new concrete slab- how to give floor a smooth finished look?

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Topic: new concrete slab- how to give floor a smooth finished look?

Heating and Cooling January 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm

new concrete slab- how to give floor a smooth finished look?

Hello, I’m pouring a new concrete slab in my basement. It will be a finished basement (bedrooms) with radiant heat in the slab. I’m exploring the options for a finished smooth cement floor? Is a “polished cement floor” abtained by using a “helecopter” while it is drying? What are the results of using a helicopter? Or do I have to use a cement polisher / grinder?
Then there is dying, staining and acid etching and then applying a sealer. how smooth will these come out? Anyone with some wisdom would be much appreciated.-

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We have new cement that was smoothed by hand/trowel to get about as smooth a finish as you can get without post processing.  Sealers won’t change the feel. You can paint the cement (I think outdoor paints are good for this, maybe deck paint?) for a differnt look and nicer feel on the feet.  

If you want polished cement, I think you need a specific company to come in and do this after it’s dried.  They can give it about any look you want (color, patterns, etc.) and you’ll get that smooth, glossy finish.  I’m pretty sure it’s not cheap.


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A helicopter is usually used for larger spaces or when a very dry mix is used since it’s harder to trowel  by hand.  Most good masons can give you a very smooth “polished” surface by hand, but you have to specify that and it adds somewhat to the cost as it takes longer to acheive.  It’s not prohibitively higher, I want to say 10 percent more, but I will ask my mason next time I see him to verify.   Normally you would grind the surface if you wanted a terrazo look where the aggregates in the mix are exposed.  Not a look that everyone likes.  Staining or acid finishes depend on the specific product.  Some colorants go in the wet concrete, others you apply after the fact. The ones that go in the mix obviously wear better.  Acid washes are after the fact. Stains and sealers are not thick enough to significantly effect the finished surface unless you’re using a sealer that specifically addresses finish, most are strictly to protect the conscrete from spills. Waxes will smooth a floor a little but only after a good mason  has  done 95+% of the work before hand.  If you find a mason you like, ask to see a job that they polish finished. Most homeowners are thrilled to show off the work they had done and you’ll also get an idea of how working with the mason was.

With radiant heat in your slab it is very important to be sure they insulate under the slab  a minimum of R-10 with 2″ of blue foam, more is better, or much of your heat will be conducted to the earth. Less important but a good idea is a thermal break at the perimiter of the slab. Also use a 6 mil or thicker vapor barrier for a less humid cellar.

Regular concrete or special concrete toppings can be finished by sanding to achieve a variety of grades.  I worked with Manhattan Concrete once (after inspecting their work in a major retail project in Manhattan).  The vendor showed me a lot of samples.  I’ve also worked with a lot of Ardex products, and a smooth, level surface can be created suitable for sealing if the installer knows how to handle the product.  All options are expensive.

A helicopter is generally utilized for bigger areas or when an extremely dry mix is utilized since it’s more difficult to trowel by hand. Many good masons can easily give you a really smooth “polished” area by hand, but you need to specify that and it adds rather to the cost as it takes longer to acheive. It’s not excessively greater, I wish to state 10 percent a lot more, yet I will ask my mason next time I see him to validate. Generally you will grind the surface if you desired a terrazo look where the accumulations in the mix are exposed. Not an appearance that everybody likes. Tarnishing or acid finishes depend on the particular product.

Thanks so much for all the advice and wisdom. It seems the best thing to do is have a good mason at the pour and have him smooth it by hand. Can anyone recommend a mason for this job? It’s a small project and a freelance mason with a free day would be the best fit. Thanks

Hi perro5, curious to see if you’ve gone through with this yet, and how it went. Hoping to do something similar in the near future.

Hi Rinehart, No not yet.

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