The cost of a concrete floor is economical, about $5 to $8 per square foot depending on the level of complexity. Most decorative concrete floor installations are quite cost-effective, especially if you have an existing concrete slab that’s all ready for staining, polishing or application of a decorative coating or overlay. However, a mid-range floor can cost $7 to $14, while a high-end design may run $15 to $30 a square foot. Factors that can drive up the cost include additional surface preparation, the use of multiple or custom colors, labor-intensive finishing techniques and complex designs and patterns.
As the chart below shows, the average per-square-foot costs of basic stained or polished concrete floors are competitive with what you would expect to pay to install linoleum, vinyl flooring, ceramic tile and high-quality carpeting. For more complex decorative concrete floor installations involving multiple stain or dye colors, decorative sawcuts and patterns, and custom graphics, you might pay the same or even less than you would for quarried stone, such as marble, granite or slate, and high-end wood floors, such as walnut, teak and cherry.
When comparing the costs of various flooring options, don’t just look at the square-foot installation cost. Even flooring options that are initially cheaper to install than decorative concrete may turn out to be more expensive in the long run. When you amortize the cost of a concrete floor over a lifetime, the price is often comparable or even lower than other flooring materials, especially if you factor in maintenance costs.
What Affects the Square-Foot Cost of Concrete Floors?
There are a number of factors that can substantially increase or reduce the installation cost of a decorative concrete floor. Some you can control, such as the complexity of the project, and others you can’t, such as the floor size and existing condition. Here are the issues that can have the biggest impact on what you’ll pay:
Size of the Floor – Typically, the larger the floor area, the lower the cost per square foot for installation due to the economies of scale. A small residential floor project, for example, is likely to cost more per square foot than a large 50,000-square-foot commercial floor.
Material Requirements – Using multiple colors of stain or dye on your floor or a specialty epoxy or metallic coating will not only increase your material costs, but also the labor costs for installation.
Design Complexity – The more complex your project, the greater the costs for both materials and labor. Customizations such as embedded objects, decorative sawcuts, stenciled designs, and the installation of metal divider strips may increase the total floor cost substantially. (But the results will look amazing!)
Current Condition of the Floor – Existing concrete floors that require a lot of patching or surface preparation will boost your total installation cost because these flaws will need to be repaired before the final decorative finish can be applied. Extensive surface preparation, such as grinding, crack repair, and spall repair, can add as much as $2 per square foot to the overall cost of the floor. If a full resurfacing is needed, expect to tack on another $2 to $3 per square foot (for a $4 to $5 per square foot increase).
Floors on Grade vs. Above-Grade Installations – Decorative concrete floors installed on raised decks or subfloors will need a cement underlayment installed before the finished floor can be applied. Typically installers put down a series of products including waterproofing, metal lathe, a concrete overlay and then the final finishing and sealing coats. These applications can add another $2 to $3 per square foot to the cost of the floor.
Moisture-Vapor Transmission – Some floors have a high level of moisture-vapor transmission that will need to be remedied before most decorative coatings, overlays or sealers can be applied. This is usually not an issue with stained or polished concrete floors, although it can affect the color. (Learn more about problems caused by excess moisture-vapor transmission.)