Giving Concrete a Facelift. By using resurfacing systems that are specially formulated to level, add dimension and color along with durability, old surfaces can get a whole new look.
By Ester Brody
that are specially formulated to level, add dimension and color along with durability, old surfaces can get a whole new look.
Putting a new face on old concrete is nothing new. In fact, some of the better-known theme parks, hotels, airports and malls have walkways that have been resurfaced with textured concrete. Many of those pedestrian-traveled venues that look like cobblestone, slate, brick and marble are in fact, cement surfaces fashioned to look like more expensive materials at a fraction of the cost. Experienced painting and concrete contractors have been applying these textured finishes for years, adding to their profitability and reputations. If you haven’t ventured into this part of the business, it’s never too late to add another application technique to your repertoire.
When dealing with existing concrete there are many options available that can enhance the surface appearance. Determining which option is the best will depend on the condition of the concrete. If the concrete is in good condition, customers can consider acid staining, which gives the surface a mottled appearance and adds color. Another option is sandblasting a design into the surface using stencils or templates. Various patterns and designs can also be achieved by scoring the surface.
If however, the concrete surface is cracked, uneven or pitted, resurfacing with a thin layer of a polymer-modified Portland cement may be the best option. Of course, concrete that is in good condition is an excellent candidate for this application as well. From the painting contractor perspective, resurfacing concrete presents a new opportunity. The expertise required to apply these coatings is similar to other applications of textured coatings. These cementitious products are typically applied with a combination of spray equipment, trowels and squeegees. The biggest difference in the application of resurfacing products and other textured coatings is the use of stencils or templates. Templates that mimic the shape of stone, brick or other materials are placed in position, then sprayed or toweled over with the overlay material. Different textures and colors can also be applied as part of the project. Some manufacturers offer more than 1,000 color choices.
In addition to providing a whole new look to existing concrete, resurfacing is also extremely economical. Resurfacing offers other benefits such as added safety and durability. “Unlike plain concrete or tile, decorative systems can be applied in a slip resistant finish,” says Rick Cox of Spray-Crete Industries. “This specialty is crucial in pool areas, and other areas like wheelchair access ramps, building entrances, and stairwells.” Resurfacing products also provide extremely high compressive strength, UV resistance and resistance to stains, mildew, oil, and most solvents. Product composition is what gives these resurfacing materials such resilience. For example, Spray-Crete Industries uses high quality Portland cement combined with an exclusive liquid bonding additive for their Spray-Crete Base and Texture Coat. The water composition of most resurfacing products also makes them environmentally friendly to use, and easy to clean up when the job is done.
Other substrates like brick, block, tile, and exposed aggregate are also ideal for resurfacing applications. There are also many interior and exterior application possibilities such as pool decks, driveways, entryways, sidewalks, and steps. Virtually any surface that is appropriate for walking or driving can be resurfaced.
Perhaps the only time resurfacing is not recommended is when the concrete is so badly damaged, it needs to be removed. In these cases, old concrete is replaced with new. If a decorative finish is desired, the concrete contractor may position templates or stamps in place at the time of the pour. This option can produce beautiful, realistic looking brick, paver or stone-like finishes. However, the process is more costly than resurfacing concrete, if it is in good condition.
As with any new material or product, consulting the manufacturer on application techniques and tips is the best way to ensure success. Some manufacturers offer hands-on training in the field or organized classes for a more in-depth coverage of product uses, capabilities and trouble shooting. In addition, similar to many coating products, most resurfacing products are “systems,” that involve several components. For example, ARTCRETE, Inc., offers a system called Faux Brick Deck Coat. The Faux Brick Deck Coat is a modified white or gray Portland cement, which is combined with a modified acrylic resin, Faux Brick Resin. The system is finished with a high-solids, water or solvent-based sealer.
