Doing a complete remodel, after Boulder flooding, of my basement. After demoing and floodcutting, all that's left is framing and concrete slab. I'd like to turn this into a nice concrete finished floor; see links below for sample of what I'd like.

What I'm looking for is advice on how to proceed in the general sense. Browsing the internet for pics of floors, I think I'm looking for a stained or polished floor. Probably nothing fancy. Don't need inlays or multiple colors. Something subdued, light in color, low maintenance.

What I'm concerned about in particular are things like:

1) Can my existing slab be used?

2) Can I do it myself and expect decent results?

I'm looking to achieve results similar to this...

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Click for larger view

  • There are many ways of "finishing" a concrete floor. Could you be more specific about the type of finish you are looking for on the floor? Polished? Stained? Sealed? Perhaps you could link to some images of what you hope to acheieve? It would also be helpful to know the type and condition of your current "concrete slab." Is it as flat as you'd like? any cracks or chipping? – mac Sep 30 '13 at 18:11
  • 1
    How do I evaluate the "condition" of my slab? – chad Sep 30 '13 at 19:51
  • Has the flooding eroded away, in places, earth that supports the slab? – mike Oct 2 '13 at 19:36
  • @mike No, nothing like that at all. Our part of town didn't get "flooded"; we are high ground. But it rained so much ( nearly a years water in 4 days ), that the water table got so high it seeped in through the slab to footer joints, as well as anywhere the slab had been cut for plubming, etc. So, I think my foundation is pretty good actually, including the slab. – chad Oct 2 '13 at 21:10

From your images it appears you're looking for a polished concrete floor. The process isn't very complicated, but it can be messy and time consuming. It's not unlike refinishing hardwood floors.

Ensure floor is suitable for polishing

Sources I've seen state that nearly any concrete floor can be polished, so long as it is structurally sound. Floors that are very porous, need extensive patching, or are wavy are probably not good candidates. New slabs need to cure for 28 days before polishing.

Grind floor flat

grinding machine griding heads on machine

The actual polishing consists of a series of progressively finer grinding and polishing steps. They can possibly all be performed using the same piece of rented equipment. The first, coarsest grinds (typically performed with metal-bonded cutters) flatten the floor and open up the concrete's pores.

metal cutters

Densify, and maybe stain

Then a chemical densifer is applied, which seeps into the concrete, hardening its surface and filling voids, while preparing for the final polish. Around this time is when a colored stain could be applied if desired.

apply densifier


Next a series of progressively finer polishing grits (typically abrasive grit in a resin binder) is used until the desired level of shine is reached.

resin polishers

  • That's right. I think the polished floors look great. Is polishing particularly expensive if contracted? Is it the kind of thing you can get good results out of doing it yourself for the first time? I'm handy and willing to DIY it, but I value quality over saving money at all costs. – chad Oct 2 '13 at 21:12
  • I only upvoted your answer, as opposed to accepting it, because I don't want to discourage other non-polishing options from being presented. – chad Oct 2 '13 at 21:13

Your 3rd photo appears to be terrazzo, which is like concrete but using a 'prettier' aggregate that is then ground down. It's a great look but not something you're going to achieve with an existing slab floor.

The other photos appear to be sealed concrete. Easy to do if the concrete is in OK condition.

Given there was a flood, and the slab has been there a while, I'm going to assume it's not pristine. As such, I'd recommend going with an acid stain, and then seal. The acid stains are mottled and add some visual texture to the floor so that imperfections in an existing slab don't stick out. Acid staining can be a DIY project. Be sure to use actual acid stain, however. The big boxes sell concrete stains that are just top-coats, so won't give you the same look or durability that an actual acid stain will give you.

Our previous house was a 70 year old slab in the basement that was pock marked, paint splattered, cracked, and a host of other abuses throughout the decades.

We ended up stripping it (there was remnants of mastic on it), acid staining, then water-based sealer.

It worked out pretty good, IMHO.

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