If you have ever seen a bathroom or other ‘wet area’ featuring a polished concrete floor, you probably already know that polished concrete can transform a bathroom space with its stunning appearance. But in addition to its beautiful look, polished concrete also has a lot of benefits and advantages that many people don’t even realise. And this holds true for bathrooms as well as for a variety of other spaces.
One of the key benefits of a polished concrete floor in a wet area is that polished concrete is extremely easy to clean. Because it is very resistant to moisture, polished concrete is not easily damaged by water and can be an excellent choice for an area where you are looking for waterproof material.
Polished concrete floors are also a very practical choice in wet areas because they boast a very low level of maintenance. Durable and long-lasting, they are highly resistant to scuffs and scratches. And the biggest bonus of all is that polished concrete is highly resistant to both mould and mildew, so there are no grout lines to struggle with when you clean your floors. All of this means that you don’t need to do very much at all to keep your floors looking great. Plus, they are very durable so you can trust that they will last for years to come.
Of course, like any hard floor, polished concrete can be slippery when wet. However, among hard floor surfaces, some believe that polished concrete is one of the safer choices (https://www.geostone.com.au/blog/decorative-concrete/indoor-wet-areas-need-concrete-floors/).
Meanwhile, polished concrete also feels wonderful under your bare feet. Thanks to its durability and hardwearing qualities, it is also ideal for areas with high levels of foot traffic (like bathrooms).
Another huge advantage of polished concrete for wet areas is the fact that polished concrete does not collect or harbour allergens. This is especially important for residential spaces for any families where allergies are a concern. Polished concrete flooring can help reduce the allergen level in your space. Additionally, polished concrete floors help prevent and minimise bacteria growth. They are also grout-free for a clean, ultramodern look.
Aesthetically speaking, it is hard to think of a flooring choice that is more attractive than polished concrete. In a dark area, polished concrete is ideal because it can help bring in some extra light thanks to its reflectivity and shine. Polished concrete also looks very attractive in brighter areas, too.
Overall, polished concrete is a versatile, stylish, durable, low-maintenance, and eco-friendly choice with the added benefits of helping to reduce allergens and helping to minimise the growth of bacteria. The cost of polished concrete flooring for wet areas like bathrooms is another plus, as the pricing for these spaces is reasonable — especially considering how long these floors last and how little maintenance they require.
However, it must be said that when considering the cost of polished concrete flooring in bathrooms, there can be an obstacle to overcome. The main challenge to consider when working out the cost for polished concrete in wet areas is that it can sometimes be difficult to get polished concrete approved for your bathroom space due to restrictions in the Australian Standard documents governing new builds.
It is very important to know up front that many of the Australian Standard documents dealing with flooring were written decades ago. At the time that the Australian Standard documents were first developed and written, polished concrete was not especially well-known in wet areas, even among building inspectors, because it was not common to see it used within homes. Because polished concrete was rare in residential spaces, it was also infrequently used in wet areas. As a result, although bathrooms are some of the most common wet areas in any home, the Australian Standard documents don’t explicitly mention polished concrete in bathrooms.
These days, polished concrete is growing more and more popular as an increasing number of people learn about the many unique advantages of this durable floor choice. However, unfortunately, at least in wet areas, polished concrete is still not extremely common yet, and this is partly because there are still no specific prescriptive requirements when it comes to waterproofing polished concrete floors (https://www.buildingissues.com.au/polished-concrete-in-wet-areas/).
Australian Standard AS3740 is the document that deals with waterproofing in residential settings. For waterproofing of domestic wet areas, the Standard states that wet areas must be waterproof or water resistant, according to the National Construction Code (NCC).
Based on AS3740’s stipulations, wet areas include bathrooms, showers, laundries, and toilets. Floors outside the shower base area are also required to be waterproofed. As the Victorian Building Authority summarises, “If concrete . . . is used in wet areas, the floor must be at least water resistant” (https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/news/news/2015/confused-where-waterproofing-is-required).
Unfortunately, because the Australian Standard documents have not been updated regarding polished concrete for residential wet areas, there remains a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity about what meets the requirements of the standards. This also means that whether or not polished concrete will be approved for a particular wet area is often up to the discretion of individual building inspectors.
Does this mean you shouldn’t even consider polished concrete for your wet area or bathroom? Absolutely not! All it means is that if are thinking about polished concrete in your bathroom, it is extremely important to communicate with your building inspector to see if they will sign off on polished concrete for a wet area. You will also need to consult with your designer and/or architect and/or structural engineer, as well as obtaining the permission of your building inspector.
It’s well worth noting that once investigations are completed, building reports typically state that polished concrete generally performs better than tiles in wet areas. This is probably due to the nature of the waterproofing products that are used in the concrete polishing process. But because of the relative rarity of polished concrete in wet areas, some building inspectors will not sign off on it or may be hesitant to do so.
If your building inspector will not sign off on polished concrete for your bathroom, the main risk you run is that you may be required to have an Alternative Solution report done. Alternative Solutions, now more commonly called Performance Solutions, offer a way to ensure compliance with standards in situations when an initial plan does not meet an inspector’s approval.
If an Alternative Solution/Performance Solution report is needed, a building inspector or surveyor will need to document your situation and verify compliance with the requirements of the National Construction Code and the Building Code of Australia (BCA). An Alternative Solution/Performance Solution requires using designated assessment methods to ensure that what you want to have completed in the new build complies with all the requirements and regulations. (https://accesspeerreviews.com.au/performance-based-building-codes/preparation-of-alternative-solutions/)
What does all of this mean for you if you want to have polished concrete flooring in your bathroom or other wet area? While polished concrete flooring has a very reasonable long-term cost for wet areas, it is important to keep in mind that if your building inspector requires an Alternative/Performance Solution report, the cost for the report can be high. Typically, the report runs at approximately $1500 AUD, but this may vary.
As a result, if you have to get an Alternative/Performance Solution report completed, this could add a lot to the cost of your bathroom flooring project. That’s why it is so important to find out if you can get polished concrete signed off on for your bathroom, laundry space, or other wet area before you decide to move forward with your project—just in case you run into any challenges with getting your plans approved.
The good news is that if you can get your building inspector to sign off on polished concrete, it is a phenomenal choice for wet areas such as bathrooms for many reasons. There are a number of advantages that polished concrete has over more common but less durable flooring choices like tile. In addition to being longer-lasting than tile floors, polished concrete flooring is also so much easier to maintain than flooring that contains grout. As most people with grout in their bathroom floors probably know, it is very difficult to clean grout, especially around a shower base area or toilet, and once grout turns yellow or grey, even bleach won’t whiten it. In contrast, a polished concrete floor offers a hardwearing surface that is free of grout for easy cleaning and minimal maintenance. As more people become aware of the many benefits of polished concrete versus tile, hopefully, it will become easier to get polished concrete approved for residential wet areas down the road.
In the meantime, the key is to make sure you communicate openly and honestly with your building inspector about your plans every step of the way. This will help ensure you don’t have to take on the cost of an unexpected Alternative/Performance Solutions report to get approval for your polished concrete flooring, and it will also help you avoid the stress and heartache of having to change your bathroom finish after build completion.
Given the many benefits of polished concrete flooring, as more people realise just how many positives there are to using polished concrete in wet areas, we are hopeful that the process to get it approved will become easier. After all, it is truly difficult to rival polished concrete in terms of longevity, appearance, durability, low maintenance and ease of cleaning, and versatility.