Father Knows Best:
Concrete contractor shifts
to trade’s decorative side

A large compass placed in the middle of a stained concrete driveway is the latest project for Ben Bass who has turned to the decorative side of concrete
Ben Bass’s largest project to-date involves a custom-made compass stencil that measures 12 feet from point to point. Photos courtesy of Ben Bass

Ben Bass, a second-generation concrete contractor, grew up surrounded by plain-gray concrete. While his dad, who passed away in 2007, was alive he urged his son to get into the decorative side of concrete. But it wasn’t until about two-and-a-half years ago that Bass realized his father knew best.

About that time, Bass stamped his first sidewalk and discovered Bob Harris, a well-known decorative concrete sage, through the internet. And he discovered something else: “Decorative concrete was what I wanted to do,” he says.

Today, as the owner of Ben’s Concrete Creations, in Blairsville, Georgia, his company stamps, stains, dyes, overlays and stencils concrete. It also installs countertops and epoxy floors, as well as vertical applications. “We do everything except polish,” Bass says.

A really big drive

Last summer, three colleagues contacted him about a huge, poorly installed decorative driveway in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “Someone used a roller stamp and did a horrible job,” he says. “It was an embarrassment (to the trade).”

Consequently, the owner wanted him to rip it up and place twice as much as what was there. And he wanted Bass to come up with a unique design for his 14,000-square-foot driveway.

A large aerial view of a 14,000 square foot driveway that has been upgraded with the decorative side of concrete
A drone captures a great view of the 14,000-square-foot driveway in Blue Ridge Georgia.

Bass’s plan involved him and his crew installing a driveway with an 18-inch-wide border around the perimeter. They monolithically placed the border with the driveway’s main section, placing two trucks daily for a total of 230 yards.

They used both a seamless texture stamp and chiseled grout lines to make the border resemble 18-by-18-inch pavers. Next, they sprayed a surface deactivator from Solomon Colors on the border to achieve a medium-sand finish.

chiseling out the grout lines of a concrete driveway. Large, expansive concrete driveway on a hill.
Bass and his crew chiseled grout lines to create a border that looked like 18-by-18-inch pavers. Both the border and the driveway, which was quite steep in places, were treated to achieve a medium- and light-sand finish, respectively. 

He completed the rest of the drive with a light-sand finish. Finally, he used a combination of acid stain from Kemiko and SurfKoat and acetone dye from EZChem. He colored the borders dark brown and the rest of the driveway tan.

And then he turned his attention to creating a show-stopping focal point with a custom-ordered stencil from Solomon Colors. The compass, installed in front of both the three-car garage and front door, would measure 12 feet from point to point.

compass rose in concrete
The custom-ordered compass was an offshoot of a standard 4-foot-stencil regularly in stock.
Custom-made stencils seal the deal

As if the size wasn’t enough to command attention, the compass was colored to be eye-catching both day and night.

For day visitors, Bass acid stained the compass sections blue and green. To make the design pop at night, he used both super-fine green and purple glow-in-the-dark sand from Ambient Glow Technology. So he could brush it on, he mixed the sand with a polyaspartic from EZChem. After that, he spray-applied two coats of Deco Guard sealer from SurfKoat.

a compass rose during the day in blue on an orange background glow in the dark compass rose
Fully embracing the decorative side of concrete, Bass colored the stencil with glow-in-the-dark sand mixed with a polyaspartic. 
Add in the bear

Bass’s work impressed the owner so much, he asked him to do something special at the driveway’s entrance, too. That’s where the bear came in. “It was an afterthought,” Bass says of the bear morphing into a forest scene.

Bass told the owner if he could find an image then he liked, he and his crew could install it “like a tattoo for concrete.” For this, he custom ordered a Flattoo from Surface Gel Tek. He had learned about these made-to-order stencils at one of Harris’s training sessions he had attended. Since then, he adds, Harris has become his mentor and Bass talks to him often.

A crew putting the finishing touches on a stencil in the driveway a crew works on installing a stencil on concrete fully embracing the decorative side of concrete
Bass says he easily applied the custom-made bear Flattoo from Surface Gel Tech. The company also sells a wide selection of ready-made Flattoos that includes corners and borders available through The Concrete Decor Store.

As for the stencil, “It was really easy to apply but time-consuming because of all the little details,” Bass says. “One side is really sticky. You apply it like you would a decal sticker on a car window.” For guidance, he adds, you can also watch an application process on YouTube.

“I was paranoid about all those little pieces. So, we used a heat gun to make sure they all stuck real well,” Bass says. For coloring the design, they then used black acetone dye.

Bass adds that he also used Flattoo letters on the stenciled compass design at the top of the driveway.

Aside from being the largest decorative job Bass has tackled so far, it’s also the most memorable, Bass says. “I grew up doing plain gray flatwork and now I’d say 95 percent of my projects are decorative. And they’re really fun.”

an installed flattoo stencil - the decorative side of concrete

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