will have variations and inconsistencies, all characteristic properties of concrete. With concrete we embrace and look forward to variations, in particular concrete floors will develop irregularities, freckles, hairline fractures, spider webbing, and a patina naturally with wear over time. If you choose concrete, be aware that as your concrete ages, it will continuously develop 'beauty marks.'

Homeowners, concrete experts, designers, architects, please join in on the discussion and post your pictures!

Comments (68)

  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi Mike Slater,

    Great question - wouldn't that be horrible if the concrete floors actually cemented in your cabinets?! If you are updating an existing kitchen, an experienced and skilled concrete artisan will never allow your cabinets to directly come into contact with the concrete.

    How the contractor does this, is by installing a seal gasket around all the cabinets in the kitchen prior to pouring the concrete floor and leaving a tiny gap between the liquid concrete and any finishings. Once the concrete floor is dry, the seal is removed and filled. The strip can be filled with silicone, grout, schluter strip or trim - you can easily make this virtually invisible by color matching.

    Hope that answers your question :)
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    Mike Slater, to answer your question, you get the same effect as when installing other flooring, i.e. tile, vinyl, wood, laminate, etc. You install the overlay up to exisiting walls and toe kicks on the base cupboards, you remove any appliances and contiue the flooring under the cabinets or recesses the same, and then trim. You are not cementing your cabinets in, but just as with the other options, if you removed the cabinets, that floor would be unimproved. As a footnote if you were to do it in a bathroom, you would remove toilet, apply floor, then reinstall toilet otherwise that would be "cemented" in.
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  • Mike Slater
    These are helpful comments. I had been considering concrete for a kitchen update but thought it couldn't be done over plywood and would be problematic with existing cabinets. Can a heating element be installed with the concrete? I assume, if so, it would need to be isolated from the plywood subfloor?
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    The heating element would be installed the same way as if you were to do a tiled floor, the mats or electrical wire would be laid out as per manufacturers directions to subfloor, cables would be set in a thin set or self leveling concrete, then the concrete overlay would be placed.
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Mike Slater - heating elements are easy to integrate into concrete flooring.

    If doing on a wooden substrate, the best option is wire heating mats due to the thickness of the concrete overlay we use. The concrete is typically only 3/8" thick, so the heating would need to be contained within that thickness.
  • PRO
    nFORMAL design
    To reinforce what MODE and others have tried to get at is that concrete is a wonderful and versatile material. However, I advise people all the time, it is not a miracle or magical material. I've found the hardest issue when dealing with clients is managing their expectations. My experience is that the expectations go to extreme. Some clients that you are trying to sell the benefits of concrete to expect it to be like sidewalk concrete. Others want it to perform like resin impregnated granite (which is what most granite counters are made of).

    I did a counter job where the client wanted the front and back stretcher around the sink to have a seam only on one side. This means that the pieces were small and 36"-ish long and only supported on one side. We suggested an alternative method of support for the sink and having the seams on both sides of the sink. We also told this client that there was a good chance that the concrete could crack, and there was no way of forecasting where the crack would go. She wanted to chance it for aesthetic reasons...even though we lobbied against. Sure enough, the smaller of the two pieces cracked. We ended up hand cutting the counter with a diamond blade angle grinder (on site) and putting in the two seams. Although the client would have freaked with a crack, she still wasn't happy about the two seams. As one concrete reinforcement salesman and concrete countertop engineers have told me (and it makes sense), rebar/steel reinforcement doesn't always keep counters from cracking...it just holds them together once they do crack

    Regardless, that client got an "industry discount" to begin with, and she still wasn't satisfied for a myriad of reasons. She has been our only dissatisfied customer to date.

    Like I wrote in a discussion with Twisted...we at nFORMAL design personally LOVE lightly sealed concrete and the patina it takes on; however, we know that look isn't for everyone. We had another client want concrete counters for a bar we designed/built, and she wanted us to stain them to look "kind of like granite". I was flabbergasted. We did it, but the entire time I was thinking, "If you want it to look like granite, then why not just buy granite?"