Although not as simple as opening and stirring a can of paint, preparing the base coat is not a difficult process. Most products come packaged in 50 lb. bags, which are mixed with a latex modifier or water. Typically, the resurfacing material is used as both a base coat and top coat. Mixing can be done with a paint stirrer or a 450 to 600-rpm drill. The ratio of dry product to liquid will depend on the type of texture you’re trying to achieve. Again, the manufacturer can supply the correct “recipe” for each application. Once you have the desired consistency, the product can be applied with a hopper gun, trowel or squeegee, or a combination of methods. The thickness of the application can also vary from featheredge to an eighth of an inch in depth. Some products can even be applied up to two inches thick, for severe patching and leveling.
Other tools and materials needed for this new application may include the templates or stencils. The manufacturer can supply these along with information on any necessary safety equipment. For example, manufacturers recommend wearing safety goggles and protective gloves during all stages of application including pressure washing. Respirators must also be worn when applying solvent-based concrete sealers due to fumes. If acid etching will be part of the job, check with the manufacturer for additional safety guidelines.
Proper surface preparation is critical to the success of the job. “Paint professionals know this probably better than anyone else,” says Frank Piccolo of ARTCRETE. “The best product in the world won’t stick if you don’t properly prepare the surface.” No matter how sound the concrete surface appears, review three principles before you begin.
1. Clean — The host surface must be free of dust, dirt, oil , grease, paint, and curing components. Customarily, the surface should be washed with an industrial degreaser. All loose, delaminating, flaking, or spalling concrete should be mechanically removed by pressure washer, abrasive systems, scarifier, etc.
2. Cured — New concrete should be fully hydrated. Cure times can vary widely depending upon climate. Cooler climates make take up to 28 days, while hot climates may sufficiently cure in as little as 4 days.
3. Profiled — The host surface should be acid-etched or shot-blasted to open the “pores” of the concrete. This allows the fine sand and latex modifier to flow into the pores and marry as one unit with the concrete. Stress cracks and pitting should be filled with an appropriate quality concrete patching compound. In addition to checking with your resurfacing product manufacturers, detailed surface preparation guidelines specifically designed for concrete are also available from the International Concrete Repair Institute.
“Important to keep in mind with any and all crack repairs is the fact that over time, cracks will return. Cracks can best be hidden if they can become a part of your decorative work (e.g. grout lines, color transitions, or fancy ivy or grape vines) on the concrete surface,” says Mike Lowe, Jr. of Increte Systems, Inc.
Once all surface preparation is completed, the actual resurfacing can start. Base coats contribute to a superior chemical and mechanical bond. They hide imperfections, level the surface and establish contrasting grout colors in a typical two-color application. The consistency of the base coat will depend on job requirements. For example, a thin liquid coat will fill small imperfections or pock marks. This thin coat is not meant to provide 100 percent coverage. However, a thicker base coat will help level the surface and offer total coverage. Either of these applications can be done with a squeegee or trowel. Before the next step, allow the surface to dry at least two hours.
Stencils and templates may be utilized next. There are many designs to choose from: some stencils are easier to work with than others. In any case, stencils are measured, cut to fit and held in place with putty or a factory applied adhesive backing. Once the stencil is secure, a color coat can be sprayed on with a hopper gun. Usually the top coat is the same product (with a contrasting color added) as the base coat. A wide range of textures can be achieved depending on the pressure and type of spray nozzle used, and whether the top coat is troweled. After drying, two to three hours, remove the stencils and sweep away any loose putty or debris. The surface is now ready for sealer application. Check manufacturer’s directions on how many coats of sealer to use: directions for interior and exterior work may vary. In general, the surface will be ready to walk on in about 24 hours. Surfaces exposed to vehicular traffic should dry for four full days before they are used. According to industry standards, the surface will not be completely cured for about 28 days.
While decorative resurfacing is not a new technique, demand for these applications is growing. “Polymer modified cements have been in use for decades, but it’s only been in the last five years or so t3hat architects, builders and homeowners have really gotten turned on to this aspect of decorative concrete,” says Rick Cox. Because of their water-based formulations, resurfacing materials are easy to work with. They are also versatile and offer relatively fast completion times. There are many advantages of resurfacing systems. Added to the renewed interest from customers, this application becomes not only a solid addition to the services that you offer, but also a potential new profit center for your business.