A stamped overlay was used to cover this concrete floor and make it look like wood. SUNDEK of San Antonio in San Antonio, TX

Have you ever considered concrete or a concrete topping as a floor covering? For the most part floor coverings have always referred to carpet, tile, hardwood or some other surface commonly used to cover concrete sub floor materials. With the growth of interior decorative concrete finishes, we can now add concrete to the list of options of floor coverings for your next interior floor project. While most concrete floor coverings can be used both interior and exterior, for simplicity we will focus on interior flooring, especially since this is where a vast majority of these materials end up being used.

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While the history of decorative overlay or "concrete floor covering" industry is relatively short, less than 20 years, these materials were all developed from the concrete underlayment industry, which has been around for 50 + years. About 20 years ago, polymer technology had developed to a point where cement-based products could be modified enough where they could be placed ultra thin (less than ¼ inch thick) while still maintaining their integrity, durability and strength. In recent years the technology has evolved to the point where certain decorative overlay materials can be applied the thickness of a credit card while still achieving in excess of 6000 psi point compression strength. When you consider how thick a credit card is, that makes these materials all that more impressive.


Here are six ways to cover concrete. Each of these provides a distinct look, with benefits and differences we will examine. For even more information, read types of overlays.

A stamped overlay inside a restaurant. Concrete Solutions Products by Rhino Linings in San Diego, CA

1. Textured Concrete Floor Coverings

If you are looking for a 3-dimensional textured floor covering that resembles most any natural material (stone, tile, wood, etc.) consider a stampable overlay on your next project. These systems typically range in thickness from ¼ inch to 5/8 inch. The common thickness is 3/8 inch, which is usually thick enough to accommodate most standard imprinting tools. These materials cure in 24 hours, and can usually be sealed and light traffic allowed within 36 hours after application.

Microtopping over old concrete, polysealed & waxed. Frank Zip in San Francisco, CA

2. Thin Section / Microtoppings

Often called skim coats, typical finishes for microtopping floor coverings include, but are not limited to smooth trowel, rough trowel, stippled, and orange peel. Like stampable overlays, these systems cure in 24 hours, and are usually ready for foot traffic within 36 hours of application. Another common microtopping finish involves coming back 24 hours after application and applying concrete stains or dyes to create a stained concrete appearance. This is a very popular finish for residential and small commercial spaces.

A 3/8 inch self-leveling floor overlay for a luxury apartment complex. Hyde Concrete in Pasadena, MD

4. Self-Leveling

Underlayments used as concrete flooring is the newest trend in concrete floor coverings. Self-leveling concrete has been a staple for repair and leveling of damaged or worn concrete. Until recently, another solid surface floor covering would be placed on top of the self-leveling material. In the last few years contractors have started adding integral color to self-leveling systems, or coming back after 24 hours and using stains, dyes or tints to create colorful floors. The advantage of a self-leveling system is that it can correct uneven floors, repair damaged floors, and at the same time provide a very dense smooth and durable concrete floor.

Metallic epoxy basketball court. SUNDEK of Houston in Katy, TX

5. Epoxy Coating

Epoxies are ideal for covering garage floors, basements, commercial facilites and more. Color flakes or metallic pigments can be added to create a one-of-a-kind finish. Covering concrete with an epoxy coating makes sense if you need high performance flooring that is resistant to oil, chemicals and much more. Epoxies are one of the toughest floor coverings available.

Polishable overlay with sawcuts. ACI Flooring Inc in Beaumont, CA

6. Polishable Overlay

If you love the look of polished concrete, but don't want to see underlying imperfections from the existing slab, consider a polishable overlay. This type of concrete covering is seeded then polished to expose the aggregate. Further customization options include color and sawcut designs.

If you currently have a structurally sound and stable floor, and are considering a new floor covering, don't skip over concrete as a floor covering option. As you have just read, concrete is now available in most any color, with an endless variety of textures and patterns to choose from. These systems are thin, and strong, giving the durability and value of concrete, with the perception of stone, tile, wood, or other natural material. In many cases a little creativity goes a long way in creating a floor covering that is a one of kind, and in many cases much less expensive than its natural material counterpart. The next time you are looking at floor coverings, consider a concrete floor covering.

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