Polished vs Stained Concrete

Polished vs Stained Concrete

You’ve decided to jump on the concrete flooring trend, and it’s down to just one decision: polished vs. stained concrete. Which is the right choice for you?

More homeowners and business owners are seeing the benefits of concrete flooring. Concrete is extremely strong and durable. After all, it makes up bridges, roads, and critical infrastructure, so why can’t it support foot traffic in our homes or offices?

Don’t think that the dirty, basic concrete you see on the sidewalk at your local park is how your floors will look, either. Today’s concrete floors are modern, beautiful, and look great in any home or business.

When you’re calling contractors and shopping around for concrete floors, there are two main types to consider: polished concrete and stained concrete. Which is better for your home?

We’ll explore the differences between the two and see how they stack up when put head-to head across six categories, helping you make the wisest, most financially-sound decision when it comes to your new flooring.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 Polished ConcreteStained Concrete
DurabilityExtremely durableExtremely durable
CleaningDaily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be wet mopped with a mild cleaning product.Daily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be wet mopped with a mild cleaning product. Must be resealed/waxed 1-2 times per year.
InstallationMore extensive and more expensiveMore affordable and less labor-intensive than polished concrete
Colors/StylesColors and patterns can be customized Highly reflective finish. Can be customized with stain.
Installation CostsMore expensive than stained concreteCheaper than polished concrete
Outdoor UseHighly-polished concrete not recommended for outdoor useYes, but outdoor stain must be used


One of the most important factors to consider when installing new flooring is its durability. Whether you live alone in your home or you have constant traffic with kids, pets, and house guests, you want to make sure that your flooring can withstand your daily lifestyle.

Polished concrete is extremely durable. Because of a more involved installation process, polished concrete is designed to retain its beauty even in the most high-traffic areas. This is why polished concrete is such a popular choice in high-wear areas, including retail stores, restaurants, and even busy households.

Stained concrete is also very durable. However, stained concrete is also more susceptible to scratches, faded colors, and worn coatings in very high traffic areas. While stained concrete can have a long lifespan, more maintenance – which we’ll discuss in more detail later in this article – is required to keep it looking and performing its best.

Although both types of flooring are extremely durable, polished concrete comes out on top. The extensive installation process ensures that polished concrete withstands wear in even the most high-traffic rooms.

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We’ve discussed durability, but let’s get more specific and talk about the lifespan of polished concrete and stained concrete.

With polished concrete, many installers will guarantee their floors for a set period of time, such as 20 years. However, with proper care and maintenance, these floors can easily last a lifetime.

With stained concrete, the concrete itself will last for many years, potentially over 100 years. However, for the stain to last, the floors will need to be sealed or waxed once or twice per year. If floors aren’t sealed or properly maintained, stain may begin to fade after just a few years and possibly even sooner in high-traffic areas.

Both stained and sealed concrete have very long lifespans. When properly cared for and maintained, each floor can last for a lifetime. However, polished concrete tends to have the longer lifespan and doesn’t require as much maintenance to retain its beauty.

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When discussing the cost of concrete, there are a lot of factors to consider. For instance, do you need the concrete to be poured, or do you have an existing concrete floor to work with? How big is the project, and are there any potential hurdles that could prolong the project … and increase the cost?

Because there are so many factors to consider, we’re not going to get specific with pricing, since there is such a wide range. Instead, we’ll compare the two to see which is the most expensive overall.

On average, you can expect to pay $5 to $8 more per square foot for a polished concrete floor compared to a stained concrete floor. This is because you will need more equipment to complete the job. The installation process is much longer and more extensive.

However, you shouldn’t immediately write off polished concrete just because of the expense, especially if you’re a business owner looking to install new floors in your business. Many business owners find that the return on investment is much higher with polished concrete.

Even though the initial expense is more, the lower costs of maintenance over time and the higher resistance to wear makes the extra expense worth it, especially in very high traffic areas like warehouses.

However, if you want a more cost-efficient option for your home or business, stained concrete is a perfectly suitable choice.

Based on pricing differences, stained concrete takes this round. It is far less expensive than polished concrete, although business owners may want to weigh out the return on investment between the two to see which has the best ROI over the long term.

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We’ve already touched on this a little bit, but let’s get a little more in-depth. Whether you don’t want to spend a fortune over the years on maintaining your floors or you just don’t have the time, which is the easier floor to maintain: polished or stained concrete?

