Concrete Polishing vs Epoxy Performance Floor Coating

Epoxy Floors vs Polished Concrete: The difference and benefits.

Which One Should I Choose?

We come across this question “epoxy floors or polished concrete – what to choose?“, quite frequently and we hope to put a post so it benefits everyone. The answer depends on the usage of the floor. The environment will dictate what’s more beneficial.

A little explanation of the process background will shed more light on this question.

Epoxy Flooring basics

Epoxy is a hard resin and so it needs to be coated in multiple layers. For the epoxy to bond to the subsurface, one needs to prep the floor by grinding and opening up the concrete slab.

The usual process involves grinding using metal diamonds and thoroughly vacuuming the place to remove dirt and debris. 

Next, the flooring expert applies a moisture barrier coating to protect the floor finishes. This vapor barrier is an important step to protect the epoxy from pops due to hydrostatic pressure.

Finally, the epoxy resin is applied and evenly spread over the surface and gets the desired level of finish.

Polished Concrete Basics 

Polished concrete is nothing more than the same bare concrete you see but polished. The process gets a highly reflective surface. The resultant floor is extremely smooth, free of dust raising, and ultra-dense.

The process starts with metal diamonds from #25 (or lower) usually cut wet. After a few more wet cuts, the technician switches over to resin diamonds. The process progressively goes from 70 grit to 1500 or 3000 grit, depending on the level of sheen needed.

Within these progressive grinding processes, where appropriate, the densifier is applied. The densifier is used to fill the pores and make the concrete harder and stronger. 

With this process, you will get a fantastic floor that is much harder, smoother and very glossy.  Almost like a granite floor. Depending on the usage, a sealer is also applied.

Now people often confuse that the sheen is from using the sealer or topcoat that gives the glossy look.  However, that is not true at all. The polishing process mechanically eliminates the finer grains of concrete to polish and make the floor surface reflective.

Now you know how the floor is made, let’s look at a few advantages or benefits of each. After going through this post you will have the following – The basics of how each floor is made and the benefits, advantages, and disadvantages. With that, you will be in a better position to compare concrete polishing vs epoxy coating.

The Benefits of Polished Concrete

Minimal Wet Usage

Concrete polishing will be advantageous when you are looking at floors that are not exposed to harsh chemicals.  If your industry doesn’t use or use minimal of the wet material such as water, oil, and chemicals, then polished concrete floors will work out good. 

Say you have a lobby and an admin office floor, polished concrete floors is just enough. 

Standard Maintenance Routine

Even though polished floors are very strong and take a lot of beating, it needs occasional care in terms so re-polishing and standard maintenance. 

If you need a sparkling floor and if you also have a heavy traffic environment, you need to see if you can have the maintenance done and run the business in parallel.  Especially if you have a critical operation that runs round the clock, then you need to think over polished concrete. 

Level and Concrete with Minimal Imperfection

If you are pouring in concrete or have a rather good and level concrete floor, then polishing is a wise option. A lot of cracks or uneven floor will make a level concrete polished floor nearly impossible without additional work, which increases the cost significantly. 

Color Difference and Rustic Look

When you do have a flat concrete pad but needs a lot of patching, here’s what you should know. The colors wouldn’t match between the new and old pour.  I’ve had customers tell me the difference in color and cracks and imperfections brings the true character in concrete. I agree.

But if you need a uniformly polished floor with no color variations or visible cracks you need to opt-out of this camp.

Low Dust, High Reflectivity and Improved Indoor Quality

In any case, there are some immediate benefits of polished concrete.  Reflectivity will increase greatly making the space brighter than the otherwise left concrete floor.  

The dust rising from bare concrete will stop making the environment very clean and significantly improve the indoor air quality. Densifier used in the concrete polishing process hardens the concrete, so you are left with a much harder surface.

The Benefits of Epoxy & Resin Flooring

As you saw a lot of benefits and some prerequisites or requirements with concrete polishing, there are some exclusive benefits that you get with epoxy. 

Flaws in Concrete Polishing Is Overcome by Epoxy

In fact, some of the flaws of concrete polishing can be overcome with epoxy and other resin systems for floors and walls. 

Satisfies the Needs of Many Different Industries

Polyaspartic, epoxy and other resin coating systems are suitable for a wide variety of applications in many different industries.

Impact Resistant Floors

Epoxy floors have a slightly better capacity for weight-bearing.  It also has flexibility so it is resistant to impacts like dropping some heaving objects on the floor.

Easily Hides Floor Imperfections

Since it is a performance coating product, it just hides imperfections in the concrete floor.  So if you are dealing with an uneven floor, it’s much easier to prep and coat with epoxy than polishing.

Resistant to Spills

There are several industries such as food and beverage manufacturing, biological and pharmaceutical companies that benefit from the epoxy floor and wall coating.

Where chemical spills are normal, epoxy will provide a much better floor where nothing stains the concrete. 

The epoxy floor provides an abrasion and impact resistant floor needed in many different manufacturing operations.

High Reflectivity and Brightness of Work Environment

Much like polished concrete, epoxy can be layered with a topcoat. A high gloss topcoat provides very high reflectivity and improves the brightness of the room and working condition.

Seamless Flooring System

One main advantage of epoxy over other resilient flooring material is that epoxy and resin are customs made to your floors.  In other words, the epoxy flooring technicians pour the epoxy and let it cure. 

This process creates a resilient floor that is seamless. With facilities that need an extremely clean environment a seamless floor is preferred as there are no cracks where dirt can accumulate and microorganisms can grow.

Resinous floor and walls have other properties such as resistant to certain solvents, toxins, chemicals, and acids, once cured.

Versatile Product with Any Look Achievable

Epoxy and polyaspartic floors are very versatile. If you want to create a rustic look, much like that of polished concrete,  that is possible. If you want to have your floors to be artistic, that is doable.

You can do your house basements, garages, and even hospital bathrooms, providing a shiny yet anti-slip surface. 

Water Resistant Floors

It doesn’t have pores and so it’s generally considered to be a water-tight flooring material. You can easily wipe anything that spills as nothing soaks the concrete. 

So What’s the Best – Epoxy Floor Coating or Concrete Polishing?

We are back where we started – epoxy floor vs polished concrete.  With the information provided above, you should be able to make an educated decision, by now. 

In summary, this is what you are looking at.

  • When you are dealing with an environment where the floors are wet for a longer time.  Or if the floors will have spills, such as chemicals and oil, then epoxy is the way to go.
  • If you have heavy markings – such as stripes, lines, and markings, epoxy will do better than polished concrete. However, with polished concrete, you could stain, but it would be vibrant, at all.
  • When you are going to have rough use of the floor -heavy vehicles, high traffic and such- polishing is probably the best choice.