Cement Floors in the Home Pros & Cons

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Cement floors the pros and the cons

When we began building our home almost two years ago, we were limited to a small budget and had to do things as inexpensively as we could.  At the same time, we wanted a home that would be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.  One area where we decided to try and save money was the floor.  

We knew we didn’t want carpet.  We have dogs.  We have dirt.  My husband has allergies.  On the other hand, we really did like wood.  We had it before and loved it; but wood, as you know, is expensive when one is trying to cut corners.

We decided then on stained concrete.  It was a low cost option, and one that we thought would be easy to maintain while still being (relatively) pretty to look at.  Having lived here since the fall of 2012, I have developed a love/hate relationship with my concrete floor. 

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What I LoveIt is easy to clean ~ Our homestead is still a diamond in the rough. 

We have a driveway but no walkway.  We have grass but no sod.  We have chickens, we have dogs, we have a garden, we have mud.

There is a lot of dirty traffic throughout the house on a daily basis. 

I don’t always have time to mop, but with a good sweeping, or even a once over with the canister vacuum cleaner; it looks pretty good. (For mopping by the way, I recommend one of these with an extra head.  Use one, wash the other.  Super handy!)

It is inexpensive ~ Our only cost was the stain and the labor to get it done. It really did save us some money.

It is attractive ~ It might be hard to believe that concrete could look good, but it really does!  While one can have it stained virtually any color, I chose a medium brown that would have the effect of wood.  Before we moved in, I was very concerned that our home would look cheap and unfinished but we were happy with the look of our floor.

What I Don't LoveIt is not indestructible ~ I never would have believed this.  I thought that once we sealed our floor, we’d never have to deal with it again.  Not so.  It has gotten scratched, the paint has started to chip, and furniture sometimes leaves permanent marks. 

Take this with a grain of salt however.  It could be that it was not properly stained (I wasn’t here to oversee every detail with our builder); it could also be that we chose the wrong application. 

 I  thought when I told the builder “stained concrete” I was asking for the shiny finish I had seen in commercial use.  It would have been helpful to know more about finishes, or to have a contractor who had the time and was willing to explain it all to me.  That didn’t happen and what we have is a dull finish that scratches. 

Lesson to be learned: if you are not going to DIY, make sure you are communicating well with your contractor.Cleaning Quote and Brush small

It does show dirt ~ Brown stain, does not hide brown dirt like one would think. Yes, it is easy to clean, but until I get it cleaned it shows dirt.  It also seems to collect dust much quicker than wood and carpet.  Granted, not seeing dust on carpet does not mean one actually has a clean carpet. The concrete may be working to my advantage by alerting me to the fact that I need to clean, but if I don’t have the time to drop everything and vacuum, I don’t always want to know it is there.

It doesn’t provide the warmth of carpet, both in temperature and atmosphere ~ While it is attractive, it is cold and the rooms don’t have as warm of an ambiance as I would like.  For this reason, I see some throw rugs in our future. 

What kind of flooring do you have in your home?  Is it easy to care for?

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Cement Floors in the Home Pros & Cons — 34 Comments

  1. One added benefit: as long as the concrete is not painted or sealed, you can improve your health by walking/ standing on it in your bare feet. It is called earthing, or grounding.

    • I’ve heard of that Becky but didn’t know that the benefit was the same for concrete. How does painted concrete affect this? Just curious…

  2. As we will be planning our new home over the next few years I always love it when you do posts like this. It really helps us. I’m thinking maybe concrete floors everywhere with carpet in a few rooms where the “warmth” is desired like main bedrooms and maybe the living/family room? I do love your comment “I don’t always want to know it is there.”

    • The bedroom/office is where I have wanted to add a large throw rug. I like our bedroom, but I think something on the floor would warm it up a bit. I had also thought the living room could use one, but since we’ve added the stove, that changes things a bit.

  3. Our cabin had bare plywood floors, so we painted them “two tone” with durable enamels. We used a brick-colored base then applied a terra cotta color on top with a coarse sponge. After it dried, we applied two coats of clear spar varnish.
    The result is amazing because it looks great, hides imperfections, and hides dirt extremely well. In fact we’re always impressed at the amount of dirt we sweep up because we just can’t see it.
    When the varnish wears out in the high traffic areas, we’ll give it another coat so it will continue to protect the paint job.
    It seems to me that you could apply a complementary lighter color over your brown stain. We like the sponge method, but you could use a rag or completely cover the brown if you’re ready for a total change. Whatever you decide if you paint, a tough coat of varnish on top will protect it for a long time.

    • Teda I hadn’t thought of that but now that you mention it I can see how it would hide the dirt a little better. Thanks for the suggestion :)

  4. We have ceramic tile over concrete, it looks pretty, but like cement, if you drop anything, made of pottery, glass ect, ect it shatters.. It gives a warmer feeling then concrete and cleans just as easy.except when the grout needs cleaning every so often.. I use large padded area carpets in the setting areas in the family room. for warmth..