    Concrete...a wonderful material. I love it.
  • Mike Slater
    Here is the kitchen that I would like to model mine after. The floor is concrete. I like the uniformity of it.
    [houzz=
    Eyremont modern · More Info
    ]
  • PRO
    nFORMAL design
    If anyone is interested, I just uploaded concrete countertop project we did. Unfortunately, the cabinets and appliances were already there. We just designed and built the counters.
  • Mike Slater
    Like the bathroom vanity!
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    MODE CONCRETE to build off of the discussion page you've started here, I've also created a discussions page listing many of concrete countertops FAQ's, feel free to visit (others welcome to visit also of course). Setting up pages like these are a valuable resource to direct those with questions that may seem vague or require lengthy answers.

    https://www.houzz.com/discussions/concrete-countertops-faqs-by-twisted-minds-custom-designs-dsvw-vd~346684
  • designideas4me
    I have had an unfinished concrete floor for 2 years now. Yes its what the builder put in and it had carpet and linolium on top of it. I filled in the tack strips and had originally planned to grind and stain it myself (with a handiman). The problems I encountered were that the baer product from home depot didnt seem to etch and stain as it was supposed to and the bigger problem was a leveling compound area that I found in the kitchen which is very large. Thus I have to get a concrete overlay if I wish to preceed. I came very close to finalizing a deal in December but my son talked me out of it because he said that wood is a better choice for our house both in terms of resale value and the style of the house. I kinda dont care but I also felt it was a big undertaking. Just so those of you know who are considering this, you need to move all your belongings out of the house and leave for 5 days due to the dust. I did have some concerns about the dust after i returned. The say they cover the air vents and I would have to cover the track lighting plus any walls that are painted ,again due to dust. This would involve taking down curtain rods and lighting etc. He said he would make the sample board as to the exact color when they came to the house because I was undecided as to the exact color. He did have an impressive website and many reviews on it. He seemed to know what he was talking about and he also gave me a good price. Honestly I didnt know what else to check or how. I did look up that he had a current licence as a concrete contractor. Well I have a few questions. First,is there a product I can apply myself to determine what exact color I want the floor to be?I know it wont be exact but seeing the floor in black or in light gray would help me decide. Also when I asked in the discussion board as to what color people liked , many of the stressed how living with concrete is very hard on your back and knees and feet. Since I am actually on disability for my back I started to reconsider if this is the best choice for me. If it was just for looks my choice is stained concrete for sure. But people started to tell me the benifits of cork or a floated wood floor and how this could be better for me back so then I started to consider this option. Basically I still cant decide. They are about bother the same price...10-12k for the whole house. But everything has its pros and cons which makes it so confusing. People claim the wood shows dirt and can scratch and for me the wood will be in the kitchen as well. Choosing a floor is not easy. The issue about the kitchen cabinets concerned me as well since I may put in new cabinets.I do think it is best for me to complete the kitchen before i do the floor since this could create an issue if the footprint of the kitchen is changed. So anyway I am sure you guys will tell me there probably isnt anything I can use to cover the floor temporarily to look at and decide...such as a concrete paint or maybe a non translucent stain. I really just want to apply latex paint since I have so much sitting here. I just cant decide on which color. Ideas on how to decide on wood or concrete and which color?
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi designideas4me,

    Here is a great website that weighs all flooring options against each other, maybe this will help you decide on your favorite material - http://www.concretenetwork.com/staining-concrete/comparison.html

    The concrete overlay products we use, creates zero dust. We mix the product outside, and make sure all cabinets and finished items are protected and masked. The concrete floor is a self leveling product that requires no grinding or polishing, so it produces zero dust. If you'd like white or grey concrete, we'd simply seal/wax the surface and you're set - this only takes 2-3 days including everything. If you'd like a colored concrete floor, we'd recommend a water based stain since it's indoors, non-toxic and dries quickly. This would add an additional day or two to the project. You can definitely still reside in the rest of the house, where we aren't pouring a concrete floor - it's totally non-toxic and is a safe a product.

