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Concrete Floor Coatings vs. Polished Concrete

Polished concrete flooring vs concrete floor coatingsPolished concrete is commonly featured in decorative concrete magazines and websites.   For the later part of the 2000s, it seemed that polished concrete was the rage.   Like many concrete coatings companies, we began to install polished concrete in residential basements, fire stations, commercial showrooms and industrial production environments.    Now, like many concrete coatings companies, we rarely install polished concrete in commercial/industrial settings and will NOT install polished concrete in residential environments.

In this blog, I’m going to discuss the following:

1)     What is Polished Concrete?

2)     When and where is Polished Concrete suitable?

3)     How does Polished Concrete compare to Concrete Floor Coatings?

What is Polished Concrete?

polishedconrete1Wikipedia defines polished concrete as “concrete that has been treated with a chemical densifier and ground with progressively finer grinding tools”.   The process requires grinding and polishing the concrete floor in progressively finer grits of diamond tooling and polished pads.    Depending upon the starting surface conditions, this process can take many steps, such as:

  • Step 1:   Grind at 25 grit
  • Step 2:   Grind at 40 grit
  • Step 3:   Grind at 80 grit
  • Step 4:   Grind at 150 grit
  • Step 5:  Polish at 100 grit
  • Step 6:  Polish at 200 grit
  • Step 7:  Polish at 400 grit
  • Step 8:  Apply concrete densifier
  • Step 9:  Polish at 800 grit
  • Step 10:  Polish at 1500 grit

This process may be more or less inclusive, but regardless, it is very time and manpower intensive.  

Polished concrete can also include dyed concrete, stained concrete and engravings, such as the picture above showing where we dyed and polished the newly poured concrete floor.   In this project, the grinding process was very extensive to allow it to expose some of the colored aggregate (river rock).

When & Where is Polished Concrete suitable?

Polished concrete is very suitable to business having concrete floors which:

  • Are cleaned daily or multiple times per day with a walk-behind or ride-on auto-scrubber
  • Frequency of cleaning does not negatively impact the longevity of the flooring system
  • Require high slip resistance regardless upon whether the surface is wet or dry
  • Are not subjected to harsh chemicals, penetrating dyes, solvents or other contaminants
  • Are not required to have compressive strength greater than the concrete substrate

Because of the required maintenance, polished concrete systems work best for big box retail stores (think Home Depot), well-funded fire stations, warehouses, showrooms and some production floors.

If you have to clean your isle ways and floors many times per day, polished concrete works well since the process can include special cleaners and cleaning pads that continue to polish, densify and stain proof the concrete floor.

If you will not be cleaning regularly or your floor will be subject to splash spills of chemical substances, then a commercial floor coating is a much better solution.   Some coatings even emulate the look of polished concrete, such as a “nude” floor coating.

When and where is polished concrete not well suited?

  • Floors subjected to splash spills, acidic substances and solvents
  • Environments where USDA food grade flooring is required.
  • Floors which will not be cleaned with an auto-scrubber, such as residential garages and basements.

How does Polished Concrete compare to Concrete Floor Coatings?

The following factors greatly influence when each is appropriate.  

Starting Surface Condition

As you can see in the table below, concrete coatings can deal with many more surface conditions with ease, where polished concrete really works best with new poured, very flat floors.

Concrete coatings starting surface conditions criteria


Polished concrete can be an excellent solution, if this type of floor system is chosen for the correct parameters and maintained under the proper conditions.    As a general rule, we do not support the use of polished concrete in residential projects, instead recommending  a floor coating utilizing a thin-mil, all clear system to create the look of polished concrete without the maintenance issues.   We generally refer to these systems as “nude coatings” as it shows the underlying concrete – which can allow the floor to show off the color of the cement paste or the stone aggregates.


Mike Mincemoyer and several members of STRONGHOLD FLOORS are trained, certified and experienced with the HTC SuperFloor and FGS/Permashine polished concrete systems.    The STRONGHOLD FLOORS teams have installed over 50,000 square feet of polished concrete in Pennsylvania.  They still proved polished concrete solutions for some of their larger commercial customers.