When Shawn Halverson first tried his hand at concrete installation, he didn’t intend to make it his livelihood. He got into structural concrete in high school after meeting a contractor who was working on a house for Halverson’s parents, and at the time, he viewed the job as a temporary gig.
Temporary turned into full time, and Halverson spent the next 21 years or so in concrete. He worked as a foreman and later ran his own company, installing everything from high-rise buildings to stamped concrete.
In 1995, he left the field entirely to pursue new ventures. He launched a new career in the food delivery industry, but several years in, he realized how much he missed concrete (in particular, decorative). So Halverson slowly worked his way back in, gathering new clients and hiring several employees. In 1999, his current full-service decorative concrete company, Temecula, Calif.-based Surfacing Solutions Inc., was born.
“I felt I was done with structural concrete, so I sold everything,” Halverson says of his decision to leave the concrete industry. “Then I had an itch to do decorative concrete, so I started doing an epoxy here and there, playing with countertops and enjoying the art aspect. Soon, I found myself back buying all the tools I had just sold.
Surfacing Solutions Inc. offers a wealth of decorative concrete services, including polishing, grinding, countertop and sink installation, patio and pool deck coatings, epoxy garage floors, stamping, overlays and coatings. The company serves clients in California, Arizona and Nevada, and 75 percent of its work is commercial — universities, community centers, hospitals and wineries are just a few examples of its clients.
Working with a crew of about 10 laborers and his right-hand man, operations manager Keith Cantillon, Halverson has billed Surfacing Solutions as a “can-do” decorative concrete contractor.
While Halverson’s company executes a wide range of applications, concrete polishing is one that it’s known for. He first saw polished concrete seven years ago and says he was “blown away that concrete could look that cool.” Now, he serves on the board of directors for the Concrete Polishing Association of America and hopes Surfacing Solutions Inc. can be “the go-to polishing company” for structural concrete contractors.
“The invention of colors and dyes made polishing look more artistic, and we love being able to do that,” Halverson says.
Halverson considers himself a practical, well-rounded decorative concrete contractor with excellent team leadership skills, and art plays a large role in his work. “I have done some neat, artistic things that are phenomenal,” he says.
He says his designs are often inspired by a building’s architecture at the job site and that “art is predicted by the job itself.” He adds that the use of Modello concrete stencils has contributed to the artistic aspect of his company’s work, and he collaborates with many talented artists to boost the beauty of his projects.
Halverson’s work can be seen at several popular entertainment destinations — one is Universal Studios Hollywood, where Surfacing Solutions Inc. completed a spray texture job on the concrete floor outside The Simpsons Ride in 2009. A previously installed epoxy coating had begun to crack and peel at the site, so Halverson’s crew applied a high-traffic resurfacing product supplied by Floric Polytech and added pigment in purple, green, blue and orange, completing the job in just four weeks. “It was fun to work in that environment,” he said.
Another memorable job took place at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, in Chandler, Ariz., where workers resurfaced the part-plywood, part-concrete floor of the casino’s nightclub using Westcoat’s ALX (a waterproof deck-coating system) and a self-leveling underlayment supplied by Mapei. To add sparkle, glass and stone pieces were embedded into the underlayment material.
Surfacing Solutions Inc.’s 2011 projects include restoring the floors of two historical California courthouses — one in Santa Ana and one in Santa Barbara. Halverson says he’ll first determine the types of materials originally put down on the courthouse floors, then choose a decorative concrete application process to closely recreate the look.
He’s also building a reputation among Temecula Valley wineries. This year, he has plans to install sinks and countertops and stain barrel-room floors at several wineries in the region, developing an old-world feel for winery employees and visitors.
Despite the recession, Halverson says his company has grown year after year. He attributes his success to the strong relationships Surfacing Solutions Inc. continues to forge within the industry and his commitment to customer service and quality results. The company also fills a specific market niche, completing decorative concrete jobs in California, Nevada and Arizona that are 20,000 square feet or smaller. “The big East Coast companies don’t want to travel out here for jobs of that size, so we fill out that void,” he says.
Halverson prefers to work with smaller crews and evaluates each crew member for strengths and weaknesses, noting that some are artists and some can efficiently complete a lot of work in a short period of time.
Fixing problems on existing decorative concrete applications is another strength of Halverson’s. In fact, when he returned to the concrete field after his short-term career change, he started out by consulting and solving issues related to previous installations.
Ensuring his work is properly maintained is another key to Halverson’s success — he educates each one of his clients about how to keep their concrete looking great as time goes by.
“We’re going to lose to the carpet and tile industry if the concrete doesn’t look great down the road,” he says. “I want to show off my work and say to someone, ‘Go look at such-and-such restaurant,’ and know that it will look great even if I put it in five years ago.”
Yet another quality of Halverson’s work is environmental sustainability. During wet polishing work, he recycles water for use on-site the next day and refrains from flushing slurry down the drain. He uses high-quality vacuums to collect dust, ensures proper ventilation, buys from local vendors whenever possible and never produces more material than he intends to use.
Knowing how much trust and reputation matters in his industry, Halverson states that he leaves every Surfacing Solutions client satisfied.
“We go out of our way to make the customer happy,” he says. “We know we solved their problem, made it decorative or artistic or however they wanted it to be, and produced quality, high-end work.”