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Microcement vs Polished Concrete

When it comes to flooring options, microcement and polished concrete have gained significant popularity due to their sleek and modern appearance, durability, and versatility.

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Microcement vs Polished Concrete

In this article, we will explore the differences between microcement and polished concrete, comparing their qualities, advantages, disadvantages, finishes, applications, pricing, and more.

What is Polished Concrete?

Polished concrete, also known as screed concrete, is a decorative finish rather than a pure cladding.

It is used in indoor and outdoor areas like parking, shopping centres, extensions, and living rooms.

Polished concrete is a finish achieved by sprinkling a cementitious mortar with aggregates and then polishing the floor to a shine using a rotary polisher.

Microcement vs Polished Concrete: Top 11 advantages of microcement over polished concrete

When it comes to comparing microcement and polished concrete, one common question we often receive is about the benefits of microcement over polished concrete. Based on our extensive experience in the field, we have identified several key advantages of microcement:

1. More Control of Colour & Finish

Microcement offers greater control over colour, tone, texture, and overall aesthetics compared to a polished concrete finish.
The method of application and precise measurements of products and pigments allow for a wide range of customization options.

2. Low Applied Thickness

Microcement can be applied at a depth of only 2-3mm (excluding any necessary preparation). This is significantly thinner than the minimum thickness of 100mm typically required for a polished concrete floor. The reduced thickness makes microcement a suitable choice when height limitations are a concern.

3. Multiple Uses & Applications

Microcements are highly versatile and can be applied on various surfaces such as walls, floors, ceilings, and stable substrates in both residential and commercial environments. This flexibility expands the design possibilities and allows for cohesive aesthetics throughout a space.

4. Less Heavy / Noisy Machinery

Unlike polished concrete, microcement application does not typically require heavy and noisy grinding or diamond polishing tools. This aspect makes microcement installation feasible in areas where traditional polished concrete would have been impractical or disruptive.

5. Fast Drying / Installation Time

The application time for a microcement finished floor is significantly reduced compared to that of a polished concrete surface. Typically, a standard microcement installation takes around 4-5 days (which may vary depending on the size and complexity of the project). The faster drying time allows for quicker project completion.

6. Installation Timing Flexibility

Due to the reduced installation time requirements, microcement can be applied towards the end of a project. This timing flexibility reduces the risk of damage or compromise resulting from other trades or third-party activities. For example, microcement installation can take place once a kitchen has been fully installed.

7. Retro Fitting / Installation Possibilities

Microcements offer the advantage of retro-fitting in many cases. As long as the existing substrates are stable, microcement can be applied over various floor finishes with minimal height build-ups or the need for extensive excavation.

8. Less Cracking

Microcements are inherently less prone to cracking compared to polished concrete floors.
To further minimize the possibility of cracking, proper installation practices should be followed. This includes correctly installing and curing new substrates, ensuring proper drying and commissioning of underfloor heating systems before microcement application.

9. Compatibility with Underfloor Heating

Microcement is compatible with underfloor heating systems due to its high thermal conductivity, while polished concrete is not.

10. Debris Generation

Microcement can be applied directly to existing surfaces without producing debris, while polished concrete requires construction work that generates debris.

11. Expansion Joints

Polished concrete requires expansion joints every 4 to 5 meters to accommodate potential movement, whereas microcement is a continuous covering and doesn’t require expansion joints.

In conclusion, microcement presents several distinct advantages over polished concrete, including greater control over aesthetics, thinner application thickness, versatility in usage, reduced reliance on heavy machinery, faster installation time, flexible timing, retro-fitting possibilities, and improved resistance to cracking. These factors make microcement a compelling option for those seeking a customizable and practical flooring solution.

Can Polished Concrete Be Applied Outdoors?

Yes, polished concrete can be applied outdoors.It’s durability makes it a suitable option for exterior applications.

