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50 Shades of Grey – The Concrete Matrix

Most people tend to assume concrete is grey and industrial looking, but there are many factors that will draw out different colours and hues, especially when producing polished concrete finishes.

The constituent components of your original concrete matrix – that is to say those specific materials that were mixed together to create the concrete – can all affect the final look considerably.

One of the most commonly asked questions in our trade is:

What Colour Will our Polished Concrete Floor Be?

That is the million dollar question.

The short answer when working on a pre-existing concrete base will virtually always be that nobody knows. Nobody can possibly know.

This will be a cause of dismay to control freaks, but the colour of finish with a full mechanical polished concrete process is determined by a number of variables over which your concrete polishing contractor has no influence.

One of the big selling points with a full mechanical polished concrete process is that every finish is unique. This uniqueness is literally guaranteed by the variable nature of the constituent materials, such as the infinite variety of hues and colours within the sand and stone.

This can present a real chicken-and-egg situation for some people deciding whether to go for the full mechanical polished concrete process, which is generally the longest lasting, most durable option. Unfortunately, the only way to discover the colour of your concrete after polishing it, is to have it polished.  For anyone seeking entirely predictable outcomes, then it’s probably safe to assume a full polished concrete process is not the right solution for you.

That said, there is a couple of approaches which might deliver the degree of control you are seeking:

Pre-planning the concrete mix: If you are fortunate enough to be able to plan your floor before your concrete floor is mixed and laid, then you have the potential luxury of being able to select all the concrete you need for a more bespoke floor.  Options here can include colour infused concrete through pigmentation and decorative stones, all of which can increase the influence you have over the colours that emerge when your concrete floor is finally polished. You should remain aware, that if your polished concrete contractor is relying on a third party contractor to lay the concrete, then he still has no control over the exact colours or location of stones that emerge during the polishing process.

Micro-toppings: Designer micro-toppings are proving to be an increasingly popular alternative to conventional concrete. This solution involves the placement of a thin designer concrete topping, which is prepared and laid over your existing floor. For some customers, this offers a degree of control that just isn’t available with concrete that is alrady in place.

Technicolour Polished Concrete Flooring

The variety of sands, textures, stones and cements which are almost endless, offering infinite possibilities with the range of colours which can emerge when your concrete is polished. If you are seeking to influence the shades and colours appearing in your concrete floor – after accepting that the influence you are able to exert is always going to be limited and unpredictable to some extent – your polished concrete project should be planned before any concrete is prepared or laid.

Aiming to Influence the Outcome?

For anyone aiming to be as bespoke as possible, with the maximum degree of control over the colours and stones that emerge from your polished surface, the process you would follow would consist of key stages as follows:

1) Concrete mix design
2) Finishing method
3) Curing
4) Polishing process

In the majority of cases we encounter, this level of control is unavailable because we arrive on a project with the concrete already in place.  Often it has been laid for years and often the specification to which it has been laid is unknown.   In such cases, you literally have to wait and see what happens when the polishing process is executed to know what your polished floor will look like.

That said, even with the maximum level of control listed above, the uniqueness and spread of the materials will still leave variable in the mix and leave scope for variable aspects to the finish.  The great thing about this is that you will always know your floor is unique.  Nobody will ever have a floor exactly like yours.

Concrete Mix Design

In order to influence the colours and stones that emerge when your concrete floor is polished you need to consult with an expert that is familiar with designer concretes and the various decorative stones on the market.

As both cement and sand can vary substantially, the variety of possible looks and finishes is virtually endless.

Factors that Influence the Myriad Colours within Polished Concrete

Cement

The colour of cement is influenced by the materials from which it is made and there is a wide range of cements on the market.

Sand

Sand has many commercial applications around the world, the composition of which can vary substantially based upon local mineral sources and geology. Sand is naturally occurring, with colours and textures influenced by local rock formations. As such it’s not unknown for two beaches in close proximity to look markedly different from one another, where different rock types are found in close proximity. Sands can range in general colour from near-white, through yellows, greens to near-black volcanic sands, the latter of which can be found in places such as Tenerife. Sand is a key, core component within your concrete matrix.

Dry Shake Toppings

Dry shake toppings offer options for influencing the final colour and texture. In the case of cream style polished finishes. Dry shakes can be applied after the concrete is mixed and laid, but before the concrete laying finishing process is entirely finished. The materials in the dry shake can be spread across your fresh concrete surface to influence the final appearance as it is floated and trowelled-in, although being a surface treatment this will only influence the outcome of a surface polish that does not involve grinding away the surface concrete.

The Pitfalls with Polished Concrete and How to Avoid Them

If you are interested in considering a polished concrete floor you may be interested in our FREE guide. It’s an in-depth exploration which aims to clear up common misconceptions with polished concrete and importantly, how to choose the right contractor.

Our guide aims to help you make the right choices:

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