April 13, 2021

3 items to consider when designing and bidding on decorative polished concrete.

Decorative polished concrete has fully cemented itself as a modern flooring choice in the design community as well as a selection for clients in their overall floor selection portfolio.   Over the last decade specifically, the marriage of modern decorative concrete solutions and traditional floor coverings has been fully consummated.  However, there is a gulf of confusion between division 3 and division 9 for all parties involved from the specifying and education to budgeting and installation.

So, how can you clarify the confusion between the divisions?

Initially, many of the specifications being introduced to the design community were written with a focus on the chemical portion. There was little concentration on controlling both the method and quality of installation.   The lack of control to define how to achieve a specified polished concrete design while making sure it is installed by approved contractors has been an industry-wide problem from the beginning.  The innovation of newer types of tooling and equipment over the last decade has only muddied the waters for the installation process for polished concrete floors.

In general, the decorative concrete industry has failed to set the right expectation by forcing the proverbial “square peg in the round hole” mentality.  The industry has boxed itself in trying to deliver a product than delivering a result of a specified process.  The failure in not properly setting the right expectation has left many designers and end-users unhappy in their finished polished process.

How did we get to this point?

In 2016, the merging of the “American Society of Concrete Contractors” and “Concrete Polishing Association of America,” was formed into the “CPC” Concrete Polishing Council.  This union provided a fresh look at the education of focusing on processes as well as defining how the industry could manage the quality of the installation to the end-user.

Finding a trusted flooring solutions partner in helping you achieve both design intent while balancing costs should be the first order of business.   The first step in identifying the best solutions partner is through understanding the differences in the methods of polished concrete installation and the different levels each can achieve is paramount in the decision-making process.  Proper specifying, design intent, and understanding what we are delivering is crucial to the outcome as we deal with a flooring selection that is born out of a process and not an actual “product.”  Due to the varied installation processes of a polished concrete system, the look and costs can vary widely.  Our industry is quickly trying to find the best solution.

Consider these 3 items when designing and bidding on decorative polished concrete.

The flooring community and specification in the design community have struggled with this dichotomy.   Traditional floor covering such as carpet tile, LVT, hard tile, and others are a selection based on a look and budget, which in contrast to polished concrete, is repeatable in the field.  This clash is leaving commercial flooring dealers in the US trying to understand how to deliver processes rather than a product.  The appetite for dealers to go down this road find themselves trying to decide between the commitment level to be experts in decorative concrete offerings to their clients or the mentality of having to deal with it if the scope requires.

#1 Understanding the deliverables between a new slab and renovated slab. Controlling the concrete mix design while defining an aggregate exposure/sheen level on a new slab is much easier to control through good initial specification and planning.  Getting the concrete finisher, as well as the installer, on the same page is imperative to giving the end-user an “expected outcome.”  Failure to plan thoroughly can result in expectations not being met in the field at the time of installation.  While mockups for a new or renovated slab should be required, renovated slab mockups are essential due to the vast unknowns of the current concrete substrate.  This ensures defining the expectations of what the client can receive in terms of options for their concrete floor.

#2 Ensuring industry-standard processes of polishing concrete. We must be cognizant that every slab is different which can change processes, tooling, and even steps in the way the installer delivers the specification.  However, transparency of the steps included in the initial pricing, auditing those steps, or reviewing necessary changes in the field with the client is necessary to create confidence for all parties involved and bolstering the industry reputation at the same time.  Onsite mockups done before the time of installation gives the designer, general contractor, and client the time to review a “field example” of what the delivery looks like for the specification written.  Any variances, changes or concerns can then be discussed educating all parties throughout the process while setting the proper expectation.

#3 Protection of the concrete floor to delivering the best end product. With traditional flooring, damaged pieces can be replaced and can cover the concrete floor hiding defects in the substrate.  However, polished concrete is a one-shot deal to deliver the specification.  Failure to properly cover the floor with a breathable material until the installer begins their process can risk damage to the concrete substrate that is irreversible.  The concrete polishing process highlights both the concrete finisher’s work as well as damage done during that period between placement and installation.  Breathable protection placed over the finished floor after completion is equally important. The “fix” to damaged areas can be costly, time-consuming, and possibly deliver a different look than other areas that are unavoidable.

Conclusion. Understanding the concrete substrate, defining transparent installer processes, creating the right expectation through pricing, as well as onsite mockups and protection of the floor, will eliminate virtually every potential conflict while delivering a qualified floor for the client.

Feel free to reach out to Brian Williams for more information on how we can assist you with your concrete strategy and design solutions.


About the author: Brian Williams is a Business Development Specialist at DCO Commercial Floors who is well-versed as a decorative concrete and resinous/epoxy flooring solutions expert. His installation and design detail experience provides a solid foundation to analyze complex solutions across all market sectors to help make these flooring solutions work for various projects. Since joining the team, he has helped multiple clients for DCO Commercial Floors navigate the challenges presented by their projects and has created comprehensive strategies to help keep projects on track and mitigate the budget impacts. His expertise can guide you through various solutions. Feel free to contact Brian for more information on ways DCO Commercial Floors can assist your project. c: 704.497.8881 email: brianwilliams@dcocf.com

About the firm: DCO Commercial Floors is a nationwide flooring dealer that is committed to being a flooring solutions leader for all finishes bridging the gap between traditional floor covering and modern decorative concrete solutions such as Polished Concrete. Whether you are a designer needing help specifying polished concrete, a general contractor looking for a total flooring package solution that includes polished concrete, or an end-user needing to find a solution for your floor, DCO can provide and deliver on all facets.