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Polished Concrete Floors – The Easiest Way!

I’m walking you though how I ripped up the carpet and got the polished concrete floors with no sanding, no remaining carpet tack holes and low cost!

I'm walking you though how I ripped up the carpet and got the polished concrete floors with no sanding, no remaining carpet tack holes and low cost!Polished concrete floors seem to be all the rage these days and I know why.  I love the modern, industrial look of them and the coolness underfoot.  But my favorite thing is how clean they are.  Carpet is so gross!  Dust mites and dirt and leftover food, I couldn’t take the carpet in my kids bedroom one more second.   I tried to get the polished concrete floors in the kids rec room makeover, but it did not turn out the way I had hoped. So, I gave it another try and this time I love it! Now I just have to redo the den floors

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Material List

Concrete Bonding Adhesive

Quikrete Floor Resurfacer

“Wet Look” Sealer

 

Tool List

Carpet Knife

Flathead Screwdriver

Hammer

Scraper

paint roller

paint tray

paint brush

extra bucket

Paddle Mixer Attachment

drill

Trowel

I'm walking you though how I ripped up the carpet and got the polished concrete floors with no sanding, no remaining carpet tack holes and low cost!

First things first, I had to get rid of the carpet. New carpet can be nice, especially when you don’t have dogs or kids.  However, when you have three dirty dogs and two almost as dirty kids, 30 year old carpet is the worst. Pulling up carpet is not that hard of a task. I use a carpet knife to cut the carpet into manageable sections and pull it up. It can get very heavy, so cutting it first is much easier to me.  If you have help, you may be able to roll up and move bigger sections, but I usually go it alone so cutting it was a much better option.

Once you have the carpet and carpet pad removed, you’ll be left with the dreaded carpet tack strips.  These things are the worst.  First, you have to go through and pull them all up.  I usually use a flat head screwdriver and a hammer.  Make sure to use the hammer and pull up any remaining tacks. Once you have all this up, you are left with holes and glue everywhere. 

 

I wanted the carpet tack holes to go away in the den, so I tried filling them with concrete patch but that really didn’t work.  You can still see them.  So, I went I different way this time.  First, I cleaned the glue off the floor.  I just used a scraper for this & it came up really easily.  Then I mopped the floors, ran the vacuum and mopped again.  You want these babies nice and clean.  

Clean the holes out as much as you can and use a vacuum attachment to really clean under the baseboards.  Do this or you’ll be sorry later! Once I was all done, my floors looked like this.

Next I put down two layers of the concrete bonding adhesive.  One gallon was plenty for both rooms. I used a paint roller to do this. It went really quickly.  You mix it with water following the directions on the label, then pour it into a paint tray and roll it on the floor.  I did use a paint brush to get into the corners and under the baseboards. 

Now comes the fun part.  Okay, fun is a strong word, but fun in the sense of you are about to see the magic.  I got a couple of big buckets of Quikrete Self Leveling Concrete.  I used about 3 buckets per room.  Make sure you get enough, buy extra if you need to and return the unused portion.  The outside of the container has directions on how to mix this stuff but let me give you a couple of tips I learned.  

First, spend another five bucks to buy an extra 5 gallon bucket.  Trust me.  Add the water to the new, clean bucket first and then add concrete a little at a time mixing with a paddle mixer attached to your drill.  Trying to add water to the concrete in the bucket is a nightmare and you will waste a lot of time and arm power trying to mix in all the concrete. Water first.  

Next, you want to make sure it is throughly mixed.  Like when you think you are done, give it another couple of minutes of mixing.  Make sure there are no clumps and nothing sticking to the side.

Lastly, you want it to be the consistency of tomato soup.  Maybe just a touch thicker, but not much. You have to work kind of quick when you get to this part, so of course I forgot to take pictures.  Once I got it mixed up, I started pouring.  I started in the back of the room and worked my way to the door. I laid a strip at a time and used my trowel to work it under the baseboards and into the corners.  Even thought it is “self-leveling” I had to work it a little bit.  It was pretty easy though. And it flowed super nicely into the carpet tack holes, making the floor look seamless! 

Work quickly, smoothing as you go until the entire floor is covered.  I’m going to work my way into the den, so I didn’t worry about the transition, however if you want a clear break, make sure you put a board or something hard and straight down to stop the concrete.  This concrete is very thin, so whatever you do put down will probably need to be temporarily attached. 

Let that dry overnight at least, maybe even an extra day.  Then use a concrete sealer to seal it up.  It was basically the same thing as the adheavise, you just don’t have to mix it with water first.  I used the “natural look” sealer first but I didn’t like the way it turned out.  Then I did another coat with the “wet look” sealer and it was perfect. Just pour it into a paint tray and roll it on, using a brush to get into corners and under basebaoards.  

Let the sealer dry up to three days if you can.  I put the furniture back in the room the next morning and noticed I pulled up a little sealer in the process.  I fixed it, and after a few days it was much harder and tough. 

That’s it, polished concrete floors!!  Honestly it was not that bad at all.  SO MUCH easier than the den, where I spent days sanding and then cleaning up the disastrous sanding mess.  Plus, the carpet tack holes are filled and it looks so much better!!! 

