How to Polish Concrete Floor - Xtreme Polishing Systems

How to Polish Concrete Floor

Some critics may argue that improving a floor’s appearance wastes time and money. However, polishing your floor has many benefits that not only increase its life but also benefit personal health and hygiene and impress your guests!

In order to achieve top-quality results, polishing requires the use of the right tools and equipment. In this Xtreme Polishing Systems article, we have provided a brief overview of the polishing process, a checklist of basic equipment and supplies, and some tips on where to buy them.

Today, polished concrete flooring is renowned for its ease of maintenance and durability. Many high-traffic facilities, such as warehouses, universities, retail stores, and academic institutions, are considering polished concrete flooring. A polished concrete floor is an affordable flooring option for those who can't afford marble or granite floors, but want the same brilliance and shine.

Both residential and commercial properties benefit from concrete polishing as a flooring choice. It is a long-lasting and refined type of flooring. One of the main reasons for its popularity is its ability to display true brilliance in color and texture. The days of gray and dull concrete flooring are over.

The Basics of Polishing

A polished concrete floor inside a large commercial building.

The process of polishing concrete is very similar to that of sanding wood. Grinding concrete surfaces with diamond-segmented abrasives (like sandpaper) produce desired degrees of gloss and smoothness. You gradually progress from coarse-grit to fine-grit abrasives when sanding wood. In this case, grit refers to the diamond's particle size. The result is a reflecting, glossy surface.

Concrete Polishing Methods

A high-shine polished concrete floor inside a commercial office building with chairs in the background.

There are two methods you can use to polish concrete: wet or dry. Even though each method has its own advantages, dry polishing is the most common in today's industrial world due to its speed, convenience, and environmental friendliness. A dry polishing method doesn't require water. Most of the mess is vacuumed up with a dust-containment system attached to the floor polisher.

With wet polishing, diamond abrasives are cooled and grinding dust is eliminated. The polishing abrasives last longer when they are lubricated with water, which reduces friction. One of the main disadvantages of this method is the cleanup. A wet polishing process generates a slurry that must be collected and disposed of properly in order to protect the environment.

Steps in the Polishing Process

  • You should remove any existing coatings. The most effective way to remove thick coatings is to use a 16 or 20-grit diamond abrasive or a more aggressive tool designed specifically for coating removal, such as a PCD Cup Wheel.
  • Use epoxy and other semi-rigid fillers to seal cracks and joints.
  • Utilize a metal-bonded diamond with a 30-grit or 40-grit.
  • Utilize an 80-grit metal bonded diamond when grinding the concrete.
  • Use a 150-grit metal-bonded diamond for grinding (or finer if desired).
  • Densify the concrete by applying a chemical hardener.
  • Using a resin-bonded diamond of 100 or 200 grit, or a combination of the two, polish the surface.
  • Use a 400-grit resin-bonded diamond to polish the surface.
  • Polish with an 800-grit resin-bonded diamond.
  • Use either a 1500-grit resin-bonded diamond or a 3000-grit resin-bonded diamond to finish the surface (depending on the desired sheen level).
  • Concrete sealers can be applied to the polished surface to help protect it and make maintenance easier (optional).

Do It Yourself Polished Concrete Flooring

In order to polish concrete correctly, it is necessary to use specialized diamond tools and heavy equipment. Our recommendation is to hire a professional concrete polishing contractor for your project. It will be easier for them to achieve the best results because they have a thorough understanding of the process.

There is a steep learning curve involved in using concrete polishing machines, which are available for purchase or in some cases for rent at your local supply stores. The process also requires a great deal of safety precautions, especially when handling dust.

Concrete Polishing Equipment and Supplies

A male installer using a Concrete Genie Floor Grinder and Ermator Vacuum to refinish a concrete garage floor.

If you are looking to renovate your concrete floors, grinding and polishing machines and supplies are the perfect tools to use.

