STRONG AND STYLISH
The Facts are Concrete — Decorative Cement is as Achievable as 1, 2, 3
By Sam Byrd
Homeowners are more and more turning to the easy to clean — and easy on the eyes — choice of stained concrete as a home accent. Out with the carpeting and in with the sleek, smooth surfaces that can sometimes even withstand flooding. The technique is versatile, ranging from the patio to the driveway to countertops and everything in between, and it can last a lifetime with proper care.
Once a homeowner has decided to go with decorative stains, the first step is to examine the concrete itself. “Surface preparation is paramount in the success of any decorative concrete treatment,” says James Branscum of Texas Concrete Effects, Inc. “Not all concrete is created equal, so expect to see prices vary according to size, location and prep required for the treatment.”
He continues, “We are given a ‘canvas’ to work with and sometimes that canvas is not compatible with certain flooring systems, or it may require an extreme amount of work to whip it into shape. Poorly placed and finished concrete is very common. We encourage all new construction clients to engage with their builder/contractor about the importance of a quality pour and finish.”
The second step is to recognize the unique beauty of decorative concrete. Every surface is a blank slate that will turn out slightly different than any other treatment depending on how many stains and dyes are used and the age of the concrete. The choice of using a water-based or acid-based stain also makes a difference. The water-based method simply soaks into the pores of the concrete, whereas the acid-based treatment creates a chemical reaction within the concrete.
Just last summer Texas Concrete Effects partnered with Xpedite Coatings to save the Lone Star Flight Museum from a “botched” polish job, transforming the Heritage and Waltrip Hangars into a magnificent space for the museum’s fleet of historic, award-winning aircraft.
Over at the family-owned and operated Decorative Concrete Supply, Inc., Houston Store Manager Victor Dominguez tells us that, with the acid-based products, there’s an inherent added step. “Acid creates a reaction with the concrete. It creates a more natural effect,” says Dominguez. Since the acid is interacting with the cement, it requires an additional product to halt the chemical’s reaction. However, the water-based acrylic products allow for more color variety, so choose wisely. Dominguez estimates the staining time to be six hours for acid-based treatments and even less time for water-based products.
Sam Juarez of Sunbelt Concrete Products says there are many ways to add unique touches to the surface. “You can make designs. You can get really creative. You’re like an artist and you can play with this. These are original pieces, and everything is handmade,” says Juarez.
Anything from stencils to tape can be used to create shapes and designs. Combining two or more stains or dyes in concert will make each surface different than the rest. With the right prep work, the homeowner can create anything from a concrete floor that resembles wood paneling, to marble, to one that has the shape of Texas. An aged leather look is just as achievable as a color to match the walls.
"Color is often the greatest challenge with stained or polished concrete. We encourage our clients to keep an open mind when considering a concrete floor. There are countless variables that dictate the final product. Managing our customers' expectations is often one of the more challenging aspects of this industry. Each slab is a unique challenge,” says Texas Concrete Effects’ Branscum.
The third and final step, once the floor has been stained, is to seal it to lock in the color and protect the surface during the everyday wear and tear of traffic. Also, keep in mind that a gloss versus semi-gloss finish will enhance different nuances of the treatment.
“You have to reseal every now and then. Usually for outdoor projects you use an acrylic sealer every one and a half to two years. If you use polyurethanes, you can go five years or more,” says Decorative Concrete Supply’s Dominguez.
Sunbelt Concrete Products’ Juarez sums it up, "Just because you have all the colors there, that doesn’t mean you're going to be Picasso. Then, there are some workers who are natural artists. Just because you have a cookbook, that doesn’t make you a chef."
It’s important to remember that once stain is applied there is no turning back, which is why hiring a professional is the safest choice. Be sure to ask for previous work experience as well as photos or recommendations.
Decorative Concrete Supply, Inc.
8310 Castleford, Suite 250
Sunbelt Concrete Products
1885 FM 448, Giddings
Texas Concrete Effects, Inc.