I recently moved into my dream apartment in the suburbs and to my delight, it has wall-to-wall cement floors, a central island feature in the kitchen and gorgeous cement counter tops. The natural dark stone wash on the floors and decorative cement stain on the contrasting counters adds so much character to the space, giving it an almost industrial confidence to an otherwise charming cottage – complete with Martha Stewart window shutters.
I’m told this apartment was built over 100 years ago so that’s testimony to the longevity of cement as natural and sustainable flooring material but while we’ve spoken to these advantages before, we’ve never really explored the step-by-step process involved in fixing particular issues that we’ve inherited due to harsh elements or neglect from previous tenants. I turned to the experts at Flooring Guru to see what they would advise…
The previous tenants used to cut and prepare food directly on the counter tops, leaving them stained and scratched. How would you approach remedying them?
The counter can be polished with diamond polishing pads to achieve a very fine terrazzo look and this will rid the surface of the oil stains (depending on the thickness of the applied decorative coating). Once a desired look is achieved then the counter will be resealed. However, if the decorative coating is very thin, the counter would need to be re-plastered and sealed again.
The counter by my stovetop is in direct sunlight all day, every day. As a result, the slab heats up and expands during the day and cools at night. Since this property is as old as it is (100 years), it’s no surprise that ongoing maintenance could at least pro-long this kind of thing?
The crack in the counter is structural and would, therefore, require a reasonably involved method to fix the crack. The counter would need to be stripped to concrete, 15mm holes would be drilled (not through, only ¾ of thickness) 60 mm apart. The crack would then be taped up / blocked off at the bottom of the counter and filled with epoxy. Finally, the counter would be wrapped in chicken mesh and re-plastered. Decorative coating would be applied once the plaster has cured.
There is a fine hairline crack here and there on the screed floor?
The reason this crack would need to be addressed is to stop the ingress of water. We would use a flexible filler to fill in the crack and in the end, the visibility of that would be determined on the colour matching of the filler. These fillers can be coloured with oxides available at the hardware store.
Finally, I noticed that some of the stairs are chipped and presume while small, these chips would worsen over time as it is quite a high traffic area?
Correct. The main cause of chipped stairs is mechanical damage. In areas where stairs are exposed to general heavy traffic, we advise installing a threshold strip. These stairs can be fixed with an epoxy compound but colour matching on the chips can be cumbersome. In general, this is a professional touchup procedure and will probably take three visits to a site.
Sarah Mathews is a contributing writer with a lifelong love of interiors and design.