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 concrete floors a fresh, new look. However, one process may be better suited than the other depending on the situation and design requirements. Here are the key factors to consider.
CONDITION OF THE CONCRETE
Most structurally sound concrete floors can be polished, but there are some exceptions. Floors with major flaws that would still show through after polishing are usually better candidates for resurfacing. 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 microtoppings to thick self-leveling overlays that can correct uneven floors, cover up damaged concrete, and provide a smooth new surface for decorative treatments.
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, 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 your goal is to achieve a high-gloss, mirror-like finish with high light reflectivity, polishing is the best choice. 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.
Polished concrete floors are typically 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. Unlike polished concrete, a decorative overlay generally needs to be protected by a sealer or floor wax to protect it from foot traffic and abrasion especially in high-traffic areas.
By Jim Peterson, The Concrete Network