Monday, December 1, 2014

An In Depth Look At Concrete Flooring

As with all flooring materials concrete has a variety of benefits that installers and salesmen will tout when trying to promote their product. However there are also a number of drawbacks to using this in certain places. That is why it is important to understand the good and the bad, before choosing to strip out other floors and go with bare or treated concrete in a specific location.

The Positive Characteristics of Concrete Flooring

Durability: Concrete flooring is extremely tough and resilient, and is able to withstand the pressure from very heavy equipment such as cars, trucks, forklifts, and stacked crates. That is why it is such a popular material for hard working commercial areas such as garages and warehouses.
Durability also means that the material is difficult to damage. High heals, furniture legs, and pet claws will not scratch the surface. You also don't have to worry about damage from most dropped items. While it is possible to chip or scratch a concrete surface, you will generally have to work pretty hard at it to succeed.

Easy to Maintain: Keeping a concrete floor looking its best will only require a minimum amount of maintenance. It will need to be sealed or waxed every 3-9 months depending on the level of traffic in order to maintain the protective layer over its surface. Other then that you can use a neutral cleaning agent to mop the floor clean periodically. A blue utility pad can be used for particularly stubborn stains.

Environmentally Friendly: In most cases a concrete subfloor already exists beneath another flooring material in grade and below grade locations. That means that installing a concrete floor is actually just uninstalling anything that has been placed over it. Because no new material is produced, there is no carbon footprint or depletion of resources.

Versatile: As long as the concrete is smooth and free from holes, bumps, and defects, you have the choice of installing any floor surface covering that you want over it at a later date. This gives you a lot of design freedom going forward. Please note that an underlayment may need to be installed between the concrete and the new material that you select.

Long Lasting: A sealed and properly maintained concrete floor can last indefinitely. Even in commercial applications it can survive under high traffic conditions for years to come. This saves you money, while also preventing the hassle of having to get new flooring installed periodically.

Design Options: When most people think of concrete floors they think of ugly gray utilitarian surfaces with sharp bumpy textures. However modern advances in concrete mixing and setting have allowed designers to achieve an endless variety of color and texture effects using this versatile material.

In some cases coloration will be mixed directly into the concrete before the slab is placed. For already installed floors you can either acid stain the surface, use an appropriate dye or staining agent, or paint over it with a water proof latex paint.

The texture of the concrete can be made smooth during the installation process. Alternatively decorative textural patterns can be carved into the surface while it is still setting. You also have the option of polishing the material to a smooth sheen, or etching it to create a faux tile effect.

The Drawbacks of Concrete Flooring

Hardness: The strength and durability of this material can also be a liability. The surface of a concrete floor is very hard. If you trip and fall on one then you are probably going to hurt yourself. Items dropped on these surfaces are also more likely to shatter or crack. That is why these floors are not recommended for areas which will be frequented by children or elderly people.

Uncomfortable: The hardness of concrete also makes it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time. Concrete doesn't yield, and if you are forced to stand on it for an extended period your feet wills feel the fury of its stoic stony demeanor.

Cold: Another drawback of concrete floors is that they do not tend to retain heat very well. That means that on a cold winter morning the surface of the floor is going to feel chilled against bare toes. This can be offset to some extent through the use of carpets and throw rugs.

Moisture: If not properly sealed on both top and bottom surfaces, concrete will be very susceptible to penetration by moisture. If liquid does manage to make its way into the pores of a concrete floor, it can sit there and lead to the growth of mold or mildew in your home. In some environments you will also have to worry about the moisture freezing, which will cause it to expand which can crack the floor slab through its center.

Environmentally Unfriendly: While using an already existing concrete slab as your floor surface uses no new materials, the manufacture of concrete for a new floor can actually have a negative ecological impact. This is due to the presence of cement in its material makeup, which requires a significant expenditure of energy and carbon dioxide in order to manufacture.