Questions about my polished concrete floors?  Sound off below! 

April

Polished Concrete Floors

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I'm walking you though how I ripped up the carpet and got the polished concrete floors with no sanding, no remaining carpet tack holes and low cost!

 

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51 Comments

      1. 1/2 of my floor is painted red, the rest is not painted. The red paint has worn off in places. Should I sand the red paint off before I start the leveling process on whole area?

        1. I’m really not sure. It just would depend on how bad of shape the paint is in. If it’s flakey, it could peel up and mix in when you pour the new concrete.

  1. Hi April
    We are in the process of deciding if we want concrete floors. I was given an estimate of 10-13 a sq foot over the phone. Hence I am thinking we should give this a DIY try. Thank you for sharing these steps.

    When you laid the Quikrete Self Leveling Concrete, did it hide the tack strip holes ?

    1. Yes it did! We loved this technique so much more than sanding and painting and the results are way better! Good luck and let me know if you have any further questions!

    1. Hey Kelli! This is just concrete. I’m sure you could use a mix in color, but I can’t imagine they will get any lighter. I’m not sure how color would work with this product, but if you try it I’d love to hear your feedback!

  2. Hi April! I had a few questions about your floors, which came out great! So it looked like you left the baseboards on when you poured the concrete? Is that a correct assessment? Second, about how thick did you pour the concrete floors? And third how are the floors holding up so far? Any cracking or anything like that? Thank you for your time my wife and I are researching to do this to our kitchen floor. Thanks again

    1. Hello! Sorry for the late response. yes, I left the baseboards but only because there was a gap after I pulled up the carpet and I want to replace them eventually. I think if you plan on keeping the baseboards you have, I would take them off first. The concrete is maybe 1/8-1/4″ think, but not sure. It’s thin and it varies because the floors had some unevenness. We have had them about 8 months now and no cracks, chips or any problems. So far we love them!

    1. Yes I would do the stencil before the sealant, but I’ve never done it so not sure how it work work. I’d love to hear about it if you do!

  3. Do you still see the spots where the carpet tack holes were or does it actually add color to it as well?

  4. Could I just pour the self leveling concete and then paint it with a concrete paint? I want a crisp white floor, not a concrete look.

  5. Hi April! I loved your project, congratulations! I’m about to try the same in a very small area, my bathroom, and since it’s a place that only my husband & I use & I want to do it simple & fast. I’m not planning on using the Resurfacer to hide imperfections. Also I’m planning on applying a semi-transparent stain. In this case, do I still use the Bonding Adhesive & sealer? Is the “wet look” too slippery for a bathroom? Thank in advance.

    1. I would still use the bonding adhesive, whatever you decide to put on the concrete. I’m not sure about the wet look and the bathroom, but I think it would be fine! Good luck, I’d love to see it when you are done!

  6. Wonderful looking floor. We are considering doing this to our daylight basement. Can you tell me the brand of wet-look sealer that you used? Thanks.

    1. Not sure, because it may crack if the floor is “soft” if that makes sense. It’s a pretty thin layer. I’d love to see it if you try it though!

  7. Hi! We will be attempting to refinish a concrete floor, mainly to hide the awful gold glitter the previous owner put into the existing concrete. Will this process work, or will we still need to sand it down first?

  8. Reading through the comments and I notice that no one has tried this and posted their results so I thought I’d share our experience… This will be long but worth reading for anyone who’s thinking of attempting this project.

    My husband and I are not new to DIY home projects, and this one has been our most frustrating experience and disappointing turn out yet.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how in the world you managed to do this alone successfully and with only 3 buckets?! Did you add a ton of extra water beyond the amount recommended on the bucket?

    We started off with 3 buckets for a 128 sqft laundry room. Early into mixing the first bucket it became apparent that our drill didn’t have enough power to get the job done. We had no choice but to try and continue but shortly after it started smoking and the motor burnt out. We had to run out to Home Depot and get an actual concrete paddle mixer so the first bucket set and we lost it. We had only been able to find the Quikcrete at Lowe’s which is further from our house so we thought we’d make do with the 2 buckets since we’d only really bought the 3rd as backup.

    This time we were able to mix the concrete according to the instructions on the bucket with no issues at all. But long story short, we quickly realized there was absolutely no way 2 buckets was going to even come close to being enough after pouring some of the first bucket. We added as much water as we could to make it stretch with out really watering the product down. I used a trowel to spread it out thinly. The product begins drying very quickly so my husband worked on mixing the other bag and poured as quickly as possible.

    Somehow we were able to make it stretch but the end result was evidence of our mistakes. You could see some trowel marks/unevenness and lots of color differentiation and where more and more water had been added as we went along. There were also very tiny surface level hairline cracks.

    We called Quikcrete to find out if we could try again with another layer and were relieved to find out we could pour another level without having to do any additional prep to the newly dried concrete. We asked some other questions to help us be better prepared for the next round as well as watching some tutorials they’d put out.

