Decorative Concrete

A Duraamen DIY Floor Success Story

By Vanessa Salvia

Julie and Chris Hawkins and their two children, now aged 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, used to live in San Francisco, California. There they were all crammed into a 1,200-square-foot apartment.

The finished floor. (Photo by Vanessa Salvia)

They decided to relocate, and started searching for family homes in the Eugene, Oregon, area. Julie was planning on giving up her job at a prestigious San Francisco design firm, where she worked on interiors for Napa wineries, restaurants and high-end residences. Chris can do his job anywhere.

After a home-seeing tour to Eugene, they walked through a 1960 architect-designed home, returned to San Francisco, thought about it, and bought it. “It was a maze of hallways and doors and little rooms everywhere,” says Julie. “But no one had done anything to it. I didn’t want to buy a house and pay for someone else’s remodel. I was drawn to it.”

The house was basically all white—white kitchen cabinets and white 7×7 tile on the entire 3,000-square-foot first floor. Though Julie doesn’t decorate with a lot of color, white is not her style. “We considered wood, but it really didn’t fit the house,” says Julie. They found a good deal on large format tile, but didn’t want to add on the expense of having it installed.

Chris was keen on tackling the problem himself. “There was a concrete subfloor but it wasn’t good looking,” he says. “We couldn’t polish it, or else we probably would have done that.”

He researched heavily until he came across products made by Duraamen, owned by Victor Pachade and based in New Jersey. They settled on using Duraamen’s Param 5500 with Perdure U45 Matte polyurethane sealer. “I talked a lot with Victor before we did this on how it would work and what we needed to do,” Chris says. “We knew it was an all-or-nothing job.”

Chris spent many weeks prepping the subfloor. He thinks he did more prep than was necessary, but that’s ok. “I rented a floor grinder to grind a lot of mastic and stuff from the tile I got a bead blaster,” he says. “As a novice, I over did it. A pro would probably have come in here and just taken care of the hot spots but I knew that when it was done I would not have to worry about anything not adhering.”

The slab before prep. (Photo courtesy of Chris and Julie Hawkins).

Though the prep work took a long time, installation was quick. They had tried to section off the large job into multiple smaller pours, using 3/8-inch Schluter affixed to the floor in strategic areas as mini dams, but it was impossible to get the material to perfectly align with the Schluter, so they abandoned that approach and realized they needed to pour all 3,000 square feet at one time.

Chris hired a crew of six guys to help him mix and apply the material in one pour over the course of three hours. They mixed 15 gallons of material at a time and had three different workstations to keep the product continuously flowing. Since it has a quick set-up time of about 15 minutes, it can only be mixed in small amounts. They chose a dark gray color, which goes well with Julie’s minimalist style.

“We used a gauge rake to spread and level the material and a 36-inch wide blunt spiked roller to remove any air pockets or bubbles, and it worked beautifully,” Chris recalls.

It feels good on bare feet too. “There’s a velvety-ness to it when you walk on it,” Chris says. “It doesn’t feel hard like regular concrete. It feels softer. It’s nice for a home.” The floor throughout most of the downstairs came with radiant heating installed, which encourages the family to enjoy the barefoot feel of the floor.

The finish came out mottled, which they weren’t expecting (likely because of the blunt spiked roller which wasn’t part of Duraamen’s instructions, but was something Chris had read about in other blogs). The floor shows some brush strokes but that’s because it sets up so fast, Chris thinks. Had they followed Duraamen’s instructions, likely the floor would not be mottled. But in hindsight, the subtle patterning is easier on the eye than an expanse of solid gray floor. The couple also removed several interior walls to open up the floor plan, so you can stand at one end of the floor downstairs and see almost to the other side of the house. That much concrete in a solid color would have been a little too much.

Chris used a matching trowel-on version of the concrete material, called Skraffino, for stairs and a fireplace hearth, also in the same dark gray color. He never sealed those surfaces, and should have gone back and put a second coat of sealer over the floor. Since he didn’t, those surfaces have a few stains now, but that’s part of the charm of the house. “The trowel-on material was really easy to use,” Chris says. “I used a magic trowel for applying the skim coat. It was really easy and looks great.”

The one thing that caught Chris by surprise was the cost of shipping the product across the country. Even so, he says, he would do it again. “There’s a lot of flaws in what we’ve done but it’s OK,” he says. “For our budget and with having 3,000 square feet to cover, it worked great. It came out to about $3 a foot, comparable to the cost of affordable tile, and we like it.”

Below are two timelapse videos of the install:

This article originally appeared in our August/September 2017 issue.

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