Interior Concrete Resurfacing Options Compared

If you own or manage a building, chances are it has concrete floors. In commercial buildings, depending on the age of the building, number of stories, intended use and local building codes, the concrete floors may be on the ground floor and possibly on all of the other floors as well.

There are many flooring options for concrete floors, and most of them involve covering up the concrete. You see, when concrete floors are poured, oftentimes very little attention is paid to the flatness and level of the floor. (More info about floor flatness and floor level here.) Even today, floors are sometimes poured by companies who either don't understand proper techniques or they don't care. When that's the case, concrete floors lack proper expansion and control joints, they exhibit cracks immediately and possibly waves and holes. 

The owner or tenant then has no choice but to cover up the problems with tile, Vinyl-Composite Tile VCT, Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT), rugs, carpet, hardwood, laminate or other materials. These materials are often pricey and they don't exhibit the ruggedness of the concrete underneath. But what about polished concrete? Yes, polished concrete is a great alternative when the floor is very flat (which is very rarely the case), when it doesn't have many holes, divots and other scars from earlier use (like structural bolts inserted into the concrete slab). But many times, that is just not the case.

Introducing: Engineered Concrete Floors (ECF)

Engineered Concrete Flooring has a number of advantages over traditional floor coverings.

ECF vs. Ceramic Tile

 

Tiles come in a large variety of materials, thicknesses, styles and sizes. With the exception of vinyl and maybe carpet tiles (which we discuss more below), they all have in common that they are hard-surface floor coverings. That means, they are rigid and completely flat, creating a finished surface that is just as flat and very resistant to scratching, scuffing and abrasion. 

Like so often, the advantage of a product can at the same time be its disadvantage. What makes hard-surface tiles so resistant to wear also makes them subject to cracking if they are installed on floors that are not perfectly flat. Cracks can also occur due to drilling into the tiles (for the installation of fixtures, pews and the like) and impact (like a heavy object dropping onto them).

The issue with tiles on uneven or unlevel floors is illustrated here. This dramatized drawing shows the waves along the concrete subfloor surface. Even though tile is attached to the subfloor using thinset products, these thinset products have to be applied very thin and evenly. Thinset cant be used to fill or level out concrete floors. If it is used, cracked tiles are almost guaranteed. 

For these uneven floors, leveling is needed as part of the substrate preparation. Leveling is done by applying self-leveling cement products on the substrate. These self-leveling products are quite costly. They also need to be applied using special Epoxy primers, and they require separate process steps, including drying time. One other issue to keep in mind is that many times, floor leveling means significant portions of the floor are raised, creating conflicts with the threshold height of doors, base molding and so on. In these cases, a leveled floor is sometimes impossible to achieve without significant structural changes to the building.

Engineered Concrete Floors are a better alternative when faced with uneven or unlevel floors. Engineered Concrete Floors can adapt to the surface contour of the floor, 

Stamped concrete overlays are made possible by new, polymer-modified cement-based materials. These are like "concrete on steroids": extra strong and they can be applied in relatively thin layers. These stamped overlays can be added ontop of old concrete surfaces to dress them up, and possibly to cover up cracks. In the beginning, the result can be very attractive due to the intricate shapes and colors that are available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, with the advantages of these overlays also come disadvantages. The materials are very stiff. As the concrete base underneath the overlay shifts and moves, and possibly cracks, so will the overlay. Especially in colder climates, such as in the Northeast, in states like NJ (New Jersey), NY (New York), PA (Pennsylvania), MA (Massachusetts), in Long Island, and even in MD (Maryland) and DE (Delaware) concrete slabs around pools and patios are rarely without cracks. As the saying goes, there are only two types of concrete slabs: Those that have cracks, and those that will have cracks. Its not your fault, and most of the time, not the fault of the installer either: Concrete is hard and stiff, but it can't carry its own weight. Each cubic foot (cft) of concrete weighs 150 lbs (pounds). For a 6-inch thick concrete slab that means, each square foot (sft) weighs 75 pounds (lbs). That's a lot of weight! If the ground underneath the slab settles over time - and it does often with shifting ground water movements, with a neighbor building a new house, with rainwater washing away dirt, even with rodents digging channels through the soil underneath - the concrete slab has two options: First, if it's large it cracks under its own weight. Second, if it's small it shifts completely, raising and lowering its edges compared to surrounding slabs, creating trip hazards and ugly gaps. This all will happen, even with a stamped overlay!! A stamped overlay will not keep the concrete together. Instead, it will crack along with the concrete. In other words, the beautiful new stamped overlay that you just installed may get a crack next winter, and there will be nothing you can do to fix it. Fixing cracks in overlays is pretty much impossible, unless you want to run a long caulk line through the installation, which would look really terrible and which would render the expensive stamped overlay a waste of money. But, if you thought that's bad news, it gets even worse! Since the overlay was applied on old concrete, a 100% adhesion can never be guaranteed. So, along the edges of the overlay, and especially along that new crack that may have just appeared, the overlay will chip away. At first slowly, but then in bigger and bigger chunks. After a few years, it will come to a point where it may become a trip hazard. Especially on pool decks - where kids and adults wants to often walk barefoot - you can't afford to have chips and splinters of - remember? - thin and stiff material popping up from the deck! Yikes! Take a look at some of these pictures!

