Going green with decorative cement finishes

Building homes that are green and environmentally friendly has become the mantra for more and more builders and homeowners, as they discover how easy it can be to attain all the benefits of sustainable construction without sacrificing aesthetics or breaking the budget. In fact, going green often saves money, especially over a period of time, while being kinder to the environment. Decorative cement-based finishes are the perfect example of this synergy of beauty, sustainability and economy, providing a durable, low-maintenance finish that will last the life of the building.  The topics listed below are the most compelling reasons to go green with decorative cement finishes.

Durability

Cement, or concrete, is naturally an extremely durable product. It offers sheer strength, making it the most crucial element on any construction site and as the most widely used construction material on earth, cement has the longest lifespan of any traditional building material. It has been used to create structures that still stand after more than 2 000 years.  Why, then, should you accept anything less for your finishes? Cement-based finishes offer the same durability and strength as the rest of your building, therefore offering a product with tremendous longevity that will outlive any other surface material that you may consider installing. Many finishing options might initially be cheaper than decorative cement-based finishes, but cement will last much longer and eventually give you a better return on investment. Cement-based finishes such as Cemcrete’s rarely need replacing, especially if properly installed and maintained, saving the waste of materials, resources, and energy that would be put into manufacturing and applying a new finish.

Low maintenance

Once installed and finished off with the correct sealer, a cement-based finish is very easy to clean and maintain; really only requiring occasional damp mopping. A good quality sealer is applied to help resist water, stains, dirt and abrasives. Cemcrete offers a range of different sealers for various applications and needs. Also, once sealed, cement finishes generally will not stain or discolour. That means that you will not have to use a variety of soaps or harsh chemical cleaners in order to maintain the appearance; and in return keeping the waste from those chemicals out of the environment. Cemcrete also offer a CreteCare range of maintenance products, making caring for your finish that much easier. Although cement-based finishes are very easy to maintain, maintenance is still very important to prevent unnecessary wear and tear of the sealer, and eventually the decorative coating.

Locally sourced

All Cemcrete products are manufactured in South Africa using only locally sourced materials therefore minimising the transportation costs and carbon footprint. By comparison, much of the paint, wood, laminate, marble tiles and ceramic tiles used in South Africa are manufactured overseas and imported.

Recyclable

When a cement finish is demolished, the resultant pieces do not necessarily have to go to a landfill. Rather there is a process of grinding, and breaking down those materials that allows them to be used in a variety of commercial grade ground installations. Smaller pieces can be reused in residential construction products or as the sub-base for gravel roads. A variety of recycled materials can also be incorporated into cement. Either before casting or when it is setting, pieces of decorative glass, shell, beads, or other small recycled aggregates can be embedded in the surface, to create a floor or countertop that has a distinct colour and look.  This process works well when using Cemcrete’s PolishCrete or Countertop mix in particular.

Heating and cooling

Concrete is a great conductor of heat, so it gets hot and cold very fast when exposed to different levels of thermal energy. Because of this, concrete is generally cold to the touch on skin, as the heat escapes from it so rapidly. This can be a great benefit in the summer, making your home naturally feel cooler and can actually help reduce the costs of air-conditioning.  At the same time you can use the conductive properties of a cement finish in order to support a passive solar heating strategy. If you have control over the design of the house, windows can be placed in strategic positions; that will allow sunlight to stream down to the floor.  Solar radiation entering through windows during the day will be retained and emitted slowly during the night, which is perfect for winter.  A building with exterior concrete walls can also be energy-efficient, especially in climates that have daily temperature fluctuations. Even though concrete provides little insulation, it creates thermal mass that can store warmth or cold, reducing indoor temperature fluctuation.

Non-hazardous

Cement-based finishes are non-hazardous and neither do they require the use of hazardous cleaning products. This in itself makes cement-based finishes green. Additionally, some other finishes require the use of adhesives which emit VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere over time. Not only does a cement finish offer better energy conservation, but it improves indoor air quality as it does not harbour allergens and bacteria. And concrete is inedible, so bugs and vermin can’t gnaw at it.

Above and beyond the fact that cement-based coatings are green, they also offer exciting design options. The number of colours, designs, and combinations make cement-based floors a definite choice for any space; office, home, hotel, retail, warehousing and more. Cemcrete offers a range of various colours for each product, and with the addition of CreteStain for even more colour options, as well as various sealers to add further effects (gloss, matt, slip-resistance, colour enhancement, and so on), an enormous variety of styles and effects is available to the designer. Some customers want a look that is truly unique – Cemcrete’s cement-based coatings can offer just that. You can create look-a-like finishes with cement-based coatings such as terrazzo, marble, granite, wood, tiles, rock and many others. It is a product with true customisation abilities.

Decorative cement-based finishes are the perfect example of a synergy between beauty, sustainability and economy, which will last the life of your home. For design inspiration and examples, visit the Cemcrete showroom @ 227 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North.  Visit www.cemcrete.co.za for more details or view the wide selection of finishes on the Cemcrete page on Specifile online.

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