Friday, March 22, 2013

Concrete Floors Make me Crazy

If there is one element in this house construction project that has most contributed to me losing my mind, it is the floors.

I'm not sure who's idea it was to install concrete* floors but it seemed like a good one.  In our old house, we have a hodge podge of flooring styles (hardwood, bamboo, linoleum, armstrong tiles, slate - all visible in the same space) so I'm really looking forward to one continuous material throughout the new house.

Although I do love the look of hardwood, it's not the low maintenance option I was looking for.  I think the clean-lined industrial look of concrete will modernize the rustic elements of the house.  And with several exterior doors opening up into the main room and hallway, I wanted to avoid cutting in small tile areas at every door, which would be needed with hardwood.  All in all, concrete seemed like a no brainer. 

Boy were we in for a ride.

 {collection of samples}

We quickly found an installer with a product that was exactly what we were looking for:  a brown-grey mottled colour, finished to look aged and worn.  We were set to go ... except that installer turned out to be a bust when details of their poor reputation started to filter in.  Back to square one.  We then found our well vetted and highly recommended installer.   

Working with our new expert, it took us three long months to replicate that original (proprietary) sample that I fell in love with.  We worked with three different brands, experimented with levels of grinding, researched burnishing, sheen options, epoxies and coatings, combined various proportions of white and grey bases, added carefully chosen tints, produced sample after sample and FINALLY GOT IT!

About a month ago, the installer started the process.

The screed subfloor that the heating tubes are incased in was ground down with this machine and vacuum combo:


to create this rough surface:  

Next, they dumped, rolled and smoothed epoxy over the entire surface.  Sand was hand thrown into the wet epoxy.

Once dry, the excess sand was removed.  The remaining layer felt like sand paper and created a rough surface for the concrete to lock into.

Except it didn't work the first time and looked patchy like this (below) because our subfloor 'drank in' the epoxy.

So the sand was scraped off and another layer of epoxy and sand was put in place.  It worked the second time and looked like this: 

Next the form work was put in place to contain the concrete (photo below) at doorways, stairwell, around floor outlets, gaps at perimeter of room, etc.

On install day, a mixing station, tint quantities (photo below) and concrete were carefully prepared; once they start mixing, they need to move quickly before concrete starts to set.

Here's what the wet concrete looked like upstairs (where they placed first).  We created a bridge from the mixing station (our laundry room) to the stair well so that the installers could exit the area without walking in the placed concrete!

The mixing station for the main floor was outside on the porch (photo below).  The day of the install there were eight installers, each with a specific task. 

Below is a photo taken through the window about an hour after the concrete was installed. 

18 hours after.  Starting to lighten in colour.

24 hours after.  Dark areas started to appear over heating tubes!  Not good.

Dark lines became even more apparent at two days.

After much panic, we were given the ok to test an area to see if the discolouration was thoughout or just on the surface.  We were relieved to see that beneath the the surface 'cream', the colour matched our sample (photo below).  But still had to wait several days for the product rep to see it first hand to ensure it wasn't compromised.

We got the OK from the product rep and the finishing started last week.  They're looking good so I look forward to posting photos of the finished product!

*I should point out that it's not actually concrete.  It's a 1/4" thick polymer induced concrete micro top.  We couldn't pour regular concrete and then polish because it would be too thick (and we wouldn't be able to open our doors) and it would be WAY too heavy for the house to support.)


  1. I'm feeling the lighter one. It brings out the brightness of the tile.

    slate tile flooring

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I love this blog!! The flash up the top is awesome!! Construction bids

  4. Great article, a debt of gratitude is in order for assembling this! This is clearly one awesome post.