While it is commonly used for indoor flooring, with proper precautions and sealing, polished concrete can also withstand the elements and be a durable and attractive option for outdoor spaces. However, it is important to consider the specific climate and environmental conditions of the outdoor area. In areas with extreme temperature fluctuations, high levels of moisture, or exposure to direct sunlight, additional protective measures and regular maintenance may be necessary to ensure the longevity and appearance of the polished concrete surface. Consulting with professionals experienced in outdoor applications can help ensure the best results for an outdoor polished concrete project.

While polished concrete is a popular choice for outdoor applications, some individuals may prefer the unique qualities of microcement outdoor. With its exceptional durability and weather resistance, outdoor microcement offers a seamless and long-lasting solution for outdoor surfaces. By consulting with professionals experienced in both polished concrete and microcement applications, you can explore the benefits of microcement outdoor and make an informed decision for your outdoor project.

Advantages of Polished Concrete

Polished concrete has numerous advantages that make it a practical choice for various surfaces. Among its advantages, we find:

  • Exceptional durability for high-traffic areas and industrial environments
  • Resistant to chipping.
  • Suitable for garages, resisting tire rolling
  • Prevents dust accumulation with its smooth and shiny surface
  • Enhances the sense of spaciousness
  • Combines functionality with an attractive appearance

Disadvantages of Polished Concrete

Polished concrete has some drawbacks:

  • It’s thickness which varies between 100 to 150 mm.
  • It can lose its shine over time due to abrasive liquids like industrial solvents, requiring repolishing.
  • It may crack if expansion joints are not properly made or if the flooring is misused.
  • It can only be applied on horizontal surfaces.
  • Polished concrete is not a good thermal insulator, making it unsuitable for places with extreme temperatures.
  • The application process is time-consuming, as it involves construction work and machinery usage. Additionally, it has joints.
  • Polished concrete floors have poor sound insulation.
  • It is a material with low porosity and requires mesh for its structure.

Polished Concrete Finishes

While polished concrete is often associated with grey finishes due to its typical applications, there are more daring colour options available, such as black, red, and green. These colours can be used in airports, car parks, garages, shopping centres, and factories.

Polished concrete offers a limited amount of finishes to suit the design preferences. These finishes include:

  • Cream Polish: A light polish that maintains the concrete’s natural color while enhancing its shine.
  • Salt and Pepper: This finish showcases the natural aggregate within the concrete, providing a textured appearance.
  • High Gloss: A highly reflective finish that creates a mirror-like effect on the concrete surface.

Polished Concrete Bathrooms

Polished concrete bathrooms do not exist. This type of finish is often confused with other decorative coatings such as burnished concrete or microcement washbasins.

Microcement is a popular choice for bathroom renovations due to its versatility, waterproof and non-slip properties.

Polished Concrete Floors

Polished concrete floors have become a popular choice for both residential and commercial spaces, offering a blend of aesthetic appeal, durability, and low maintenance. Here’s a deep dive into the various aspects that make polished concrete floors a compelling option.

What Makes Polished Concrete Flooring Great?

Polished concrete is not just your regular concrete; it undergoes a specific process involving chemical densifiers and diamond polishing tools. This treatment gives it a smooth, shiny, and durable surface, setting it apart from standard concrete floors.

The Aesthetic Versatility

One of the standout features of polished concrete is its aesthetic versatility. It can mimic the appearance of high-end materials like marble and granite, offering a luxurious look without the hefty price tag. You can also choose from a range of colours to match your interior design.

Cost-Effectiveness

While the initial cost might seem high, polished concrete floors are a long-term investment. They are extremely durable and require minimal maintenance, which makes them cost-effective in the long run. The cost per square metre can vary, but it’s generally competitive when compared to other high-end flooring options.

How to Install Polished Concrete Floors?

The installation process for a polished concrete floor is similar to other types of concrete flooring. It involves preparing the ground, shuttering, pouring concrete, checking slab thickness, curing concrete, and polishing the floor.

