In its natural state concrete is a grayish color with a rough, prickly texture, that can be smoothed to some extent by undertaking certain processes during the setting stage. However, you actually have numerous options for achieving a wide variety of attractive decorative effects with this formerly austere surface covering.
Moisture and Water Concerns With Concrete Kitchen Floors
If you are going to remove an existing floor surface covering and use the concrete slab below as the kitchen floor itself, then you have to ensure that proper moisture penetration prevention measures have been taken.
In most new buildings, the foundation slab is installed with a vapor barrier between the material and the ground soil, preventing any water from traveling up into it.
If you have an older home which does not have a vapor barrier installed below the slab, then you may have to install one yourself. This can be done by laying the vapor barrier sheet on the top surface of the concrete, and then pouring a relatively thin layer of self-leveling concrete compound over it, in a process known as micro topping. While this will lower the height of the room, it will also prevent moisture from sapping the warmth and comfort from the floor.
Kitchen Concrete Design Considerations
Polished and Honed: It is a relatively simple process for a professional to take a sanding or grinding machine to a concrete floor, in order to smooth out the surface.
The result will be a perfectly flat, even surface, that will feel solid and polished beneath your feet. In wet or high traffic environments, certain sealers can be used to add traction to the surface of the floor afterward.
Powdered Color Hardener: This is added to concrete before it is allowed to dry, in order to achieve a color that is true dimensionally through the slab when it sets.
That means that no matter what the wear, tear, scratches, or dents, you will end up with the same hue, all the way through.
Acid Stained Concrete: In this process, a solution of water, acid, and inorganic salts is applied to the surface of the concrete. This causes a chemical reaction, which results in the concrete staining in a variety of unique colors and hues. These stains are generally quite attractive, giving the floor an appearance similar to natural marble or granite.
Cracks: One of the most common problems that will arise with a concrete kitchen floor, is that over time cracks will often appear in its surface. This comes from the concrete slab being a single, solid piece. When the foundation of the house shifts, the concrete is subjected to enormous pressures, which take the form of tiny hairline fractures in the material. For some people, this adds character to the floor, while others choose to patch it with compound mix.
Potential Drawbacks To Using Concrete In Kitchens
Hard: The kitchen is a place where you are standing on your feet for long periods of time while you chop, stir, and mix various ingredients for meals.
Unfortunately, standing on a surface that is as hard as concrete can be very tiring on feet, legs, and knees over time. This can lead to unneeded fatigue when working in the kitchen.
The best way to handle this is to purchase waterproof kitchen gel pads which can be placed on the floor in places where you do the most standing. This includes in front of the stove, the sink, or near any traditional chopping and mixing areas. These are often used in professional kitchens where chefs are forced to stand on hard floors for hours on end.
Cold: In most cases, concrete flooring will be cold to the touch. However, there are a number of ways to offset this. A vapor barrier properly installed beneath the floor will prevent moisture from rising up and sapping heat.
You can also install a radiant heating system which will actually keep the ground beneath you nice and toasty as you work.
Sealing: Concrete does not require very much maintenance, and you can usually just get away with sweeping or mopping up loose debris that gets tracked in. However, it is very important to remember to seal a concrete surface every 1 - 2 years. That is because in its natural state concrete is very porous, and if it is not protected with a sealing coat then stains and moisture can penetrate its surface and cause permanent damage.