There are a number of challenges that face a bathroom floor on a daily basis, including water concerns, humidity changes, and staining agents which spill and splatter. With concrete, you get a floor that is uniquely suited to handling even the toughest environmental hazards. This, combined with new print and staining techniques, allows you to use concrete as both a functional utilitarian surface and a beautiful element of interior style.
Concrete Floors and Water
Below The Surface: If you are removing existing floor coverings in order to use the concrete block that the building rests upon, then you may need to be concerned about moisture penetration in the slab, from below. That is because concrete foundations rest directly on the ground soil that surrounds them. This soil can become saturated with moisture, which can rise up into the slab via hydrostatic pressure.
In most newer homes the foundation slab is laid over a vapor barrier guard, which prevents moisture from penetrating through the soil, into the concrete. If you have an older home that does not have a vapor barrier foundation, then you may want to install one over the existing surface, and then pour some self-levelling microtopping mix to create a waterproof layer over it.
Above The Surface:Concrete is a naturally porous material, that will soak up moisture from both spills, and the humidity in the air.
If left untreated in a bathroom, spills and splashes will eventually start to stain its surface, causing discolorations, and the growth of mildew and other microorganisms which can be harmful to the air quality in the space.
Solution: Luckily, it is relatively easy to seal a concrete floor with a clear, chemical treatment, which will both soak into the pores and lay over the surface of the material, creating an impregnable barrier that cannot be seen.
This will make the flooring impervious to moisture penetration. However, it will have to be reapplied diligently ever 1-2 years as it starts to fade.
The Feel Of Bathroom Concrete Floors
Temperature: Concrete is a very good conductor of heat, and it can absorb, and release thermal energy, relatively quickly and efficiently. Because of this, you have a number of temperature options when installing this material.
Concrete is going to tend to feel cold because as an efficient conductor it naturally allows energy to pass from it. This could be a bad thing in the winter when stepping out of a tub or shower onto the chilly surface of the material. At the same time in the summer this may be a desirable thing, that will help keep cooling costs down. It's conductive abilities also allow you to position windows so that sunlight streams down to the floor, naturally heating.
Radiant Heating: The conductivity of concrete also makes it a good pair with radiant heating systems. This involves installing metal coils beneath the surface of the concrete, which heat up, spreading warmth through the floor and up into the room. In many cases, radiant floor heating is actually more efficient and eco-friendly than using ventilation systems.
Texture: You have a lot of tactile options available when installing concrete. In its natural state, it's going to be a bit rough for bare footed bathrooms, but it can also be honed and polished down into a very smooth surface. You can then apply various sealing agents which will create an invisible film of traction over the material so that you don't slip every time it gets wet.
Hardness: One of the only drawbacks to concrete flooring is that it is a very hard, and unforgiving flooring material. The bathroom is the most common place in the home where accidents occur, and with a concrete floor installed, falls will be harder, and slips will be more perilous. For this reason, concrete is not recommended in bathrooms used by the elderly, or small children.
In addition, throw rugs may be necessary to soften the space in certain places.
Long Term Concrete Concerns in Bathrooms
Care and Cleaning: Concrete is fairly simple to take care of. You can dry or wet mop, sweep, or vacuum to remove small debris on a weekly basis. Then once every one or two years you will have to apply a moisture barrier sealer to protect it from splashes.
Durability: If properly cared for a concrete floor can last a lifetime. Initial cost investments in laying extra layers, and having artisans perform design work may be high, but they are offset by the fact that those floor treatments will last decades beyond almost any other material.