Polished Concrete in Commercial Bathrooms

Authentic polished concrete is known for its long term durability and is a popular choice in high-traffic consumer areas such as corridors, multi-purpose spaces and retail. Its durability lies in the inherent strength of the concrete as a building material plus a refined surface through mechanical polishing and an application of a sealing system. Polished concretes durability comes from the products used in the sealing process – a concrete densifier and a stain guard. These products penetrate into the open pore structure of the concrete leaving either a very thin film (just a few microns) to a non-visible surface film of the sealer. This allows the surface to be very abrasion resistant and eliminates the need of the stripping and waxing cycle. In addition, it will offer the ability to refine or re-polish the floor years into the future, giving the floor a brand new look at a much more affordable cost. This eliminates having to remove and replace another flooring material.

Polished concrete will age differently in bathrooms and areas prone to more spills. Polished concrete is still considered a porous surface and can be affected by standing water or high acidic liquids such as urine. These can etch the surface affecting the sealer and profiling the surface to continue to allow stains.

When designing this area you may want to create a sense of continuity by continuing the floor from hall or open space into the bathrooms.  When we work in this type of environment we recommend a urethane sealed concrete floor as opposed to a polished concrete floor. The urethane sealing system is a two-coat process of a water-based epoxy primer and high-wear catalyzed urethane topcoat. This topcoat can also utilize an anti-slip additive that will aid in slip resistance. This urethane sealing system, although very strong, does not have the same abrasion resistance you will see in a full polished concrete floor. Typically, stain resistance is more important in and area as a bathroom. The transition leading into the bathroom is typically completed at a saw joint leading into it and it can easily be hidden under the door with no need for a transition strip. To the general-purpose user of the area a difference in appearance is likely to go unnoticed.  The urethane sealer is compatible with natural colored, dyed, and reactive stain coloring methods as well. Unlike polishing, when using a urethane sealer, it is very important to check the relative humidity of the concrete.

An alternative choice would be to leave the bathrooms polished.  Should this option be chosen, additional maintenance or urinal pads may be required to keep the floor in a ‘like-new’ condition. You also can choose to leave the floor as is and allow the floor to develop a worn-patina look. Many restaurants and park departments allow this patina to develop.  You might notice should at a few older Chipotle’s they bring the polish directly into their restrooms.  However, most have since moved to a high-strength urethane mortar system with integral cove.

As in most facades of construction there are many options available. The final decision involves choosing the right floor, balancing client’s expectations, budget constraints and construction schedules.

Should you have any questions or need help with the best choice for your concrete bathroom finished floor, please email me at nickdancer@dancerconcrete.com.

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