Concrete is lauded the world over for its durability. But that doesn’t mean that concrete floors don’t take a beating and start to lose their lustre over time. Everything fades, and the smooth finish you once had with your concrete floors could become marred with cracks, dings, and stains over time.
A well-worn, and well-loved, floor is nothing to be ashamed of. But if you want to put your best foot forward with your floors, they could benefit from a bit of a touch up.
Enter: grinding and polishing. While often used interchangeably, these are actually two quite different approaches to refinishing a concrete surface. So when to use concrete grinding vs. polishing is important when planning your flooring revamp.
A closer look at concrete grinding
As the name aptly implies, concrete grinding is when tools and abrasives are used to grind down the surface. This process can be used rather robustly, helping to remove quite a bit of surface material and uproot imperfections including stains and dents.
What you won’t (likely) get with grinding alone is the shiny look associated with polished concrete. For that, you’ll need what’s called a grind and seal. This is when the floor is ground to a 60 or 80 grit and then coated with sealer or epoxy to protect the surface from further damage or discolouration.
Grinding is great to use to remove a decent amount of the surface depending on what the issue is. Grinding can remove paints, coatings, or glues that are no longer needed. It can also smooth out high spots as well as even out scratches and chips. Cracks can be filled in and then ground down to create a newly smooth surface.
Grinding offers a variety of uses. First and foremost, because you don’t have to finish it with fancy coatings if you don’t want to, you can use grinding to prepare a slab to receive another flooring system above it. That includes everything from tiling to timber. It also can make a slab look new and ready to receive its own special coating of epoxy or another sealer to create a flooring system all its own.
We’re so keen on concrete grinding, we’ve put together this extra article on the Pros and Cons of Concrete Grinding, which is definitely worth checking out.
Then what is concrete polishing?
Similar to grinding, polishing also removes a bit of the surface when it comes to preparing concrete. However, polishers use a much finer grit and abrasive. Rather than focusing on removing a lot of material all at once, concrete polishing works the material carefully and evenly to create a shiny surface.
Concreters can actually achieve several levels of honed shine to create different finishes, all without using other products. These include everything from matte finish, to low lustre, to medium and high gloss. The higher the level of shine, the wetter the floor will appear, giving it the look of a sealed or coated surface.
Polishing is a good option if your floors are already in good shape. Polishing is light and refined enough that it isn’t designed to remove imperfections. It simply works the existing surface to smooth it out and shine it up. If your floors have stains, bumps, or dings, you’ll want to opt for concrete grinding instead. Which brings us to the main point of our article…
Concrete grinding vs. polishing: Which is best for your floor?
The answer to this is going to depend on a series of factors or scenarios. After all, no two floors are the same, and the processes of grinding and polishing are different enough to have preferred applications. Let’s take a look at a few common reasons for refinishing concrete floors and which option wins out for each.
“My floors are stained or discoloured”
Polishing simply isn’t designed to remove layers and layers of concrete. In this case, if you’re trying to even out the floor or remove cosmetic damage to the concrete, you’re going to want to opt for concrete grinding. This process removes much more of the concrete surface itself, and your technician can control exactly how much is removed, while keeping the surface even, across the entire expanse of the floor.
“I don’t feel like dealing with sealing”
Polished concrete gives you that shiny, almost wet look without any additional coatings needed. It’s important to note that the sealant applied during a grind and seal is designed to protect the surface from stains and wear, but it can also wear out over time (especially in areas of high foot or vehicular traffic). You’ll likely need to reseal the floors every 3-5 years to keep that shine consistent across the entire floor. So if shine is what you’re after without the need to seal repeatedly, concrete polishing could give you the look you want.
“I’m in a hurry”
Need your floors flipped fast but want that illustrious shine? Polishing is going to take much longer to achieve than a grind and seal approach. Polishing takes a lot of different passes, often with a series of abrasives, which can delay the process while the technicians are at work. Expect 5-10 days for a high gloss finish depending on how big your floors are. You can directly compare this to concrete grinding, which takes just 3-5 days to complete including the time it takes to allow the sealant to cure completely.
Interested in learning more? Read on: How Long Does Concrete Grinding Take?
“I can’t afford to spend a fortune”
Thankfully, neither option is going to cost you extreme amounts of money. And both are much more cost effective than installing a new slab from scratch. However, concrete polishing tends to take longer and be more labour intensive, so you can expect to spend more than you would for a standard grind and seal project. Of course, add-ons like epoxy and custom stain colours can take your basic grind and seal project up to new heights, and with higher price tags.
“I want to add designer touches”
Concrete grinding wins this round, hands down. You can have your technician grind the surface fresh and smooth, then choose the designer flair you’d like to add. This can be anything from a slick epoxy finish that’s designed to protect impact and spills to more flashy inclusions colourful stains and designs. There’s no need to focus on (or pay for) polishing if you’re looking for these extra finishes.
Cut through the confusion with Kwikcut
When it comes to concrete grinding vs polishing, it’s important to have in mind what your goals are for your flooring. This will usually dictate which approach is best for you. In short, grinding is best for removing more of the surface and preparing it for other treatments while polishing is better for nuanced projects where shine is priority and your slab is already in good shape.
Not sure which process you need?
The experts at Kwikcut are standing by to provide advice and recommendations. We’re Perth’s leading provider of grinding and polishing services, with over a decade of dedicated experience working just in concrete. All of our team members are fully licensed and insured professionals who prioritise customer safety and satisfaction no matter the project size.
Cut the confusion and simply call us on 08 9408 6096 with your questions. We’ll be more than happy to help 24/7 and even provide free estimates so you can budget for your flooring rehab project.