Stained Concrete vs. Polished Concrete Floors

Last Updated: November 14, 2019

What are the major differences between stained concrete and polished concrete floors?

Typically, polished concrete jobs are about $2 to $5 higher per square foot than a stained contract project. That upfront cost is higher because it requires more equipment and has a more involved installation process. However, when the customers do the math, they often find that the return on investment for polished concrete durability is quite good. On the other hand, a stained concrete floor is essentially a coating system designed to achieve a desired look. For that reason, customers need to be more diligent about protecting and maintaining those coatings.

What are the best applications for each type of concrete flooring system?

For polished concrete, you’re talking about high-wear areas, such as large retail stores, warehouses, stadium concourses or even restaurants that choose to invest the upfront expense in exchange for lower maintenance.

With stained concrete, examples might be salons, smaller retail shops, restaurants or residential patios — anywhere people really want that variegated look from an acid-etch stain, or the faux finish you can get from acetone dye or semi-transparent stain products.

Can you provide a quick installation overview for polished and stained concrete?

For polished concrete, the surface is typically prepared with a grinder to open up the concrete pores. Then, follow up with multiple passes of successively finer-grit diamond products, along with chemicals like liquid hardener & densifier, to get the desired finish. If the customer wants color, dye stain could be applied before densifying, and then finish it off with a guard coat.

On stained concrete projects, there are some differences. With an acid stain, the color is literally etched or ‘burned’ into the concrete, so etching is not needed in the surface preparation steps. With other stain product options, either mechanical grinding or an acid wash for surface preparation needs to be used.

Are there substantial maintenance differences between these surfaces?

While there’s no such thing as a ‘no maintenance’ surface, polished concrete is probably the lowest overall maintenance system that we installed. When you polish concrete it closes the pores. That helps it resist staining and moisture, so routine maintenance is basically a powered floor scrubber, a wet mop or a neutral cleaner.

While daily maintenance on a stained concrete floor is essentially the same, there is more long-term expense in reapplying clear coats or protective waxes. The life of the coating system is largely dependent on wear. If one area sustains a lot of scratches or heavy traffic, those activities can sometimes get through the coating and remove color in that particular spot.


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