Decorative Concrete Remains a Sure Bet in Las Vegas | Concrete Decor
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Decorative Concrete Remains a Sure Bet in Las Vegas

LithoMosaics concrete mosaic project -Seen here are details of a tortoise basket LithoMosaic made for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Las Vegas. Photo by Robin Brailsford
Seen here are details of a tortoise basket LithoMosaic made for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Las Vegas. Photo by Robin Brailsford

Throughout the nation’s gambling capital, signs of rejuvenation are unfolding as tourists with a bit more spending money check in, investors’ interest returns and locals get back to work. Experts at Colliers International report that Las Vegas’s economy is steadily improving and a new recession isn’t in the cards. Large and small construction projects, many stalled and others flat-out abandoned, are once again on a roll.

Much of the decorative concrete work in Las Vegas involves making old concrete look new again, such as the Bare Pool at the Mirage. Photo courtesy of Miracote
Much of the decorative concrete work in Las Vegas involves making old concrete look new again, such as the Bare Pool at the Mirage. Photo courtesy of Miracote

Among the noteworthy projects are the former shabby and shuttered Sahara, which has been transformed into the vibrant SLS (as in Style, Luxury, Service) Las Vegas on the Strip. The new Downtown Summerlin mall, a 106-acre, 1.6 million-square-foot development, opened for business in October with about 125 shops and eateries. And a new 20,000-seat arena is currently under construction between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts.

The new Harley Davidson showroom on Las Vegas Boulevard South is sealed with GST International’s Wet Look Lacquer HG, a solvent-based, high-gloss, penetrating sealer.
The new Harley Davidson showroom on Las Vegas Boulevard South is sealed with GST International’s Wet Look Lacquer HG, a solvent-based, high-gloss, penetrating sealer.

Smaller projects prominently featuring decorative concrete include a new 50,000-square-foot Harley Davidson showroom on Las Vegas Boulevard South, just yards away from the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Completed in fall 2014, the facility where you can rent or buy hogs has a GST Wet Look Lacquer floor and a sidewalk accented with Proline color hardener, reports Omar Lee of Concrete Accessories, one of the suppliers who provided products for the dealership.

Jason Mota, market manager for Miracote products, says most of his customers in Las Vegas have been involved with projects that focus on making old concrete look new again, such as restoring pool decks, pathways and cabana areas.

Liquid Dazzle metallic epoxy floor - Vegas Ink’s newest location stands out with its Westcoat Liquid Dazzle floor. Photo courtesy of Design Concrete
Vegas Ink’s newest location stands out with its Westcoat Liquid Dazzle floor.
Liquid Dazzle WestCoat concrete floor - Owners of Vegas Ink opted to use Liquid Dazzle from Westcoat, an epoxy coating system with metallic additives, over conventional acid staining to produce the one-of-a-kind floor they were seeking.
Owners of Vegas Ink opted to use Liquid Dazzle from Westcoat, an epoxy coating system with metallic additives, over conventional acid staining to produce the one-of-a-kind floor they were seeking.

The pool deck at Bare Pool at the Mirage resort, for instance, was prepped and recoated with the company’s polyurea resin, MiraFlor Glazetop FC broadcast system, a coating known for its fast return to service. “Exterior pool deck surfaces need high-performance protective sealers that are very durable because these surfaces get so abused due to extreme bathing loads,” with things like suntan lotion, spilled drinks and heavy foot traffic, he says. Add the UV exposure and extreme hot and cold environments into the picture and “everything is magnified.”

Miracote products also were used on the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino’s main pool deck. The 40,000-square-foot area was resealed with the factory-pigmented MiraGard HDWB Gloss to renew its appearance and protect it from foot traffic and staining.

Metallic epoxy concrete floor in a swirling white and platinum grace this busy floor

One-of-a-kind rules
“I think the flow of work has picked up tremendously in these last two years as far as volume goes,” says Rayson Shizuru, decorative concrete foreman for Design Concrete. “Our clients these days are asking more and more for unique projects, one-of-a-kind things.” Many of them want a “modern industrial look,” he says, which often translates into a seamless floor. This past year, the bulk of Design Concrete’s business has involved tenant improvements. Two projects he thinks are noteworthy involve a tattoo parlor and a helicopter service.

Owners of Vegas Ink, a 1,200-square-foot parlor in a strip mall near Planet Hollywood and across from Bubba Gump’s restaurant, were ardent they wanted stained concrete in their new shop but didn’t like any of Shizuru’s samples. “Conventional acid staining just didn’t quite do it for them but then I showed them a Dazzle sample and ‘boom!’ it clicked.” However, it’s not a stain. Liquid Dazzle from Westcoat is an epoxy coating system with metallic additives that freely flow to produce a dynamic color-changing floor.

Stained concrete floor with map of Grand Canyon Photos courtesy of Design Concrete
Sundance Helicopters’ lounge features a stained concrete floor that gives customers a preview of what they can expect to see en route to the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of Design Concrete

The other project involved Sundance Helicopters, a sightseeing service that flies tourists from McCarran Airport over the Strip and beyond to the Grand Canyon. In the waiting lounge, the owners wanted a stained concrete floor that looked like an aerial desert shot of what customers would see en route to the Grand Canyon.

“We had to scramble for a faux finisher and flew one in from California,” Shizuru says. The art, which included things like Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, were drawn to scale which entailed daily meetings with the architect to ensure accuracy. The artist used custom-made templates for the compass and names.

Stained concrete floor Grand Canyon - Photos courtesy of Design Concrete
Photo courtesy of Design Concrete

Both projects were done simultaneously last July during the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. “That’s another thing,” he says. “All these companies want the work done while the business is open because no one wants to lose customers.” These two jobs, in particular, he says, ran him and his crew ragged because they were located across town from each other.

