We’ve had deliberations related to flooring choices on two projects in the last few weeks and have been reviewing some of our favorite flooring options from past projects.
Unless you’re building from scratch, the flooring choices always start from what exists. At moss, our preference is to take a minimal intervention approach to changing the existing conditions. If there’s a viable floor system in place we’ll try to work with – and highlight – that existing condition. Here are our favorite concrete flooring choices. On Thursday we’ll be back to cover the best options to consider when working with wood floors.
Here’s how we operate when working with concrete …
Our instinct is always to keep floors as they are. We love the practicality of an exposed concrete floor. It is durable, easy to clean, simple and often quite beautiful. It creates a great thermal mass effect which helps hold the heat in your building through the winter and keep it pleasantly cool all summer long. If it has in floor heating included, so much the better. We absolutely love our shoes-off policy here at Moss HQ, since it keeps our toes toasty on the radiant concrete floor.
Epoxy Coated Concrete Floors
Our stand out example of this most basic finish is the Tasting Room for Begyle Community Supported Brewery. The brewers at Begyle were looking for simple, low cost solutions that honored the industrial past of the Ravenswood corridor building and we love the result of a clear epoxy finish (we like Broadleaf) on their floors – a study in contrasts. The concrete floor shows a history complete with paint splatter and cuts into the concrete needed to lay new plumbing when we remodeled the space. At the same time, the new coat of epoxy cleans up beautifully with a glossy finish that reflects stacked barrels and bounces natural light around the room.
This works for residential applications too! Our recently complete West Loop Loft also started out with a simple exposed concrete floor which we have preserved. The finish is less interrupted by past cuts but has an interesting exposed aggregate which lends texture to the surface. A new coating of clear epoxy shows it off to best advantage and left room in the budget for expenditures in other areas like built-ins like the wall of interior glazing and custom furniture.
Painted Concrete Floors
Moss’s very own office has an exposed concrete floor but it is painted with an opaque epoxy which hides the character of the concrete (patches, aggregate and all). In this space, that’s hardly a problem as we have a wealth of varying textures and patterns in play, from original tile and brick on the walls to the variety of surfaces on our rolling divider walls. The upside of of the concrete is still in play – its easy to clean, easy to move around on and it keeps us warm to boot.
For an institutional situation it can be the best choice. We used a porcelain tile (StonePeak Ceramics) at Saigon Sisters’ Northwestern Memorial Hospital location which was a great way to compromise between the institutional grade standards of hospital location and our desire for a lively, inviting interior. The large tiles with white grout are economical, easy to clean and don’t detract from the glowing wood finish of the counter faces and bright subway tile walls. Win, win, win.
Tile floors are often the best solution in bathrooms where easy cleanup and strong water resistance are key. The other reason to consider tile for bathrooms is two fold. First, the small footprint means that a little color goes a long way and creates a really fun pop. And at the same time, since they are small, a large per square foot of a splurge item can be offset by the small square footage. In some cases (Melrose house, left) the tile floor is a subtle base for more dramatic elements in the room, in others, (like at Erie Loft, right) its a place to let the color splash.
Unconventional Floor Surfaces
Of course, sometimes we can go even further off the map for a bathroom floor. Our West Loop Loft gave us the perfect opportunity to experiment when we created a black and white pebble floor which used a linear floor drain to blend smoothly into the existing concrete floor of the bathroom. We selected and set the stones and set them in concrete, then ground them flat for a smooth surface. No grout to scrub here, folks.
The possibilities are many. Working with concrete (and tile) flooring has a lot of advantages in both commercial and residential situations, and we have had great results on many projects. If wood is your preference, check back Thursday and we’ll dish all the dirt on our favorite wood flooring projects.