DCU Glossary

A Go-To Guide of Glossary Terms

When starting a decorative concrete project, there are more than a few things to remember. These courses have been designed to teach you proper methods and techniques. Along the way, you’ll hear a lot of industry terms that may not sound familiar. For that reason, we’ve compiled this go-to glossary of common decorative concrete terms.


Abrasion resistance – How a coating resists friction, rubbing, and scratches.

Accelerator – A chemical added to shorten set up time of a concrete coating.

Acetone – A common concrete solvent.

Acid etching Application of muriaticacid to deep clean a concrete surface. Often used for driveway sealing.

Aggregate – A granular material like sand, rock, or gravel that is added to concrete to improve performance.


Bond – How well a material adheres to an existing surface.

Bonding agent – Adhesive agent used to increase bond to existing surface. Also known as Primer.

Broadcast – The act of hand tossing epoxy color flakes or other material to evenly disperse for added texture.

Broom Finish – Pushing a broom over freshly placed concrete to achieve a certain texture.

Build – The wet or dry thickness of a particular coating.


Cementitious – A material containing Portland cement or having cement-like properties.

Coating system – A complete system requiring different coatings to be applied to attain a durable floor coating.

Compressive strength – The maximum compressive stress a concrete coating or flooring system can withstand.

Color chips (or Color Flakes) – Plastic chips that vary in color and size, for broadcasting onto freshly placed epoxy flooring systems to produce multicolored effects and/or provide texture.

Control Joint – Sawed or tooled groove in a concrete slab to regulate the location of cracking.

Coverage rate – The area that a specific portion of a coating will cover once it dries. It’s important to know the coverage rate of a material when estimating the amount of material you’ll need to complete the job.

Crack chasing – Routing out cracks in concrete with a saw or angle grinder before filling with a repair material.

Curing – The process of proper hardening for fresh concrete slabs. Proper curing leads to stronger concrete.


Decorative concrete – Concrete that has added, color, patterns, texture, or combinations of these modifications.

Delamination – When a coating separates from the substrate due to poor adhesion.

Densifier – A penetrating liquid that helps solidify and densify the surface of polished concrete.

Diamond grinding – A multi-step grinding process to create polished concrete floors. Diamond grinding discs are used to grind the concrete down to prepare it for subsequent polishing.

Dry polishing – The most common method of concrete polishing. Uses a floor polisher with a dust-containment system to vacuums up dust created by diamond grinding.

Drying Shrinkage – Shrinking of concrete as it dries due to loss of moisture. Also known as Plastic Shrinkage.

Dyes – Solutions containing very fine pigments that penetrate into concrete’s surface and fundamentally changes the color. Available in many different color options.


Edger – A tool used on the edges of fresh concrete to provide a finished edge.

Efflorescence – A crystalline deposit of (usually white) salts that forms on the concrete surface.

Epoxy injection – Sealing and repairing cracks with a low-pressure injection of epoxy adhesive.

Exposed aggregate – The concrete left after removing the surface mortar through shotblasting or grinding. This is the surface you want to start with before applying a coating for flooring system.


Finishing – Leveling, smoothing, compacting, and otherwise treating the surface of newly placed decorative concrete floor.

Floor Polisher – A walk-behind machine used in the process of concrete polishing.


Grinding – The process of preparing concrete using abrasive stone tools to remove any previous coating.

Grout Coat – The first coating layer that is later covered by a top coat and is only seen through gaps in the top coat.


High-Build – A protective or decorative coating that produces a thick film with a single coat.

Hopper Gun – A gravity-fed system for spray application of coatings.

Joint– Where two concrete surfaces meet.

Joint Filler – A compressible material used to fill concrete joints.


Knock-Down Finish – Applying a decorative topping with a hopper gun, then using a trowel to knock-down the material, producing a smooth or lightly textured surface.


Magic Trowel – Specialized trowel used to apply cementitious products.

Marbleize – Giving concrete surfaces the look and gloss of marble through decorative concrete techniques.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – Information sheets that explain pertinent chemical ingredients, product handling and safety guidelines.

