Column:Industry trends Time:2017-04-21

By Anne Balogh, The Concrete Network

When people are first introduced to the beauty of decorative concrete flooring, they are initially "floored" by its good looks (sorry, the pun was too tempting to pass up). However, once that love-at-first-sight reaction fades, it's often followed by skepticism about the practicality of concrete flooring, especially in a home environment. Many homeowners will ask: Beyond its aesthetic attributes, is concrete really a flooring material I can live with for the long term?

Like any flooring material, concrete does have some inherent drawbacks. However, many of them are easy to overcome, and in the end, the positives of concrete flooring far outweigh the negatives. Are decorative concrete floors right for your home or business? To help you decide, here are answers to common questions about concrete floor benefits, appearance, performance, and maintenance. For more information, watch the recommended videos.

Are concrete floors prone to cracking?
The most common objection to concrete floors is the potential for cracking. However, some people actually love the rustic, organic look that can be achieved by staining the floor and leaving minor random cracks exposed If cracks are perceived as an eyesore, microtoppings offer the ability to hide them under a smooth, new surface that can accept a wide array of decorative treatments, including staining, stamping, and stenciling. Learn more about what you can do with decorative concrete overlays.

Are concrete floors cold and damp?
Concrete can be cold, but no more so than ceramic tile or natural stone flooring. Plus, it’s possible to warm up concrete floors by taking advantage of concrete’s ability to store and radiate heat. For example, you can embed radiant heating cables in concrete floors to keep them toasty warm in the winter. You can also design your home to maximize the amount of sunlight entering through windows in the winter, allowing concrete floors to absorb and radiate the heat

Concrete floors won’t become damp unless they aren't insulated properly or the slab is built on a poorly drained subgrade. In properly constructed newer homes, today's building codes typically require installation of a vapor barrier under concrete slabs to block moisture migration and that feeling of dampness

Are concrete floors loud and hard on the feet?
Concrete is a hard material, so it won't cushion or "give" under bare feet. But concrete's hardness is also what contributes to its durability and abrasion resistance. In a commercial or warehouse setting, hard is good. You need a hard surface that can stand up to forklift traffic and heavy foot traffic. For a residential floor, you can help cushion concrete with area rugs, which are easier to clean than wall-to-wall carpet. While concrete may be hard, it's not abrasive to the feet, especially if it's polished or has a smooth finish.

Concrete floors can be loud and produce an echo effect, but no more so than ceramic tile, natural stone flooring, and some hardwood or bamboo floors. You can muffle the echo effect by using sound-absorptive materials in the room, such as area rugs, curtains, pillows and wall fabrics.

Are decorative concrete floors expensive?
When compared with high-end floor coverings, such as ceramic tile, slate and marble, decorative concrete is often an economical alternative. Plus, skilled concrete artisans can duplicate the look of these pricier materials. The life expectancy of a concrete floor will also far surpass that of low- to mid-priced floor coverings, such as carpeting, vinyl tile and wood laminates. That means in the long run you can save money because you'll never need to rip out and replace worn or damaged flooring.