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Resurfacing Floors that Can’t be Polished
Time: 02:44
See an example of a floor that is not suitable for polished concrete and discover the decorative options available for such floors. Learn how cement based toppings can be used to resurface the floor, creating a new canvas.

When an existing concrete floor needs a makeover, the question that’s often asked is which option is best: polishing or resurfacing with a decorative overlay? Both choices can give your concrete floors a fresh, new look. However, one process may be better suited than the other depending on your particular situation. Here are the key factors to consider.

What’s the condition of the concrete?

Most structurally sound concrete floors can be polished, but there are some exceptions. Floors with major flaws such as spalled areas, carpet tack holes, and extensive patchwork that would still show through after polishing are usually better candidates for resurfacing. An experienced contractor can usually determine a floor's suitability. See Can All Concrete Be Polished?

If your floor is too beat up for polishing, you can disguise the abuse by resurfacing it with a decorative concrete overlay. Various types of overlays are available, ranging from thin microptoppings to thick self-leveling overlays that can correct uneven floors, cover up damaged concrete, and provide a smooth new surface for decorative treatments.

What look do you want to achieve?

In terms of decorative options, both polished concrete floors and overlays can be enhanced by stencils, decorative sawcuts, and topical colors such as stains or dyes. However, resurfacing with an overlay will give you more finish options, ranging from ultra-smooth to heavily textured depending on the type of overlay system and the tools used to apply it. Some overlays can also be stamped to mimic brick, slate, or stone or seeded with decorative aggregates to achieve a terrazzo-like effect.

If you like the high-luster look of polished concrete but the condition of your floor calls for resurfacing, another option is a polishable overlay. You’ll be able to cover the existing flaws with a smooth, high-gloss surface while enjoying many of the decorative options of an overlay, such as the ability to add integral color and decorative aggregate.

What are your performance requirements?

Because polished concrete floors are extremely durable due to the densification and polishing process, they generally are more resilient than cement-based overlays, especially in high-traffic areas. They also are easier to maintain than other types of decorative concrete floors because they require no waxing or sealers. With basic cleaning, polished concrete should retain its luster for years.

Unlike polished concrete, a decorative overlay generally needs to be protected by a sealer or coating to protect it from foot traffic and abrasion. In addition, frequent application of a floor wax or polish may be necessary in high-traffic areas to offer extra resistance to stains and wear patterns. For more information, see How to Care for Decorative Concrete Floors.

MAKING YOUR CHOICE

Deciding Factors Polished Floors Decorative Overlay Polishable Overlay
Your floor is structurally sound, with no major cracks, spalls, or unlevel areas. YES YES YES
Your floor has major flaws requiring extensive patchwork. NO YES YES
You want your floor to have a high-gloss sheen with a smooth, glass-like surface. YES NO YES
You want to give your floor a textured finish. NO YES NO
You want to seed your floor with decorative aggregates. NO YES YES
You want to topically color your floor with stains and dyes. YES YES YES
You want to give your floor a stamped pattern to mimic brick or stone. NO YES NO
You want to enhance your floor with decorative sawcuts or a stenciled design. YES YES YES
You want to simplify maintenance and eliminate the need for sealers or floor wax. YES NO YES

See these project examples:


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