Polished Concrete: Selecting a Finish

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Polished Concrete: Selecting a Finish

Several of our blog posts this month have been centered on polished concrete floors. That’s because polished concrete finishes are gaining popularity in the residential, commercial, and industrial sector. Their beauty, relatively low cost, simple maintenance, and durability are making polished concrete a sought-after flooring option.

One of the alluring aspects of polished concrete floors is the fact that you can choose from a variety of finishes. You don’t just have to have shiny cement-colored floors. Oh no! When you decide to polish your concrete floors, you will also have a number of concrete floor finishing options.

Need help selecting a finish? We can help.

Stained Concrete

Staining concrete is similar to staining wood. Instead of creating a solid, opaque effect, similar to that of paint, stained concrete is infused with luminous, translucent tones that impart a luxurious richness. The results can look like polished marble, tanned leather, or even stained wood.

There are two types of concrete stains: acid-based chemical stains and water-based acrylics. Acid stains work by penetrating the floor’s surface and chemically reacting with the concrete. The acid in the stain then etches the surface of the concrete, allowing metallic salts to penetrate easily. Once the stain reacts, it becomes an enduring part of the polished cement and won’t chip, fade, or peel away.

While acid-based stains are generally limited to earthy tones, if you want to be a little less subtle with your color choice, you may want to look into water-based stains. Water-based stains work in the same way as acid stains.


The process of stenciling varies greatly depending on the type of stencil you’ll be using, whether the stencil is applied directly to the concrete or as an overlay, and the decorative effects you wish to achieve.

There are several acceptable methods for stenciling concrete floors. Some of the most popular stenciling techniques include applying acid or water-based stains either before or after the stencil has been removed, creating an embossed pattern by spraying a thin concrete overlay, or etching designs into the concrete via abrasive blasting.

Concrete Dyes

While stains react chemically with the calcium hydroxide in concrete, dyes are non-reactive. Instead, they impart color by penetrating the surface of the concrete. Dye particles are much smaller than chemical or acrylic stain particles, making it easier for them to penetrate the floor’s surface.

Dyes are available in a variety of looks ranging from monotone to translucent. Water-based dyes give a marbled appearance whereas solvent-based dyes are usually more monotone and uniform in color.

Tinted Sealers

If you’re looking for a subtle coloring effect, tinted sealers are the way to go. They are semi-transparent and provide all of the benefits of a sealer while simultaneously serving as a low-cost coloring method. You can apply a tinted sealer to correct or enhance the color of existing colored concrete.

While this is not an exhaustive list of all the concrete finishes available, these are some of the most popular options. Lakeside is a painting company with over three decades of experience offering commercial and industrial services throughout the Midwest, and we specialize in polished concrete finishes.

If you’d like to learn more about our services, email us at info@lakesidepainting.com, or fill out our online form to request a free, personalized estimate.

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