Newly Stenciled Concrete Made to Look Worn and Faded

When Robert D. Bauer first laid eyes on Eastlake Studio’s rendering for the new headquarters for Waystar, a healthcare-related technology company in Chicago, it intrigued the president of CCI Flooring.

The project involved remodeling an office building in downtown Chicago. Their goal focused on creating a wide-open space with distressed floors that featured a faded pattern. “My first thought was this would be a really awesome job to do but how do we get the faded look?” he asked himself. “It was inside the pattern, outside, broke apart everywhere!”

The architect’s design rendering of the stenciled concrete in an office

The architect’s design rendering of a floor featuring a faded pattern of stenciled concrete in an office captured Bob Bauer’s attention from the get-go.
Design renderings of floors featuring a faded pattern captured Bob Bauer’s attention from the get-go. Renderings courtesy of Eastlake Studio
Working up a quote

With 25 years of experience under his belt, Bauer was tasked with reviewing the specifications to determine what the architect was really after.

CCI Flooring produced a mock-up before the actual installation began.
CCI Flooring produced a mock-up before the actual installation began. Photo courtesy of CCI Flooring

“Like many of the jobs we quote, the specifications weren’t clear,” Bauer says, as it’s difficult for architects and interior designers to keep up with the constantly evolving concrete flooring industry. Consequently, this specification was a mish-mashed conglomeration of polished concrete, grind-and-seal and epoxy systems all cut up and pasted together.

Unsure about how much time to spend sorting out this job that they hadn’t even won yet — plus he didn’t want to detail the process so the GC could send it to someone else — Bauer took an educated guess. He figured the project would fit into the grind-and-seal category for 5,500 square feet. Another 1,000 square feet of grind-and-seal would consist of a stencil and white stain finish.

“When I thought about the stenciled concrete floors, I automatically thought Floormaps,” he says. “And because the client wanted a faded to bright white for the color, my choice was SureCrete’s Eco-Stain because it works great in layers.”

He put some numbers together and passed the job to his most experienced estimator, his father, R.C. Bauer. R.C. worked up a quote and sent it to Michelle McClendon at Leopardo Construction. There was nothing to do but wait.

Worth the wait

About a month later, “R.C. got the call,” Bauer says. “We’re in the game!” CCI had landed the subcontract to do the floors.

Eager to get some details clarified, he called and emailed Jing Yang, an interior designer with Eastlake Studio, a firm well known for its custom creativity, so he could start assembling the pieces. Next he called Floormaps. He worked with Rachel Knigge-Bruce and her sister, Kathren Knigge, about a design that had a floral pattern throughout and a compass set in the center. (See other designs by the sisters on the Concrete Decor Store.)

Bauer provided the Knigge sisters with the renderings and concept designs. They responded with the stencil layout complete with a pattern faded out in places and intact in other. Bauer subsequently shared this with Yang and others on the design team. With a lot of back and forth in roughly 150 emails later, they had an approved stencil design.

While ironing out the kinks in the stenciled concrete floors, Bauer also began working with Gary Vilcek from BDC Equipment and Rental. He wanted to ensure clarified products would be in cue when they needed them. Once the paperwork was submitted and approved, they handed off the job to Mike Bauer. Then, Bauer assembled the team, ran the install and made all the ideas happen.

“I push my team for zero punch list on every job. And our crews deliver 99% of the time,” Robert Bauer boasts. “We are the company we are because of the great people we have.”

Initially, the stenciled floor featured a crisp white pattern that would be altered to make the floor look worn and faded
Initially, the stenciled floor featured a crisp white pattern. That would then be altered to make the floor look worn and faded. Photo courtesy of CCI Flooring
Preparing for the job ahead

At this point, summer had passed and November had begun. Products and submittals had been approved, Bauer says. But before he could pull the trigger on the full stencil production, they had to do a mock-up.

“All involved wanted to make sure the pieces of the puzzle that had been put together in theory looked like intended when applied,” Bauer says. He ordered a sample quantity from Floormaps. After nailing it in the company shop, the install team replicated a sample at the job site. “And it was all systems go.”

