Flooring for High-Traffic Areas: Here’s how to refinish concrete so it lasts Whether you have a warehouse with heavy machinery running throughout the day or a commercial space with people constantly coming and going, the stress from high traffic can really do a number on your building’s floors. If you already have a concrete floor in place, you’re in luck: concrete is generally one of the best types of flooring for high-traffic areas, as well as one of the most economical.
A plain concrete floor is not indestructible on its own, however. Here’s a quick guide to refinishing your concrete floor to withstand high traffic.
All concrete will crack as it settles, which is why many builders include control joints (regular indentations that promote cracking along straight lines). However, these joints can become a weak link in your concrete floor, wearing out machinery and becoming the source of spalling and other breakages.
Once your floor has settled (which may be up to a year after it’s been poured), you’ll want to get your joints filled with either a rigid filler or a soft sealer.
Concrete polishing is one of the most economical types of concrete floor refinishing. It involves a more comprehensive process than merely applying a liquid polish—think along the lines of polished granite countertops rather than furniture polish.
The multi-step, mechanical process of concrete polishing involves a series professional grinders (often using diamond grit) to make the floor progressively smoother. Its luster can range from a dull sheen to a high shine.
Not only does polished concrete add an aesthetic value to your flooring, the process of polishing physically compresses the concrete molecules, dramatically increasing the surface strength.
Despite its slick look, polished concrete is not slippery for pedestrians, and it can deflect scratches and abuse from heavy machinery. It may require a touch-up polishing after years of heavy wear, but this is relatively inexpensive to do.
While a liquid/ floor coating doesn’t change the nature of the underlying concrete the way polishing does, it does create a durable and protective barrier.
Epoxy floor coatings protect floors from abrasions as well as wear from heavy use. Epoxy coatings can be applied in unlimited colors and patterns, and unlike many other coatings can be spot-repaired as needed.
Urethane coatings don’t have the color options that epoxies do, but because they are clear, they do well maintaining a floor’s existing color. They tend to be slightly more durable than epoxy coatings and often last a bit longer.
It’s also possible to mix coating types; for example, using an epoxy basecoat with a catalyzed polyurethane topcoat. You’ll want to consult an expert before attempting this, though, because some coating combinations can result in your floor peeling or blistering.
All concrete floor coatings will eventually will wear down and will need to be stripped and replaced. But epoxies and urethanes should each give you several years of use, depending on the specific coating you choose and the conditions of your building.
Before having a floor coating installed, you’ll need to have a concrete moisture test done. If your foundation has undetected water vapor rising from the earth below, it can cause your coating to fail within months of application.
We hope this guide has at least gotten you started in the right direction. A local concrete floor professional can answer specific questions and make recommendations tailored to your facility, budget and goals.