INTERVIEW: HOW DOES STONHARD'S STONCRETE EFX COMPARE WITH POLISHED CONCRETE?
Recently, Stonhard, manufacturer and installer of high-performance seamless floors, unveiled a new product for the commercial market. Stoncrete EFX, a poured-in-place epoxy flooring system was developed as a smarter investment for those who seek the look of polished concrete with more durability. I sat down with members of Stonhard’s Technical Service team, Micah Esposito, Senior Manager of Product Stewardship and David Jarema, Product Engineer, to learn about the differences between the two flooring products.
Polished Concrete is often used in commercial venues like retail stores and restaurants. What makes this type of flooring sought after by designers and customers?
Esposito: The natural or rustic look has gained popularity over the last several years. It’s a popular flooring choice for high-traffic environments.
Jarema: It’s also durable and generally easy to maintain.
Are there problems with polished concrete?
Jarema: Polished concrete uses the aggregate from the concrete pour, and because of this, there are limitations to what can be accomplished with polishing. Imperfections such as oil stains, trapped dirt and grime, or color variations due to different concrete pours will not be hidden or removed in the polishing process. Often times, a brand new concrete pour is required to meet the aesthetic requirements of the customer.
Esposito: That’s right. Simply polishing or staining existing concrete will not fix issues like cracks, spalling, stains, or existing overlayments. These will all be visible and detract from the appearance.
Jarema: Stoncrete EFX doesn’t rely on the existing concrete to obtain its look. Its aggregated blend is mixed into an epoxy mortar and is independent of the concrete substrate. Stoncrete EFX comes in five standard color offerings and three aggregate blends –amber glass, mirror glass, or domestically-mined quartz.
Esposito: That gives Stoncrete EFX a total of 15 dynamic color options.
Jarema: Stoncrete EFX allows us to obtain a very uniform and natural background color in several different tones which is something you cannot do with polished concrete. Polished concrete is typically a gray tone, varying slightly based off the cement that is used. In order to have a different color, pigment must be added to the concrete mix. Because of the variability of the cement, this sometimes leads to visible “shadowing” of the floor.
I’ve been told that polished concrete primarily comes in a gloss finish. Is this true?
Jarema: Some polished concrete manufacturers offer a down-glossed finish, but the vast majority are high-gloss. The issue with lower gloss levels on concrete sealers is it typically results in a hazy finish that shows less aggregate.
Esposito: Most of the systems are waxed. Even matte wax has a glossy appearance.
Jarema: Stoncrete EFX is available in matte, semi-gloss, and gloss finishes depending on your preference.
What about repairs? Can you talk about the difference between polished concrete and Stoncrete EFX?
Jarema: Cracks can form from concrete movement due to freeze and thaw cycles with seasonal weather, settling of a building, or vibration due to plumbing and machinery use. When this happens and a polished concrete floor has been installed, a repair involves polishing off the sealer and re-installing. Typically, a transition line will be seen between the repair area and the surrounding floor.
Esposito: There’s no way to hide repairs with clear sealers or dyes.
Jarema: If it is an older polished concrete floor, the sealer may have down-glossed slightly due to use, so a high-gloss repair will shine brighter than the surrounding floor. Stoncrete EFX can be used to fix and cover cracks and can be used for new and existing projects. It can be applied over either new or old concrete, epoxy flooring, tile in sound condition, plywood, and non-gypsum-based cement subfloors. Micro-cracking in the concrete itself with not show through the finished system and larger cracks can be routed and filled prior to installation so they will also not show through the finished system.
Esposito: Stoncrete EFX is excellent for renovation projects. While some use polished concrete for renovations, they don’t look as good as new projects due to issues with cracked concrete.
Which floor has greater durability?
Esposito: Stoncrete EFX. The compressive strength of Stoncrete EFX is 2-3 times that of concrete. In addition, Stonhard urethane topcoats improve wear, stain, and chemical resistance over traditional concrete sealers or unsealed concrete.
Jarema: Stoncrete EFX will withstand heavier loads without any damage.
Esposito: Stoncrete EFX also has increased abrasion resistance because it is installed with multiple protective clear coatings.
Stain resistance is important for commercial spaces. How do these floors stand up?
Jarema: The porosity of the concrete is the deciding factor. Concrete can be porous due to ambient conditions during the installation, water content, or air entrapment during cure. Polished concrete floors typically use a thin, fast-drying, water-based sealer. This type of sealer is typically far less stain-resistant than the epoxy or urethane finish that is installed with Stoncrete EFX.
Esposito: Sealers will soak into stained or polished concrete. Also, concrete will show discoloration from anything that soaks into it. If you do not create an impermeable layer, you cannot prevent soak-in and therefore cannot prevent stains. Stoncrete EFX has excellent stain resistance in comparison. The multi-step sealing process utilized during the Stoncrete EFX installation eliminates porosity in the EFX base and the urethane top coats are designed to provide broad-range chemical and stain resistance.
What about slip-resistance?
Esposito: Unsealed concrete is very slip resistant. Once you add sealer/wax, it becomes slippery. However, texture can be added to concrete sealers for additional slip resistance.
Jarema: Stonhard advises customers on texture with regard to slip resistance vs. cleanability. The proper amount of texture will be determined based on this advice and customer preference and added to the mix for the sealer step of the installation.
Customers are always thinking about cost. How would you compare?
Esposito: While the up-front cost to install polished concrete may be lower than Stoncrete EFX, the long-term life cycle costs will be lower for Stoncrete EFX. EFX is a more durable system that will stand up to abuse much better than polished concrete, requiring fewer repair. Also, Stoncrete EFX is a lower maintenance option as it does not require waxing like polished concrete does. The cost of long-term waxing and stripping can significantly add up over the course of several years.
What are the ideal installation spaces for Stoncrete EFX?
Jarema: Stoncrete EFX looks great and offers excellent performance in lobbies, entryways, corridors, schools, office spaces, restaurants, cafeterias, concourses, retail areas and shops, bars, arenas, hospitals, supermarkets and more.
The Stonhard Difference
For nearly a century, Stonhard has delivered a proven, single-source service, covering both your products and installation. Stonhard's seamless, long-wearing and easy-to-clean systems are engineered to perform in both industrial and commercial environments without sacrificing design innovative vision. Contact your local Territory Manager or Architectural Representative here.