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DIY Flooring Home Improvements – Concrete Concepts

Concrete flooring is a traditional option in basements. It may have been an extension of the original foundation, or poured because it provides an ultra-durable surface for a basement laundry room, kids playroom or other use. But concrete flooring has come out of hiding, and not only because it wears like, well, concrete.

Concrete floors can be finished with an extremely smooth, polished surface. Since they stand up to just about anything, they’re great for areas that track in snow, mud, sand and other outdoor materials. But they can also be highly attractive.

Modern techniques can turn that plain gray floor into something that looks like marble, slate or highly polished ceramic. Acids designed to react with the lime in concrete can etch the surface. They blend in to produce a veined look or a geometric design that can simulate marble or tile. Dyes mixed with or paints applied later can turn that surface into any color or any painted design that the homeowner wants.

The metallic salts used prepares the top layer, then acid in a chemical stain reacts with the lime deposits in the concrete. That creates a color or surface effect that can cover a wide range of choices. But, take care, the effects are permanent. Re-doing it would require removing a considerable portion of the surface, which is usually prohibitively expensive.

Even adding the cost of that finishing job, the total price can be much lower than other options. Hardwood floors are durable and beautiful, but they can run $6-$10 per square foot or more. Concrete, even finished, can easily be less than half that. And, when the job is done there are no tell-tale seams.

Surface effects or custom painted floors are durable and super easy to clean. Dirt mops up easily. With the exception of certain acids, it’s very difficult to stain them. Automotive oil will, of course. But that’s rarely a problem where concrete is used in the home outside the garage. Even that can be prevented with the proper surface treatment.

Concrete floors can even be a healthier alternative to carpets, throw rugs and the like. Dust cleans up easily and doesn’t stay trapped in the surface. That reduces dust mites. Other allergens such as pollen, pet dander and even smoke residue can be easily eliminated. Concrete can even be wiped with a mild disinfectant such as bleach or an anti-fungal liquid to reduce the chances even further.

Keep in mind, though, that even treated concrete surfaces can crack. Since they’re colored or contain surface effects, the crack may not show as prominently. But they can still provide a home for moisture and hence mildew. As always, it’s still important to keep the concrete surface dry. A short-term exposure from snow, mopping and so forth is unimportant. But water that stays down for days or weeks can lead to problems.

Also, staining isn’t completely predictable. Because of variations in lime content, temperature and other factors, the results can differ slightly from what was envisioned.

But these minor issues aside, concrete flooring can be one of the best options available for certain applications.

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