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Polished Concrete: How It Is Made and What to Consider When Using It in Your Projects

Polished Concrete: How It Is Made and What to Consider When Using It in Your Projects
LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud
LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Polished concrete is a versatile material that is easily customizable in its appearance, using stunning aggregates, quartz, and colors to create a sense of industrial sophistication in both homes and commercial buildings. Its reflective surface creates an evocative quality under light, which can be suitable for a variety of programs.

While still mainly used as a material for interior flooring, architects have been pushing the limits of polished concrete for years, using it for feature walls, patio floors and even large exterior panels such as in David Chipperfield’s extension to the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects. Image © Shannon McGrath Urban Man Cave / Inhouse Brand Architects. Image © Riaan West The Apple Store / pH+. Image © Tim Soar Kristalia New Headquarters / Sandro Burigana. Image © Paolo Contratti - Contratticompany Srl + 16

Polished concrete can be created in a variety of ways, from the least expensive "grind and seal" method to honed concrete, which uses a penetrating sealer to create a reflective surface. Mechanically polished concrete is the type usually used in commercial projects, as it is long-lasting and more durable under heavy foot traffic. It is created by applying a chemical hardener that densifies the porous concrete, and then grinding it to the desired gloss and smoothness. Using a series of progressively fine tools (similar to the process of sanding wood), the concrete can be ground to 800, 1500 or 3000 grit level. Another consideration is the concrete's "exposure level"—that is, the amount of the original surface which is ground away and thus how much of the aggregate material is exposed.

One of the main selling points of polished concrete is how easy it is to maintain. Its smooth, hard surface makes it easy to clean, as well as durable and hard to damage. Although concrete can be prone to cracking through moisture and the building settling, patching materials can disguise these cracks.

Polished concrete is also very versatile, and is customizable thanks to the option to use a variety of finishes, and different aggregates and cement colors in the concrete itself. It can be created to mimic different materials, such as stone and ceramic tiles while being lower-maintenance and more durable. Colors are usually mixed into the concrete before the slab is placed, but can also be applied with dye, stain, or waterproof paint afterward. Patterns can also be carved into the surface while the concrete is setting in order to create a faux tile effect.

In terms of sustainability, polished concrete can be seen as a “green” material as it makes use of the existing floor slab without the use of any extra material. It also works as an effective thermal mass, retaining heat in summer and keeping cool in winter. However, concrete has a higher carbon footprint associated with its production compared to other materials such as timber and steel. Cost-wise, polished concrete has a broad price range depending on the refinement of the finish. However, its long life and low-maintenance means that it is more cost-effective than polished floorboards or quality floor tiling.

Below are some examples of how it can be effectively used in architectural projects:

The Apple Store / pH+

The Apple Store / pH+. Image © Tim Soar
The Apple Store / pH+. Image © Tim Soar
The Apple Store / pH+. Image © Tim Soar
The Apple Store / pH+. Image © Tim Soar

Concrete 0023 / studio eight twentythree

Concrete 0023 / studio eight twentythree. Image Courtesy of studio eight twentythree
Concrete 0023 / studio eight twentythree. Image Courtesy of studio eight twentythree
Concrete 0023 / studio eight twentythree. Image Courtesy of studio eight twentythree
Concrete 0023 / studio eight twentythree. Image Courtesy of studio eight twentythree

The Wolf House / Wolf Architects

The Wolf House / Wolf Architects. Image © Dave Keluza
The Wolf House / Wolf Architects. Image © Dave Keluza
The Wolf House / Wolf Architects. Image © Dave Keluza
The Wolf House / Wolf Architects. Image © Dave Keluza

LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO

LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud
LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud
LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud
LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects

Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects. Image © Shannon McGrath
Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects. Image © Shannon McGrath
Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects. Image © Shannon McGrath
Brick House / Clare Cousins Architects. Image © Shannon McGrath

Urban Man Cave / Inhouse Brand Architects

Urban Man Cave / Inhouse Brand Architects. Image © Riaan West
Urban Man Cave / Inhouse Brand Architects. Image © Riaan West

Kristalia New Headquarters / Sandro Burigana

Kristalia New Headquarters / Sandro Burigana. Image © Paolo Contratti - Contratticompany Srl
Kristalia New Headquarters / Sandro Burigana. Image © Paolo Contratti - Contratticompany Srl

About this author
Yiling Shen
Author
Cite: Yiling Shen. "Polished Concrete: How It Is Made and What to Consider When Using It in Your Projects" 14 May 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/894141/polished-concrete-how-it-is-made-and-what-to-consider-when-using-it-in-your-projects/> ISSN 0719-8884
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LIEVITO - Gourmet Pizza and Bar / MDDM STUDIO. Image © Jonathan Leijonhufvud

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