Recent improvements in concrete equipment, tools, and flooring techniques have made it possible to grind and polish concrete floors (old or new) to produce an exceptionally smooth finish with a high shine.

With Xtreme Polishing Systems, you can level, smooth, and polish clean concrete floors with a wide selection of equipment and tools. By offering various brands, styles, and models, our clients are never limited in their quest to improve their homes and businesses.

You should consult your equipment and material suppliers for recommendations regarding the products most suitable for your project due to the fact that each job will present different conditions and challenges.

Here are some polishing equipment and products recommended for transforming concrete surfaces:

  • Measuring Tools and Testers - Concrete measuring tools and surface testers are tough, reliable devices specifically used as estimating tools during the preparation process of a concrete surface. Measuring tools and tester kits help determine the different variables of a concrete surface, including testing the coefficient of friction of the surface, measuring the reflective index of the concrete surface, testing the scratch resistance of the surface, and more. Ensure quality control of your surfaces and give them the ability to set a quality standard for concrete floor restoration. Browse our selection of Measuring Tools and Testers >>
  • Work Safety Equipment (PPE) - Stay safe even in hazardous conditions with work safety gear. Safety supplies and protective masks assist in keeping worksites secure while helping businesses ensure full compliance with standard safety regulations, which essentially guards you and your employees against infection or injury. Browse our selection of Work Safety Equipment (PPE) >>
  • Flooring Accessories and Supplies - These supplies are essential for achieving high-performance and effective concrete refinishing and epoxy resurfacing applications, from start to finish. This includes notched floor squeegees, concrete stain applicator brushes, microfiber wet pads, corner, and wall cove, epoxy spiked shoes, concrete hardness test kits, and so much more! Browse our selection of Flooring Accessories and Supplies >>
  • Concrete Cleaners and Degreasers - Though standard sweeping and mopping are acceptable, concrete can be a tough surface to regularly clean, especially because it's porous and can easily hold dirt and grime may build over time. Finding the proper cleaner will cut your preparation time in half while reducing the spread of bacteria and ensuring you are healthy, safe, and protected. Our multipurpose concrete cleaners and strippers are formulated to adequately clean and remove contamination from concrete and other surfaces. Our variety includes pH-Neutral Cleaners, Acidic Cleaners, Alkaline Cleaners, Enzymatic/Bacterial Cleaners, and Specialty Cleaners. Browse our selection of Concrete Cleaners and Degreasers >>
  • Concrete Densifiers/ Hardeners - Concrete experiences constant weathering, which could exhaust the surface causing damage over time, and devaluing those surfaces entirely. The process of removing or replacing a concrete substrate is costly, to say the least, not to mention time-consuming. Concrete surfaces, especially floor surfaces, will endure a series of high-pressure impacts due to foot traffic, operating large and small pieces of equipment, as well as harsh chemical spills. Concrete floor densifiers and hardeners offers unparalleled strength, maximum durability, and superior performance to concrete substrates worldwide. They are specially formulated to improve surface density, using natural aggregates, hardening agents, and other organic chemicals that fill the pores of the concrete, physically hardening them and reducing the likeliness of dust collection on your surfaces. Browse our selection of Concrete Densifiers/ Hardeners >>
  • Concrete Sealers - Concrete floor sealers are used to protect concrete from surface damage, corrosion, and staining over time. Typically, most concrete surface damage is due to surface moisture intrusion. Concrete sealers also protect against other forms of damage including chemical intrusion, weather expulsion, alkali-silica reaction, and corrosion. Protecting and preserving your concrete surfaces, while properly maintaining them will ensure they continue looking beautiful and extends the service life. Browse our selection of Concrete Sealers >>
  • Decorative Concrete Dyes and Stains - Dyes and stains produce earth tones and vibrant colors on concrete surfaces. There are a few important factors to consider when you choose decorative concrete methods like staining or dying your concrete floors; determine the type of concrete you're coloring, pigment selection, water content, mixing ratio, and unique finishing techniques to help you achieve a beautifully decorated surface. Stains and dyes enhance the overall look of concrete while complementing the architectural features of the surface. Browse our selection of Concrete Dyes and Stains >>
  • Joint Fillers and Concrete Repair - Construction joint fillers and repair products act as a "stand-in" solution for cracked or damaged concrete surfaces. Products like this were developed specifically for creating a chemical interaction between the host material (concrete) and the filler product itself. Joint filler and surface repair products are considered long-lasting solutions with water repellant and chemical resistant properties. Browse our selection of Joint Fillers and Concrete Repair products >>
