8 Creative Treatments for Concrete Floors

  • 01 of 09

    Concrete Floors Don't Need to Be Plain

    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 is set.

    However, there are a number of treatments that can be used to enhance the surface appearance of a concrete floor. Many of these will provide additional protection for the concrete, sealing it against water penetration and forming an easy to clean layer over an already durable slab structure. Depending on the state of the material and the treatment used, you can achieve a wide variety of exotic effects with most concrete surfaces. Some of these treatments are generally done by contractors, but others are well within the reach of DIYers.

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  • 02 of 09

    Mottled Brown Stained Concrete Kitchen Floor

    Stained concrete floors in a kitchen.
    Josh and Melanie Rosenthal/Flickr/CC BY SA 2.0

    There are a number of ways that concrete can be colored, but one of the most visually interesting is to stain it using an acid product. This is entirely different than adding colored pigments to wet concrete when it is poured and much different than top-coating the concrete with a thin layer of paint or epoxy. In acid-staining, an acid is applied to a hardened, cured concrete slab, and the concrete actually undergoes a chemical reaction with the acid. The effects can be a little surprising, giving each floor a unique, almost three-dimensional look. In this example, you see a concrete kitchen floor that has been stained with a mottled brown surface treatment.

    Concrete is a great flooring material in kitchens because it can be made impervious to water and most staining agents, which means that it is very easy to maintain. The use of mixed colors as opposed to solids also helps to hide the presence of dirt to some extent.

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  • 03 of 09

    Acid-Stained Restaurant Flooring

    Acid-stained concrete floor used in a restaurant.

    Acid staining is a process that changes the surface of a concrete slab in an unpredictable way. When you apply hydrochloric or phosphoric acid mixed with salts to the floor, the acid opens the pores in the concrete, while the salts cause a chemical reaction, which leads to discoloration in its surface. The results will vary based on the porosity of the concrete, the materials used in its mix, and the age of the slab.

    In this restaurant, a solid concrete floor has been acid stained to achieve a unique brown and gold marbleized effect that stretches across the surface of the entire room. Achieving this same effect with real marble would require the use of very expensive, high-maintenance slabs.

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  • 04 of 09

    Acid-Stained Floor With Etched Faux Grout Lines

    Brown etched acid stained floor.

    Because acid staining is a technique that will have variable results, it is best to test a little bit of the chemical to a small out-of-the-way portion of the floor before treating the entire surface. This will give you an idea of what the colors will look like through the entire room. In this living room, acid staining has resulted in a very dark floor material that has mottled waves of chocolate brown running through its surface.

    The grout lines in this floor were created by etching the concrete after the staining process was complete. This helps to further simulate the look of natural stone tiling. You can also use etching to create unique patterns, motifs, and designs within the surface of the floor.

    Although acid staining is one of the most interesting ways to color concrete, there are also other ways to do it, including dyeing or painting the surface, or adding pigments to the concrete mixture before it is poured. But these treatments provide a solid color, not the mottled, marble-like surface achieved by acid staining.

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  • 05 of 09

    Dark Dyed Floor Softened With a White Hide Rug

    Woman placing a white rug over concrete flooring in a kitchen.
    © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    In some cases, concrete can be a bit severe in both appearance and feel. In this picture, a kitchen's concrete floor has been dyed with a solid brown water-based coloring agent. This creates a smooth, clean surface that is uniform across the entire room.

    However, on its own, such a treatment can be a little bit harsh and lacking in warmth and personality. Here, the dark floor paired with an off-white hide rug to help to create visual contrast and provide soft comfort.

    Because a concrete floor can be hard on feet and knees, rugs should be placed strategically in these rooms in places where you will do the most standing and kneeling. In kitchens, this is often in front of a sink or near a counter where you do most of your food preparation.

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  • 06 of 09

    Polished Concrete for a Modern, Industrial Feel

    Concrete loft flooring with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking buildings.
    © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Concrete is a common element in many modern loft-style apartments. The surface is smooth, geometric, and linear, which serves to elicit an almost Zen-like sense of emptiness and openness. In this example, a stained and polished surface floor is contrasted with an unfinished concrete beam, creating an interplay of industrial and decorative elements to create dynamic tension, making this space visually appealing in a unique way.

    Polishing is done by grinding the floor with progressively finer abrasive pads. If coloring is wanted, the polished floor can then be acid stained or dyed. The complete floor is then sealed to give it a sheen. While it is possible for a DIYer to rent the equipment and do this work, it is no easy feat. For this reason, polishing concrete is normally done by professionals with the tools and expertise to do it efficiently.

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  • 07 of 09

    Stained and Polished Floor for Modern Look

    Concrete nightclub flooring with ambient lighting.

    Concrete is not just industrial flooring anymore. With the right treatments and set in the right color and style scheme, you can achieve some unique effects with this versatile material. In this example, you see a tinted and polished concrete floor in an underground nightclub. The use of contrasting colors and strategic illumination serves to create an environment that looks almost otherworldly.

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  • 08 of 09

    Epoxy-Coated Floor

    Epoxy 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 very strong material that can be poured into cracks and crevices to help level out the surface of the material. But epoxy is available in a variety of colors, allowing you to create unique designs and patterns.

    In this example, the lobby of an office has a concrete floor treated with epoxy coatings in a variety of colors. Rather than having a functional, industrial feel, the colors serve to create a surreal modern style. This is then enhanced through the use of unique art pieces and design elements, such as the gray concrete dividing wall trailing through the center of the room.

    Floor epoxy is essentially a form of paint in which two parts: a liquid catalyst and liquid hardener, which are combined together 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.

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  • 09 of 09

    Black-and-White Checkerboard Flooring

    Black-and-white epoxy concrete flooring.

    Epoxy floor coverings make it possible to achieve all the same effects you can achieve with ordinary paint. Here, black-and-white epoxy has been applied in contrasting squares to create the look of a classic checkerboard tile kitchen, while maintaining the durability and ease of maintenance inherent in concrete as a flooring material. The most difficult part of this kind of installation is the layout of the pattern on the concrete slab.