Helping a Nonprofit with Decorative Concrete Makes a Great First Impression

The finished logo on the front driveway of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

I was invited to attend the preplanning meeting for the 2013 Concrete Decor Show to look at potential sites for the decorative concrete makeover workshops. We looked at three different sites, and in the end it was clear that the Charlotte Rescue Mission had the most need of our services. In fact it had so many needs I wasn’t sure which area I was going to do when I left.

After talking it over with all involved, we decided to lead a workshop that would transform the front entrance to the mission.

Putting the finishing touches on the concrete stamping project.Anybody that knows me or has ever been to a training hosted by my company (Deco-Crete Supply, based in Ohio) knows how important I think steps are, so I had to find an area where we could pour some steps. I didn’t have to look very far to find a set of wood steps leading down to the laundry room that were in bad shape. I always like to incorporate steps into my trainings because I feel steps are an easy way to separate yourself from the competition, especially with all the advancements in formliners over the years.

Next was choosing our colors. There were two red brick buildings on both sides of the entryway, and sometimes the tendency is to try to bring some of that red brick color into the stamped area. There are two reasons I don’t like to do that. First, as we were surrounded by two large buildings with thousands of bricks, adding more to a horizontal surface would have been too busy. Second, it is difficult to match the brick color exactly, so it’s better to do something completely different.

Fresh concrete is being poured out of the concrete truck.

Placing concrete stamps with a tamper.

Pressure washing the concrete to prepare for final sealing coat.

So for the main field color we used more of a tan sandstone. This color accents the brick and is the natural color of how the stone would actually look.

For the border I selected a medium gray color because I wanted the border to stand out but not take away from all the other things. The buildings are more than 100 years old and I wanted the stamping to match that age, so I picked English ashlar, a tumbled stone look with irregular grout lines. On the border we used a rough classic stone pattern.

The other thing I wanted to incorporate was the mission’s logo. My original design required a two-yard smooth-troweled slab to be poured ahead of time. Then, when we got there, we could do some scoring and staining before the class started. As we all know, things out on a job site aren’t always how we expect them to be and you have to be able to adjust on the fly. The slab that was poured wouldn’t work.

Group looks on as the concrete is screeded.However, I already had the stencil cut out for the logo, so I came up with a new design for a new pour — making a diamond with the same border around it as the overall project and using a seamless texture on the inside with the logo centered in the middle. Not exactly what I had in mind but it worked out and looked nice.

The first day of the training, we poured the steps and logo area in the morning and the rest of the driveway in the afternoon. Normally I would have broken this 1,000-square-foot area into two pours, stopping it at one of the bands, but we had to get it done to be able to finish the next day.

Jason Geiser stands in the steps to show another application for decorative concrete at this nonprofit.This area was challenging. Being sandwiched between the buildings made it very hard to float and get the bands done. Plus, there was the 180 feet of border we were trying to do monolithically. Factor in the wind wiping through the area and the mix having hot water in it, and the whole class was participating, even if they didn’t come prepared to.

On day two we used a water-based stain to get a subtle variation of the color between the stones. We put a light coat of sealer on the whole thing, being careful not to get any in the joints so it would be easier to clean up the grout we applied after it was dry.

I love the way stamped concrete looks grouted — there is nothing that looks more like the real thing, However, doing it really sucks.

The overall project really came out nice and the staff and the people from the mission were awesome! What a great opportunity to help this great organization! Extra special thanks to my local guys from O-H-I-O for their willingness to help on this project: the Deco-Crete Supply staff, Dave Vaughn from Vaughn Concrete (Creston, Ohio) and Matt Zook from J&H Decorative Concrete (Uniontown, Ohio).

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