Article No: 152

2006-05-03 08:45:25
Decorative Concrete
By: Cindy Rizzo, manager of Training Program Development, L.M. Scofield Company

Limestone Lithotex Pavecrafters embossing skins are random patterns. Using them for imprinting instead of the heavier tools enables contractors to texture a surface more quickly. Photography courtesy of L.M. Scofield Company

Since their introduction, cementitious toppings have been chosen by architects and designers alike for their versatility and durability. Initially, they focused on its many practical applications for commercial structures like schools, hospitals and municipal buildings.

But as more and more people have become familiar with the benefits of cementitious toppings, their use has grown. Cementitious toppings are easy to maintain and increase durability in homes and commercial uses. They can be used in both new construction and renovation projects. Today, we're seeing decorative concrete in residential applications, including kitchen and bathroom floors and countertops, as well as outside on patios, pool decks, walkways and driveways.

Homeowners have discovered the wide range of beautiful finishes available to them. They appreciate that they can enjoy the appearance of natural materials like stone without its considerable expense. Contractors are able to replicate virtually any natural material, as well as brick, tile, and even wood, by applying plastic or paper stencils or stamping the topping with imprinting tools or skins and adding color.

Homeowners also like the fact that cementitious toppings can make renovating faster, cleaner and less costly. As long as the underlying concrete substrate is structurally sound, resurfacing with a cementitious topping eliminates the need to tear out the old concrete and start from scratch.

An unusual kitchen floor
"The owner of this property in historic Powahatan County, Va. fell in love with the look of stamped concrete," said Ron Biringer, the contractor of R.J. Biringer Company. "She really appreciated the way that L. M. Scofield Company's stamp-grade Texturetop offered the appearance of large pieces of stone - that it didn't have many seams and joints. She saw the kitchen as her space and she wanted something that 'jumped out' and was different. She wanted it to be unique and very special."

Said Biringer, "To get the look she sought, we installed the layers of plywood and underlayment, put reinforcing mesh over all of the joints and used the Scofield Bondaid Primer on them. Then we applied Scofield stamp-grade Texturetop topping in a 3/8-inch depth and textured it with Lithotex Pavecrafters fractured earth embossing skins. The color of the topping is weathered sage that we antiqued with Lithochrome Antiquing Release in Classic Gray. Maintaining this floor is really easy," said Biringer. "It's kept clean with a damp mop, and about once a month they apply JohnsonDiversey Carefree Wax to protect it from food stains."

A refreshed patio
At a home in the Florida panhandle, the owners wanted to upgrade the look of their plain gray back patio. Like many people, they love the texture of natural stone. At the same time, it was important that the refinished patio coordinate with the existing brick and mortar of their home.

Because the existing patio was in good condition, the best way to give the owners what they were seeking was to imprint a cementitious topping with embossing skins. Not only would this method give them the look they wanted, the result would be a durable, easy to maintain outdoor recreation area. In fact, the construction is so strong that this patio withstood the devastating force of Hurricane Ivan without sustaining any damage.

To install the imprinted topping, the contractor prepared the slab by removing the debris and wetting it down until it was saturated surface dry. (Damp concrete with no puddles is "saturated surface dry.") Then stamp-grade cementitious topping was mixed to the manufacturer's specifications, applied to the surface and gauge raked to the appropriate thickness. Once the material achieved the appropriate plasticity for imprinting, the contractor used a combination of liquid release in combination with two colors of powdered antiquing release. A release is necessary to prevent the imprinting tools from adhering to the stamped surface. If you don't want to add color to the surface, clear liquid releases are also available.

To prevent cracking, the topping must be saw cut. If the substrate surface has joints that have been carefully reflected through the topping, it may not be necessary to create any additional saw cuts. Each project is unique. Because this patio substrate didn't have any joints, it was at risk for cracking; saw cuts were thus added to the stamped topping in order to protect the newly placed surface from cracking.

Whether the imprinted surface will have heavy traffic or light, it's critical that it be protected from wear and weather. Every imprinted surface must be sealed. Choose the sealer that will best protect the surface from stains. Sealers can also bring out the color and improve the surface's durability and slip-resistance. With correct maintenance, textured cementitious toppings can give homeowners years of enjoyment.
Imprinted cementitious toppings have come a long way from the days when people questioned using concrete anywhere other than driveways. These days, they're among the most sought-after finishes.