When it comes to flooring options, polished concrete is becoming an increasingly popular choice. It’s affordable, low-maintenance, and can be customized to match any décor. But how much do polished concrete floors cost, anyway? In this article, we’ll take a look at the factors that go into the cost of polished concrete floors, from the price of raw materials to hiring skilled labor to different sealing and finishing options. We’ll also discuss the cost of installing radiant heating beneath concrete floors, factoring potential utility bill savings and value added to the property into the cost of installation.
How Much Do Polished Concrete Floors Cost?
There are many aspects to consider when it comes to pricing concrete. What is the hourly rate of your preferred contractor? Will you require any grading or dirt moved with a tractor? Will you need to create a subbase, concrete forms, or reinforcement? Most of the expense for concrete lies in the following categories.
Skilled and Contracted Labor
As of 2021, the average hourly rate for a contractor was about $50 per hour—though some charge as little as $30 or up to $85 per hour. Of course, the larger the floor you wish to lay, the more hours it will take to complete, and the more materials you will have to purchase. If you’re figuring 1000 square feet of flooring will take less than 10 hours to pour, you’re looking at between $400-$500 in labor costs, calculated with the average rate of $50 per hour. Overall, however, most contractors charge between $2-$8 per square foot to cover the cost of materials.
DIY Approach: Cost of Raw Materials for the Average Homeowner
Assuming you’re working on laying a concrete slab flooring in your 1000-square-foot floorplan at a depth of 5 inches, you will need roughly 695 80-pound bags of concrete. The price for an 80-pound bag of concrete varies from roughly $3-$6, which would put a homeowner’s cost for raw, unmixed concrete alone between $2,085-$4,170 to cover 1,000 square feet. The cost of sand and gravel additives can be as much as an additional $12,000-$13,00 for the floorplan. This is not including any additional additives you may wish to contribute, such as fortifiers or aesthetic aggregates, nor the cost of the lumber and tools necessary for building a framework within which to pour your concrete mixture! (For more on the types of tools and equipment you would need to pour your own concrete slab, click here!)
Keep in mind most professional concrete contractors get these materials at a wholesale rate, and already have access to the tools necessary for the job. The cost of acquiring the tools and raw materials is enough to deter even the most determined DIY-er, and, coupled with the dirty and relatively unforgiving process involved, many homeowners end up turning to professional concrete flooring contractors to install their concrete slab. The additional cost of labor is often worth the experience and expertise that comes with a skilled contractor, and is more likely to yield quality results.
Degree of Polish
When it comes to finishing your concrete floors, polishing does everything from smoothing the surface and buffing away imperfections and to chemically sealing them, so they are water tight and reflect natural light. When it comes to the degrees of polishing available, polished concrete floors cost varying amounts based on the amount of time spent during the finishing process. Renovators can select from a subtle and understated matte grey finish to a high-sheen, well-polished finish.
While some folks choose a matte finish for aesthetic reasons, it’s generally understood that the more time a contractor spends buffing, polishing, refining, and sealing the concrete, the better protected it will be for the years to come—essentially acting as health insurance for your concrete slab. This, plus the extra hours of labor involved and the danger of breathing in concrete dust, adds additional expense. For reference, the most basic concrete floors finished at a low level of shine can be as little as $3 per square foot—whereas a concrete floor with advanced designs and a high degree of polish can cost $12 per square foot or even more!
While there is something to be said about the simple, clean, industrial look of polished grey concrete floors, there are all kinds of ways you can jazz up the appearance of your concrete flooring when it comes time to finish and seal it—from acid- or water-based stains, dyes, designs, patterns, stencils, or logos, and more. For example, should you go with the aesthetic of a one-layer stain over the top of your concrete, you’re looking at pricing between $3-$5 per square foot. However, for more elaborate designs using extensive patterns, multiple dyes, and hand-applied details, you can expect to pay between $8-$25 per square foot.
What Is the Cost of Installing Radiant Heating in Concrete Floors?
Installing radiant heating beneath your concrete floors is a popular choice for many homeowners, especially those that live in cooler climates—though some radiant heating setups can be used for cooling purposes as well. While this does mean an additional initial expense during the installation process, some find that taking the time and effort to add in this step can have rewarding dividends down the road.
Cost of Installation
Assuming our same $1,000-square-foot floorplan, the materials and installation costs for hydronic floor heating with a boiler can cost between $5,800-$8,000. This can also cost between $10-$15 per square foot, depending on the type of radiant floor heating you choose. (Hydronic systems are going to be more expensive than electric ones, as they are considered more efficient. They are also typically more difficult to install than electric heating.)
Savings on Utility Bills
While this might seem like a steep initial expense, you will not only experience more comfortable floors to walk on in wintertime (or summertime, should you opt for radiant cooling), but you will also see regular rewards on your utility bill. For example, both types of radiant heating systems can save you as much as 15 percent on your heating bill each month.
Given that the average monthly utility bill in America is roughly $117.46, this means you would save about $17.62 in 31 days—or $211.43 in a year! What’s more, radiant floor heating is nearly 100% efficient as opposed to the forced-air systems that send warm air through ducts in your home. Forced-air systems can also disperse dust, pollen, and other allergens throughout your home, unlike radiant floor heating. The other alternative is baseboard heating, which is even less efficient. (For more on why radiant heating is so efficient, check out our recent article on the topic here!)
Value Added to Home or Property
Adding radiant heated flooring to your home is one of the most surefire ways to add resale value to your home should you decide to sell. In fact, “heated floors” is one of the most popular key phrases when prospective homeowners search for a home, and inspires many serious buyers to be that much more interested in the house. Typically, it is a good indication that the previous owner has taken time, energy, and expense to upgrade their home and keep it in good condition—a sign of a good investment. In short, adding radiant heating to your floors makes it all the more palatable to a potential buyer should you wish to sell your property someday.
Polished Concrete Floor Experts MD, The Concrete, Etc.
Whether you’re drawn to concrete flooring for the attractively low price point for the value or want to take things to the next level by installing radiant heat beneath your slab, most homeowners agree this messy and relatively arduous task is often best left to the pros. Especially if you don’t have much experience working with concrete, why would you want to install potentially flawed floors that could lead to cracking, moisture damage, and other issues? Installing new flooring in your home should add value, not take it away. So the next time you think about how much polished concrete floors cost during installation, we hope you will consider the significant value they add to your home over the long term as well. Increasingly more homeowners are turning to concrete flooring as a high-value, aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-maintain, and relatively cheap flooring option that is likely to get them a Return On Investment (ROI) when it comes time to sell.
Here at MD-based The Concrete, Etc, our concrete experts love to land our clients high-value flooring solutions that work with any budget. So, are you ready to take the plunge and update your home or business? Contact us today for a free consultation, or click here to browse our portfolio of previous work!