Remodel & Renovate in 98103>Question Details

Panthroman, Home Buyer in Seattle, WA

Polished concrete vs. hardwood

Asked by Panthroman, Seattle, WA Thu Apr 23, 2009

1 - Which costs more to install?
2 - Has anyone dealt with polished concrete for more than a couple years? How does it hold up?
3 - If the polished concrete stain comes out poorly, is it possible to change?
4 - I love the look and feel of concrete (with radiant heat), but I'm nervous about taking the chance! Hardwood is tried and true. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

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Answers

18
The comfort of heat coming through your socks is very seductive, which means it must be good for your health. I’ll never own another bathroom without it.
1. Cost: This will depend on whether you are on ground level or higher.
a. If you are on the ground, there isn’t any comparison because not only is the concrete material less expensive but you don’t have to build the substructure to a wooden floor system. Concrete wins handily.
b. If you are looking at upper levels then you have to consider the weight (and the cost of the structure to support it) and you get into a question of upgrading the design mix of the concrete if you want to minimize its thickness or weight.
c. Generally I’d say that a true hardwood floor is more expensive than concrete and it is more critical to follow the manufacturer’s installation details when laying the wood material over radiant heat. The less expensive wood floors always sound tacky when you walk on them even if they are easier to install.
d. Confirm this opinion by visiting a hardwood flooring showroom on the one hand and by calling a specialty concrete floor installer on the other. The best information on a radiant heating installation will come from a heating contractor who specializes in radiant heat.
2. Maintenance:
a. Concrete color is either applied to the surface or mixed into the concrete truck at the batch plant. It is also possible to “dust” the fresh slab with the pigment that they use at the batch plant and trowel it in as the slab cures but this will be very “arty.” The stains are pretty unpredictable. They interact with the chemicals in the concrete and those chemicals may be distributed unevenly. You need to be willing to live with a lot of variation in color. Some think of it as pretty darn natural looking, like leather.
b. Sealers or waxes are either hard (glossy) or soft (matt sheen). Those that appear soft (warm) tend to hold more dirt and are more difficult to clean. Those that are hard tend to be easy to clean but are extremely slippery when wet.
c. In either case of wood or concrete, the finish will need to be refreshed. If you catch wood in time (every 5 years) you only need to buff it and apply a new coat of finish. If it gets to the point of seeing wood through the surface, you need to re-sand and re-finish. The concrete refresher should be as easy (and frequent) as the wood re-coat. (waxes may have a shorter life span) If you let the sealer wear through to the concrete the repair is about as nasty as the wood sanding.
3. Installation of finished concrete floors: this is not new technology and doesn’t need to be an experiment. There are lots of people who specialize in it. It’s been around longer than wood; check out the Roman baths. Need any referrals?
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 28, 2009
I think that hardwood flooring looks a a lot better in a house, whereas polished concrete looks great in more of a business setting. Maybe it's just me, but I really think that is the best way to look at it. It's all about personal preference though. http://www.plazaontario.com/
Flag Wed Sep 10, 2014
Wow, when I saw this question I didn't realize that someone would know this much information about concrete polishing. My wife and I have been planning on polishing the concrete in our kitchen, but we weren't really sure how much it would cost. We've been doing a lot of research all over the internet, but this is one of the best articles that we've found so far. http://www.cretecoatings.com/
Flag Fri Aug 1, 2014
Thanks for posting this information. I've been trying to decide what types of floors to get in my new home. This has helped me decide. I think that I will go with what is the lowest cost.
Gary Puntman | http://www.floorsandinginmelbourne.com.au
Flag Tue Jul 15, 2014
I have played around with the idea of polished concrete as well. I never would have considered it until I went to a home show last month. They were heated floors, and I really liked them. I think it is a more modern look as well, which I like. http://www.petermanlumber.com
Flag Wed Mar 5, 2014
I've had experience with both floor types and each offer benefits.
You wouldn't go wrong with either.

Polished concrete is a little bit of a misnomer, since while concrete
can be finished to a sheen (called hard troweled), a true gloss or
polished sheen is best done by having a sealer coat applied. There are
many 'sealers' available and you will get what you pay for. Two-part
seal coat finishes are best, but usually cost more and are a little more work to prepare prior to application but are very doable. The two-part sealers are available as water-based mixes which is important.

