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A Builder’s Guide to Polished Concrete Floors

Craftsman Concrete

Installing concrete floors in a new construction project can increase profitability, reduce construction time and complexity, and shorten time on market. However, it’s important to understand all the aspects of installation before starting the project.

Here is a definitive builder’s guide to residential polished concrete floors in new projects. We will cover everything from the benefits to pricing, all in an easy-to-read guide.

Benefits of a Polished Concrete Floor in New Residential Construction

Unrivaled Value

The installation cost for polished concrete floors is lower than most other standard builder-grade flooring options. When properly installed, a polished concrete floor will last for decades, even in homes with extremely high foot or pet traffic. This provides an excellent opportunity for homebuilders and creates great long-term value for homebuyers.

Residential floors start from $3.50 – $5.00 per square foot.

Stable Pricing

Because polished concrete utilizes the structural concrete slab of your project rather than additional inputs like wood or tile, the cost of your flooring installation won’t change as material costs fluctuate. This means that utilizing polished concrete can help smooth out fluctuating costs for savvy homebuilders, increasing budget accuracy, forecasting ability, and profitability.

High Demand Luxury Aesthetics

Concrete Polishing in Residential Projects

As new construction styles trend more modern, there has never been more demand for the simplistic elegance of polished concrete floors. And for nontraditional builds such as barndominiums, there’s practically no flooring that’s better suited aesthetically.

A 2020 trade group study found that ‘polish concrete floor’ were mentioned much more in MLS descriptions than any other type of flooring. Further, it was found that polishing concrete in an existing concrete surface increased home values and reduced time on market. In our opinion, it makes a reasonable argument that buyers find polished concrete floor expensive.

Industrial Grade Durability

Polished concrete is an industrial installation that we’ve adapted with proprietary tooling and techniques to meet the aesthetic requirements of luxury residential construction. The result is beautiful, sustainable floors that will last the lifetime of the homes you build.

Reduced Downtime

Standard installs take 1-4 days and are scheduled at the beginning of a project — typically in three separate single-day mobilizations. Our crews work concurrently with mechanical subs and window crews – reducing build times by around two weeks when compared to hardwood floors.

Because we specialize in residential construction and service all our jobs with only in-house W-2 crews, we can offer highly responsive scheduling to accommodate the changing timelines of your projects.

Reduced Warranty Issues

Polished concrete does not easily scratch or stain and is not susceptible to water damage. A properly installed polished concrete floor will eliminate costly warranty repairs such as those from shrinking wood or cracking tile. Even the most neglected polished concrete floor will outlast residential warranty periods.

Easy to clean

A Polished Concrete Floor is easy to clean and only requires sweeping and mopping with water and pH-neutral soap. For best results, use a microfiber mop and cleaning solution specifically designed for polished concrete floors.

Polished Concrete Floor Installation Basics

Installing a Polished Concrete Floor is a time-sensitive process that requires an experienced contractor to get optimum results. Here are the primary factors that establish an installation guide and how you can estimate the project’s completion date.

Types of Polished Concrete Floors

Steps, costs, and timelines may vary based on the choice of polished concrete flooring a builder selects for their new residential project. The pricing listed below is based on individual projects at 1,500 sq. ft. or larger. Higher volume builds, such as adjacent single-family homes, apartment buildings, or track homes, may be priced lower.

Cream Polished Concrete

  • This is the type of concrete floor most commonly selected by builders due to its incredible value and performance compared to other concrete surfaces. Achieved by polishing the unground surface of a newly poured concrete slab, it’s the standard option for volume builders.
  • Starting from $3.50 per square foot – $5.00 per square foot.

Salt and Pepper Polished Concrete

  • Salt and pepper polished concrete is a popular choice for higher-end luxury or custom homes because of its more consistent texture. This finish is achieved by lightly grinding the concrete surface before polishing, thereby removing markings left by a power trowel and exposing small, colorful sand aggregates in the concrete. Salt and pepper polished concrete is also more durable than cream-polished concrete, making it a perfect choice for high-traffic homes.
  • Starting from $5.00 per square foot – $7.00 per square foot.

Rock Cut Polished Concrete Floor

  • A rock cut polished concrete floor is installed by heavily grinding the concrete surface before polishing to create a look similar to terrazzo flooring. Rock cut polished concrete floors are the ultimate choice for luxury residential projects because of their striking, timeless texture.
  • Starting from $9.00 per square foot.

Levels of Gloss in a Polished Concrete Floor

800 Grit Gloss Level

Polish refers to a floor that is honed to be smooth, not the level of reflectivity. The level of reflectivity is achieved by using different grades of abrasives during the polishing process. The more abrasive steps used, the higher the gloss level achieved. The three levels of gloss are: satin (lowest level of reflectivity), semi-gloss (medium level of reflectivity), and high-gloss (highest level of reflectivity).

Gloss can be specified from satin to high gloss and has a low impact on pricing. While there’s no hard and fast rule, matte floors are often used in modern construction designs, while higher levels of reflectivity are used to increase light and openness in dark or cramped spaces. Regardless of the level of reflectivity you choose, all of the floors we install offer the same quality and performance.

Options for Integrating Color in Concrete Polishing.

