The reinvention of cement flooring is here

Tuesday August 06 2019

Highly polished floors provide a more sophisticated look and allow for reflectivity of lighting. Shutter Photo

Henry Mbabazi, a resident of Namugongo built his first home in the late 1990s. At that time, cement floors were the most common type in homes. Mbabazi like many others at the time did not hesitate to install one and beautify it with red colour (red oxide).

He says even after 20 years, the floor still had a fresh look albeit with a few cracks. However, while renovating his house last year, Mbabazi decided to replace the cement floor with tiles for a modern look.

A visit to most urban homes and a few in the rural areas in the last few years will indicate a shift from cement flooring to other modern options such as tiles, terrazzo, marble, wood flooring and others.

Landlords, too, find it hard to get tenants for houses with cement floors compared to other types of flooring. Rent for such houses is usually lower because of this. But why?

Cement floor popularity
Apart from the emergence of many more flooring options, Mbabazi says today’s workamanship leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to installing cement flooring. This is exacerbated by inaccurate cement and sand mixtures which cause the floors to develop cracks within a short period of time.

“Many builders cheat on the cement, sand and aggregates ratio which produces substandard cement floors. Less cement and more sand leads to easy destruction or a short life span, the quality of cement is also low!” he notes.
Ananias Atuhumurize, a house construction enthusiast gives his view on cement flooring.


“The cement floor has grown out of fashion because of many reasons. These include, increase in revenue, reduction in tile prices, increase in qualified labour to install tiles, to mention but a few.”

Derrick Tuhairwe, a property surveyor at Elite Crete, a specialised flooring company agrees that the cement floor is no longer very common.

“The cement floor is becoming unpopular not only here in Uganda, but in other parts of the world too. It is difficult to get a variety of textures, that is why many people are adopting modern flooring options.”

However, Mbabazi insists, that cement flooring remains a top choice if done by a professional.

Alternative view
There is an alternative view on the waning popularity of cement flooring.

Joseph Kwolekya, a civil engineer at Baruga Technical Services, says many Ugandans are still low income earners and therefore opt for cement floors because of the low costs involved in installation.

“Cement flooring is cheap and labour costs remain low compared to other flooring types such as wood and tiles or terrazzo,” he says.
Kwolekya makes a comparison of costs involved in installing cement, tiles and terrazzo.

“The cost of installing terrazzo floor is Shs60, 000, for ceramic tiles is about Shs35, 000 while a cement floor will cost about Shs10, 000 per square metre. This is just material without labour,” he says.

Atuhumurize, says cement has cheaper maintenance costs compared to other kinds of floors.

“Tiles can easily get stained and you will need specialised cleaning to restore their beauty.
Serious shampoos are needed for cleaning. Whereas terrazzo and high quality timber are more durable and can last longer, they are expensive. You also need to look at the maintenance costs in the long run, that’s why most people still opt for cement,” he says.

Cement floor is currently still common in some places especially in warehouses and other large stores because they have the ability to withstand heavy loads and high traffic.

Polished concrete
Players in the construction industry have adopted new trends to keep cement flooring functional.
They say new cement technology continues to grow and will be appreciated with time as it moves to replace the old technology.

The current new cement technology is polished concrete which is applicable to residential homes, commercial and industrial buildings.

Tuhairwe says whereas the old cement floor mainly comprised of sand and cement, a polished concrete floor is achieved using concrete which is a mixture of cement, gravel, sand and water.

The concrete is ground with polishing machines making cement progressively finer until a certain level of smoothness is achieved.

The other way to give a shiny finish to concrete floors without mechanically installing it using machines is by using chemical finishes such as powders.

The powder is mixed in fresh concrete to create a beautiful, smooth touch and rock hard surface to the concrete. The powder acts as an overlay material to create a hard over wear material and give the floor a smooth finish.

The floor is designed using different colours to give it a different look to mimic marble, tiles or wood floor.

“Unlike the old type of cement floor which is painted with redoxide (red colour) for a better look, highly polished floors provide a more sophisticated look and allow for reflectivity of lighting. This flooring is perfect for households with pets and in rooms with high levels of traffic as it is extremely hard and durable and simple to keep clean,” Tuhairwe explains.

However, Kwolekya warns that the most common overlay failure is improper surface preparation and therefore the concrete must be structurally sound and properly prepared.

The concrete floors are also designed for both indoor and outdoor spaces. For indoor, they are designed to give a smooth feel and beauty while the outdoor has a rough texture but also gives beauty.

Patterns can be trowel-cut into the concrete floor and elements such as brass and zinc strips can be used to create patterns.

Whereas polished concrete has been mainly embraced in commercial and public spaces such as malls, universities and hotels. It is slowly making its way into homes for those who still appreciate cement flooring.

Tuhairwe says the benefit of a polished concrete floor is its look, feel, ease of maintenance and longevity. A polished concrete floor is seamless.

“Polished concrete is easy to maintain and is long lasting. It is considered to be a sustainable product because of its long lifecycle, neutral impact on indoor air quality and its ability to reduce lighting costs because of its reflective properties.

When polished concrete floor reaches its end life, it’s simply overlaid with another floor instead of being ripped out,” say Tuhairwe.

Polished concrete floors can also be fitted into existing structures. It is possible to replace a suspended timber floor with concrete, the finished floor levels will need to be built up considerably to maintain the original floor level.

Currently, the cost of installing and designing a concrete floor ranges between Shs50, 000 and Shs60, 000 per square metre. However, the cost can go lower or higher depending on the contractor.

Concrete is mixture of paste and aggregates. The paste is cement and water, and the aggregates include gravel, sand and crushed stone. file from