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Concrete floors above framed space - Alternatives?

Airfix's picture

My wife loves the look of polished and stained concrete floors.  No problem in the basement when it is slab on grade but she also wants this on the main level above the basement.  We are planning a new build with a radiant floor system with some passive solar house features which concrete floors play into well.

However I'm trying to find an alternative that has a similar look but without the weight, additional structural costs and subfloor height issues.

One builder recommended using a type of gypcrete as a finish layer that looked like it had a pea gravel in it. I'm not sure of the exact specifications.  We actually toured the house where he had used this and it looked good (18 months since completion) and had a good amount of hairline cracks, which my wife said added character.  On further reading in general gypcrete is not recommended as a finish layer as it doesn't wear well and it doesn't deal with moisture well when in kitchen or bathroom areas.

It it possible to add a wear coating on top of the gypcrete and still have the polish concrete look?  Maybe a concrete refinishing product?

Are there any other continuous floor materials that I should be looking at?

Any other suggestions?