Using in situ polished concrete as a flooring material has many advantages when incorporated from the outset in any new build or refurb project. Concrete is durable, ages beautifully with the passage of time, can form an almost seamless finish, works both inside and outside, will stain but is relatively low in maintenance and has huge advantages associated with heating and cooling efficiency.
Using in situ concrete as the material of choice is a leap of faith as not only is it a bold choice of material per se but also by definition, in situ means you cannot choose, fully control, or replace any bits of it you don’t like. Concrete’s uncompromising honesty as a material along with the infinite variations in tone, texture and patina will give you a floor like no others. You will inevitably appreciate, understand and respect the certain nuances it displays because it is what it is, an honest truth to materials and the stuff of stuff. You will mould to it but it won't mould to you.
I’ve laid a number of floors in the past and I can honestly say that the most influential common denominator in producing and handing over floors is not the planning, preparing, placing, leveling, floating, troweling, curing, polishing and sealing. It is the expecting.
Expectation is informed by anticipation, which comes from experience, knowledge and understanding. From a contractors perspective I would expect that I should understand how the material behaves under the conditions in which it is mixed, transported, placed and finished. Like a game of chess it is my job to anticipate and always be at least one move ahead. That may come down to ordering the concrete after the school-run in Chelsea for example. It is also my job as a contractor to make sure that my Client is fully informed… tuned to an almost ‘self leveling’ expectation in parallel with how the material will behave and what it will give.
As a Client I would expect my Contractor to inform me as to the huge variations of finish and aesthetic qualities available from concrete. I would expect the Contractor to direct me towards as much in situ flooring as possible and talk to people who live with the material and in which context this is. Information on cracking, stains, burnishing, surface finish, maintenance, heating efficiency, aesthetic quality, programming requirements, the all important design details and so on should be investigated, digested and understood. It is up to me as the Client to do this homework if I want to keep that leap of faith.
If after all this background investigation is thoroughly complete and the leap of faith is still a goer, then the right choice has been made. If not, perhaps stay tuned to the Visual Concrete blog for more information, and then decide. If that doesn’t cut the mustard then you’ve also made the right choice by not choosing concrete.