While stenciling is certainly a go-to technique for many decorative contractors, there's a lot you can do with the technique that may not leap immediately to mind. Yes, stenciling is a great way to put down a pattern over a large surface area, but it can also used - very effectively, as you can see here - to create intricate projects that incorporate lots of colors, fine edging and detail work, and even a little bit of depth.
Cave Creek, Ariz.
Contractor: Surface Gel Tek
Homeowner Joseph Lewis is a man "who knew what he wanted and what he didn't," says Tamryn Doolan, owner of Arizona-based Surface Gel Tek. When he added 2,500 square feet to his 1,200-square-foot farmhouse in Cave Creek, Ariz., Lewis wanted a design element to tie together the old space and the new. "[Lewis] is an old hunter," says Doolan, "a big cowboy - he wears a size 15 shoe. He didn't want anything frou-frou." So the team came up with a detailed Southwestern rug design, to be put down with Surface Gel Tek's Flattoo stenciling system.
Working with W.R. Meadows Inc. rep Greg Neundorfer, Doolan put a base coat of Cohills Pro Series Chemical Stain in Rustic Brown on top of a W.R. Meadows Floor-Top STG surface. Once that coat was cleaned, neutralized and dried, it was time to Flattoo.
Surface Gel Tek's gelled acid stenciling system differs from more conventional methods in that you seal each color as you go along. Doolan says this makes the process a little more forgiving. You never have to lay a vinyl stencil piece over an unsealed finished section, and if you get some of the gelled acid outside the lines, you needn't worry about it ruining a finished area, since each finished area is already sealed and the acid won't etch through the sealer. That's especially useful when doing fine detail work like this rug design.
Doolan used her Surface Gel Tek gelled acids with four different colors from Color Crown Corp. (Black, Godiva, Moss Slate and El Dorado) for the 4-by-8 rug pattern. After a final coat of W.R. Meadows Decra Seal, Doolan's rug project was complete. It provided Lewis with a personalized design element that brought the two halves of his new home together.
Bull Shoals, Ark.
Contractor: Strain Construction
One of the biggest advantages of stenciled concrete is the ability to seamlessly integrate different patterns and design elements into a single surface. Joey Strain, of Strain Construction (now known as Decorative Concrete Design), based in Gainesville, Mo., used this idea to great effect in setting off a stenciled logo on a driveway in Bull Shoals, Ark. The property is a vacation home for the owner of L&T Construction, of Hernando, Miss.
Done in a single pour, this job features a custom stencil set into a standard flagstone pattern stencil from Decorative Concrete Impressions. Not only does the combination of the two stencils serve to highlight the graphic, but the combination of color hardeners and acid stain gives the piece depth and texture that really make it stand out.
The hardeners - broadcast onto the surface before pulling the stencil - are DCI's Golden Wheat and Brick Red. After the stencils were pulled, says DCI's Jason Ahles, a large (and somewhat unattractive) grout line was revealed. But after a hand-applied coat of acid stain (Ebony, from Concrete Coatings Inc.), the logo has a crisp, clean look that really catches the eye. "By combining acid stain and cast-in-place techniques, a dynamic and detailed logo emerges, fully integrated into the slab - no extra forming required," Ahles says. After the detail work, the surface received a coat of CCI's SuperSeal 2000, finishing off the project - a great example of how stencils can add dimension to custom flatwork.
Contractors: Graphetto and Xcel Surfaces
If you're a decorative coatings manufacturer, the concrete floors of your office really ought to stand out. That's why Phoenix, Ariz.-based Xcel Surfaces teamed up with Graphetto's Anthony Banayat when the company resurfaced its floors.
Graphetto offers hundreds of different design options from more than a dozen artistic traditions. All are suited to the medium and very easy to use. Half of the stencils they sell are custom designs - unique logos or patterns brought in by the customer or original designs by Graphetto. The masking material is self-adhesive, so once you lay the stencil down on your prepped surface, you're ready to go.
The Xcel Surfaces floor shows off how well Graphetto's stencils pair up with Xcel's stains and overlays. Xcel opted for a classic art nouveau panel, ordered to a custom size for the space they had in mind. Once the stencil was down, they used four batches of Xcel Texture Mix, integrally colored with custom tints, and troweled them on with various sizes of painter's spatulas. After that had set, the stencil came up, leaving softly beveled edges. To tie the piece together with a uniform patina, the entire panel was stained with Xcel's Aqua Stain Penetrating Formula (in Sonoran Stone). The job was finished with a urethane sealer.
In general, what sets Banayat's stenciling apart from the crowd is not only the exhaustive variety of patterns he has available (not to mention his ability and willingness to do custom designs), but also the emphasis Graphetto places on historical accuracy.
Historical context may not seem like it would be a big make-or-break attribute for most clients, but Banayat points out that if you're dealing with customers who've just spent millions of dollars building themselves an authentic Tuscan-inspired villa, being able to promise them an authentic Tuscan pattern can be a great selling point.