Concrete is used commonly in construction, including in residential homes. While your concrete driveway might seem like the most obvious place for this durable material, you may be surprised at how many other places in and around your home can have concrete. From your driveway to front steps, walkways, and patio to pool decks and garage floors.
Concrete has also made its way into interior home renovations. Concrete flooring, while commonly used in commercial and retail applications, has become popular with home renovations. Concrete countertops are also a sleek, modern, and trendy choice for kitchen renovations.
No matter how you plan on using concrete to enhance your home, there are many different kinds of concrete finishes to consider. Before we get to that, let’s look at the benefits of concrete first.
Benefits of concrete
There are many benefits that come with concrete. It is durable and long-last material that can pass the test of time. Its smooth finish allows it to be cleaned easily, and that includes making snow shoveling easier in the wintertime. It can withstand our harsh weather, and often lasts longer than other materials like asphalt which tends to crumble and crack more easily.
Concrete is also versatile in style and design. Not only can you choose from many types of concrete finishes, but it can also be tinted to match a specific colour. Since it’s poured into a space when installed, you can design and pour concrete into any shape or size of space you desire.
Concrete is strong, but it can crack over time in winter climates. Cracks are caused mostly because of the freezing and thawing cycle. Fortunately, cracked and sinking concrete can be repaired, especially if it’s the early stages of the damage. To maintain it, just sweep it or spray it down with a pressure washer or garden hose.
Myths about concrete
Have you heard some bad things about concrete? Here are a few common myths about concrete that homeowners may mistake as fact:
Concrete is always grey
While grey may be the standard colour, your concrete doesn’t have to be. As you’ll see later on in the article, there are a few ways to change the colour of your concrete. You have many choices on what colour the concrete can be, as well as the overall look. With some finishes, it can even be made to resemble other materials that aren’t concrete.
Concrete can be laid any time of the year, no matter the weather
Concrete needs the proper temperature to dry. If you were to do a concrete job in the middle of a Canadian winter, it’s unlikely that the concrete will dry properly. This is why for those looking to do a project involving concrete, they should take advantage of the warm weather this summer to have their new concrete installed.
Concrete is bad for the environment
Many people think concrete isn’t a great material for the environment. This, however, isn’t the case. Concrete lasts for so long that it has little effect on the environment. Also, concrete can be recycled and reused after it has been torn out or demolished. Commonly, the process of recycling concrete includes pulverizing the rubble to reuse it near the construction site. This helps keep old concrete out of the landfill and is better for the planet.
Concrete isn’t porous
Concrete can still be porous, even though it may not appear so. However, having your concrete surfaces properly sealed with the right chemicals and components will ensure that your concrete surface is less likely to hold water. Sealing your concrete will also make it more resistant to staining and easier to clean. Sealing is especially a good idea if you use your garage as a workshop, and want to be able to clean it and maintain it more easily.
Now that you have an idea of the benefits and myths of using concrete, it’s time to look at the many different concrete finishes you can consider when having it installed. Some of these options may be commonly used outdoors, but using them indoors is also an option.
A broom finish is probably the most common concrete finish, especially for residential driveways and sidewalks. The broom finish is done by pouring the concrete onto a surface, then spreading it and finishing the top with a broom. It’s an easy finish to have contractors do, making it a cost-effective, cheaper option. It looks very clean and is a great choice for any driveway, walkway, path, patio, or any other surface.
You do have some variation with the broom finish. Depending on how much you want the grooves to stand out in the concrete, the bristles of the broom can change in thickness. If you’re looking for something simple and clean, thinner bristles will be used. However, if you’re looking for more grooves to be visible, thicker bristles are used. You may want to use a broom with thicker bristles if the surface that the concrete is applied to is commonly wet. Homeowners may consider doing this on something like a patio to keep people from slipping and to easily ground patio furniture.
A similar method to the above broom concrete finish is the trowel finish. Trowel finishes are done by, in a similar fashion, pouring the concrete onto the desired surface, and smoothing it out with a trowel. A trowel itself is a flat tool. This process is done to create different patterns in the concrete, to make it flat and smooth, or to give it a unique style. You may consider an arch or swirl pattern with the trowel finish.
Depending on how much or how little you want a pattern to stand out, a trowel will be an easy way to make it happen. If you’re looking for a more considerable swirl pattern, for example, the concrete contractors can use a trowel that has a more coarse texture to it. Contrarily, a minimalistic pattern would be done with a smooth-ended trowel. The trowel method of concrete finishing is a way to add a little something to your concrete to make it stand out from the rest and personalize it to your home.
