Newly Stenciled Concrete Made to Look Worn and Faded

As part of an office renovation in downtown Chicago, the existing concrete floor was grinded, stenciled, stained and sealed. Part of the process involved manipulating the intensity of the stain and erasing parts of the stencil to create a worn look.
As part of an office renovation in downtown Chicago, the existing concrete floor was grinded, stenciled, stained and sealed. Part of the process involved manipulating the intensity of the stain and erasing parts of the stencil to create a worn look. Photo courtesy of CCI Flooring

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, the president of CCI Flooring was intrigued.

The project involved remodeling an office building in downtown Chicago. Their goal was to create 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 concrete stenciled floor.

The architect’s design rendering of a floor featuring a faded pattern 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

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 were not 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, and another 1,000 square feet of grind-and-seal with a stencil and white stain finish.

“When I thought about the stencil, 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 and 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.

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 others, which Bauer subsequently shared with Yang and others on the design team. When it was all said and done in roughly 150 emails later, they had an approved stencil design.

While the kinks in the stencil were getting ironed out, Bauer also began working with Gary Vilcek from BDC Equipment and Rental to ensure clarified products would be in cue when they needed them. Once the paperwork was submitted and approved, the job was handed off 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 it was early November. Products and submittals had been approved, Bauer says. But before he could pull the trigger on the full stencil production, a mock-up was in order.

“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.”

The existing concrete was previously covered with traditional flooring treatments — mastic adhesive, carpeting, tile, mortar — 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 and filled the saw-cut control joints with Hi-Tech semi-rigid joint filler. The floor was then grinded 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).

Some areas of the stenciled pattern were completely scrubbed off while others were partially erased or made to look severely faded.
Some areas of the stenciled pattern were completely scrubbed off while others were partially erased or made to look severely faded. Photos courtesy of CCI Flooring

With the surface spanking clean, the team had to determine where the center point of the compass should be placed before the stencil layout could begin. Once that was done, the team followed the sequential installation instructions on a detailed PDF provided by Floormaps, “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.”

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.

To further complicate matters once this part was assembled, changes were deemed necessary because of how the pattern ended up laid out on site. In response, Floormaps supplied additional sequential pieces, which the crew placed 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 a uniform white color was achieved. The stain dried overnight and the stencil was removed 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 there was a lot of interaction between the field team, the interior designer and the owner.

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 there was a little more work involved with this project.

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, with parts of the floral design fading into zero and the compass remaining a 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 that more of the compass’s white areas needed to be removed to achieve the envisioned faded look.

For the finale, the surface was cleaned and then sealed 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, and 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.”

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; www.ccifloors.com

Architectural and Design Firm: Eastlake Studio; www.eastlakestudio.com

Materials Supplier: BDC Equipment and Rental; Crest Hill, Illinois; with Gary Vilcek; www.bdcsupply.com

Stencil Vendor: Floormaps, with Rachel Knigge-Bruce and Kathren Knigge; www.floormapsinc.com

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 design that looks like it’s been there for 30 years

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