Here is a general overview of the process:

  1. Surface Preparation: The first step is to prepare the concrete surface. This includes cleaning the floor thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or coatings. Any cracks or imperfections should be repaired, and the surface should be leveled if needed.
  2. Grinding: Once the surface is prepared, the grinding process begins. Specialized grinding machines equipped with diamond-impregnated discs are used to remove the top layer of the concrete and expose the underlying aggregate. The grinding is typically done in multiple passes with progressively finer grits to achieve the desired level of smoothness.
  3. Polishing: After grinding, the concrete is polished to enhance its shine. The polishing process involves using resin-bonded diamond pads, starting with coarser grits and gradually moving to finer grits. This helps achieve a smooth and reflective surface. A densifier may also be applied during the polishing process to improve durability and stain resistance.
  4. Sealing: Once the desired level of polish is achieved, the floor is thoroughly cleaned to remove any dust or residue. A sealer is then applied to protect the polished concrete and enhance its appearance. The sealer can provide additional stain resistance and make maintenance easier.
  5. Maintenance: To keep the polished concrete floor in optimal condition, regular maintenance is necessary. This typically involves routine cleaning with a neutral pH cleaner and periodic reapplication of a maintenance coating or wax to maintain the shine and protect the surface.

It is important to note that creating a polished concrete floor is a skilled process that requires expertise and specialized equipment. Hiring a professional contractor experienced in polished concrete is recommended to ensure the best results and a long-lasting, beautiful floor.

What's the price range for installing polished concrete floors?

The overall expense can vary based on the specific finish you’re looking for and the preparatory work needed prior to laying the concrete. Generally speaking, you can expect a freshly poured, finished, and sealed polished concrete floor to set you back approximately £120-150 per square metre.

How to maintain a polished concrete floor?

Polished concrete floors are relatively low-maintenance. Similar to a granite countertop, they require sealing for optimal performance, given their natural composition.

For daily cleaning, a simple sweep or vacuum is sufficient to get rid of dirt and dust. Warm water can be used for mopping. Immediate action is advised for spills to avoid potential stains.

For a more thorough cleaning, opt for a PH-neutral cleaner and apply it with a soft mop or cloth. It’s crucial to avoid abrasive cleaning agents, as they can scratch the surface and diminish its shine.

Periodic resealing is recommended, the frequency of which will depend on the level of foot traffic and overall usage.

Price of Polished Concrete per m2

The price of polished concrete per square metre depends on various factors, including floor dimensions and location.

Generally, the cost ranges between £120-150 per square metre. Factors such as professional rates and the time of year the work is carried out can also affect the final cost.

In some outdoor applications, the overall cost may be higher.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while polished concrete and microcement may appear similar at first glance, they have distinct characteristics, applications, and advantages.

Polished concrete, with its thickness and durability, is well-suited for industrial settings and heavy traffic areas but may not be the best choice for residential or commercial interiors.

Microcement, on the other hand, offers greater versatility, compatibility with underfloor heating, and a broader range of design possibilities, making it an ideal option for both residential and commercial projects.

By understanding the differences between these two materials, you can make an informed decision when choosing the right solution for your specific needs and preferences.

