Polished concrete floors are totally different to sealed ones
Mark’s most common question he gets asked when people enquire about the costs of polished concrete floors in Melbourne is what is the difference between fully polished and floors that are just sealed. In super simple terms have a look at the two photos above to see the difference, that is the best way to understand polished vs sealed concrete floors.
Sealing is a simpler process that requires less labour, less work and is simply putting a chemical sealer over the top of a concrete slab. There isn’t much else done to it, it is a rougher, more organic look and feel. Mechanically polished concrete has more work put into it, more polishing, more finishing and is all about creating a beautiful smooth floor surface, most of the time in a high gloss finish.
It is very similar to getting your car polished. You might remember when you first bought it, the paint was deep, rich and shiny. That is because it had been painted, sealed and probably had a top coat of gloss on it too. Over time that wears away and the car has some shine but it isn’t the same as it was when it was new. Different vehicle manufacturers will add different thickness of paint or even different quality. That’s why cars you see at display shows look amazing, they have had hours and hours spent finishing their surface.
The same idea applies to getting your concrete floors polished, it can be done in different stages or ‘degrees’ depending on the look you want, your budget or the interior design. To save money some people may choose to just get a grind and seal on the floor, happy with the raw industrial look it can create. Other people will choose to get a completely mechanically polished floor because it creates a more premium look, higher quality finish and looks like an architect or designer had a hand in it.
It is a bit like a good (get your floor grinded), better (get a grind and seal) and best (mechanically polished concrete) scenario where you are choosing the level or quality of the work getting done to your floors.
Why does a mechanical polished concrete floor in Melbourne cost more than just sealing?
Let’s use some more pictures to tell the story of a thousand words. As you can see above, the process to achieve a mechanically polished concrete floor involves a lot more labour and time. This increases based on the floor area that is being polished. Think of it as steps or stages, to get a floor sealed requires less steps that one that is fully polished.
Once a concrete slab has been given an initial floor grind it may be ready to be sealed straight away, this might be a two stage process that takes one day depending on the size of the area.
In other situations you may want a fully exposed concrete polished floor which would mean potentially multiple passes across the floor to expose the aggregate, then the polishing process to achieve the desired gloss level and maybe a hard wearing sealant to finish it off. This could take three to five days depending on the size of the floor. So the cost difference between a sealed concrete floor and one that is polished simply comes down to the extra labour and time involved to achieve the different finishes.
What is the cost difference between concrete sealing and polished concrete flooring in Melbourne?
The cost difference between getting concrete grinding and sealing compared to fully polished concrete floors is about $30 per square metre or in percentage terms, it is 45% more expensive which is accounts for the extra labour required. So it is a similar principle to getting your car washed, a quick one is $20, but a deeper clean, wax and polish might be $80 or more.
Concrete grinding and sealing will cost $50 to $75 per square metre
Concrete polishing will cost $80 to $110 per square metre
The variance in the estimates above will come from the type of site it is, whether it is a new concrete slab or existing one, it’s condition, difficulty of the job site, timing of the year and the type of finish that is required. Mark can provide a free telephone consultation to discuss your requirements & a free written quotation so that you work out the differences in cost for your property.
Getting a concrete floor sealed is more cost effective compared to other material choices. At Haynes Polished Concrete our company can be contracted to seal concrete floor areas in the Melbourne area that are between 50m2 and 1000m2 in size for homes, retail stores, showrooms, industrial or commercial areas. The cost to get concrete sealing in Victoria is very affordable compared to other options. For example we would normally do a concrete grind and seal which will cost between $50 and $75 per metre depending on the sealant type & job site.
You might be considering the use of another flooring material to put on top of the cement like carpet, tiles, outdoor pavers or stencil concreting in Melbourne but you have to compare the potential cost elements;
- How much does it cost to purchase the raw materials?
- What is the freight cost to have the materials delivered to you?
- What is the cost to prepare the surface area to be used?
- How much does it cost to have the materials layed?
- Do you have to then treat the materials once they are installed & how often does this need to be done again?
