Cheng Concrete awardwinning bar

The nature of concrete as a sculptural, earthy and warm building material opens new design possibilities to create fabricated features with unique shapes. Design by CHENG Design. Photography by Matthew Millman.

More people are turning to decorative concrete for durability and design versatility at an affordable cost.

A WIDE ARRAY OF COLORS, styles and materials are available for designers, builders, contractors and property owners who understand the green benefits and unlimited creative opportunities afforded by using decorative concrete throughout the built environment. Over the past five years, the business of concrete polishing, GFRC fabrication and concrete restoration continued to enjoy growth, although not as robust as in prior years.

This magazine will be taking a closer look at the different dimensions of decorative concrete materials, methods and uses. We will examine how it is seen by green rating systems and ways that decorative concrete is artistically finished. As an introduction, this article showcases examples of some of the top trends ahead in 2013.

polished concrete and polishable overalys

The multi-colored self-leveling overlay, AmeriPolish OS, allows fast track installation. The integral color is pre-measured in twelve shades for easy, accurate dosing. Photo courtesy Ameripolish.

1. Polished Concrete and Polishable Overlays

First adopted for durability in high traffic areas, polished concrete floors are now seen in every type of room. The benefits have been proven in schools, public buildings, government facilities, big box retail, grocery chains, and transportation hubs. More recent improvements to grinding and polishing equipment and surface treatments have made polished concrete cost-effective enough for residential use, too.

Durability and low maintenance requirements are not the only reason polished concrete floors are specified. The appearance of polished concrete can range from uniformly colored, monochromatic floors to many color combinations produced with penetrating dyes or stains. Sometimes polished floors have a more natural appearance that shows off the composition of the concrete mix by revealing different types and sizes of aggregate to resemble granite or terrazzo at a fraction of the cost. In addition, new overlays suitable for polishing have been successfully introduced. Overlays for polishing were first developed to provide a level surface and cover over staining and gouging of an existing slab that made some concrete surfaces unsuitable for surface grinding and polishing. Polishable overlays now have their own market niche as a fresh canvas for distinctive color schemes and designer graphic art.

fabrication and rock forming

Beautiful GFRC fireplaces meet both safety and durability requirements. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kudrick, J&M Lifestyles.

2. GFRC Fabrication and Rock Forming

Glass fiber-reinforced concrete, known as GFRC, allows lightweight yet strong shapes to be formed. GFRC has greater flexural strength than ordinary concrete so features such as countertops, panels, and furniture can be made thinner yet stronger through mold fabrication techniques. The same GFRC materials and techniques are being used to make many kinds of architectural details and fireplaces.

decorative concrete rock forming

Unique hand carved vertical decorative concrete lends character to any area. Photo courtesy of Nathan Giffin,

For instance, almost any home décor from modern to rustic can be complemented with a custom fireplace surround, mantel, shelves, hearth and even chimney customized for any size, style and color imaginable. GFRC fireplaces can meet both safety and durability requirements necessary for hearths. The authentic appearance of quarried limestone stacked stone, terra cotta or rock often can be produced at a lower price than those materials.

Creative rock forming and vertical concrete rock carving takes a slightly different approach and requires different mixtures than molding. Vertical decorative concrete can be used to turn a boring basement into a wine cellar, add character to an ordinary façade, or create a grotto and rock features in an otherwise plain backyard.

restoration - before

Resurfacing materials can take an ordinary surface from grey to gorgeous. Photos courtesy Glen Roman, Staintec.

3. Renewal and Restoration

Popular television programs have showed us how curb appeal influences property values – either negatively or positively. Many structurally-sound existing concrete surfaces that are plain grey concrete or existing decorative concrete hardscapes can lose their color intensity and show superficial starches as the surface wears. The appearance can be refreshed at a surprisingly affordable cost. Only a short installation schedule is required for the surface application of a color renewal treatment or application of a cementitious topping developed for resurfacing.

restoration - after

After restoration.

This type cosmetic fix is far less costly than a tear out and replacement. Many new and improved restoration and repair materials have been developed. In 2013 far superior choices are available for renewal and restoration. Some even have cooling properties that reduce surface temperatures significantly, even on the hottest days.

Training & Education for Decorative Concrete

These are just a few of the trends and opportunities in decorative concrete that were featured at the Concrete Decor Show in Charlotte, N.C., March 11-15, 2013. The event provides an opportunity to meet industry experts and learn from top trainers who offer seminars and workshops at the event. New summits are offered for companies marketing and selling concrete floors and counters. Now in its fourth year, the Concrete Decor Show is an ideal opportunity to explore new business opportunities in concrete restoration, resurfacing and decorative concrete. Concrete Homes is a media partner for this event. For more information, see ch+

Read the whole issue here.