Baxab-Eco
Regulation or ProtocolBaxab-EcoRegulation or Protocol Version
French VOC regA+Decree of Mar11 (DEVL11091903D) and Arrete of Apr11 (DEVL1104875A) modified in Feb12 (DEVL1133129A)
French CMR componentsPassRegulation of Apr and May09 (DEVP0908633A and DEVP0910046A)
Italian CAM ediliziaPassDM 23-06-22 n.256, GURI n.183 del 06-08-22
ABG/ AgBBPassAusschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten (Jun21)
Belgian Reg.PassRoyal decree of May 2014 (C-2014/24239)
BREEAM InternationalExemplary LevelBREEAM International
New Construction (2022)
BREEAM NorExemplary LevelBREEAM-NOR v6.0
New Construction (2022)
CDPHPassCDPH/EHLB/Standard Method v1.2 (Jan17)
M1PassM1 Protocol of Nov17
Ecocemento
Regulation or Protocol EcocementoRegulation or Protocol Version
French VOC regA+Decree of Mar11 (DEVL11091903D) and Arrete of Apr11 (DEVL1104875A) modified in Feb12 (DEVL1133129A)
French CMR componentsPassRegulation of Apr and May09 (DEVP0908633A and DEVP0910046A)
Italian CAM ediliziaPassDM 23-06-22 n.256, GURI n.183 del 06-08-22
ABG/ AgBBPassAusschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten (Jun21)
Belgian Reg.PassRoyal decree of May 2014 (C-2014/24239)
BREEAM InternationalExemplary LevelBREEAM International
New Construction (2022)
BREEAM NorExemplary LevelBREEAM-NOR v6.0
New Construction (2022)
CDPHPassCDPH/EHLB/Standard Method v1.2 (Jan17)
M1PassM1 Protocol of Nov17
Baxab-Eco
Regulation or ProtocolBaxab-Eco
French VOC regA+
French CMR componentsPass
Italian CAM ediliziaPass
ABG/ AgBBPass
Belgian Reg.Pass
BREEAM InternationalExemplary Level
BREEAM NorExemplary Level
CDPHPass
M1Pass
Ecocemento
Regulation or Protocol Ecocemento
French VOC regA+
French CMR componentsPass
Italian CAM ediliziaPass
ABG/ AgBBPass
Belgian Reg.Pass
BREEAM InternationalExemplary Level
BREEAM NorExemplary Level
CDPHPass
M1Pass
Regulation or Protocol EcocementoRegulation or Protocol Version
French VOC regA+Decree of Mar11 (DEVL11091903D) and Arrete of Apr11 (DEVL1104875A) modified in Feb12 (DEVL1133129A)
French CMR componentsPassRegulation of Apr and May09 (DEVP0908633A and DEVP0910046A)
Italian CAM ediliziaPassDM 23-06-22 n.256, GURI n.183 del 06-08-22
ABG/ AgBBPassAusschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten (Jun21)
Belgian Reg.PassRoyal decree of May 2014 (C-2014/24239)
BREEAM InternationalExemplary LevelBREEAM International
New Construction (2022)
BREEAM NorExemplary LevelBREEAM-NOR v6.0
New Construction (2022)
CDPHPassCDPH/EHLB/Standard Method v1.2 (Jan17)
M1PassM1 Protocol of Nov17
Regulation or Protocol Ecocemento
French VOC regA+
French CMR componentsPass
Italian CAM ediliziaPass
ABG/ AgBBPass
Belgian Reg.Pass
BREEAM InternationalExemplary Level
BREEAM NorExemplary Level
CDPHPass
M1Pass
Regulation or ProtocolBaxab-EcoRegulation or Protocol Version
French VOC regA+Decree of Mar11 (DEVL11091903D) and Arrete of Apr11 (DEVL1104875A) modified in Feb12 (DEVL1133129A)
French CMR componentsPassRegulation of Apr and May09 (DEVP0908633A and DEVP0910046A)
Italian CAM ediliziaPassDM 23-06-22 n.256, GURI n.183 del 06-08-22
ABG/ AgBBPassAusschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten (Jun21)
Belgian Reg.PassRoyal decree of May 2014 (C-2014/24239)
BREEAM InternationalExemplary LevelBREEAM International
New Construction (2022)
BREEAM NorExemplary LevelBREEAM-NOR v6.0
New Construction (2022)
CDPHPassCDPH/EHLB/Standard Method v1.2 (Jan17)
M1PassM1 Protocol of Nov17
Regulation or ProtocolBaxab-Eco
French VOC regA+
French CMR componentsPass
Italian CAM ediliziaPass
ABG/ AgBBPass
Belgian Reg.Pass
BREEAM InternationalExemplary Level
BREEAM NorExemplary Level
CDPHPass
M1Pass