  • Floor Scrubbers - A durable floor-scrubbing machine is practical in today’s world of cleaning fanatics! These powerful floor scrubbers are easy-to-use and primarily used for floor cleaning and regular maintenance on hard substrates. Floor scrubbers are versatile to use on concrete floors, marble, granite, tile, carpet, and ‪hardwood floors. Browse our selection of Floor Scrubbers >>
  • Burnishing and Buffing Machines - Dirt is the primary enemy of concrete floors and over time it can cause fine scratches and grime buildup, resulting in a dull and dirty-looking surface. Foot traffic alone can generate more than 1.2 lbs of dirt every week. So it is very important to incorporate periodic concrete cleaning and floor care procedures into your schedule to ensure your surroundings are safe, clean, and sanitary. Powerful janitorial machines like high-speed propane and electric burnishers, as well as floor buffers, are primarily constructed for regular floor maintenance and floor cleaning applications. Browse our selection of Burnishing and Buffing Machines >>
  • Burnishing Pads - Buffing and burnishing pads are used for regular floor maintenance and surface restoration purposes. This includes wet scrubbing, floor stripping (or removing), surface leveling, deep cleaning, floor polishing, and buffing applications. These tools deliver effective performance results, durability, and consistency. They easily attach to the bottom of most high-speed burnishing and buffing machines in the market. Browse our selection of Burnishing Pads >>
  • Hand-Held Angle Grinders - Angle grinders are power tools used for concrete edge work and other small-scale flooring projects. Angle grinders work effortlessly and units come available in both single-speed and variable speed with customizable speeds for high-gloss and fine grinding applications. These power tools are considered a reliable source in the concrete floor refinishing and resurfacing industries. Angle grinding power tools are commonly used for grinding, polishing, edging, coating removal, and abrasive cutting applications. Browse our selection of Hand-Held Angle Grinders >>
  • Edge Grinding Machines - Edges are typically the least desirable aspects of floor preparation, however, we can't avoid them. Hand-held grinders and concrete edge grinders help you work effortlessly and are designed to maximize comfort while increasing productivity. These powerful tools are ideal for grinding, polishing, and edging concrete surfaces. Browse our selection of Edge Grinding Machines >>
  • Grinding and Polishing Machines - Concrete is an economical flooring alternative which makes it a popular choice for industrial warehouses, commercial retail spaces, institutions, and other demanding places of business with high-traffic environments. Daily wear and tear can diminish your surface's shine. Our diverse selection of concrete surface prep machinery is built to adequately grind, level, and polish concrete floor surfaces. Browse our selection of Grinding and Polishing Machines >>
  • Grinding Metal Rounds - Metal bond diamonds are designed for aggressive coating removal, concrete grinding, and concrete polishing applications. Use these tools for aggressive concrete grinding, coating removal, surface prep, heavy grinding for commercial concrete and residential concrete floors - hard, medium, soft bonds available in Velcro and magnetic back - top of the line and professional-grade. Browse our selection of Grinding Metal Rounds >>
  • Cup Wheels - Cup wheels are surface grinding floor wheels used precisely for professional surface profiling and floor preparation purposes. These aggressive grinding segments work remarkably on hard surfaces such as concrete, terrazzo, marble, stone, and granite to assist with the complete removal of carpet glue remnants, pre-existing surface coatings, thin-set, mastic, and other pesky flooring adhesives and materials. Browse our selection of Cup Wheels >>
  • Polishing Pads - Polishing pads for surface preparation are tools used to mechanically polish surfaces like concrete. They easily attach to powerful floor grinders and polishers as well as hand grinders to produce a professional finish. These tools are made to deliver longevity and superior performance. Browse our selection of Polishing Pads >>
  • Dust Collector Vacuums - Dust collection is almost inevitable for flooring professionals who are constantly working with surface preparation and know it's key to meet the highest demands for reliable floor finishes. Poor air quality mean that the surrounding air becomes filled with dangerous contaminants like dirt, debris, and most importantly silica dust which is very dangerous to our bodies if accidentally inhaled. It's time to make a difference in the field by improving safety conditions with heavy-duty dust collector vacuums. Browse our selection of Dust Collector Vacuums >>
  • Dust Shrouds - A dust shroud is a system used to control dust at the point of origin with the assistance of a grinder and vacuum. The dust shroud and vacuum systems both assist with extracting harmful silica dust, dirt and debris during the grinding process. Dust shrouds simply work as a chamber for capturing dust generated by a specific piece of abrasive tooling, all with the assistance of an industrial vacuum. Browse our selection of Dust Shrouds >>
  • Equipment Business Packages - Discover the leading innovations in today's concrete polishing and decorative concrete industry with our Equipment Package Solutions. These packed deals supply the necessary resources, equipment, tooling, and chemicals guaranteed to help you grow and expand your business's revenue. Whether you're a homeowner, start-up business, flooring contractor, or small business owner, our equipment package solutions have been well researched over time, and proven to work. Browse our selection of Equipment Business Packages >>