Waterproof Flooring Options

Liquids and humidity can be the bane of a flooring installation. They have the ability to infect porous materials, causing dimensional stains that are impossible to remove. They can also weaken the adhesive bond keeping pieces in place. Worst of all, liquids can get down under a floor surface and infect the subfloor, slowly rotting it away while also developing mold, mildew, and other harmful microorganisms which can negatively affect the indoor air quality of a space.

Luckily, there are a variety of waterproof, and water resistant flooring options which can be effectively installed in most wet and humid environments. These will vary in their porosity, and durability, precipitating different levels of maintenance, depending on the specific location where they are being employed.

1. Vinyl Floors
This material is produced from a variety of chemicals, and is manufactured to be durable, resilient, flexible, thin, stain resistant, and impervious to water damage. It can be used in kitchens, bathrooms, saunas, gyms, restaurants, and pools without having to worry about warping, discoloration, curling, or damage from humidity.

Maintenance requirements are generally low with vinyl flooring, and it has the added advantage of being able to be printed to match nearly any pattern, color, design, or faux natural look required. It can even be grouted for a realistic tile appearance, which also helps to seal the seams between individual pieces.

2. Glazed Ceramic Tiles
This flooring is made from clay and sediments which are mixed and then fired into very hard durable tiles. In its untreated state it is naturally porous and susceptible to water penetration, and liquid staining damage. However a glazed melted glass layer is often poured over the surface by the manufacturer, in order to make the product impervious to both water, and staining agents. This glaze can also be printed to take on a variety of patterns, colors, and faux natural looks.

With glazed ceramics the most vulnerable part of the installation is the grout between the tiles, which is permeable by water, and often prone to the growth of mold and mildew. This can be countered by the application of a quality sealing agent, which will clog its pores and create a protective layer over the material. This may have to be reapplied annually depending on the environment and level of usage.

3. Impervious Rubber Flooring
An all natural substance made from the sap of the para rubber tree, rubber flooring is another material that is completely impervious to penetration by water. It is also soft, cushioned, and safe, as well as being very durable against breakage, penetration, punctures, or flame. There are some oils and greases that can cause chemical reactions in its surface, but otherwise it is proof against almost all staining agents, and can last for decades depending on the location where it is installed.

4. Mosaic Glass Tiles
These small decorative tiles are fired at very high temperatures to produce materials which are extremely hard and resistant to cracking damage. They are also naturally impervious to water, and can provide a low maintenance option in wet, humid locations. Here again the grout can be vulnerable, and will need to be treated with a sealer to prevent water from getting into their pores and causing degradation or the growth of mold. It is also possible to remove the grout lines completely and replace them if the problem gets particularly bad.

5. Water Resistant Flooring materials
The following options are resistant enough to water to be used in moist and humid environments. However they are not impervious to liquid penetration, and may require some regular maintenance in order to protect their look and function.

6. Linoleum Flooring
This resilient flooring option is an all natural and ecologically friendly alternative to vinyl. While it does have a somewhat sour history when it comes to use in humid and wet environments, recent innovations in manufacturing technology, as well as an improvement on industry standards, has led to the production of materials which are much better at handling those conditions. However linoleum is not completely resistant to liquids, and flooding conditions or standing puddles can cause

7. Natural Stone Tiles
These tiles are naturally porous, which means that they are susceptible to water penetration and damage. However it is possible to use a combination of below surface chemicals to clog those pores, and above surface sealing agents to create an invisible layer over the stone, making it proof against most water conditions. Some materials will be more susceptible to liquids and humidity than others, with slate and granite being the most durable in wet locations.

8. Brick Pavers
Similar to natural stone, brick is a porous option that can be treated with a sealing agent in order to clog its pores and protect the floor from water. If untreated, the material can be prone to discoloration and the growth of mold or mildew. However this is not often an issue in exterior locations, where the hue changes can add to the rustic effect of the surface. 

9. Commercial Carpet
Most carpeting is terrible in wet environments, as it naturally soaks up moisture and can be a breeding ground for microorganisms to multiply. However there are a number of synthetic PVC and plastic based fibers which are being produced specifically to handle these conditions. These are generally commercial based options, though there are exterior rug products which can also handle very moist environments