Drab, damaged concrete doesn’t have to be a permanent eyesore. With resurfacing or polishing, you can refresh your concrete floors to give them a beautiful, durable, and seamless makeover. But how do you choose between the many finish options you can achieve by resurfacing or polishing?

Here’s what you need to know about the differences between resurfacing and polishing a concrete floor.

What is Concrete Floor Resurfacing?

With concrete floor resurfacing, a thin layer of new material is applied on top of the existing slab. This overlay levels out imperfections while filling in cracks and holes and providing a fresh new surface.

Resurfacing is great for concrete floors that are damaged or deteriorating. It can cover up spalled areas, cracks, stains, carpet tack holes, and other flaws. The new overlay creates a smooth, durable surface and allows creative options with textures and patterns.

Some popular resurfacing options include:

  • Concrete stains — Transparent dyes and acid-staining for mottled effects
  • Epoxy coatings — A glossy, durable, chemical and impact-resistant coating in a variety of colors
  • Microtoppings — Extremely thin, seamless layers
  • Stamped overlays — Textured and patterned finishes to mimic slate, stone, brick, or tile

What is Concrete Floor Polishing?

Polishing concrete has become an increasingly popular way to refresh existing slabs. By grinding and honing the concrete, polishing brings out a glossy, mirror-like sheen that enhances the natural beauty of the material. It’s a common flooring choice in industrial and commercial settings but is now appearing in homes as well. 

The polished finish creates a unique look. Specialized equipment with progressively finer grits refines the surface. Polishing exposes the aggregate and achieves an ultra-smooth finish resembling polished stone.

Unlike resurfacing, polishing doesn’t add a layer on top of the concrete or hide flaws like cracks and holes. The concrete must be in good condition to polish successfully. Many people opt for polished concrete floors because they’re extremely easy to clean, repelling water and oil.  

Benefits of polishing include:

Creates beautiful glossy sheen
Doesn’t change floor height
Eco-friendly process
Finish is extremely durable and long-lasting
Floors are easy to clean and maintain

Key Differences Between Resurfacing and Polishing

Resurfaced concrete and polished concrete both have their benefits and disadvantages. When deciding whether to resurface or polish a concrete floor, it helps to understand how the two methods compare. Here’s an overview of some of the key differences:

Hides flawsYesNo
Alters surface heightYesNo
Texture/pattern optionsYesLimited
DurabilityVery durableExtremely durable
Gloss levelVariousExtreme gloss
Cost$$ – $$$$$$

Which is Better For Your Project?

Whether to resurface or polish greatly depends on your personal taste, goals, and the floor’s condition. While resurfacing is more budget-friendly and allows for more appearance customization, polishing achieves the highest level of gloss and durability. Polishing is also better if maintaining floor height is important. 

Today’s Homeowner Tips

If your concrete is damaged, we recommend resurfacing, which will hide flaws and restore the floor’s functionality. On the other hand, polish is a great choice for floors that experience high foot traffic or families with kids because the polish will stand the test of time better than resurfaced concrete. A combination approach is also an option — lightly grinding to level the floor, then applying a thin overlay and polishing. 

Ultimately, the options for resurfaced and polished concrete floors are endless. From our experience, it’s best to outline the pros and cons of each option, accounting for personal preference and budget, before making your final choice. Talk to concrete contractors about the best solution for your needs.

So, Is Resurfacing or Polishing Your Concrete Floor Worth It?

Choosing between concrete resurfacing or polishing depends on your priorities and the floor’s current state. With the right solution and expert execution, you can turn your damaged, dreary concrete floor into a stunning showpiece. A cost-effective concrete floor makeover will dramatically enhance the beauty and functionality of your space. 

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FAQs About Concrete Floor Resurfacing Vs. Polishing

How long does each option last?

With proper care, the finish on both resurfaced and polished floors can last 10 to 15 years or longer before needing to be redone. A polished surface may last slightly longer on average.

Can you polish a resurfaced floor?

Yes, if the resurfacing material is polishable. Check with a contractor for options.

Which is more cost-effective?

Basic resurfacing is often less expensive per square foot than intensive polishing. However, costs may vary based on materials, prep work needed, and other factors.

Are polished floors slippery?

Polishing exposes the concrete’s aggregates, providing traction. Treatments can further increase slip resistance — proper maintenance helps, too.

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Lauren Greene

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Lauren Greene is a passionate storyteller with over 4 years of experience writing and editing. She attributes her expertise from working at local magazines, newspapers, and corporate marketing and communications teams. She has worked on content with topics ranging from plant care, home decor, and home improvement. Lauren resides in Raleigh with her adorable Shih Tzu. You can catch Lauren attending to her plants, spending time with her puppy, enjoying the greenway, or lifting weights at the gym when she’s not writing or researching the latest home improvement topics.

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Lee Ann Merrill

Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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