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What Are Decorative Concrete Overlays?

Concrete floors are great for a lot of things, but looking good as they age isn't one of them. If you want to improve the look of cracked and dented concrete floors, it's time to refresh them with a decorative concrete overlay.

Hide imperfections and give floors a whole new look with the simple application process of a concrete overlay. With a variety of styles that can even mimic the look of stone, marbling, or pavers, concrete overlays are an affordable, non-invasive way to update a space.



What Is Concrete Overlay?

A concrete overlay does for floors what a fresh coat of paint does for siding: it looks good and it preserves surface integrity.

Concrete overlay material is a blend of polymer resins. These are a mix of cement, sand, and other additives to create a more durable and attractive overlay. This blend also adheres well to the existing concrete without ruining its natural look.



Why Use Concrete Overlays

Why Use Concrete Overlays?

There are two reasons concrete floors get updated with an overlay.

The first is to repair dents and minor cracks. Even these out and fill them in with the polymer resin for an even surface that will remain intact longer.

The second is to update the look of a space. Perhaps you have removed an old floor or the space has just weathered. For both interior or exterior spaces, skilled craftsmen can apply a decorative concrete overlay to replicate a pattern like pavers, rough stones, brick, slate, or even wood. 



What Are the Different Types of Concrete Overlays?

As noted above, most concrete overlay products are polymer resin blends. These are durable and create different looks and textures.

Another option is polymer-modified overlays. When applying an overlay to an area that is at risk of damage from temperature shifts, UV light, ice salt, and general wear and tear, polymer-modified overlays are often more durable.

Budget, design, gloss and texture finish, and more will often decide the type over the overlay. Go for a refreshed look with the highest possible durability to make an update worthwhile.


The Four Main Types of Decorative Overlays

There are several different techniques to apply an overlay. Each one offers a different look to the concrete flooring: stampable overlays, microtoppings, self-leveling overlays, and multipurpose overlays.


Stampable Overlays

Stampable Overlays

Change up the look of a concrete floor with a stampable overlay. Using this technique creates the look of other flooring and is ideal for interior decor. 

Brick stampable overlays are great choices for outdoor areas such as concrete patios. With the terracotta color, this can give the look of an old-fashioned garden patio without the effort or cost of digging up a concrete slab and bricking in an area.

Converted garages, basements, paved driveways, and breezeways with concrete flooring are other areas that overlays may be ideal. This is particularly true if they face a lot of foot traffic at the entrances. 

Stampable overlays tend to be thinner, coming in around 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch. Still, they are durable.

Stampable overlays are the easiest overlay to apply and can be highly versatile depending on the look you want for your floor.  

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Decorative Design Ideas

Mimic the highly on-trend gray wooden floorboard look or a rough stone pattern with stampable overlays. These quick updates can add value to a home that needs a refresh before sale.

In exterior spaces, consider overlaying a boring, faded driveway with a pattern of beautiful, terracotta pavers. For a lot less inconvenience and cost than redoing your driveway, you can improve its looks.

These areas are particularly disposed to designs due to their cement base. Using pigments in powders, stains, dyes, and sealers, apply fresh designs with stamps or sprays. A brightly colored floor can be a great way to make a statement in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

When going for a pattern such as wood grain or stone, stamp texture into the resin. These three-dimensional designs look natural. Use a stencil to create a visual design with stains or dyes.


Choose Between Two Forms

Two forms are available to create this textured look, texturing skins and overlay mats.

Texturing skins do not require grout and are lighter. However, they resemble other flooring less.

Those looking for a more three-dimensional pattern will do better with overlay mats, which give a dramatic look.




Less for looks and more for function, microtopping can be used on its own or as a base for stampable overlays. 

Thin, coming in white or gray, and generally coarse, this type of concrete overlay fills in problem areas to create a level floor. The thinness of the overlay permits flexibility.

If just looking to apply a protective layer to even out spots of a cracked or dented concrete floor, a coarse microtop will get the job done. Its light color will produce a marble effect on the colors of the original floor. This can be visually interesting all on its own.

However, microtopping also makes a great base for stamps or sprays. It will fill in the crevices of the concrete floor so that it is prepared to take an even coating of a stampable overlay.


Self-leveling Overlays

Self-leveling Overlays

Need to fix a seriously damaged concrete flooring surface? Choose self-leveling overlays. These can layer up to 1 inch and are ideal for structural restoration.

First, an underlayment is needed. Then the self-leveling is applied to create a thick, level surface that puts a barrier between foot traffic and the damaged concrete. 

Experience or familiarity with instructional guides is needed when applying these, as they have some complicated steps.


Multipurpose Overlays

Multipurpose Overlays

If a truly unique flooring design is required, turned to multipurpose overlays, the creative outlet of concrete. Made with high sand content these can be molded into unique textures and designs.

Experienced craftsmen can use trowels, hopper guns, or even brooms to texturize a multipurpose overlay. With a completely handcrafted design, these overlays could become a one-of-a-kind feature in a home.



Check for Trouble before Install

Before you get started installing an overlay surface, check out the damage that may exist on the initial concrete floor. If the sub-base is cracked, spalling (broken off), or in unstable soil, issues may arise with the installation and wear of the concrete overlay.

While checking, see if there is any moisture. Dampness can damage overlays, so it's important to know ahead of time if minor flooding or increased dampness may be a problem. If so, reconsider overlays.

Repair any serious structural issues before considering a concrete floor overlay. It is a cosmetic fix that prevents more surface damage, rather than deep, sub-base damage.



How Do You Install An Overlay System 

How Do You Install An Overlay System? 

When it comes down to installing the overlay system, being clear on steps, directions, and tools required is important to handle ahead of time. Some systems, such as self-leveling overlays, need extra attention paid to instructions.

The general process for installing an overlay system is as follows:

  1. Clean and prepare the concrete surface
  2. Prime and repair concrete cracks
  3. Repair holes with an epoxy filler if need be
  4. Reinforce with fabric or underlayment
  5. Patch over with the polymer resin concrete overlay
  6. Smooth the area with the surrounding concrete surface
  7. Spray the polymer concrete on the surface using a hopper gun
  8. Trowel over the texture coat to finish
  9. Add color, if changing base color of concrete
  10. Stamp the concrete with a stampable mat or skin, if applicable
  11. Let sit
  12. Stain, if re-staining (We recommend staining after all concrete updates)
  13. Seal
  14. Cure

This is only a brief overview of what the process looks like. Each installation will be unique to your specific concrete type and overlay.

You want to make sure that you follow the installation of your particular overlay to the letter. Manufacturers will give a data sheet with specific instructions for preparation, installation, and curing to ensure that your floors come out appropriately.

Contact Onfloor for a professional opinion about the application of your concrete overlay.   



Ready to Install?

When it's time to update concrete flooring, overlays are a popular way to revitalize the surface of the flooring without an expensive removal or replacement process. It's a simpler, cost-effective way to get the look of new, textured flooring without the hassle of a true remodel.

Solid, secure, clean subfloors are best suited for this improvement. If you are considering installing an overlay, verify that the concrete flooring is in decent structural shape. Cosmetic cracks and dents can be covered by the overlay but structural issues cannot be fixed by it.

Combine the strength and resilience of concrete with the unique texture and look of polymer resin concrete overlays. Whether updating a home for a unique space or making a simple improvement for a better selling value, concrete overlays can refresh your worn concrete floors.

Contact Onfloor now for a FREE consultation about your concrete floor! We can help determine if an overlay is the right solution for the update and maintenance of your floor.

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