The Standards for Polishing Concrete

A high-shine polished concrete floor inside a building of a gun range facility.

For polished concrete to be considered polished, a sequence of disks ending with 1800-3500 grit diamonds must be used. Although there are no published standards, it is generally accepted that the concrete needs to be polished through this sequence of disks. Concrete at this level will have a glossy finish and high reflectivity without any topical coatings.

It is not only about exposing and sealing the rock in concrete mix and calling it polished concrete.The polishing process is completed with the application of an internal impregnating sealer and a densifier. As the densifier sinks into the concrete, it is not visible to the naked eye. Concrete is not only protected from the inside out but is also hardened and densified by it. As a result, maintenance is significantly reduced (compared to if it were coated).

Concrete Polishing Project Responsibilities

Below is a list of some of the most important responsibilities that a concrete polishing contractor has to consider when completing a project. Having a clear understanding of what is expected will help prevent problems.

  • You must create a mockup of the finished product for the owner or the owner's agent to sign off on the color of the dye/stain, the finish quality, the color of the joint filler, the topical protective treatment, and the level of shine.
  • Use a filler material that has been approved for use in the joints.
  • You should use suitable repair material that matches the color of the dye or stain you plan to use if an area needs repair due to poor finishing or damage during construction.
  • After polishing the concrete, take gloss meter readings to verify it meets the specified minimum gloss requirements.
  • As construction continues, ensure that all equipment on the floor is equipped with non-marking tires and covered to prevent oil and hydraulic stains from being created.

Adding Graphics and Designs to Polished Concrete

Two male installers applying a concrete floor stencil inside a commercial building.

Vinyl floor decals or floor stencils are the perfect choices for your next floor renovation if you are looking for a bold and creative way to use the concrete surface. Businesses and organizations can create a professional signature on concrete surfaces with these custom flooring prints.

There are many people who can benefit from these adhesive graphics, not just business owners. Any homeowner, craftsman, aspiring artist, or designer who has a 'do-it-yourself' or 'hands-on' attitude can create a custom concrete floor design.

Before you move on to advanced designs and graphics, refine and perfect the basics covered in this article. Take your time and NEVER cut corners. In the end, there is no substitute for doing the job right.