Traditional flooring treatments — mastic adhesive, carpeting, tile, mortar — had previously covered the existing concrete. So, the CCI team first grinded the surface with its HTC Duratiq T8s equipped with 40-grit diamonds. They then patched the concrete surface’s imperfections with Mapecem Quickpatch. Next they filled the saw-cut control joints with Hi-Tech semi-rigid joint filler. They then grinded the floor in progression up to a 400-grit finish.

“The next part — which is very important when installing a stencil — is that you must have a very clean surface,” Bauer stresses. To achieve this, the team scrubbed the floor using SureCrete SCR (super concrete renovator).

Determining the flow

With the surface spanking clean, the team had to determine where to place the center point of the compass before the stencil layout could begin. Once completed, the team followed the sequential installation instructions on a detailed PDF provided by Floormaps.

Initially, the compass was to be a bright white, but the architect changed her mind at the last minute and decided it, too, needed to look faded and worn.
Initially, the compass was to be a bright white, but the marketing team felt the compass stood out more than desired. Photo by Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers.

This was “a time-consuming process that needed to be followed step-by-step,” Bauer says. “It ended up being about 40 pieces that had to be installed in a certain order.”

To further complicate matters after the assembly of this part, they deemed changes necessary because of how the pattern ended up laid out on site. In response, Floormaps supplied additional sequential pieces. The crew placed these along the design’s perimeter.

With the entire stencil finally laid out, the team mixed the SureCrete Eco-Stain 1:1 with water. They spray-applied the mixture in several layers until they achieved a uniform white color. After the stain dried overnight, they removed the stencil the next day revealing a crisp white pattern.

But it didn’t stay crisp for long.

A whiter shade of pale

On this particular job, Bauer says the field team, the interior designer and the owner interacted a lot.

In downtown Chicago, Bauer observes, “The beat, weathered, distressed look is the hottest selling thing we’ve got going. Clients just can’t get enough of it. You peel off a carpet, grind down what’s there, seal it up and call it a finished floor.” The more imperfections, the better. But this project involved a little more work.

They decided it, too, needed to look faded and worn. Photos by Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers
The design team decided the compass needed to look as faded and worn as the surrounding floor pattern. Photo by Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers

“The owner wanted this floor to look like it was old, aged and worn,” but still classy, says Bauer. “The crew used sponges with water and scrubbed off the stain in areas that needed to look aged.”

The Eastlake Studio team’s concept called for the entire floral pattern to be a lighter white than the compass. They wanted parts of the floral design to fade into zero while the compass remained bright white — up until the last day of the install.  About an hour before the crew was ready to walk off the job, Bauer says, the design team decided the crew needed to remove more of the compass’s white areas to achieve the envisioned faded look.

For the finale, they cleaned and sealed the surface with two coats of SureCrete DK 400 WB satin urethane. “It’s funny that in most of these jobs, architects — not the owner — have the final say and we end up doing it their way,” he says.

“We do about 250 to 300 jobs a year,” Bauer says. Over time CCI Flooring has completed about 5,000 jobs. “I’d put this one in the top five for uniqueness. It just stands out.”

stenciled concrete in an office mock up of the lobby area a modern office in reds and oranges with stenciled concrete in an office
Photos by Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers

Project at a Glance

Project Owner: Waystar, Chicago, Illinois

General Contractor: Leopardo Construction, with general manager Michelle McClendon

Flooring Subcontractor: CCI Flooring in Crest Hill, Illinois, with Robert D. Bauer, R.C. Bauer, Mike Bauer, Tony Hull, Colin O’Brien and Nathan Davis;

Architectural and Design Firm: Eastlake Studio;

Materials Supplier: BDC Equipment and Rental; Crest Hill, Illinois; with Gary Vilcek;

Stencil Vendor: Floormaps, with Rachel Knigge-Bruce and Kathren Knigge;

Products and Equipment Used, all supplied by BDC Equipment and Rental: HTC grinders and diamond tooling; Mapecem Quickpatch from Mapei for transitions; Hi-Tech semi-rigid joint filler; SureCrete SCR concrete cleaner, Eco-Stain in white and Dura-Kote DK 400WB polyurethane sealer in satin

Challenge and Scope of Project: To transform an existing ordinary concrete slab into a white-and-gray patterned floor with a faux fading stenciled concrete floors that look like it’s been there for 30 years

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