Do it yourself a polished concrete floor using self-leveling concrete and save lots of money.
When Julie and Chris Hawkins decided to leave their cramped San Francisco apartment and buy a home in Eugene, Oregon, they quadrupled their living space. They also ended up with a 1960 architect-designed home that had some of the charm of a mid-century home along with a lot of the problems. “It was a maze of hallways and doors and little rooms everywhere,” says Julie.
The house was white—white kitchen cabinets and white 7x7 tile on the entire 3,000-square-foot first floor. They considered wood but that didn’t fit the house. The cost of installing tile was prohibitive. The concrete subfloor wasn’t polishable. Chris was keen on tackling the problem himself, but. After researching options, Chris discovered Duraamen’s Param 5500 with Perdure U45 Matte aliphatic polyurethane sealer. “I talked a lot with Victor before we did this on how it would work and what we needed to do,” Chris says. “We knew it was an all-or-nothing job.”
Chris rented a floor grinder and a bead blaster to prep the subfloor. After that, installation was quick, although they realized they needed to pour all 3,000 square feet at one time. Chris hired a crew of six guys to help him mix and apply the material in one pour over the course of three hours. They mixed 15 gallons of material at a time and had three different workstations to keep the product continuously flowing. Since it has a quick set-up time of about 15 minutes, it can only be mixed in small amounts. They chose a dark gray color, which goes well with Julie’s minimalist style.
“We used a gauge rake to spread and level the material and a 36-inch wide blunt spiked roller to remove any air pockets or bubbles, and it worked beautifully,” Chris recalls. The finish came out mottled, which they weren’t expecting (likely because of the blunt spiked roller which wasn’t part of Duraamen’s instructions, but was something Chris had read about in other blogs). The floor shows some brush strokes but that’s because it sets up so fast, Chris thinks. Had they followed Duraamen’s instructions, likely the floor would not be mottled. But in hindsight, the subtle patterning is easier on the eye than an expanse of solid gray floor.
Chris used a matching trowel-on version of the concrete material, called Skraffino concrete micro-topping, for stairs and a fireplace hearth, also in the same dark gray color. He never sealed those surfaces, and should have gone back and put a second coat of sealer over the floor. Since he didn’t, those surfaces have a few stains now, but that’s part of the charm of the house. “The trowel-on material was really easy to use,” Chris says. “I used a magic trowel for applying the skim coat. It was really easy and looks great. There’s a lot of flaws in what we’ve done but it’s OK. For our budget and with having 3,000 square feet to cover, it worked great. It came out to about $3.50 per square foot, comparable to the cost of affordable tile, and we like it. It is awesome”
Below are two time lapse videos of the install: