Concrete is fast making its presence felt from retail stores, trendy restaurants to homes and offices. Once considered industrial flooring, the latest concrete floors come in stained, coloured, painted and personalized versions to suit any interiors. The flooring type apart from limitless designs also offers environmental and health benefits.
Cement concrete, a fire resistant and extremely durable construction substance is the most common building material used worldwide today. The material also has low energy requirements for transportation, as it is produced locally from local resources typically manufactured within 100 kilometres of the job site. Similarly, relatively little energy is used in producing and combining the raw materials of concrete, resulting in overall lower embodied energy than most structural materials other than wood. Moreover, with concrete recycling becoming an increasingly common method of disposing of concrete structures, the environmental impact of the material is no longer seen entirely negative.
The concrete flooring, sometimes also referred to as cement floor can be installed in the form of poured in thick concrete slab or as slender pre-cast concrete slab, depending upon the structural requirements of the building. The grey slabs can then be coloured, painted, stamped or applied textures, patterns and saw cuts to give decorative look. This flooring type offers certain health benefits too over other materials like carpets and tiles that present difficulty in controlling surface temperature and humidity, often leading to mold and mildew growth beneath. But in case of concrete flooring, the exposed floors are allowed to “breathe,” eliminating mold growth and unlike carpet, it is less likely to trap allergens making for a healthier choice for occupants.
Although, concrete’s high thermal mass helps control temperature fluctuation and allows slow heating and cooling of the floor, these properties can be best utilized only by efficient under floor insulation. “The under concrete insulation is carried out during the construction phase wherein foam of approximately one inch thickness is spread over the gravel layer which is then covered with 6 mm polyurethane sheets, over which the concrete is poured. The floor insulation thus not only regulates the amount of heat circulating but also aides in controlling the moisture problems.” Explains Architect Rajinder Srivastava of Architects Alliance Inc. For energy efficiency, owners may also add radiant heating systems under a concrete floor to maintain ambient temperature of the interiors. Tubes circulating hot water or electrical heating elements are installed in the concrete slab when it’s poured, turning the thermal mass of the concrete into an inconspicuous radiator of warm and even heat. Because concrete floor radiant heating consumes less energy, it offers savings in air-conditioning consumption. It also enables easy to maintain consistent temperature with no circulation of dust or allergens through air vents.
Despite, the solid composition, concrete floors feature certain porosity and brittleness like stone. The floor surface over a period of time can geteroded by the reactions of the atmosphere, water and moisture.Thus a sealer either topical or penetrating is required for preserving and increasing the life and sustainability of a concrete floor. The topical concrete floor sealants like acrylic, epoxy and urethane systems applied externally do not react with actual concrete but help enhance the appearance of the floor by providing glossy finish.Acrylic resins sealers are the most economical which form a thin membrane on the flooring, giving extremely smooth surface. Thus, an addition of an anti-skid material is required. Epoxy/urethane systems on the other hand are mostly used in factory flooring or other heavy-duty situations.
Penetrating sealants such as Silane, Silicates and Siliconates are applied when the concrete is slightly moist, they mildly react with the upper surface of the concrete and form a permanent barrier in front of the cement surface. While, Silanes are expensive but of a really high value, Silicates help in sealing of moderate porosity and can offer woody appearance with the help of premium silicate blends like lithium silicates. Siliconates penetrating sealers are again expensive and are used for heavy-duty floors such as driveways and offices. Neocrete Technologies Pvt Ltd is one of the companies to manufacture concrete floors based on epoxy, polyurethane and acrylic polymers that are designed for protection of concrete floors against physical, mechanical, chemical and biological attacks.
Prachi Mahajan, Director Neocrete Technologies Pvt Ltd says, “The awareness is growing among owners and designers about the new concepts in concrete flooring. Also, the availability of advanced floor coatings, sealants and fillers has reduced its maintenance needs. Thus, the various decorative options available in concrete floors are not only being used to add aesthetics to industrial floors but are also best suited for semi covered areas like patios, balconies and decks. Many Indian companies are tying up with international firms to bring in latest technological know how in this segment. We are also doing a lot of research in the segment of sealants and looking at tying up with companies in Middle East.”
One of the main benefits of concrete flooring is its versatility. Concrete can be stained or etched to resemble tile, stone, marble or any other material to offer decorative floor in shops, restaurants or homes. It can also be painted, textured or acid-stained to create personalized patterns for corporate offices or retail establishments. Moisture resistant concrete floor is well suited for basements while its high resistance properties towards gasoline or chemical spills makes it an effective flooring for industries and workshops.
In recent times,Polished Concrete floor system is becoming the preferred alternative to no-wax/ epoxy flooring material. It is being installed in all types of floor areas from industrial, retail, outdoors to residential. The procedure consists of surface grinding to achieve a dense surface as top surface of concrete is often dusty and porous and then polishing with resin diamond grids. Additionally, based on specific requirements, lithium based floor hardeners and penetrating surface densifiers are used for arriving at the right sheen.The finished Polished Concrete floor require no wax or coatings yet can offer superior durability & performance.
Alternatively, cast-in-place stamped concrete flooring & paving can add a distinctive architectural touch along with durability in any environmental condition. It is being used for patios, swimming pools, thematic parks, parking areas, terrazzo, ramps, walkways and restaurants and bars.“Using wide variety of custom tooling andcolouring options one can create natural textures like slate, granite, limestone, sandstone, cobblestone and brick. Additionally, the stamped concrete overlay can be acidified, brushed, sprayed or worked by spatula to offer distinctive look.” adds Interior Designer Bhavna Lal.