When it comes to daily maintenance, both floors are extremely easy to maintain. For daily cleaning, using a broom, dust mop, or even a vacuum designed for use on hard floors is sufficient. For a deeper clean, a steam mop or a regular wet mop used with water and a mild cleaner both work fine.

However, when it comes to long-term maintenance, polished concrete is easier to maintain. When you polish concrete, the pores close. This means that the floor is resistant to staining and damage that occurs from moisture.

When stained concrete is installed, a coating is applied to the surface. While this coating may last for several years, over time, spots can become warned. This leads to faded color and a lack of shine, especially in high-traffic areas.

When this happens, you need to use new coatings and protective waxes. This is both time-consuming and adds to your ongoing maintenance costs.

Although daily maintenance between the two are similar, the long-term maintenance for polished concrete is much less expensive and time-consuming than the maintenance of stained concrete floors.

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With stained concrete, you can choose from a variety of different colors of stain. You can even create your own custom stain for a floor that’s truly unlike any other. You can apply different colors to create stunning designs on your new floor.

With polished concrete, you can achieve a highly polished finish. While you primarily will see these high-shine floors are industrial areas or even showrooms, polished concrete is now becoming a popular choice in high-end residences.

You can also customize the look of your concrete floors. However, to change the color, you will need to use a stain. Depending on the colors used and the designs chosen, this could increase the cost of your installation.

In this category, stained concrete is the winner. Polished concrete has a beautiful shine. However, your concrete floors won’t be truly personalized until they are stained unique until you stain them.

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Indoor/Outdoor Use

The type of concrete flooring you select may be based on where you plan to use it. Whether you plan to use it indoors or out, which is the better flooring to choose?

Stained concrete can be used in any room indoors. However, as mentioned earlier, stained concrete in very high-traffic areas may show wear over time.

Stained concrete can also be used in outdoor applications, such as on patios or around pools. However, you must make sure to use an outdoor stain to prevent premature wear and fading.

Polished concrete is an excellent choice for your business or even your home. Many high-end homes have polished concrete foyers, hallways, dining rooms, or living rooms.

One drawback of polished concrete is that it can be very slippery. This means that you may want to avoid putting them in rooms where wetness might drip on floors, such as in kitchens or bathrooms.

Because highly polished concrete can get so slippery, it’s also not advised to install it in outdoor areas where it can be exposed to water. If you do want to use polished concrete outdoors, you should use a low-sheen or matte polished concrete floor.

Because of the risk of slipping on polished concrete floors, stained concrete is the better choice for both indoor and outdoor use.

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Final Verdict

Concrete floors are great for residential and commercial applications because they are both durable AND beautiful. If you’re stuck choosing between polished and stained concrete, consider what you’re looking for in your flooring to make the decision process easier.

Some people want a highly customizable floor that’s perfect for use indoors or out and is more cost-efficient over the short term. In that case, you can’t go wrong with stained concrete.

If you prefer a floor that has a highly polished finish, looks great in businesses and homes, and requires less maintenance over time, go with a polished concrete floor.

No matter which type of floor you select, you can rest assured that you have a strong, durable floor that you can enjoy for many years to come.

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Nikki Seppala

About Nikki Seppala

Nikki is an experienced writer and editor and has worked in industries that range from home improvement to entrepreneurship. For over 10 years, she's used her unique talent and love of the written word to uncover the stories that people want to read.

8 thoughts on “Polished vs Stained Concrete”

  1. Avatar

    if we use a polished concrete floor for an outdoor stage and event center, how can we keep it from being slippery but still have a great shine?

  2. Avatar

    Concrete floors will always develop small hairline cracks. It’s just a fact.

    I don’t see that mentioned anywhere in the article. Any reputable architect will point that out to you if you mention the desire for concrete floor in a luxury home.

  3. Avatar

    Awesome article! A friend and I recently started a concrete polishing company in Tacoma. We’ve already had a few customers ask about the difference between stained and polished concrete and the pros and cons. Will definitely be pushing them to this article! Thank you!

    1. Avatar

      What about moisture. Doesn’t stained and urethane coated floor allow the moisture to dissipate through the floor and evaporate into the air where polished would lock moisture in and cause problems down the road. I’m talking an area of about 8,000 sq ft.

      1. Avatar

        Great question! Polished concrete floors are also breathable. You may be thinking of epoxy coatings. Epoxies are not breathable and moisture wicking up through the slab to the surface can get trapped and eventually destroy the epoxy coating in those areas. So when applying an epoxy coating performing a moisture test prior to applying the coating is critical. Hope this reply helps.

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