What you will very quickly discover is that grinding and sealing your existing concrete is a more cost effective choice, if not cheaper, than getting carpets, outdoor paving, floorboards or tiling. The cost calculation gets even more complicated when you consider that some of these materials need to be treated regularly to maintain their finish e.g a timber deck should be re-stained regularly.
For example getting indoor tiles laid might cost around;
- $35-$120 per square metre depending on their level of experience
- $20-$28 per square metre for simple standard ceramic tiles or ($60-$160 for porcelain or artisan tiles)
- $40-$80 per square metre to have them sealed if required
- $200 to $500 in local delivery fees
assuming the floor area is flat the cost to lay tiles might sit between $90 and $250 per square metre which will potentially be more expensive that just using your concrete slab.
Is a sealed concrete floor better than a polished one?
In simple terms a mechanically polished concrete floor is better than a sealed one – the finished surface is harder and therefore more durable. A sealed concrete floor is still a great choice, you just have to keep in mind that it’s durability will depend on how well the floor was prepared and the quality of the sealant that was used. Once the sealer wears then you will begin to see scratches and marks on the concrete floor. For a mechanically polished surface the treatment steps are more intense which leaves you with a harder floor surface that lasts longer.
You can repair a sealed concrete floor that has scratches, here’s an example of a property where we repaired their floor.
When trying to choose between the different types you have to consider the space and level of durability that might be needed. You have to consider things like how much foot traffic will it have to endure, will vehicles be driving over it, does it need to carry shelving, fixtures or other furniture or will it be exposed to the weather?
A fully polished concrete floor will give you long-term durability and includes the benefits of densifying, hardening, and dust-proofing with its scratch-resistant surface that requires little maintenance. It can last for decades if it is properly maintained. However with sealed concrete it may need to be resealed every one or two years which can be an expensive exercise.
So the money you saved in the beginning you end up paying in maintenance over a long period of time.
What does exposure and gloss level mean when polishing or sealing concrete?
Once you decide to polish a concrete floor, you then need to choose the aggregate exposure that you would like to see on the surface whether you are sealing or polishing. A simple way of comparing would be like this;
You can choose how much or how little you want to expose, each finish has its own unique appearance and characteristics and we refer to them as;
- Surface Polish Finish or Nil Exposure
- Salt & Pepper Finish
- Random Exposure Finish
- Full Aggregate Exposure Finish
- Pavillion or Honed Finish used in Outdoor applications
Gloss or shine level
The final choice you make is the level of shine and this is normally split into 3 x levels of matte, satin & gloss;
- Matte floors are typically finished at 100 to 200 grit ploish stage. This will still give a nice low diffused sheen to the floor with very little too no reflection from down lights.
- Satin finish is typically 200 to 400 grit polish stage. This will give a slightly more reactive floor with more reflection from down lights and light from windows.
- Gloss finished floors are typically finished between 1500 to 3000 grit these are highly reflective floors that have a sharp reflection from down lights and so provide the most durable scratch resistant floors available. They will also provide the most energy efficient floor as far as lighting goes.
There isn’t a right or wrong really when it comes to choosing a combination but you do have to consider how you think you will manage to maintain it.
Can you polish or seal concrete floors of an existing slab?
Getting your existing concrete slab either polished or sealed is one of the most common types of renovations that many home owners in Melbourne are doing at the moment. Once you remove any existing flooring materials like carpet, floor boards or lino the concrete can be ground down so that it is smooth and ready to treat. We can do repairs to cracks and once it is ready we can either seal it or go the whole way and do a full polish of the floor area.
You don’t need to pour a new slab or dig up what you have, the existing one can be worked on in most situations.
Can you convert a sealed concrete floor to a fully polished one?
You might decide that you want to upgrade from a sealed concrete floor and have a new one that is fully polished with a high gloss finish.
The first thing we would do is to assess the site to see how suitable the flooring is to be able to do that. If everything looked ok, the first step will be to grind the existing surface back to remove any of the current sealant so that we can expose the concrete. Once we know how far we are going to expose the aggregate we can then prepare the floor to be fully polished thus converting it from normal sealant to a beautiful new floor.
A lot will depend on the condition of the existing floor and the thickness of your concrete slab of course.