    For the next attempt we started with 6 buckets. We’d been advised not to add much more than 4 quarts of water (5 max) or the product could weaken. We’d also learned that mixing too quickly could cause bubbles so we tried to tried to balance moving quickly, making the product was well mixed and not over mixing. We found this to be an extremely delicate balance.

    We pre-measured the water to make sure it was consistent (4.5 quarts). Our first bucket poured beautifully. Our second bucket was unfortunately not mixed as well as we’d thought (despite mixing for the same amount of time). It didn’t pour as well and had some grit that showed through as little lumps. Also, the first section had somehow hardened so quickly (10 min max) that it didn’t blend with the second section causing a little lip at the overlap. The self leveling thing doesn’t work so well if the previous section and new sections aren’t both completely fluid.

    We kept moving and found that the next 4 buckets went much more smoothly despite being slightly over mixed and having tons of tiny bubbles. I was able to smooth some of these out with the trowel but more inevitable surfaced as it dried and made little holes throughout.

    Unfortunately we (once again) were short on product when we got to the end and had to run and grab a SEVENTH (technically 10th) bucket. Of course the last pour had totally set by the time we got the last bucket ready but we just poured enough to overlap a little and smoothed it as much as possible with the trowel, but there were inevitably a few splatters.

    Today we used a angle grinder and multi tool with diamond attachments to smooth out the imperfections as much as possible, but I’m accepting there’s no way to get it totally level/smooth.

    It’s looking better and I think we’ll be able to live with it once it’s sealed and everything’s put back in the room, but to be totally honest I couldn’t recommend this process to anyone. We thought this would be a cheap quick fix to our unlevel imperfect concrete floor, but we’re ending up with an unlevel imperfect concrete floor, a dead drill and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in expenses. This isn’t a project I’d recommend DIYing — just hire someone!

    As a last ditch effort to help anyone who still does decide to attempt this, Quikcrete recommends having at least 3 people – 1 to mix, 1 to pour and one to spread (as minimally as possible) in order to pour the entire space fluidly with no hardening between sections. Good luck!

    1. Hi Jojo, so sorry I’m just getting back to you. I took a break from the blog for a while over the holidays. These are some great points and I will add a line in the post to read through the comments. I’m so sorry you had such a hard time with it. I had tried another way to do the concrete floors (I have a different post on that) and for me, this was so much easier. In two years, we haven’t had a single crack or problem so I’m really sorry you had a hard time. I will say I’ve used concrete many, many times in various projects so I didn’t think it might be harder if concrete was a new or fairly new medium. I think this is very good information for anyone attempting to do this, thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  9. Not sure I understand the reason for the adhesive. Is this to hold the sealer? And the leveling mix sounds like a huge mess to deal with. Why didn’t you go with just sealing the concrete that you had or just fill in the holes? Please more of your detailed thoughts on laying out your process. Also, I guess if you want a really glossy look you could put polyurethane over the sealer? That might be a bit slippery in the end. Thank you for the education April!

    1. I think the adhesive is to bind the new concrete to the old, but not entirely sure. I would suggest reading through the other comments to see others experince and also read through this post to see why I didn’t just fill the tack holes. https://www.uncookiecutter.com/polished-concrete-floor/

      Basically, the concrete won’t match and the tack holes still show if you just try to fill them. Plus, that small amount of concrete would get loose and break apart I think. Good luck if you try it and come back if you have any questions!

  10. I want to try this on my floor, but some of the concrete has spray paint on it. Will this process be able to cover that up?

  11. Hi there!
    First of all, thank you! I’ve been researching “DIY concrete floors,” for days and your blog is the first that makes me feel like I can absolutely do this! Quick question: Do you think this technique would work over tile? I’m trying hard to avoid removing the ugly 80’s tile with 1/2″ grout in our new home. I think it has to go, but thought I’d ask your opinion.

  12. What type of underpayment did you have , will it stick to normal subfloor type product? I want to pull up carpet and do concrete

  13. Any chance you could tell me the specific name of self leveling concrete you used? Was it Quikcrete re-cap? Or underlayment ?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi! It’s called Quikcrete Floor Resurfacer and there is a link to it under “Materials List” in the post. Hope that helps!

  14. We have cracks in our current unfinished concrete floor. Do you think the process will cover the cracks and keep any new cracks from showing and forming?

    1. I do! I haven’t had any issues with mine at all, but you may want to read through the comments. Someone had a less than positive experience with it. I thought it was fairly easy and it’s been 2 1/2 years now with no issues.

  15. Would you use the same bonding adhesive doing this treatment over a painted concrete floor? We have some painted concrete floors that we want to take back to concrete without generating a ton of dust grinding or paying $$$, and this looks promising! Love any advice you have for doing this if it should be adjusted for a painted concrete floor!

    1. I haven’t, it’s actually held up well for us. However, we are getting ready to cover it with luxury vinyl plank. Its been great, but it’s time for a change :).

  16. Hi, I’m doing these floors in my home in Belize! did the Quikrete Floor Resurfacer come in a bucket or bag? I’m looking to purchase it online to ship to Belize, thanks

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