Article No: 259

2009-07-29 13:08:03
Trends in Decorative Concrete
By: Sherry Boyd

                                                                 Photo Courtesy of Skimstone & Modello
New developments in decorative concrete are offering architects, designers, builders, homeowners and contractors more choices to creatively customize each project for any style, building type or decor. First, we are seeing improved installation efficiencies that reduce costs adopted in response to economic realities today. Second, more products are going green since that has become the most significant influence on buying decisions. Third, a greater diversity of creative choices are stimulating interest and demand. This year, there are better products with innovative installation methods for use in different areas of the home. Let’s take a look at the top trends that are redefining decorative concrete.

TOP TREND # 1: Expanding the range of
green and gorgeous colors.

The palette of decorative concrete color choices just exploded. Dramatic light reflective metallic effects are the latest trend. Dyes are available to achieve intense color accents. New environmentally-sound, water-based concrete stains are gaining converts by making it possible to choose from a range of vivid colors or pastels. The water-based stains also reduce installation time and costs by eliminating the messy neutralizing and residue removal steps required with acid stains. Whether used alone or alongside the earth tones that have long been popular, these new concrete coloring options are appealing for artisans and property owners alike.

According to concrete artisan Shellie Rigsby of Acanthus Inc. Concrete Stain Designs, “Stunning finishes for concrete are changing the scope of creative options for interior design. Metals can produce an edgy high-tech modern look or may be used to produce an aged patina. For rustic or traditional decor, there are many excellent choices for ceilings, walls or other architectural details. The new avant-garde color trends are ideal for special effect finishes such as iridescent, true metals, shimmers, reflective elements and other effects made possible by new products.”

Concrete countertops
have escaped the kitchen.

With improved materials choices, the same process used for forming concrete countertops is now being applied to furniture and fixtures in areas beyond the kitchen – indoors and out. Concrete countertop mixes can be used to achieve unique, custom shapes for benches, occasional tables, desks, fireplace surrounds, bars and entertainment areas.
The latest trend is to use GFRC, glass fiber-reinforced concrete, in the mix to provide strength, so no extra reinforcing is necessary, according to Jeff Girard, president of The Concrete Countertop Institute.

“GFRC is easy to use. It is strong. GFRC pieces are lightweight, and it offers greater versatility in the design and shape,” Girard said. “GFRC has much greater flexural strength than ordinary concrete, so longer pieces and thinner elements can be made. GFRC countertops generally weigh about half that of ordinary concrete countertops of equal thickness. Finally, complex, three-dimensional pieces are much easier to make confidently using GFRC.”

A variety of shapes can now be custom-made and there are almost limitless design possibilities using stains, dyes, pigments, colored aggregates and other materials made popular in decorative concrete.

Concrete patterns are
replacing carpeting for accent areas.

Concrete floors can even be produced in glorious patterns that rival area rugs for artistic beauty. The decorative arts and decorative concrete are converging as artisans elevate stenciling to a skilled craft. Easy-to-use Modello stencils set the industry standard. The company offers a stencil library of thousands of sophisticated patterns that can be ordered custom-sized and cut to order for either grand or petite projects.

“Modellos,” the brainchild of Melanie Royals, provide a reliable means of transferring custom designs onto floors, walls or ceilings using adhesive-backed patterns popular with decorative painting and decorative concrete contractors.
Why are homeowners choosing concrete instead of rugs? In areas where indoor air quality and hygiene are of paramount importance, concrete floors offer the environmentally sound solution and provide superior durability. Concrete “carpets” stay where they are put down, and won’t harbor dust mites and other allergens like carpets, can’t mold or mildew, and won’t out-gas like polyvinyl and some composite materials.

Concrete polishing just got easier.

The environmental benefits of concrete polishing are now attainable for residential use due to recent innovations in products and equipment. Although light-colored, light-reflective monochromatic polished floors are often selected to reduce energy demand, many color choices are available for polished concrete. Low-VOC, environmentally-friendly coloring products can be used during the process to add elegant colors that harmonize with other building materials.

Architects are often surprised by the variety of appearances that can be achieved by specifying exactly the level of reflectivity to be produced during polishing. Different sizes and colors of aggregates or recycled glass chips can be selected for use in the concrete mix, and then exposed when the top surface is removed during grinding. The amazing results rival granite and terrazzo in appearance and durability, but win on price.

Grinding and polishing concrete first became popular for retail and commercial settings subjected to food or petro-chemical spillage. The hard and dust-free concrete surface that is produced when a densifier is used dramatically have reduced maintenance costs and liability claims from slip-fall hazards in big box stores.

Since then, new equipment has made installation more efficient. The process has been widely adopted for schools and child-care facilities because it ends the use of harsh chemicals for cleaning and eliminates the cost of additional floor coverings on top of the existing concrete slab. For all these reasons concrete polishing has been accepted as an innovation in materials use that improves indoor air quality to meet LEED criteria for green building, as set by the United States Green Building Council.

The new direction is vertical.

Vertical decorative concrete offers the newest opportunity for skilled artisans to provide homeowners something wholly personal. There are many creative techniques for artistic walls and features to suit any home. The craft of artificial rock forming is one that is reaching a new level due to the leadership of Nathan Giffin.

“Our customers like environments with a sense of character and antiquity inspired by a place they have visited, whether it be the castles of Scotland, the ruins of Greece or even local landmark rock formations,” Giffin said. As seen on, Giffin is known for his skill in sculpting incredibly realistic rockwork, including pillars, arches, wine cellars, walls, grottos, pools and other exterior landscape features for homes. Contractors from around the country are flocking to his classes to learn from the master.

These are just a few of the new trends in decorative concrete that will be featured at the Concrete Decor Show in Phoenix in March 2010. Educational seminars will be offered for architects, designers, builders, property owners and developers. Shellie Rigsby, Jeff Girard, Melanie Royals and Nathan Giffin are just a few of the industry experts who will lead seminars and workshops at the event. The “Decorative Concrete Spring Training” offers an ideal opportunity for contractors to explore new business opportunities in decorative concrete and learn new skills to expand their services. Concrete Homes is a media partner for this show. For more information, see

Sherry Boyd is director of marketing and communications for the Concrete Decor Show. She may contacted by e-mailing