Stamped concrete is a more decorative method of concrete finishing. If you like the benefits that concrete comes with, but not necessarily the look of the material, this may be the choice for you! Stamped concrete is a process done to make your concrete finish look like a completely different material. Different stencils and carving are done to change the look of the concrete entirely. This can make your concrete look like tile, brick, slate, flagstone, granite, and wood.
This is commonly done on walkways and patios to add character and design. Something else that may be done with stamped concrete is that different colours can be mixed in. This will add to the illusion of different the stones or tiles being used. While this is more work than the broom and trowel finish, and more expensive to install, the end result will make it all worth it.
Rock salt finish
The rock salt concrete finish is different from those already mentioned. The effect of the rock salt leaves less of a smooth finish. This process is done by pouring rock salt on to freshly poured concrete. Afterwards, the rock salt is then cleaned off with water, leaving behind tiny holes or pits on the concrete surface. Similarly to the broom finish with the larger grooves, this finish will make the surface slip-resistant with the texture of the holes left behind. This finish is commonly used alongside pools because it makes it safer around the border of the pool. While you may think water being trapped in the holes is a bad thing, it won’t harm the concrete. The rock salt concrete finish, like most others, is sealed after the application. This way, the concrete will have some resistance against moisture getting in.
Exposed aggregate finish
Exposed aggregate is also a popular concrete finish style among new construction and exterior renovations. This process of concrete finishing is done by placing natural stones or glass into the wet concrete. After, different chemicals are applied to maintain the look and hold of the aggregate used, and the concrete is smoothed out with a trowel. Once the concrete has dried, you’ll have your very own piece of art on your walkway or sidewalk.
Depending on the kinds of materials you use, this can have several different outcomes. If you were to use glass as your aggregate material, the concrete surface will likely be smoother. If you take the route of using natural stones, however, the surface will be rougher. You can put in designs and patterns in your concrete, using different coloured aggregate in different areas. Because aggregate is so versatile when it comes to tones and colours, this is a popular choice for homeowners wanting a unique, attractive concrete finish that compliments the style of their home and landscaping.
Polished finish, for interior concrete
Moving indoors, a popular finished used for concrete flooring is the polished concrete finish. This type of finish is a very simple, very clean choice. It still maintains all the benefits of concrete, but in a less noticeable way. Similar to other finishes previously mentioned, you have some choice with this finish as well. The polished finish is applied by using a floor grinder to evenly smooth and level the floor. With the floor grinder, depending on the size and texture of the discs, you’ll be able to control how smooth the floor is or isn’t.
An added bonus with the polish concrete finish is the addition of a sealer. The sealer protects the floor from stains to keep your concrete floor looking polished and new for many years to come. If you’re looking to install flooring in your home that is simple, easy to maintain, and resistant to stains, the polished concrete may be a great choice for you. It is also a great choice for commercial applications, and popular in spaces like retail stores, markets, and restaurants.
Stained or coloured finish
Concrete has the benefit of coming in a diverse range of colours. With something like concrete, mixing in a colour means that the colour is unlikely to fade because it becomes a part of the concrete itself. If plain grey isn’t appealing to you, why not mix in a different colour? This finish isn’t limited to flooring. Concrete countertops are growing in popularity since they are durable and modern.
With a stained or coloured finish, you’re able to change to look of your countertop to match your cabinets or stand out on its own. This method can also be used to change the look of your concrete countertop. If, again, you aren’t keen on the look of concrete, adding a coloured stain can help the material look like different stones or other materials that aren’t concrete. Once it’s all said and done, a protective seal is placed on top to keep the colour from fading, and further protects your countertops.
This concrete finish isn’t solely done on countertops. It can be done on any concrete surface you may want to colour. It’s worth noting that the coloured or stained finish works better on freshly poured concrete since the colour will mix in more with the concrete material. Older concrete surfaces can also be stained. It may be more likely to fade over time, but applying the colouring with a protective seal on top will keep your concrete coloured for quite some time still.
Acid staining finish
The acid staining finish has many similarities to the above stained or coloured finish. It adds long-lasting colour to your concrete, keeping your colour strong throughout the years. The acid staining has a different overall effect compared to the other finishes. While other stained concrete finishes may give your concrete colour, the acid staining finish goes a step further. Once the stain is added and has dried, the surface will appear like marble. It gives your concrete a different design than you’d have with a regular stain. You’re more likely to see this finish being used for indoor flooring, but it can also be used outdoors too. Your flooring will appear glossier, giving your concrete a colourful boost.
Concrete finishes are a great way to turn boring old concrete surfaces into something more individualistic and special. Using any of the above methods of concrete finishing will ensure that the concrete features of your home will stand out from others, giving your home its own unique look. Take advantage of this summer to improve any concrete features in your home, and make them your own.
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