and staining transformed this concrete floor into a work of art.
words beautiful and concrete are rarely used in the same sentence, yet
decorative concrete techniques can transform a drab driveway patio or
walkway into a beautiful surface that adds drama to a home's appearance.
Whether a homeowner wants the look of brick, slate, pavers, river rock
or cobbles, concrete can be utilized to create a life-like illusion.
is a very versatile material. It's totally malleable like liquid rock,"
says Bob Nussmeier general manager of sales and marketing for L.M. Scofield,
a manufacturer of products used in decorative concrete application.
With the techniques available today, it's difficult, if not impossible,
to distinguish decorative concrete from the real thing, says Frank Piccolo,
founder of ArtCrete and director of the Decorative Concrete Council. "People
will swear it's real brick or stone."
The development of advanced colorants and texturing processes make these
stunning deceptions possible. The decorative concrete industry is growing,
says Piccolo, who first experimented with decorative concrete materials
in his own backyard and has since transformed ArtCrete into an international
company. "I think we're seeing the beginning of a real trend,"
Bomanite developed decorative concrete techniques in the 1950s, but they
didn't catch on in a big way until recently. Even in the mid-80's, when
Piccolo entered the market, there were few companies in the field.
"Back then you'd go to a trade show and there would be three or four
exhibitors," he says. "Now there may be 50 of them."
There are several reasons for this growth. The Internet has had a major
impact, Piccolo believes, because homeowners can find information on the
subject easily. The construction industry and consumer publications arc
also starting to sit up and take notice, he says.
Price, durability and versatility are all factors that are fueling this
growth, says Nussmeier. Decorative concrete can be used on both exteriors
and interiors. In fact, he says, it's particularly attractive to families
who enjoy an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, because a look can he carried from
the home's interior to its exterior.
There are six major techniques used to achieve these intriguing counterfeits
that are often mistaken for the work of a fine craftsman. They are stamping,
stenciling, overlays, spray overlays (micro-topping), staining and scoring,
and wall form liners.
Pattern-stamping is a well-established, economical and popular technique.
After a concrete surface is poured and floated, a color hardener--a tinted,
powdery sub-stance which is a blend of mineral-based pigments, portland
cement, silica and quartz--is applied and worked into the surface using
The patterned impressions are made by placing a flexible, reusable stamping
mat on the before it has fully dried. The mat is pressed into the concrete
surface by stepping on it and moved from spot to spot until the entire
surface is imprinted. Many looks are achieved with stamping, including
brickwork, stone and tile. The stamping mats are often made from molds
cast from real paving work.
After the concrete cures, it is rinsed to remove loose color hardener.
It is then sealed, often with a UV resistant sealer that prevents color
changes or fading caused by the sun. There is no color differentiation
in the "grout" and "bricks" or "Stones"
when using this method.
Stenciled Concrete is a technique for new concrete surfaces. After the
concrete is poured and floated, overlapping paper stencils bearing the
desired pattern are laid across the smooth, wet surface. The stencil lays
flat against the surface. A float tool is passed over the surface and
embeds the stencil into the concrete.
A color hardener is spread over the surface. The color hardener bonds
to the concrete, says Nussmeier and becomes the base color. Next, accent
colors are applied in the same manner. Together, these color toppings
characterize the look of the "brick" or "stone". The
underlying concrete slab provides the color for the contrasting "grout."
Once the concrete has dried to a weight-bearing point, the stencils are
pulled up, revealing the pattern. Removing the stencils creates small
pieces of debris, which are removed with a leaf blower. The surface is
covered with a resin-based sealer for protection.
Sprayed-On Overlays (Micro-Topping)
Overlays are used to turn existing plain concrete flatwork into decorative
surfaces. After cleaning the surface of grease and dirt as well as repairing
any cracks in the Concrete, a colored concrete-resin mixture is applied
to the surface in a very thin layer. This mixture, which bonds to the
underlying concrete, will show up as the "grout" between the
"bricks" or "stones".
"This (concrete-resin layer) is very good to use if the surface isn't
perfect because it creates a smooth surface," says Nussmeier. "The
mixture is also self-leveling."
When the clean, new surface dries enough so that it can bear the weight
of a person, the decorative techniques are applied, says Piccolo. Both
stencils and stamping mats can be used on the concrete-resin surface.
If stenciling is the preferred technique, the stencil is laid out on the
surface and color hardener is applied with a hopper gun, such as the kind
used to apply drywall texture. Additional accent colors can be applied
to the surface which can be finished with a texture roller that creates
dimples and ridges so that is looks more natural, says Nussmeier.
Stamping can be accomplished with as little as a one-fourth inch depth
of concrete-resin. The final step is to seal the new surface with a resin-based
Staining provides a more artistic look. Stains can be applied to new and
existing concrete, as well as overlays. Stains are often used to create
geometric patterns, antiquing and wood graining on surfaces.
Concrete stain, a combination of water, hydrochloric acid and mineral
salts, reacts with the lime within the concrete. This reaction changes
the color of the surface permanently. Because different areas of the surface
respond differently to the stain, an uneven, marble-like look, often described
as a patina, results. “This creates a wonderful mottled look,”
says Barbara Sargent of Kemiko Concrete Floor
Kemiko stain, available in six colors, is applied with an inexpensive
handheld pump-up garden sprayer. "The coverage is awesome "
says Sargent. "It will cover 400 square feet – about the size
of a two car garage – per gallon. And that includes two coats of
stain, so it is very economical."
staining the floor it can either be sealed or waxed. A sealer darkens
the floor dramatically, giving it a high gloss wet look, while a wax provides
a soft, satin sheen and allows the mottling to show.
Scoring and etching are often used in conjunction with staining. Scoring
is the sawing of fine lines into the concrete surface with a diamond blade.
Etching is done with stencils and a sandblaster. Both techniques are used
to define areas that are then stained. Scoring is generally used to create
both large and small fields of color and designs. Etching is used to create
borders and other decorative details.
These techniques can be used in both interior,,-, and exteriors. Sealing
these surfaces is very - important, says Nussmeier.
Wall form liners are used to create vertical, rather than horizontal,
decorative concrete surfaces. The forms, which mimic stone and brick walls,
are set up and the concrete mixture is poured between them and allowed
to dry. They can be textured and stained to look like the real thing.
Homeowners can also install their own decorative concrete using a new
do-ityourself kit from Artcrete. The U-Coat-It kit, which reached store
shelves in May, contains all the materials necessary for completing an