Stained and polished concrete in a residential office. By Liquid Stone in Warminster, PA

Most people think of concrete as a base for other floor coverings like carpet, tile, and hardwood. But few are aware that by leaving the concrete exposed and giving it a beautiful finish, they can eliminate floor coverings altogether while producing a floor that is distinctive, long lasting, and easy to maintain.

Decorative finish options for concrete floors range from smooth and polished to textured, troweled and stamped surfaces. You can also color or stain a concrete floor to match any hue, give it a finish that resembles wood or marble, and enhance the floor with decorative stencils and custom graphics. What’s more, many floor finishes — including staining, dyeing, polishing and decorative coatings — can be applied to new as well as existing concrete.

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Hyde Concrete in Pasadena, MD

1. Stained Floors

Stains are by far the most popular method for enhancing concrete floors, not only because of their rich, semi-transparent color tones but also because a stained finish is permanent and will not flake or peel away. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can choose from acid stains, which are generally limited to earth-tone colors, or water-based stains, which offer a broader color palette. To learn more about your design options, see Stained Concrete Floors.

Artistic Surfaces Inc in Indianapolis, IN

2. Dyed Concrete

Ideal for artistic concrete floor designs, concrete dyes offer more vibrant colors than concrete stains — like red, blue, yellow, and orange -- and can even be mixed to create custom color blends. Both water- and solvent-based dyes are available, with each type having unique qualities. Dyes work especially well on polished concrete floors because they can be applied during the polishing process.

Sundek of Nashville in Goodlettsville, TN

3. Faux Wood Finish

You can transform concrete in a variety of ways to replicate the look of wood while creating a floors that’s easier to maintain and more resistant to moisture and abrasion. Some contractors use stamps, others use scoring and staining, and still others use the natural grain of real wood boards to leave an imprint on the concrete surface. For ideas, check out these faux-wood concrete projects.

FLORTEK LLC in Glendale, AZ

4. Stampable Overlays

Stamped concrete overlays can be used to add texture to existing concrete floors and give them the look of natural stone, brick, slate, wood, and other materials. Applied at a thickness of about 3/8 inch, they are thick enough to accommodate most standard imprinting tools, giving you a wide array of floor pattern options. They also work well with seamless texture skins if you want to impart a stone-like texture without pattern lines.

SUNDEK Products USA in Grand Prairie, TX

5. Polished Concrete

Polishing and burnishing are great alternatives to textured concrete finishes if you prefer a sleek, smooth-as-glass floor with high light reflectivity. Polished concrete has been popular for years for both residential and commercial floors because of its beautiful sheen, ease of maintenance, and durability. But you can also achieve a similar level of shine and beauty, often at a lower cost, by burnishing the concrete rather than polishing.

Westcoat in San Diego, CA

6. Metallic Coatings

Nothing gives a concrete floor more razzle-dazzle than a metallic coating. These epoxy-based systems contain real metallic powders and special reflective pigments that replicate the look of copper, silver, aged bronze, nickel, and other shimmery patinas. To see the unique effects possible, check out these ideas for metallic epoxy floors.

Modello Designs in Chula Vista, CA

7. Stenciling

Creating patterns on your concrete floor using adhesive-backed stencils gives you an infinite array of design possibilities, ranging from faux area rugs to intricate borders and medallions. A variety of techniques can be used to add depth and color to your designs including stains, dyes, embossing with a spray-down topping, and acid etching. Learn more: Stenciling Concrete Floors.

Westcoat in San Diego, CA

8. Epoxy Garage Floor Coatings

Epoxy floor coating systems formulated specifically for concrete garage floors allow you to turn a plain garage floor slab into an extension of your living space while giving the floor greater resistance to oil and grease stains and hot tire marks. These durable coatings come in a wide variety of color options and can be accented with decorative quartz or vinyl color chips to produce a look similar to granite or terrazzo.

Bella Tucker Decorative Finishes in Franklin, TN

9. Microtoppings

Also called skim coats, microtoppings can be used to create a clean canvas for a variety of decorative treatments, including stains, dyes, and stenciled patterns. They are easily applied with trowels, squeegees, brushes, or rollers, depending on the desired look. You can also put down several coats to create a textured broomed or troweled finish.