Color can be attained by different methods. A few choices are 1)integral color (color is part of the concrete mix), 2)acid etched into a concrete surface (color is a result of an acid based material sprayed onto an alkaline surface-in this case concrete), or 3)surfaced applied (usually sprayed). With any of these coloring methods it is be best to have a sealer applied as the last step. The sealers are available in flat or matte, semi-gloss, or gloss or "polished" sheens.

Wood floor types vary. I'm most familiar with 3/4" oak, tongue &
groove. 1/4" top nailed is very common in older homes.
The sealing issues with wood floor are similar to concrete floor;
finishes are available in various 'sheens', and one-part or two-part mixes. Colors available are numerous and are surface applied prior to sealing
similar to what is done with finishing furniture or other wood material. Clear sealers allow the beauty of the wood to be seen, while clear sealers on plain or non-colored concrete might not be what you want.

Durability is as different as the difference with concrete or wood so
concrete will last forever. The type of sealer applied on the
surface really affects the durability of either material (especially wood), and wood is more susceptible to excess surface moisture. The substrate under either material is important and can ultimately affect the longevity of either. If you are going with concrete make sure substrate/subfloor can handle it

Re-finishing of either wood or concrete involves a fair amount of work but is possible with each. There is a limit to the number of times a wood floor can be refinished.

Cost for either material can vary widely and is dependent on a number of things; type of wood, thickness of concrete, room layout, condition of substrate, when completed (new or rehab construction), etc. Wood is probably lower cost or at least can be more competitive since there are many more installers (can also mean more lower quality installers).

Lastly, there is a certain 'warmness' to the appearance of a wood floor that some think is not possible with a concrete floor, though radiant floor heat (either electrical or hydronic) is possible with either.

Again, I don't think you can go wrong with either material. When installed in a professional manner and proper prep conditions, either concrete or wood can give you years of enjoyment. Best of luck with your decision.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 12, 2010
The cost for polished concrete will vary by location, type of concrete (soft/hard), the degree of shine, and other decorative features like dye or cuts. The average cost on commercial jobs is about $2.50/sq ft without the decorative elements. For a home, the cost will be higher. If you are living in the home, you will have some dust so the contractor will have to seal of doorways to areas that you don't want finished. In a home, polished concrete will last a long time. If done correctly and maintained properly it will last for years. When the shine dulls you could have the floors burnished with a professional burnishing machine. The published costs over 20 years average $0.30 per square foot.

It is also considered a green option, earning many buildings LEED points. Why? Because you are using an existing, locally procured product. You are not covering it up and won't have to dispose of it at some point. Polished concrete is low VOC and allergy free.

Like the other comments, find someone that knows what they are doing. Go to http://www.concretenetwork.com to find a contractor in your area. Have the contractor do a sample on your floor. They should do a section of the slab complete with stain to prove the results you can expect. That would be your standard and the rest of the floor should match. Make sure that is in your contract.

Avoid sealers as these will scratch. One chemical company, Prosoco, offers a "guard" product that helps against spills. Topical coatings typically make the concrete unbreathable. That will cause your floor to discolor with time. Considering you are from Seattle, you will want your slab to breathe. For more information on that search for efflourescence. (Hope I spelled that right :))

The biggest thing that will make your polished concrete last a long time is proper maintenance. Another example of a really professional installer will be the maintenance instructions (especially written) they give you.

Have fun!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 13, 2009
You can grind and polish raw concrete to expose the aggregate pebbles and then use a clear sealant which is a look I really like. If you just polish and apply a stain or an acid stain then the only thing you can do to change it is add color/stain.

Although I have never priced concrete installation, It seems it would be more expensive, labor intensive, and I'm sure there are probably fewer contractors that even know how to do it well.

I really like the look of acid stained concrete but the hardwood will probably be cheaper and possibly more marketable. Although concrete is getting more popular. Marketability depends too on which room you put it in, what type of architecture and quality the house is.
Web Reference: http://www.homehounds.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 23, 2009
I love the look of the polished concrete, too, but I would still stick with the hardwood around here. I have seen some pretty worn polished concrete, although I think a lot of that depends on the install. Cost wise, last time I had asked about it and it has been a few years it was pretty similar in price just because of the labor of the concrete.