Vegas Ink, Shizuru adds, was the most challenging. The 24-hour parlor’s prime location got a lot of foot traffic and the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival was in full swing during the work. “We had a hard time keeping the kids out of there,” he says. “They just loved the smell of the polyurethane.”

LithoMosaics concrete art - A tortoise basket and corn design (pictured here) by LithoMosaic can be seen at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge about 30 miles away. Photo by Wick Alexander
A tortoise basket and corn design (pictured here) by LithoMosaic can be seen at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge about 30 miles away. Photo by Wick Alexander

Diversity helps business
Chief Concrete, one of Las Vegas’ premier architectural and decorative concrete contractors, has managed to stay busy these past several years because of the company’s diversity, says Matt Walker, operations manager. From surface prep and polishing to stamping and epoxy coatings, it pretty much does everything except production. “One day we’re using jack hammers and the next we’re installing a LithoMosaic,” he says.

His company recently worked on two new construction projects that feature LithoMosaics, a patented system that integrates custom-designed mosaics into a monolithic pour. Invented by artist Robin Brailsford and patented with partners at Shaw & Sons to be used by licensed Lithocrete installers, the mosaics are made off site and delivered ready to go.

LithoMosaics concrete art Photo courtesy of Chief Concrete is of a prehistoric creature simulates the look of a fossil.
LithoMosaics are custom-made decorative elements assembled off site and delivered ready to install.
LithoMosaics icthyosaur - LithoMosaics are custom-made decorative elements assembled off site and delivered ready to install. You can see the ichthyosaur, here and above right, at the recently opened Garside community water park in town.
You can see the ichthyosaur, here and above right, at the recently opened Garside community water park in town.

One of the mosaics can be found at the new Garside Pool that just opened in June. The long-awaited, fossil-themed community water park includes a 28-foot ichthyosaur fossil mosaic made from recycled glass and tiles. “We called him Icky,” Walker says with a laugh. His company was contracted to install “Icky” and finish the area of the pool he occupies.

The other mosaics are part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge at Corn Creek located about 30 miles northwest of town. The largest national wildlife refuge in the continental U.S., it debuted its new 11,000-square-foot visitor's center in September, which features a 300-foot-long Lithocrete stream and two 10-feet in diameter LithoMosaic medallions. These mosaics, one of a tortoise basket and the other of corn, were based on designs provided by Wendy Smith of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Chief Concrete installed both medallions and also worked with Brailsford and her partner, Wick Alexander, on the meandering Lithocrete stream bed seeded with glass and aggregate.

As for larger projects, Chief Concrete worked on the new Downtown Summerlin mall. Walker estimates they installed about 70,000 square feet of concrete sidewalks, accented with a couple thousand square feet of stamped concrete. Inside, the company polished about 75,000 square feet of concrete for various retail stores such as Old Navy, Nordstrom Rack, True Religion, Lindbergh, b.young, Sur La Table and Ethan Allen.

integrally colored and glass seeded concrete - The Switch SuperNAP data center includes decorative concrete areas that are integrally colored and glass-seeded. Seen above is the company’s logo outlined with stainless-steel inserts. At left is a detail from an adjacent part of the project. Photos courtesy of Chief Concrete
Seen above is the company’s logo outlined with stainless-steel inserts. At left is a detail from an adjacent part of the project. Photos courtesy of Chief Concrete
The Switch SuperNAP data center includes decorative concrete areas that are integrally colored and glass-seeded.
The Switch SuperNAP data center includes decorative concrete areas that are integrally colored and glass-seeded.

Just down the street from the mall, Chief Concrete coated, polished and/or sealed about 42,000 square feet of concrete this past year for a new strip mall that included Sprouts, Petco, T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods. Other new work includes integrally colored and glass-seeded concrete with stainless-steel inserts at the headquarters of Switch SuperNAP, a leader in data center design and development. That job also featured an eye-catching red and black logo at the entryway.

“Although we’ve seen improvement of significance in new concrete placement within the last year, we’ve had steady business polishing, coating or topping existing slabs for tenant improvements,” says Monte Walker, president and owner of Chief Concrete. Work has included jobs at two CarMax dealerships, the Henderson Armory and M&M’s World on the Strip, the latter an open-store remodel that involved Ardex Pandomo Loft, a hand-troweled floor topping.

“There hasn’t been a lot of ground-up building. There’s still quite an inventory of commercial buildings.”One of his company’s more interesting tenant improvement jobs was at Panorama Towers, a high-rise residential condominium complex on Dean Martin Drive near CityCenter. Chief crews remodeled the valet and guard gate areas between the two towers by demolishing more than 2,200 square feet of existing concrete at the valet. Next, they placed integrally colored concrete—separating the different colored pours with stainless-steel division rods—and seeded it with recycled glass and mirror. The architectural pavement was then ground, honed and sealed.

Polished and sealed concrete floor - This new Sprouts grocery store down the street from Downtown Summerlin features polished and sealed concrete flooring. Photo courtesy of Chief Concrete
This new Sprouts grocery store down the street from Downtown Summerlin features polished and sealed concrete flooring. Photo courtesy of Chief Concrete

“At the guard gate area we ground nearly a half-inch to remove the existing 3,000 square feet of the stamped texture to smooth the surface and expose large aggregate,” he says, before honing and sealing with a polyurethane sealer.

The job also entailed poured-in-place, ground and honed vertical walls and planters.

polyurethane sealed concrete - The guard gate area of Panorama Towers features concrete that was ground, honed and sealed with a polyurethane. Prior to this, the area had been stamped concrete.
The guard gate area of Panorama Towers features concrete that was ground, honed and sealed with a polyurethane. Prior to this, the area had been stamped concrete.
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