Stone FX in Humble, TX

10. Marble-Look Floors

Concrete floors made to look like marble are a budget-friendly alternative that offer all the beauty of real marble at a fraction of the cost. There are a variety of ways to achieve the amazing transformation from concrete into marble, and most methods can be used on new and existing concrete floors as well as concrete overlays. Here’s a look at how to make concrete floors look like marble. in Calimesa, CA

11. Painted Floors

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to spruce up a concrete floor is to simply give it a coat or two of paint. Many of today’s concrete floor paints are water-based so they are easy to work with and safe to use indoors, allowing you to turn a drab concrete floor into an attractive surface in just one weekend. See our guide to painted concrete floors.

Brickform, a division of Solomon Colors, Inc. in Springfield, IL

12. Diamond-Cut Patterns

Cutting diamond patterns into a concrete floor is an easy, cost-effective way to give a plain concrete slab the look of an upscale tile floor. This decorative scoring technique is accomplished using simple cutting tools to create a grid of intersecting diagonal lines in the concrete surface. Instead of cutting the lines, you can also create a diamond design by using concrete stains or paints along with stencils or even painter’s tape laid in a diamond-grid pattern. For ideas, check out these diamond-patterned floor projects.

How Much Does It Cost to Finish a Concrete Floor?

When it comes to the cost of a decorative concrete floor finish, there is a price range for almost any budget, from as little as a few dollars per square foot for a simple stained floor to more than $15 per square foot for a finish with multiple colors and textures (see Concrete Floor Cost). But unlike most floor coverings, a concrete floor finish will rarely need replacement, making it more affordable in the long run and more environmentally friendly.

How Long Does a Concrete Floor Finish Last?

The service life of a concrete floor finish often depends on the condition of the concrete the finish is applied to, how much foot traffic the floor receives, and how well the floor is maintained. To achieve the best results, you should always prepare the surface properly before applying the finish or coating, especially if you are working with existing or previously coated concrete (see Concrete Surface Preparation).

Once the finish is installed, you can significantly prolong its life by applying a concrete floor sealer. Not only will a sealer protect the concrete surface from abrasion and stains, it will also enhance the color and impart a nice sheen.


For existing surfaces, most projects will consist of three phases:

  1. Prep work and cleaning: How this is done will vary depending on the finish to be applied. For instance, you can’t clean the surface with muriatic acid if you’re planning on using an acid-based stain, and cracks or holes may need to be repaired for some finishes, but can be left as is for others. Additionally, if your concrete surface is uneven, it's essential to have it leveled before applying a decorative finish to ensure a smooth and flat floor (see How to Level a Concrete Floor). For new concrete, prep work is minimized.
  2. Staining, polishing, or application of a coating: Obviously, the process will vary based on the chosen finish. Some require the use of equipment, such as polishing, others are simply products applied to the surface, such as stains, dyes, or coatings.
  3. Sealing or other protective treatment: Similar to prep and cleaning, which sealer you use—or if one is even needed—will be determined by the finish that was applied. Polished floors may not require a sealer, but stained or colored floors should be protected.

Concrete overlay handpainted to resemble carrera marble. By SoClean Blasting Services Inc in Ronkonkoma, NY


In addition to their decorative merits, all cement floor finishes are easy to maintain when applied to properly prepared floor surfaces. They can endure heavy foot traffic, they are stain and moisture resistant, and they won’t harbor mold, mildew, allergens, or dust mites. Learn more about cleaning concrete floors.


While some of the processes may look simple, your best bet is to hire a pro. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Stains applied to concrete are permanent, which means mistakes are permanent too. (See more about DIY staining)
  • There are significant differences in the prep and cleaning if you’re applying acid-based vs. water-based stains that can result in the stain not being absorbed by the concrete.
  • Polishing requires the use of heavy equipment that needs to be rented and skill to achieve good results.
  • Sealers also need to be matched to the type of finish applied, not all sealers are compatible with all finishes.

Unique Concrete Floors
Time: 01:15
Why does nearly everyone love the look of concrete floors?


In addition to the more traditional decorative finishes for concrete floors, advances in materials and finishing techniques have resulted in new cutting-edge looks.

Here are some of our favorite concrete floor design ideas:

Water-Inspired Concrete Floors

Eight Ways to Design with Concrete Borders

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Inspiration for brown, gray, white and red floors.

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How to Give Your Floors a Smooth Concrete Finish

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