There are some very cool wood flooring choices out there that might fit your cool tastes:) Mac's Wholesale Flooring in Seattle has always done great work for my clients and he is a nice guy. Good luck!
Web Reference: http://www.cooperjacobs.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 23, 2009
We have hardwood floors currently. It needs timber polishing every so often. But it's definitely warmer than concrete.

Sal Wesson | http://www.rivergumfloors.com.au
Flag Thu May 29, 2014
Patrick is right about your resale options - although concrete can be a very attractive surface, you'll have a larger pool of potential buyers who would prefer wood.

That being said, if you're staying for a long time and just want the flooring change for your personal enjoyment - concrete can be beautiful and unique when done correctly.

Many times, the coloring of the concrete is mixed in with the actual dry material at the point of mixing, so once it's in, you're somewhat stuck. You can add some stains later, to alter it a bit, though, as it is a porous material.
Web Reference: http://SeattleHome.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 23, 2009
I don't know what the costs are for concrete--But most buyers will prefer wood, depending on what room(s) you're talking about.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 23, 2009
Where are you looking to install them? I would say it would depend on where you were installing the polished concrete. I personally wouldn't want to live in a home that had polished concrete, unless it fit with the look of the room. There are some modern designs that would look absolutely gorgeous with concrete. If the home is more traditional, I would go with wood. http://www.klscrete.com/services
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 26, 2014
You know, a lot depends on where in the house you're doing this, as well as the style of the property and the room(s) in particular where you're considering this. Without knowing any of this, I'd say go with hardwood.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 24, 2012
If you try concrete and are not satisfied, you can modify it by adding tile on top or search for another solution.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 18, 2012
I have wood floors that I love but my sister likes concrete with acid stain. I'm sure either one would work. I think you can install your own hardwood floor, the cost should be cheaper. I'd choose whatever you like better. Maybe you could visit neighbors houses and get a better idea.
http://www.enduracoat.net/b/2476100011
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 27, 2012
1. In my experience wood floors are more expensive to install than to polish existing concrete.
2. Polished concrete holds up very well and will be able to look great for many years. When we notice any type of lost surface sheen, staining, etc. We find that a maintenance program has been neglected.
3. The color can re-stained or changed with a concrete dye. You will only be able to go darker though. Talk with your contractor and have on-site samples made to confirm color choices.
4. Hardwood and concrete floors both look great. Go ahead and take a chance with concrete. If you absolutely do not like the floors you can always install hardwood over them.

Nick Dancer
Owner, Dancer Concrete Design
Blogging @ http://www.cozywithconcrete.com
Web @ http://www.dancerconcrete.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
You can never go wrong with hardwood flooring.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 7, 2011
My feeling is that hardwood is timeless, concrete is possibly a trend.

I would be concerned about cracks (not structural, just cosmetic)

You should also look into any potential overloading of the floor system (weight).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 4, 2011
Polished concrete is not seen much in the N.W. except with commercial projects. For resale here. go with tile or hardwood, tile being the most common.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 31, 2010
Since you posted this in April I'm sure you've decided, and I hope that you went with the polished floor. We use it in all of our homes here in Maine with Radiant heat. Staining it doesn't always work well because the concrete even from the same manufacturer and out of the same truck can "land" differently causing the colors to be off. But a well burned (the technical name for how it is polished) Concrete floor without coloring in it turns a beautiful blue-gray much like slate. Clean it with Armstrong cleaner, and I then I put 2 - 3 coats of Future Floor Wax and you have a durable long lasting, beautiful floor, that doesn't inhibit the radiant from working.

If you put down some Floating wood floors, and especially carpet over radiant, it changes the R value in the floor and doesn't allow it to work properly!

Hopefully you were able to choose, and it worked out well for you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 22, 2010
From a simple re-sale standpoint. Hardwoods are more common and will appeal to more people. Always important to think about.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 12, 2010
I prefer wood. If you drop your coffee cup on it, it probably won't shatter. My folks have exposed aggregate in their front hallway and dining room, and it's been maintenance free for years, and I like the look of it - but that dining room never feels warm and cozy to me.

There is something about concrete, that no matter how sealed it is, still has a 'concrete smell' too it. Many don't notice this, but I do, epecially in newer homes and condos.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 30, 2009
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