    All contractors should be making you a sample tile or a test area, so you can see exactly what to expect. For our clients, we will make them custom tiles with the exact products we plan to use on their project. All of the products we use are high quality specialized concrete products, none are available at retail outlets or in hardware stores - only trained artisans should be using these products to ensure the highest quality outcome.

    Concrete is the same hardness and temperature as tile or natural stone. If you are worried about cushioning under your feet, we recommend throw rugs or gel mats where you plan to stand for long periods. But honestly, we've never had any complaints in this regard.

    On blog also has tons of information on concrete floors and pros/cons - http://modeconcrete.blogspot.ca/

    Hope this helps!
  • designideas4me
    Thank you. I am well aware of the concrete network website. Dont you need to grind or etch the existing concrete before applying the concrete overlay so that proper adhersion occurs? Can I see an example of your concrete samples? My entire house will be done so there is no other part to live in as you mentioned. I currently have large throw rugs and dont really stand in any one spot all the time except maybe the kitchen sink and I have put a gel mat there. I think concrete is actually warmer than tile and absorbs more of the temperature of the house. Most people on houzz seem convinsed that floated wood or cork are softer than concrete. what would you say determins the price per sq. foot. from $5 or 8 or $10 per sq foot?Why is it not possible for the public to purchase the products you are using and create and pour this self leveling product? I am on a tight budget. As I asked previously is there any product I can buy to paint or put on the floor in a large amount to determine what color I want. Many of them look great in the pictures but I am not sure which one looks best on my floor in my house. Are you saying that your self leveling product will adhere to any surface on the floor with no grinding or prep? That sounds odd to me based on my understanding of the proper way to prep a floor in order to apply concrete which will adhere and last. what is your laveling product attatching to? Does it just sit on top of the existing floor? Thanks
  • Gabriela D.
    What is the most expensive: concrete floor, ceramic, hardwood...?
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    dsi4me, wood or cork will be "softer" than concrete given the backer that is applied underneath. Price determination varies on many things from amount of prep, product used for overlay, thickness, color, design, or texture applied, you certainly can go buy your own product and apply yourself, but I will guarantee that you will end up with less than desirable outcome. It takes a high level of skill, talent, training, and education to properly apply these types of product. Same as getting a professional to wire, plumb, or frame a house, the application of an overlay is a skilled trade that those who perform take great pride in. If you put a color on your floor to see what will look good, realize that that product will need to be removed and cleaned to allow proper adhesion of the professionaly installed overlay. The substrate in question does need to be cleaned and prepped as MODE indicated, but there are different methods to achieve this result that do not require grinding as MODE again was stating. The link MODE provided should have given you some insight into how this is achieved by professionals, by cleaning the exisitng surface and opening the pores, it allows the chemical bond of original substrate and overlay to combine the two surfaces into one cohesive unit. I understand budgets are always an issue, so where budgets end, reality must set in. Long story short, if you want professional grade finishes on any part of your home improvement, hire the pros, or take the classes and invest the time into understanding what truly is involved in the processess. We do what we do for the love of the craft.
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    Gabriela, way too many variables to give a solid answer. You can purchase of the shelf .89 cents / s.f. tile, or have hand crafted tile shipped in direct from Italy for $40+ per s.f. Builder grade pine planking or exotic African hardwoods, construction slabs with sealer applied or 15 step etched, stained, stenciled, scored, custom designed concrete, etc. etc. etc.
  • designideas4me
    Ok so this is from the concrete network....

    For Concrete polymer-modified overlays:

    Contractors and manufacturers are split between roughening the concrete by mechanical profiling or acid etching.

    Mechanical profiling is the method of choice.

    Twisted and Mode.... Do I need to research and guess what method you are refering to or can you perhaps just spell it out so I understand. Either acid etch or mechanical grind? Is there something else? How are you prepping the surface with no dust as you claim?
  • designideas4me
    Why do you use self leveling instead of a microtopping... on the concrete network they say this................