  5. Thanks, Jenny.
    It’s beautiful. We have old, torn vinyl over concrete. It’s what was there when we tore out our carpet. We are planning to cover it in the near future with laminate. But this interests me because we want to refinish a patio before screening it in.

  6. Jenny, something else you might consider is polishing your concrete. A high-gloss finish could be attained that could look like burnished leather. Also, clear epoxy over the existing floor would be shiny and extremely durable. Take a look at the before and after pics, both with polishing and an epoxy coating –
    http://www.liquidfloors.com/ Some of them really look like water.

  7. We have a tri-level. Our bottom and middle levels have concrete floors, all carpeted, when we moved in almost four years ago. The kitchen on the middle floor and the office and pantry on the bottom “basement” floor, were all covered in those rubber-backed 18″ carpet tiles. We tore up the tiles from the kitchen and the ugly beige carpet and pad from the dining room in 2011 and put down one of those floating laminated wood-look floors. They came padded on the back of each piece and we put down black vapor barrier beforehand. Hubs and I were able to do the installation ourselves, which saved a lot. We just last week bought some more of the same flooring material for the living room. I had planned on replacing the beige carpeting in there with new carpeting, but since we are in much the same boat as you, I decided I’d just rather not do carpet and then have to deal with the problem again when we will probably be too old to do it ourselves. This will have the whole middle floor done all the same. And that’s OK. I like how it looks. We haven’t noticed the floors being any colder where the laminated floor is than where the carpet is.

    I’m still faced with what to do with the floors in the lower level. We had to pull up some of the carpet tiles because we had a water heater leak. We bought enough ceramic tile to do that whole level but it was an impulse buy because we caught them marked ‘way down. But now I’m concerned that the floor might not be level enough to use them. Plus, where those carpet tiles were, they put down some really gummy glue that I’ve not been able to remove with a scraper. I thought about using the heat gun but Hubs thinks that’ll crack the cement floor. I don’t want to use anything that makes fumes. Wurra, wurra.

    I like your staining idea and I like Teda’s idea of sponging on a second color and then good varnish on top of that. They make a water base high gloss polyurethane now, Lowe’s here sells it instead of the oil base. It’s not any good for wood, because it raises the grain, but it might be a good choice for a concrete floor.

    I appreciate very much your sharing your opinions.

    • Ilene I hope you find a solution that works for you. Are you happy with the floating laminate floor? While we have the concrete throughout, I sometimes wonder about wood flooring in a single area. Originally I thought the living room but since had our wood burning stove installed recently that’s no longer an option.

      • Yes, just be sure to put the vapor barrier under, and if what you got didn’t have a pad applied to the back of each piece, you’d need that. Could you leave a space uncovered where the stove is, maybe lay tile there? We have a fireplace with an insert in our living room. They installed carpet right up to the edge of the hearthstone, and there are holes burned in the carpet where the embers have flown out. We don’t use the fireplace except on the very coldest days, when the heat pump needs a little extra help. Haven’t had any burns on the floor since we had the insert installed, because it has a clamp-style glass door on it, but I thought I’d buy a piece of that Hardee backer, that’s made for laying tile on top of, just cut it in a half circle and lay it down in front of the fireplace when it’s in use.

    • Ilene, they do make a self leveling cement you could use if the basement floor isn’t level enough for your tile. Just a thought since you have already invested in the tile. I like dark grout so it doesn’t show stains over time.

  8. I have a concrete floor in my office we added on, it has in-floor heating is awesome in the wintertime,and actually cool in summer. My husband was a concrete contractor for many years but we had some troubles with the finishing. There were areas that wouldn’t take a stain, and proper prep didn’t help. After redoing it a couple times and making it worse, I painted it with a stippled blue/white look and that was a HUGE mistake.
    It peels and now looks strange. Taking it all off would be a huge problem leaving us back where we were but all in all, it is a great floor, sturdy and easy to clean.
    I also have a concrete countertop … another long story of trial and error. Even a master cement mason had a lot of trouble making it look right. I finally tiled over it. another BIG MISTAKE! white on white in a kitchen? noooo

    • I’m sorry to hear your concrete countertop didn’t work out. When we did a kitchen remodel in our other home we thought about doing that. I’m glad we decided to go with quartz instead.

  9. We have the older Pergo laminated flooring and painted concrete. In our dining room, I painted the entire floor a chocolate brown. Next, I created a border with painter’s tape about a foot from the edge of the wall (6 inches in narrow areas). In the middle I used a sea sponge with a combination of three colors. I used more of the chocolate brown from the floor, the beige from the walls, and the off white from the ceiling. Sponging all three colors gave the floor the appearance of texture much like carpet. After completing the middle, I went back and painted the border (under the painter’s tape) the same beige as the wall. Finally, a coat of poly. It gave a nice, finished look to the room, hid the dirt and dents in the concrete, and only cost me time and paint. I use a Hoover floor scrubber to clean it or a steam mop.