  • Integrating color into polished concrete flooring is a popular choice for custom home builders because it allows them to better incorporate the floor into their overall interior design. Remember, most concrete slabs have tan undertones not grey. To achieve a cool toned, gray floor, it may be necessary to pigment the concrete.
  • There are two primary ways to integrate color into polished concrete floors: 
    Integral Color — Color added to the concrete mix before it is poured.
    Topical Color — Color to the surface after it is polished.
  • Because of its lower cost, topical color is the most common way of pigmenting a polished concrete floor. However, topical color is less permanent than integral color and will require reapplication approximately every five years.
  • Integral color is preferred if it fits the budget, due to its more natural appearance and increased longevity. An integrally colored slab will never fade or discolor.

When to Install Polished Concrete

The ideal time to install residential polished concrete floors is when the house is in the early stages of construction. This allows the floor the best pricing as the floor is polished before obstacles such as walls and millwork are installed.


For most new residential construction projects, our installation process is divided into 3 main steps. Each of them is equally important, and having the right concrete flooring company is essential in making this process as efficient as possible.

First Mobilization

  • When: Approximately one week after a slab is poured but before framing begins
  • How: The slab is densified, and the first polishing steps are installed. Densifiers are introduced into the slab and left to react, hardening the slab. After densification is complete, the floor is cleaned, and the most aggressive polishing steps are run.
  • Key Takeaway: Complete the heavy polishing work before the walls are framed to create a better-looking and more cost-effective floor.
  • Note: Densifier increases the durability of the floor to reduce staining and abrasion risks during the construction process.

Second Mobilization

  • When: As soon as the project is dried in
  • How: The floor is cleaned, and any construction surface contaminants are removed. The next steps of polishing are run until the desired level of reflectivity. The slab is covered with a protective paper product such as a Ram Board.
  • Why: This allows subsequent finishing subs to work directly on the floor without covering it every time.
  • Key Takeaway: Insulation, drywall, tape/bed, texture, and paint can utilize the floor covering to save time. Trades that may create a mess, such as texture, should use drop cloths on top of the ram board to increase job site cleanliness.
  • Note: Painters can apply painter’s paper directly to the ram board to eliminate contaminants being blown onto the wall when spraying paint. Since Ram Board is only tacked to the framing, the trim can be installed directly on top of the Ram Board. Ram board can then be pulled, and the trim caulked to the floor.

Third Mobilization

These are the final steps to complete the installation.

  • When: ‘Pre-move-in’ or during final site cleaning
  • How: One final polishing pass is performed on the floor to remove any contaminants on the floor from the construction process. The floor is then cleaned, and a penetrating stain protector is applied. Stain protectors increase a floor’s resistance to liquid spills and are friction cured with a high-speed burnisher.
  • Key Takeaway: Work and foot traffic can be resumed on the site the next day

Concrete Pour and Troweling Technique

One of the most common questions we get from home builders is about best practices for concrete pours. While nearly any concrete pour, no matter the quality, can be polished, the finished appearance of a concrete floor is very dependent on the quality of the concrete pour.

Some best practices include:

Install anchor bolts after the pour to allow a power trowel to run the edge of the concrete slab. Hand-troweled areas will always have a less consistent appearance than power-troweled areas.

Overworking the concrete will create a dark floor, which cannot be reversed in the polishing process. It’s ideal to limit the amount of friction a slab is exposed to, to keep the cement on the surface from burning. For this reason, we suggest running plastic float pans under the power trowel before using steel blades. Plastic blades may also be substituted to keep concrete slabs as light in color as possible. Remember, it’s possible to darken a slab later with pigment, but its not possible to lighten a slab that has been burned.

Never leave building materials sitting on a freshly poured slab. Anything sitting on the slab will impact curing, and may leave ghost marks that will be visible after the concrete is polished.

Never use ‘cure and seal’ compounds. These offer no benefits for concrete that will be polished, and will increase the cost of your installation.

Stained Vs. Polished Concrete Floors

While the terms stained and polished concrete are often mixed up, polished concrete is a better-suited installation for residential construction. Polished concrete floors depend on penetrating liquids to increase durability and stain resistance, while stained concrete floors use a film-forming plastic coating over the surface of the concrete. In use, this means that the wear surface of a polished concrete floor is the concrete itself–a very durable material. The wear surface of a stained concrete floor is a soft plastic coating, which will show scratching and wear very easily.

Can Heating be Added To Polished Concrete Floors

Yes, in-floor heating can be added to a polished concrete floor, but this must be coordinated with a specialized plumber before the slab is poured. Because concrete floors can be several degrees colder in the winter than ambient interior temperatures, properly installed in-floor heating can increase comfort. Further, radiant heating is more efficient than forced-air heating, leading to lower utility costs and increased sustainability. Learn more about radiant heating and creating radial lines.

Is it recommended to use a Polished Concrete Floor in a Commercial Property?

Yes, absolutely. Concrete Polishing is one of the most widely used flooring options in high-foot-traffic use cases, especially in warehouses, grocery stores, industrial spaces, hotels, offices, and schools. Cost per Square Foot would largely depend on multiple variations available which also change for large projects when compared to smaller projects.