    Self-leveling overlays are less flexible after drying than microtoppings and spray-down systems, which can make them more prone to cracking
  • PRO
    Twisted Minds Custom Designs
    dsi4me, First question on etching, I believe that MODE was refering to do the chemical etch to open the pores of the original substrate. Seeing as you have newer concrete that probably wasn't sealed due to the facts you stated about other flooring being applied over it originally, chemical etching would be sufficient as long as when completed the installer does some sample checks in different areas to assure a good cleaning. If you have a lot of glue that can't be removed from where vinyl was placed, then mechanical grinding would probably be best choice. Second question on self leveler or micro topping, again can't speak specifically fore MODE, but I believe he was referencing using a microtopping and stated it was a self leveling compound which it is, but not the same as a filling type self leveler used to true up an uneven floor to prepare for a final flooring application whether it be wood, vinyl, microtopping, tile, etc. which are less flexible as per Concrete Network Specs. Again, there are so many variables, which will determine what products and techniques can and can't be used, that to get a professional finish, you need to have a professional come out and diagnose your situation specifically, sorry there is no one size fits all product.
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi designideas4me,

    I agree with everything that Twisted Minds has said! Thanks Twisted Minds!!

    The terms overlay, top-coat and skim-coat all basically mean 'concrete floor' to our clients - we will fine tune the products we use to the substrate we are pouring on. The definition you got from Concrete Network is accurate, but the materials we use are much more technically advanced - we make sure the concrete topping has polymers and flexible agents contained in the mix, we spare no expense and use the best products available to produce long term results that will last. If you are pouring your concrete on a wood substrate, you'll have lots more hairline cracking since the wood floor and frame of house is constantly flexing, moving, expanding/contracting - while pouring on concrete floors always produces less hairline cracks. These cracks that occur (if you're using a good concrete topping) are all termed 'beauty marks' and they aren't structural. It is part of the beauty and originality of your concrete floor. Because of concrete's unpredictable nature, DIY isn't recommended if you want quality results.

    The products that we use, are usually only available at concrete specialty stores, and most concrete specialists keep their tricks of the trade and favorite sealers as their 'trademark secret'. We prepare the surface, various methods are used when preparing each specific job - sometimes we use a primer to ensure adhesion, other times mesh is necessary. The methods we use, typically don't require any grinding of the surface we are preparing, but the best way to assess your floor is to come check out the job in person.

    If you are located in the Okanagan we'd be happy to come check out the floor in person, contact us at modeconcrete@shaw.ca - If you live in the Vancouver area (or anywhere in the world), we would be willing to travel to you, but the customer is responsible for covering all travelling expenses, which would increase your cost. The base price for our artisan created concrete floors cost 12-18/sq ft (price depends on thickness, sealers, stains). Another option, is our hand-cast large format tiles that can be shipped to you, and installed by any tile setter. Good luck with whatever you decide!
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi Gabriela Deguer,

    We found this site that compares all the prices of the flooring options - http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/polishing/comparison-chart.html

    You also have a few options for concrete flooring which would determine the end price. You could have a overlay/top coat poured on your substrate, or large hand-cast custom made concrete tiles created, or smaller standardized concrete tiles available from most tile shops (cheapest option). Hope this helps!!
  • designideas4me
    I dont live near you. I live in Southern California. I dont understand why your prices are so high, I have had several estimates that were anywhere from $3 a sq foot to polish with no micro topping. Estimates of $4.50-$7.00 to apply microtopping and polish stain and seal. Yes these are very reputable companies. So I dont understand that but anyway since the floor will either be covered with wood or a concrete overlay I assume its ok to paint it for the time being just to see which color I want and looks best. Does it matter if there is paint on the floor or not since it will need to be prepped regardless. What do you use to seal the floor? wax? Why is your company not found on the concrete network or did I perhaps put it in wrong? Are prices higher where you are located? Do you use acid stain or how do you create the variation? Do you use dazzel or a metalic product? What are the pros and cons of a more shiny finish versus a matt finish? Thank you.
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi designideas4me,

    Finishing an existing concrete floor, where no topcoat of concrete is required, is much less money and requires less materials. The cheapest (and dustiest way) is to grind down the existing concrete and finish the surface, price depends entirely on the condition of your concrete. The price we mentioned (12-18/sq ft) will produce results like the attached pictures where we apply a thin level of concrete to the substrate, and is great for clients concerned about dust. Do small test ares to see what products produce the results, and look at houzz for design ideas! Usually our clients show us pictures so we know what look they are going for.

