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Anyways, I still plan to do careful posts on all the decisions we've made, so don't worry. We've shot some pictures, and you can see a gallery here.
So, for my first post-move post, let's talk about how the concrete floors turned out. First, a couple pictures.
In the end, they turned out great, but it was quite a saga with several sleepless nights (building a house is stressful!). The bamboo floors were banged out in one day, but concrete is a much more complicated beast. Once we finally took up all the protective coverings, things didn't look so hot. There was a "runway" down the middle of the room caused by the boundaries of the protective paper.
There were also long tape marks, and boot marks(!) in the living room. The first hope was that a light sand, at 80 grit, would lift most of it up, but that wasn't the case. Our concrete finisher, Maverick Specialty, told us that the marks were fairly deep in the concrete. Our options were to sand deeper down, which would expose aggregate and give a pebbly look, or to apply a stain. I was pretty worried about the idea of stain, since most stained concrete floors are a highly variegated brown created by acid staining, rather than a natural concrete look. However, this stain was acrylic, and could be done in a natural gray. We put down two light coats; the result is that you can still see the natural patterns of concrete through the stain, but the offensive marks now blend in and can only be seen if you know what to look for. After staining, we put down a sealer (Scofield SelectSeal-W) and several coats of glossy floor wax (Diversey Vectra). The end result looks great.
So, what are the lessons from our experience with the concrete floors? There are several:
1. Concrete floors always have marks and other patterns which give it a somewhat industrial look (unless you polish the floors, which is a whole different thing, and more expensive). When you see the pictures in Dwell with beautiful minimalist concrete floors, realize that if you looked at them up close you'd probably notice more defects than you can see in the picture.
2. I always thought concrete floors were cheap, but that's not really the case. In the end, our strand-woven bamboo floors on the second floor were cheaper. Once you include pouring, prepping, and sealing, you're probably looking $9-$10 a square foot, whereas woven bamboo will run $6 installed (more on that flooring, later). Of course, for the ground floor, if you're already pouring a slab anyways, finishing concrete is cheaper than adding another flooring.
3. Get a decorative concrete guy involved early on, so he can make sure the floors are properly protected from other trades. For the first two weeks after pour, nothing should be left on the concrete (objects leave shadows during curing), workers should wear booties, and so on.
In the end we're happy with our concrete floors; they're pretty, and have great thermal mass for the radiant heat. But I lost a lot of hair over them!