6 Tips for Safely Grinding Concrete Floors

November 2, 2022

What is concrete grinding?

Despite having a reputation as only being used for garages, patios and basements, concrete flooring is actually becoming more and more popular as an aesthetic choice. Concrete is a convenient and relatively cost-effective construction material known for its resilience and versatility as well as being resistant to fire, water and rust. Surprisingly, concrete is also a fairly environmentally friendly choice of flooring due to the fact that it strengthens year-by-year, and can be recycled at the end of its lifespan.

If you’ve got concrete flooring, and you’re looking to improve its appearance and add further durability, it’s likely that you’ve come across two different options - concrete polishing or concrete grinding and sealing. 

What’s the difference between concrete polishing and concrete grinding and sealing?

You might be wondering what the difference is between these two options, or which process is best for your concrete. Concrete polishing looks to hone and prime concrete to achieve a high shine, whilst grinding and sealing is grinding down bumps and imperfections before applying a specialist chemical-resistant polyurethane sealer to finish.

Both polishing and grinding and sealing will help to strengthen and beautify your concrete flooring, but unfortunately not every concrete floor is suited to polishing. If you’re going for grinding and sealing, you’ll be pleased to know that this process is a cheaper, more low maintenance and less labour intensive way of rejuvenating your concrete floor.

Why Seal Concrete?

It’s also important to note that whether you’re looking to seal your concrete for aesthetic purposes, or you’ll be using it as a base layer that will eventually be covered, grinding your concrete flooring is always a good idea. This is because it removes any dirt and imperfections, and makes it a smoother and more stable surface upon which to install any further elements such as tiles or floorboards on to. 

The grinding process involves using a machine to buff away at the concrete and level it out. Whilst this may sound straightforward, working with machinery such as this can be dangerous if not done correctly. So, here’s our top six safety tips for grinding concrete, as a company with over 50+ years of experience in the industry.

#1 Clean the surface

Whilst grinding will help remove any large imperfections or stains from your concrete such as paint spills, it’s a good idea to start off with a clean work environment. Move any furnishings or large objects that might interfere with your ability to move the machine around, and also ensure that there are no exposed wires or pipes that could pose a safety hazard.

We’d recommend then taking the time to brush the surface to ensure that there are no smaller loose items on the floor that aren’t part of the concrete, and could damage your machine. Once you’ve cleared the area of any furniture or debris, it can also be useful to further clean the area with water, such as a jet washer, before starting to grind and seal to clean the area of any excess dust. 

#2 Prep the surface and fill any large cracks or scratches

Whilst the concrete grinding process will smooth out any imperfections in your concrete and level the surface, it’s definitely worth preparing the concrete prior to grinding to ensure that any large cracks or scratches are filled. This is because damaged concrete allows room for moisture to sink in, which can then freeze in cooler temperatures and further expand the cracks. When this happens, it can start a cycle of your concrete allowing more moisture in and expanding further, which can be a threat to the longevity of your concrete. Filling these cracks with commercial patches before grinding the surface will increase the lifespan of your concrete, meaning that in the long run you will be saving valuable time and money on larger surface repairs.

#3 Wear the correct clothing 

Regardless of the amount of construction experience you might have, it’s always important to make sure that yourself and your team are fully protected from any accidents that may occur during the concrete grinding process. Concrete grinding, when done improperly, can produce vast amounts of harmful dust that can damage the lungs - so it’s important to protect yourself from this and any other risks. To do so, we’d recommend that you wear:

  1. A respirator: This will ensure that you aren’t breathing in any of the harmful dust that might be in the air once you start grinding your concrete. 
  2. Safety glasses: Your lungs aren’t the only thing that need protecting from the dust! Safety glasses are important for protecting your eyes from any dust or debris that may be released in the grinding process. 
  3. Steel capped boots: The diamond-tipped blades which buff away at the concrete to make it smooth are incredibly sharp. As you’ll be walking around operating the grinding machine, it’s a good idea to keep your feet protected with a good pair of steel capped boots.
  4. Hearing protection: The durability of concrete means that grinding it down can be quite loud work. Proper hearing protection will reduce the amount of noise that reaches your inner ears, preventing future hearing issues or loss.
  5. Hard Hat: It may seem obvious, but hard hats are an essential for any construction job, regardless of its size or duration.
  6. High visibility clothing: Another staple for any construction job, these enable other team members to see you, which can help avoid any incidents when operating the machinery. 

#4 Use the right tools

If it’s a smaller job, then you might be able to use a handheld angle grinder. These are a popular choice for jobs that require small amounts of levelling, such as in the corners or edges of a floor. However, whilst these machines are smaller, extra care should be taken when operating them as your hands will be closer to the blades, so we would recommend wearing good quality safety gloves to protect your hands. 

For larger floors, it’s best to use a walk behind concrete grinding machine. These will cover the full surface of the floor and ensure that everywhere is even - achieving a really smooth, tidy finish on your concrete. To achieve this surface, the grinding wheels have a cutting surface of diamond grains which can achieve accurate and speedy results when buffing your concrete. Being the hardest available resource on the planet means that diamonds are extremely useful for cutting, grinding, drilling and sawing jobs. The high speed and efficiency of diamond grinding tools also reduces the amount of noise resonance created. So, whilst concrete grinding is always going to be a noisy job, you may find that diamond grinding is slightly quieter than other tools available.

#5 Dampen the area

When using diamond drilling, cutting or grinding tools, it’s important to keep them cool. This is because when the diamond grains grind away at the hard surface of the concrete at speed friction can occur, which can cause overheating. Overheating can be dangerous for the person operating the machine, and it can also damage your tools. To avoid overheating, suitable amounts of water should be used throughout the job to dampen the surface and work as both a coolant and a lubricant. Another important benefit to using concrete throughout your concrete grinding project is that it will reduce the amount of dust produced. Concrete dust contains crystalline silica, which can be easily inhaled and is very harmful to the lungs with repeated exposure - so reducing the amount of dust produced is always a good idea. 

#6 Grind in small, planned areas at a time

Whilst the water should sufficiently cool your tools down, it might also be a good idea to grind in small areas at a time - particularly if the floor you’re working on is quite large in size. This is a further precaution against overheating that could damage your tools. 

Finally, we’d always recommend planning the route you will take around the floor before starting. This will avoid any confusion and reduce the chance of going over any wires, which would pose a major safety hazard.

So, how do you grind concrete floor safely?

Concrete grinding is a great way to improve the longevity of your concrete and even out any bumps ready to install further layers to your floor, or alternatively seal them for a polished finish. However, this is a relatively large job, so the proper floor preparation and safety precautions should always be taken to protect your concrete and, more importantly, you and your team. 

Got a concrete grinding job in mind? Get in touch with us to see how we can help - we offer a free site visit and quote to allow you the time to decide on whether we’re right for your project.