    In regards to pricing... you usually get what you pay for, and getting the best deal or accepting the cheapest estimate, will probably not get you the best results or greatest longevity of the product. The difference in cost could be quality of materials, quality of workmanship, level of experience and quality of service. Again, make sure you do your research before weighing the possible options!

    To be listed on the concrete network, you have to pay a fee since it's an advertised listing - we find it's a great 3rd party resource for any unanswered questions to help decisions but we don't personally advertise on there. If you are a brave DIY'er, or just curious about the processes, the concrete network provides tons of info.

    We aren't able to discuss the various products we use, since the techniques and products are highly customized to exactly what you ask for or the look you're trying to achieve (and subject to test areas producing good results). We prefer a matte natural finish, while some people prefer a glossy wet look. A lot of the questions you are asking are personal preference and budget specific, good luck :)
  • designideas4me
    what color is the floor on the left? can you email me a pic so I can see the color close up? Is it true that a client would choose one color and you can create different tones of that color based on where more stain settles in the dips in the concrete but that it is not possible to combine more than one color Or could I choose and combine several colors ? Thx
  • ocolwill
    We are doing concrete white countertops and they are beautiful, I especially love that you get to choose your profiling with them. They are a great statement piece
  • PRO
    MODE CONCRETE
    Hi designideas4me,

    Check out our blog, it features this project and a bunch of full size images that shows more detail of this floor - http://modeconcrete.blogspot.ca/2012/04/cool-modern-and-hip-concrete-floors.html

    The picture on the left is standard grey with a natural finish, no stain was used. We were leveling out an uneven basement concrete floor, and applied concrete to the surface. This is our specialty and can usually do it on any substrate. The level of pigment, staining and combination of colors that can be applied to your concrete floor, is 100% dependent on the artisan's skill level. Anything is possible with concrete stains, maybe you should interview a few more contractors and see if they bring more skill or experience to your project :)
  • PRO
    Modern Concrete Surfaces
    Well said, I have a lot of decorative concrete pictures on my page. Let me know if you have any questions about our style work.
  • M K
    Hi,

    I have a quastion. Can you tell me how you make a concrete Floor looks like wood? And what do you use?

    Kind regards,

    Margret
  • PRO
    Modern Concrete Surfaces
    We use wood stamps. Basically 1/4" of special resurfacing cement is stamped with a rubber mat that has the texture of the wood. The coloring is tricky.
  • PRO
    Elite Crete Systems
    Good looking work guys.
  • pjac53
    Does anyone have experience with composite concrete flooring similar to ComFlor system in a residential setting?
  • beachdingo
    We just bought a house built in 1947 that is built on slab. It also has the original radiant floor heating. Is it possible to install concrete flooring on top of this?
  • PRO
    Modern Concrete Surfaces
    Yes. but I would expect some cracking. You can do a self leveling cement application over the heating - but it can be tricky depending on the type of radiant heating.
  • PRO
    Northeastern Residential
    Our client wanted an industrial partial finish feel for their basement. We managed to resurface the floor with concrete to give this unique texture.
  • Analisa Pratt
    Very nice! Love the personality in the movement!
    Thanks for all the great info and reference points Pros! This is a valuable discussion board.
  • debbiegor
    Would you recommend concrete for a bar top in a restaurant or steer away from it? We are looking for a unique option that is long lasting and easy maintenance.
  • PRO
    Modern Concrete Surfaces
    if you want concrete counters you just have to be ready to pay top dollar. they are not the most durable of options either
  • moonrunner
    Hi Pros, I am not a contractor, but owner-builder with aim to improve my next projects... I have two Qs, please: what companies/products do you recommend for electric heating elements? (I live in desert, not many suppliers of such around here), and can you recommend any heating strip product I could use to warm up this 8' breakfast bar I built in in my own home. It is wonderfully cool in summer, but uncomfortably cold on the elbows this time of year. Thank you x100 for all tips and ideas you may have for me!!!! JP
  • moonrunner
    Ps, the concrete bar is 2" thick, cantilevered/overhang is 12-14" and I have multiple electric outlets on the back side. (In heavy use 11 years, including a couple of parties with people standing on my bar, and NO cracks!)
  • MaryGrace
    Here are some pics of my concrete countertops. I really like them. They were part of my total kitchen renovation of about a year ago. They have held up well so far even though they show tiny scratches when the light hits just right.
  • PRO
    Tremonti Cast Concrete

