"Hi Ross, in your conceptual design you are recommending "stained concrete" for our kitchen and great room. Concrete sounds so hard and unwelcoming, why would you suggest it?"
Answer from Ross:
Thank you for your great question! I am sure when you saw my concrete suggestion, it raised some eyebrows but let me see if I can’t change your mind.
Concrete is an excellent passive solar in rooms that receive adequate sun. Your great room and kitchen receive excellent south sun and the concrete floors will absorb heat during the day and radiate it back at night which can cut down on your heating bill. Conversely, by blocking mid-afternoon sun you can keep those floors cool during the hot months, as well!
Concrete floors are also excellent for the transmission of the heat from the hot water loops for winter heating, and the thickness of the floor helps create the heat retention discussed above, giving you excellent, year-round comfort. There are "low-mass" floor heat systems which can provide very fast response to thermostat changes (minutes rather than hours), but using a high mass system with a programmable thermostat will allow you to set your warm-up times to provide the heat you want, when you want it, while still giving you the benefit of passive solar heating. As we are eliminating your existing furnace and ductwork, and updating your heating system to radiant floor heat, run off of your new super-efficient boiler will help heat your new floor.
Enough about the technical details, let’s talk about the aesthetic values of concrete. Using chemical-based acid staining you can get wonderfully rich, earthy colors which penetrate the concrete for a durable finish. Colors can be combined for amazing effects (like faux marble!), masked off to create strong graphics (imagine a parquet pattern, or a giant fleur-de-lis in your entry foyer!) and borders. But note that the most amazing effect in my opinion is how translucent chemical stains enhance the variations in the concrete, bringing depth and beauty to the slab! Water-based products are also available, and although they don't penetrate the concrete as aggressively as the chemical based-stains, they typically offer a wider range of vibrant colors. Saw-cut patterns and grouts can also be used to great effect with stained concrete floors, creating panels and other patterns. Today’s concrete floors do not have to look like a shop floor and in fact can be beautifully unique!
Finally, and probably most important, concrete floors are super durable. No worries about spilled water in the kitchen, damage to the floor from dropped objects, or scratches from your pets’ claws. This floor will be tough!
Want to see some examples of what your new concrete floor could look like? Check out the Concrete Network.