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Broaden Your Knowledge with Concrete Techniques

Richard Smith cleaning a large stained concrete gas station parking lot after his job was finished.

Design concept for a client's mini market who wants to conceal two man doors with vertically carved concrete.

Having many techniques in your arsenal can bridge the difference between your client's vision and the reality of a project. Today's clients are more sophisticated. They expect more. Plain gray concrete is no longer good enough for them.

Our client came to us with a vision. He wanted a desert theme for his project, and in his mind that meant beige concrete with a broom finish to look like dirt. He had no idea that his vision could be so much more.

Concrete being carved into a mine shaft entrance at a grocery store in southern California.We had an intense meeting with this client. The passion he had for his project allowed us to think more creatively. He was looking for a unique and distinctive look. However, he did not realize that this look could be brought indoors as well. Having many different techniques not only afforded us the opportunity to expand our scope of work, but also gave the client many more options in his décor.

Having many techniques in your arsenal can bridge the difference between your client's vision and the reality of a project. Today's clients are more sophisticated. They expect more. Plain gray concrete is no longer good enough for them. But if you don't have different application skills to draw from, the client will look elsewhere. Many contractors have two or three things they specialize in. Perhaps it's hardscape, or acid staining, or overlays. In the project highlighted here, no less than eight different concrete applications were used.

The exterior consists of 3,000-psi integrally colored concrete, done 120 yards at a time, with three different stone textures in the same day. This allowed for greater color consistencies. A delicate touch was needed on the stamping, since we were putting different textures next to each other but could not have any real definition between them. They all had to blend together. We then accented with clear and powder release agents, then stained and sealed the concrete. The walkway was done in a wood grain stamp, and hand-stained.

The interior was done in a 1⁄4-inch stamped overlay with custom integral color, which we then antiqued and stained. Steel tracks were embedded in the concrete to make ore-cart tracks that look like ones you would find in a mineshaft.

We also did interior rockwork, which was spray-topped, stained and sealed. Scenic painting was done on the walls and ceiling by an artist. We found resources on the Internet for the “props” integrated in the design. Old West wagons, a cactus, and whiskey barrels were all brought in to give this project an authentic look and feel.

Final staining touches to a vertically carved concrete mine shaft entranced in a mini market in Southern California.

Mine shaft entrance in a mini market in southern California features stained and vertically carved concrete boulders.

We were able to do this project because we have all these techniques. From trial and error throughout the past years, we have been able to perfect our applications. The passion that we showed our client for his project was infectious. He was able to think outside the box, and we came up with uses for our techniques to make this a showcase.

We all must see each project as an opportunity to row and learn our craft. From seminars and classes held by manufacturers, to old-fashioned “playtime” with products, we find uses that we never thought of. We cannot let fear stand in our way. Passion brings its greatest reward in seeing a client's vision become so much more that they expected. Remember, if the client can see the invisible, we can create the impossible.

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