Mil – A measurement equal to 1/1,000 (0.001) inch used to denote coating thickness.

Mixing Station – A designated work area for mixing material before moving the mixture onto the floor.

Moisture Vapor Transmission – Moisture vapor migrating through a concrete surface due to outside pressures. Often found in basement walls, floors, and other sub-grade areas.


Neutralize – The act of returning concrete to proper pH levels after acid etching.

Notched-Squeegee – A rubber squeegee with notches on one or both sides. Used for smooth and consistent spreading of epoxy or low-viscosity coatings.


Overlay – A bonded layer of material placed on an existing concrete surface to create a decorative concrete design.


Penetrating Sealer – A sealer that penetrates into concrete pores to increase water repellency.

Permeability – How much a membrane or coating allows penetration by a liquid or gas.

pH Test – A common test performed on concrete surface to determine acidity and alkalinity levels. Often performed before applying sealers or coatings.

Plasticity – The mold ability of freshly mixed concrete.

Polished Concrete – A high-gloss concrete floor finish using specialized floor grinders and polishers.

Polyaspartic – A fast-curing aliphatic polyurea coating that can be applied to concrete over a wide range of temperatures.

Pot Life – The amount of time a material is useful after it is opened.

Profile – Preparing a concrete surface to get the necessary degree of roughness.

Primer – The initial coat of material on a concrete surface to improve bond of subsequent coats.

Pump-Up Sprayer – Airless sprayer used to apply sealers.


Sample Board – A smaller sample representation of a decorative concrete installation. These can be made for cheap and better show potential clients what you can do on a larger scale.

Scaling – When hardened concrete flakes or chips off, often due to freeze-thaw cycles.

Sealer – Liquid-based material used to protect a decorative concrete design.

Set – When concrete loses its plasticity and becomes rigid.

Shotblasting – A form of concrete preparation using iron shot that is rapidly thrown at concrete to open up concrete’s pores to allow better coating penetration.

Skim Coat – A top layer that is applied very thinly.

Spalling – When concrete breaks away at joints in floors or slabs.

Stamped Overlay – A concrete stamping method using stamps over existing concrete. A cementitious topping is applied at a certain thickness over top the existing concrete to replicate the look of stone, brick, or tile.

Stenciled Concrete – A decorative flooring option that uses concrete stencil tape and layered application to create the look of brick, stone, or tile without grout lines or installation of the actual materials.

Substrate – An existing concrete surface that you can build upon.

Surface Preparation – Preparing concrete surfaces before resurfacing or applying a decorative coating. This is an incredibly important part of the decorative flooring process and includes acid etching, shotblasting, and grinding.


Tack – The stickiness or adhesive properties of a material.

Technical Data Sheet – A document that contains important specifications and manufacturer guidelines for product usage. Technical Data Sheets include such data as coverage rates, recommended applications, product limitations, surface preparation guidelines, mix ratios and required mixing times, pot life, application procedures, cure times, performance data, and precautions. Refer to these documents if you have any concerns.

Trowel – A flat, broad-bladed steel hand tool used to provide a smooth, flat finish.

Trowel Finish – The smooth or lightly textured surface finish obtained by troweling.


Vapor Barrier – A layer that is impervious to outside water pressure placed under a concrete slab to help prevent moisture vapor transmission. Common vapor barriers include rubber sheeting.

Viscosity – A measure of a liquid’s fluidity. The more viscosity a sealer or coating has, the less it flows.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – Organic chemicals that easily vaporize at normal room temperatures. Some VOCs can be hazardous when inhaled.


Wet Polishing – Concrete polishing that involves water to cool the diamonds while eliminating dust. Not as common as dry polishing, because it creates a tremendous amount of slurry (a soupy mixture of water and cement dust) that must be cleaned up and disposed of.

Workability – How easily concrete or other cementitious materials can be mixed, placed, and finished.

Working Time – The amount of time available for placing and finishing a cement-based material before it begins to set. This depends on factors such as moisture and temperature.


Xylene – A common solvent used with many solvent-based concrete sealers. High odor, highly flammable, and not legal in every state.