    Debbiegor, concrete bar tops durability with low maintenance relies heavily on a quality sealer. In recent years concrete countertop sealers have advanced tremendously.

  • bootsy04

    Hello - i am currently living in France where waxed concrete or "beton cire" is becoming quite popular even for wet areas and am considering it for the bathroom walls - including the shower stalls. I hear mixed opinions from so called specialists and professionals as to whether using it in the shower is a good idea. Has anyone had any experience with this in the shower stall? It is a gorgeous look, but it is quite expensive - i've been quoted over 100 euros per square meter as it is a multi step process and the materials are expensive, would hate to have to redo in a few years. I've seen it in a shower and the owner didn't seem to have any problems with it.....

  • Libby Hartman

    What is the cost comparison of concrete for flooring compared to other options?

  • amynmc

    Hello--What a great thread. We are preparing to pour a concrete floor in a new construction home, definitely more modern/rustic in style. I'm curious to know what folks have used to seal the floor--we are looking at the Dry-Treat products--Intensifia and Stain Proof and also the Davis 1000 Cure and Seal (clear). We have young kids and dogs and so are looking for something that will help protect against everyday staining but not have that film look to it (i.e. preserve the natural look of the concrete). Would love any and all suggestions! Thanks so much.

  • lhouse2012

    Thinking of doing concrete countertops in our home. Curious to see more pics of how they have held up for people over the years

  • PRO
    Tremonti Cast Concrete

    This is a very open-ended question. There is a wide range of types and quality of sealers, and the process and skill and attention to detail of the applicator also comes into play. Some fabricators may also not even seal it (although it should be for a kitchen countertop). It depends on how the fabricator sets expectations for the client regarding the sealer and concrete. It also matters if the expectations of the lifetime and maintenance of the sealer has been set for the client--and upkept. It also depends on the quality and finish of concrete used and the skill of the fabricator, just as much as the sealer and upkeep. Concrete is never as simple as black or white--- there are also many shades of grey.

  • lhouse2012

    We would be doing them ourselves. We have done concrete floors before but never countertops. I am hoping to achieve this color. Any tips would be greatly appreciated?

  • PRO
    Tremonti Cast Concrete

    Looks like stain. Buddy Rhodes Concrete Products and Trinic both sell stains. Trinic.us website and email Bob. He would have an idea what colors to start with.

  • PRO
    Urban West Design

    I would use a water base stain which would eliminate any neutralizing when using an acid stain.

    A quality sealer to enhance and protect the finish is also important.

    We use Surecrete water base stains and polyurethanes sealers which work really well.

  • Nidia Messias

    Hi all,

    i have hit a problem on a renovation and now I am looking into a concrete answer. I was planning on installing wood substituting my old Saltillo tiles on kitchen. During the removal of the tiles, we found out that under the tiles there was a "mudbed", which crackles and crumbles when we remove the tiles. They option that was given to me was to remove that mudbed, built a new subfloor, and install the new floor. that will be expensive and dusty. Do you think I could pour concrete on top of the mudbed and have a new concrete floor in place? Of would that crack a lot as well?

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