Regarded as the fastest-growing segment of the concrete industry, decorative concrete now is making its way into projects of all sizes and budgets as color and texture experimentation has revived interest in the category. Once only found in high-end homes, colorful concrete can be molded into any shape, has excellent fire resistance, requires little or no maintenance, and is very strong.
Andrea Cochran, who owns a landscape architecture firm in San Francisco, says, “People often view concrete as plain and horrible. But when you add color or texture or special scoring details, they get excited. Regardless of money constraints, I first design artistic appeal into my plans; then I specify decorative finishes the client can afford.”
Used in applications ranging from flooring to countertops to sinks, as well as outdoor walkways, pool decks, and more, the material can be mixed with other mediums or simply hand tooled for unique looks.
For one project, Lance Boyer, owner of Trademark Concrete in Anaheim, Calif., broadcast 4- to 5-inch stone aggregates onto the concrete surface prior to finishing. Then, using terrazzo grinders, he ground the concrete to expose the aggregate and produce a surface with traction. He's also specified plain gray concrete with broken glass and ceramic tile pieces broadcast on the surface — again grinding the concrete to produce a decorative effect.
Meanwhile, Park Boyer of Cleveland-based Master Builders, says his firm is working with liquid-dispensed integral colors in concrete. He's convinced that the colored concrete market is mushrooming because “plain gray” concrete's durability means it doesn't scale or come apart under adverse conditions.
Integrally colored concrete is the largest segment of the decorative market. Stamped concrete patterns and textures are next, followed by a variety of popular finishes, including chemical stains, overlay cement products, spray overlays, stenciled patterned finishes, sandblasted stencil patterning, diamond-cut patterns, and decorative sealers/coatings, to name a few.
With so many colors and designs to fit any budget, decorative concrete will continue to gain fans among professionals who want to wow clients and boost sales. — A version of this article originally appeared in BUILDING PRODUCTS and CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION , REMODELING 's sister publications.