5 Creative Treatments for Concrete Floors

Modern Living room with sofa and armchairs
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Concrete is an extremely durable, long-lasting, and low-maintenance material. In most buildings, a concrete slab is part of the foundation of the structure, and the surface of this material can often be found lurking beneath other floor coverings. In its natural state, concrete has a grayish color that is slightly mottled, with the exact shade determined by the chemical composition of the mix, the environmental factors present, and the speed at which it set.

However, there are a number of treatments that can be used to enhance the appearance of concrete, including stained concrete floors, polished concrete floors, and painted concrete floors. Many of these will provide additional protection for the concrete, sealing it against water penetration and forming an easy-to-clean layer. Depending on the state of the concrete and the treatment used, you often can achieve a wide variety of interesting effects. Some of these treatments are generally done by contractors, but others are well within the reach of DIYers.

  • 01 of 05

    Acid-Stained Concrete Floors

    Modern interior of a living room in a house
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    Concrete flooring is a great material for kitchens because you can make it impervious to water and most staining agents, which means it is very easy to maintain. Plus, the use of certain stains can give the floor a mottled appearance, which helps to hide dirt. In this example, the concrete kitchen floor has been stained with a mottled brown treatment.

    There are several ways concrete can be colored, but one of the most visually interesting methods is to stain it using an acid product. In acid-staining, hydrochloric or phosphoric acid mixed with salts is applied to a hardened, cured concrete slab. The acid opens the pores in the concrete while the salts cause a chemical reaction, which leads to discoloration on the floor's surface.

    The results vary based on the porosity of the concrete, the materials used in its mix, and the age of the slab. Thus, you'll end up with an interesting and unique floor that almost has a three-dimensional look due to the variation of color. Still, because you can't be quite sure how your floor will react to acid-staining, it's best to pick a small, out-of-the-way portion of the floor as a test area before treating the entire surface.

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  • 02 of 05

    Acid-Stained Concrete Floors With Faux Grout Lines

    Picture showing contemporary decoration pieces in a room
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    Acid-stained concrete often can mimic the look of other flooring materials, especially marble with its similar color variation. And you can give the impression of a tile floor by adding faux grout lines to your concrete. The grout lines in this floor were created by etching the concrete after the staining process was complete.

    These lines were formed in a simple grid pattern to look like large-scale tile. But you can also use etching to create more intricate patterns on the surface of a concrete floor. There are many types of stencils and stamps suitable for concrete flooring to create a design that fits your style and space. You can even embed a logo or some other type of large focal point in a prominent spot of your floor.

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  • 03 of 05

    Stained and Polished Concrete Floors

    concrete loft flooring with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking buildings

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    Concrete is a common design element in many modern loft-style apartments. This one uses a stained and polished concrete floor, which contrasts with an unfinished concrete beam. It's an interplay of industrial and decorative elements that create dynamic tension and make the space visually appealing in a unique way.

    To create polished concrete floors, the surface is ground down with progressively finer abrasive pads. You can achieve an extremely high-gloss, mirror-like finish if you go to the finest grit of pads. Or you can stop at any point during the process once the level of polish is right for you. The floor is then sealed to give it a protective sheen.

    While it is possible for a DIYer to rent the equipment to do this work, it is no easy feat. And without experience, it can be difficult to determine which grit of abrasive pads to use. For this reason, polishing concrete is typically best left to the professionals who have both the tools and the expertise.

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  • 04 of 05

    Dyed Concrete Floors

    Woman placing a white rug over concrete flooring in a kitchen

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    Concrete flooring can also be dyed to give it your preferred color. In this kitchen, the concrete floor has been dyed with a solid brown, water-based coloring agent. This has created a rich, smooth finish that is uniform across the entire floor. Unlike acid-staining, the dye does not cause a chemical reaction with the concrete. Instead, it simply penetrates the surface to add color. Therefore, the results are much more predictable than with acid-staining.

    However, depending on the color you choose, sometimes a dyed concrete floor can be a little harsh because there isn't a lot of color variation to create softness and movement. So one excellent option to mute the floor a bit is to add a neutral area rug. This helps to create contrast and add a softer texture in the space. Plus, adding a rug to your concrete flooring is a good idea regardless of the finish you choose, as concrete tends to be rather hard and cold.

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  • 05 of 05

    Painted Concrete Floors

    epoxy painted concrete floor covering with orange, yellow, brown, and green.

    Epoxy treatments are often used to seal and repair a damaged concrete subfloor. Epoxy is a strong material that can be poured into cracks and crevices to help level the surface. But epoxy also is available in a variety of colors, allowing you to create unique hues and designs on your floor. In fact, epoxy-painted concrete floors make it possible to achieve all the same effects you can create with ordinary paint. 

    Floor epoxy is essentially a form of paint in which two parts—a liquid catalyst and a liquid hardener—are combined before the paint is applied. Rather than drying as traditional paint does, the epoxy hardens due to a chemical reaction between the ingredients. The resulting surface is very hard and durable, which is why it is used so often in high-traffic commercial applications. But it is also appropriate for the home. It's a simple process much like painting any surface. The most difficult part is typically laying out the pattern if you want something intricate with multiple colors, such as a checkerboard.

    This concrete floor has been treated with epoxy coatings in a variety of bold colors. Rather than the concrete having a cold, industrial feel, the colors serve to create a vibrant modern design. The colors are even carried through to the walls and artwork in the space. This just goes to show how style-specific you can make a painted concrete floor to work with other design elements in the room.