Beyond the Build

Tips from the Field

Integral Colored Concrete and Polish for Office, Retail

Last week, I was with a customer in Phoenix who shared how integral colored polished concrete is saving them about 75% in annual maintenance costs. While all customers are different with their experiences and needs, when I got back, I asked our team the best ways to ensure good integral colored floors.

They shared a few thoughts to keep in mind should, if you wish to consider polished concrete:

  • The placement and finishing of the concrete is the first step to ensure one will have an attractive final product. Good QC on the concrete mix is mandatory, otherwise color will be inconsistent. FF (floor flatness) numbers are important to have in the 50 to 55 range.
  • Depending on the diamond grit and steps taken to polish the concrete, one will achieve different levels of sheen. These range from matte to a glassy mirror-like finish.
  • With most of our high gloss floors,  we take 8 different grinding steps, starting with a 40 grit metal bond and going all the way to 1500 grit hybrid. A sealer is then applied and burnished.
  • While there are dry grids, we use water, which lubricates, keeps pores clean and creates less dust. Our eight step process is accomplished in about a week.
  • Once completed, beyond a visual, there is a gloss meter that can be used to assess the degree of reflection when light hits the concrete surface. Gloss ranges from 0-100, with 20 to 30 being low glass and 70 to 80 as high gloss. If you don’t have a meter, a good rule of thumb for a high polished floor is to stand back about 20 feet. You should be able to count the light bulbs from the ceiling.

While top coatings and stains are an option for exposed floors, it seems recently we have seen the market trend toward integral color. If the floor gets damaged, it is easier to repair and better resists the fade factor of UV rays. Are you using integral color?


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.