So you are doing some home remodeling, or maybe you’re putting an addition to your existing building and you are realizing concrete isn’t just concrete and it has a number of different finishing styles.
You are in the right place to find out more about the different concrete finishes and what they may be used for.
Below I have categorized the finishing styles between exterior and interior uses.
When installing concrete outdoors or somewhere exposed to the elements of mother nature, like under a gazebo or something, you must have a finished concrete surface that creates some sort of traction. You will notice that absolutely zero percent of the finishes in the Exterior category are smooth.
When installing concrete indoors, in a home or commercial building, there are still many options for concrete finishes, each bringing their own specific functional benefit and aesthetic benefit.
These are finishes exposed to the elements and can cause slip hazards if not properly finished.
Regular broom finish with saw cut joints.
A regular broom finish with saw cut joints is most commonly found on roads and parking lots where aesthetics are not important and functionality is priority. However, recently this finish has been popular amongst modern residential homes. With simplicity being the focus, homeowners are bringing the regular broom finish with saw cut joints to homes and it is actually looking very beautiful paired with a modern home.
Regular broom finish with tool joints
We mostly use the broom finish with tooled joints for sidewalks and entry ways to commercial buildings and retailers. Alongside those places, we also use this finish most commonly for homes in the city. I have not found an explanation for this distinction but I assume that people in the city are more to the point and just want functionality where people in the suburbs appreciate aesthetics a little more and like the “homey” feeling that comes with nice touches.
California finish or picture frame finish
What we call “California Finish” in Chicago, is a broom finish with smooth joints and smooth edges giving each square a “picture frame” border finish. This is the most common finish for residential properties and we do not charge extra for this finish. This is a very cost effective finish for someone who wants something a little nicer and does not have the budget to pay for stamped or colored concrete.
Textured concrete with or without color.
Texture concrete would be the next level up on types of finishes and will be the next more expensive finish. After the concrete is poured, floated, and troweled, we will take a flexible piece of rubber texture and tamp the texture into the surface of the concrete. This only effects the surface and will not compromise the strength of the concrete. We poured my father in laws patio with regular no color concrete and a full gray powered release giving the texture an extra element looking like a granite finish almost.
Stamped concrete with or without color.
Stamped concrete is different than textured concrete because it comes in a specific pattern. We use Butterfield to purchase our color and rent the stamp pads because there are so many different pattern options to choose from. You can choose any pattern from brick, to cobble stone, to even wood planks; and with the correct color and release options you can get your concrete to look like something completely different. It’s actually a lot of fun and pretty cool.
Exposed aggregate finish.
This is not as common of a finish in our area and I really don’t know why. This is one of my favorite finishes and actually used this finish in my courtyard and patio. What we do is order a special batch of concrete with Pea Gravel stone instead of the normal 1 inch rock. Then you pour, float, and edge as normal; however when the concrete is hard but not quite cured, we spray a finishing retarder and then wash the juice off of the surface leaving the pea gravels bonded together and visually exposed. It is a gorgeous finish that can really add some character to your property. BONUS. Exposed aggregate can also be finished with glow in the dark pebbles. If you’re into the crazy stuff.
These finishes are used for interior slabs where there is no exposure to rain avoiding any slip hazards.
Hard trowel finish.
Hard trowel finish is used primarily in commercial buildings, basement slabs, and garages. This is a smooth finish you can easily roll equipment on and has no real aesthetic benefit.
Grind and polish concrete with or without stain.
This is my favorite finish for interior slabs and actually used this in my basement. The process is pretty thorough and can take some time but essentially your take an existing or newly poured slab of concrete and grind it down you get the desired stone exposure you like. Afterwards we polish the concrete on multiple passes to get a nice clean shine. And then you can stain the concrete and polish it some more and seal the concrete giving it a beautiful granite look.
Float finish is used mostly for commercial building who are going to put a different material over the concrete. Float finish is rougher making it good for bonding to glue for carpet or mortar for tile. This is not a good finish for any residential property in my opinion.
Burn trowel finish.
A lot like hard trowel finish, “burning” your concrete continues the process until the concrete actually starts turning black. People choose this because it helps make the concrete a little harder, more scratch resistant, and makes the concrete less dusty. We poured a warehouse floor where forklifts were being used constantly and the owner was really anal about having minimal dust. So we jumped on our trowel machines and ran them until the concrete was burned. There are special blades you use for this process but I can go into more detail in a separate article.
As always, the quality of your finished concrete is in direct proportion to the quality of the contractor you hire. Concrete is a permanent solution so please do your homework on your contractor.
Also, have fun when choosing your finishes. On my driveway, I installed a 2 foot border of white textured concrete and in the middle installed exposed pea gravel. It is different and more expensive but I love the outcome and it gives a extra flare.
Also, when grinding and polishing indoor slabs, you can stain the concrete in different geometric or abstruse shapes. This can easily turn into an art project for your contractor so make sure you see pictures of past projects they have completed to make sure you hired a descendant of Michelangelo and not Pablo Picasso.
Hope you had fun learning about the different concrete finishes, comment below which finish you have or which your favorite is to help out the next person coming here looking for suggestions.