If you’re looking to update and refresh the look of your concrete, decorative overlays are a low-cost option. Rather than removal or replacement, overlays allow you to easily and effectively hide surface imperfections like stains and cracks or simply give a whole new look to your surface.
What is a concrete overlay?
Overlays are a type of resurfacing finish that you apply over existing concrete surfaces. They can revitalize the look of your concrete floor while also mimicking other types of stone, brick, wood, slate or a combination of them.
An “overlay” creates a layer over the concrete. This coating can update the look of your surface while keeping the sub-floor intact and strong.
If you’re pouring fresh concrete, you should instead consider a stamped concrete process.
When can you use a concrete overlay?
You can use a decorative concrete overlay on any type of concrete surface, as long as the concrete is sound and solid. The sub-base of the concrete can’t be heaved, (broken off), or on unstable soil.
You also want to ensure that the concrete doesn’t have a high level of moisture, as this can seep into the overlay to cause cracking and breakage.
However, you can use a concrete overlay over minor concrete imperfections like stains or cracks. Overlays are a great way to hide these imperfections for a fresh, revitalized look.
Overlays are also a great option to turn sub-floor concrete into the main flooring. For example, if you removed tile or carpet from a concrete base, you can then apply an overlay to update the look of concrete to use for the space.
What types of overlays can I choose from?
Most overlays today are made from a blend of polymer resins. Polymer-modified overlays are highly versatile. They can be as thin as a credit card or up to several inches thick. They also come in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures. Polymer overlays are usually highly resistant to wear-and-tear, salt, chemicals, UV exposure, temperature changes, abrasion, and more.
There is a wide array of decorative finishes and touches with overlays. You want to choose the overlay based on texture, appearance, gloss, durability, and cost.
There are several types of decorative overlays: microtoppings, self-leveling overlays, and multipurpose overlays.
Microtops are often used to revitalize old or worn concrete. These overlays usually come in white or gray, and they are usually a thin application up to 1/8 inch. These are applied thin, which allows them to flex and create unique accenting styles. They’re great for a marbleized appearance on your floors.
They can be coarse to fine grade, but coarse-grade is more common to fill in damaged spots on the concrete. This creates a “blank canvas” that helps get rid of cracks and dents in the concrete floor. The fine grade microtop can then smooth out the surface. This preps the floor for staining, designs, and more. You can use a microtop to create a level floor and a stampable to design the concrete.
Self-leveling overlays are slightly thicker, up to 1 inch, and they’re used to structurally restore worn or damaged concrete. These overlays flatten out on their own to create a smooth, level surface. They are often used as an underlayment for other flooring products like stains and seals. These can be highly temperamental and need to be followed to the letter of the data sheet.
Think of multipurpose overlays as the creative outlet of concrete. These overlays are made up primarily of sand, making them highly moldable to your needs. You can texture and design these as you please using a trowel, hopper gun, or even a broom. If you have an artist on your flooring team, they’ll enjoy using multipurpose overlays to create a unique look to the floor. However, this is only recommended for professionals who understand the intricacies of working with concrete.
The Bottom Line
Concrete overlays are popular for anyone who wants to revitalize the look of their concrete without expensive removal or replacement processes. Overlays can create smooth or textured floors with a variety of patterns, consistencies, and appearances.
It’s important to note that not all concrete works with overlays. You need a solid, secure, clean subfloor before an overlay will work. This starts with a strong maintenance, cleaning, and repair process for your concrete.
You want a gorgeous concrete flooring with natural beauty, high resistance, and strong durability. A properly installed overlay is the best way to maintain the look and longevity of your floors for years to come.