  10. Great post – I did concrete floors in a previous home and loved them except when Winter rolled in. We now have them in our movie room (once garage) but we put a nice throw rug down which helps. I think in our next house I’m going to go with tile – not my favorite choice but I think it will work well with our lifestyle. Keeping floors clean seems to be a never ending task with this farm lifestyle.

  11. I’ve wondered about cement floors so I appreciate you sharing your information! When we built our house we pout in very cheap, temporary carpet, 15 years later it’s still in use and not looking so great! My daughter and her husband put in a cement floor in a garage apt and it’s worked wonderfully!

  12. We plan to have stained concrete floors in our new home with throw rugs – that is unless we somehow win the lottery and can afford to put down laminate floors in the entire house! Right now in our valley home we have laminate floors and L.O.V.E. them! They are easy to keep clean (I have a home-made swiffer-like thing that I use) and were fairly easy to install. Plus, they look great! But, like you, when we build our new home we will be pinching every penny, so will have to do with stained concrete floors at first. The laminate can easily go over the concrete later. If the concrete floor isn’t level, as someone mentioned above, just get some of the self leveling stuff they sell at HD or L’s. Fairly easy to use – just mix it up and pour it onto the lowest part of the floor. It fills in the low spots. As for a stained concrete floor – staining shouldn’t peel – paint peels! Are you sure your contractor stained your floor? Or did he paint it? When a concrete floor is stained – just like a wood floor – the floor is supposed to absorb the stain and any excess that is on top is supposed to be removed. Then, after the floor has dried (cured) for a while, you can seal it with polyurethane. I don’t like really shiny floors, so I will use a satin polyurethane. Anyway, there are a lot of things you can do with the stain! You can actually stain your floor a light color then once dried use tape to put a design in the floor (maybe grids to look like a tile floor) or even one of those wood grain rocker thingys that makes paint or stain look like wood grain, using a darker color. I have been doing a lot of research on this lately because this is what we plan to do, and I figure the more I know about the process and the more I know about my options, the happier I will be with the result! One warning: I saw on a website that they used bees wax to finish and polish their floor, which looked beautiful in the beginning, but after use they realized that dirt was actually being ground into the beeswax (not good) AND the rugs they had put down everywhere were beginning to get these weird stains, when they realized the beeswax was migrating through the rugs on hot days or when the sun came through a window and heated the floor! Oh my. What an expensive mistake!

    • Thanks for the feedback Vickie! I have wondered about putting laminate over our concrete in some areas.

  13. I had a very small, very rural cabin and went whole hog on my flooring – solid hickory! It was outstanding. At the same time, it was a pain in the backside to maintain. One night, while I was sound asleep in the loft, a water pipe broke in the kitchen area. I awoke to what sounded like multiple gunshots. I crept downstairs only to see that my beautiful floor now resembled ocean waves- the,”gunshots” actually being the sound of each swollen wood plank as it popped up (think tent-like) from the concrete slab. I shut off the water and mopped, but the damage was already done. Water had flooded underneath the wood planks. By morning, my entire kitchen floor resembled the ocean, with “waves” – each about 18″ high! Called repair company and was very lucky. They brought industrial-sized fans and were eventually able to make the floor subside. The only alternative would have been to remove and replace the flooring. My little adventure took over a week of living (day and night) with the roar of those huge fans. It also lightened my wallet of at least $500. Next time, I’m going to install saltillo tile.

    • Oh my goodness!!! What a nightmare! Makes me think twice about wanting to install wood flooring. I’m so glad you were able to get it fixed.

    • Solid wood floor on a concrete slab is a no-no! Whoever sold you that floor should have told you. You should have gone with an engineered floor. If you don’t maintain the HVAC a majority of the time, wood is not a good idea in general.

  14. I would like to save money and refinish our concrete floors instead of putting down laminate. I live in So. IL where we have some pretty cold winters…hubby says the concrete will be Soooo COLD and I agree it will be but wouldn’t an area rug help considerably?

    • Hi Daphne, I’m sorry I’m late getting back to you but yes, area rugs will help. However, I have not found our concrete floors to be unbearably cold.

  15. WE will be using concrete in the next home but it will have radiant heat in floor(tubes of water) because my husband is a HVAC mechanic and owns his own business. We will use area rugs to warm up certain area as well. I have wall to wall. Our home now an 1850s farm house has wood, cork, tile and laminate floors. The tiles are the only one cracking, the cork and laminate are easy to clean. Concrete should not chip, it wasn’t stained right. I would call to see if someone can sand it, acid stain it and seal it to make it hold up better. We will have wood in upstairs bedroom but the rest will be concrete even to the bathroom. Ease of cleaning on rural property.