 

We did not even talk about the slipperiness that customers often complain about after they installed a stamped concrete overlay. If you are stuck with a pool deck that all of a sudden is slippery with water on it, you have a whole set of other problems!

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So, what can you do with a dated concrete pool deck that you want to resurface, because a complete removal would not be cost effective or practical? Read on!

Painting or Epoxy coating

Another way to deal with problematic concrete decks is to apply a layer of specialty concrete paint or epoxy sealer. This is a very economic option that will cover up most cracks and unsightly imperfections. It surely will look like a new surface. If you are happy with the simple - typically one-color - look, this may be a good solution for you. Consider, however, the impact future cracks will have on your paint. To best understand, take a look at the picture below, which shows the pool deck of a hotel here in New Jersey (NJ). Cracks that may appear in the concrete deck will show up in the layer of paint or epoxy and they will be very hard to fix. See how the owner of the deck attempted to fix the cracks by applying caulk and painting over it? That's as good as it gets. Since no paint adheres perfectly to concrete, there will be areas of the paint (and even epoxy) that bubble or peel off. Some owners decide to paint over the peeled or bubbled areas. You guessed it: Not a great solution. Certainly a painted-over bubble is still that: a bubble! Unless you can imagine having a pool deck or patio like this one day, read on!

 

So, what should you do with an old concrete pool deck or patio in Wyckoff NJ, Central NJ, Bergen County NJ, NY, PA, Long Island or elsewhere that you want to turn into a warm and welcoming space again? One that fixes existing problems and one that is ready to deal with future problems? Enter the world of RenuKrete:

RenuKrete Concrete Deck Resurfacing

RenuKrete is a different kind of resurfacing product. Instead of covering up your pool deck (like stamped overlays, paint or epoxy), we sculpt it into a work of art, working with the imperfections that exist and creating a deck that is ready to take on the challenges of buckling and cracking in the future. Here is what we do: Before we start our work, our experts assess the overall condition of your deck, reasons for existing cracks and the likelihood of future cracks developing. Together with the owner, we develop a plan to address any underlying issues in the soil underneath the deck, if possible. Then, our craftsmen and artisans go to work, sculpting the deck that you have. Instead of adding layers of material on top of your concrete surface (which can and will crack and peel off), we are working into the existing concrete, using and enhancing its natural beauty. Remember the weight and strength of concrete that you read about earlier? We use it to your advantage. Concrete is one of the toughest and longest-lasting building materials on Earth. Lets beautify it and prolong its lifetime!

Are we preventing future cracks or buckling of concrete? If you read the above explanation of how cracks occur, you probably can guess that we will not keep a sinking concrete deck from developing a crack. However, our technology allows us to permanently fix existing cracks and make sure they are no eyesore anymore. And, with our technology, future cracks can be addressed and fixed very easily and in such a way, that nobody will be able to tell where they were. Take a look at some of our completed projects and customer testimonials - then give us a call at 800-406-5010 to discuss your project and if RenuKrete is a good fit for you.

 

Concrete Pool Decks with RenuKrete resurfacing

Both of these locations had cracks before