Last week we showed you this battered driveway and gave suggestions for transforming it into a decorative concrete surface the owner can be proud of.
Darrel Adamson, our CEO, has more suggestions about how to make sure the job turns out well, pleases the customer, and earns you a profit without a lot of headaches in the future.
“First of all,” Adamson says, “make your customer aware that the job will be a challenge. They need to know their concrete is marginal and that issues may come up in the future. Make clear the limitation of your responsibility for future repairs.”
Educating your customer about the condition of the concrete, the process for staining and engraving it, proper care for the job once it’s finished, and responsibility for repairs can eliminate misunderstandings that eat up time, profit and good will.
Checking for Delamination and/or Voids
It can be tricky to tell what’s under the surface, but it’s important to know where there are possible voids or delamination of the patches since they are problems that must be dealt with.
“One good way to check is by dragging and lightly whipping a 1/4” to 3/8” chain over the surface,” Adamson says. “Voids/delamination will definitely sound different, with a hollow or ‘tinny’ sound.”
This method works well for large areas. If you suspect a problem in a limited area, give this a try.
“For quick void checks around a small area,” Adamson says, “I use my folded pocket knife or multi-tool. Use the butt end of the knife as a small hammer. Tapping around the slab, you’ll hear any hollows. Voids beneath the slab (not on the surface) will sound more drum-like with more ‘ring.’ If the slab is setting solidly on the base gravel, it will be quieter.
“There are other methods, but these have worked for me.”
Protection from Moisture
Moisture from below the surface is the enemy of decorative concrete stains and sealers, so it’s important to keep it out of the concrete.
“Build your grout lines off the cracks that are there,” Adamson says. “That means you’re disguising the cracks by incorporating them in the design, while providing yourself with an opportunity to fill them. Use a limestone-colored, sanded/textured caulk so it doesn’t show.”
A crack that is filled with caulking and protected by a sealer is much less likely to collect moisture that may expand/contract with the weather and necessitate a repair.
According to Adamson, here are the abbreviated steps he would follow on this job:
1. Discuss the condition of the concrete with the property owner.
2. Pressure-wash the surface thoroughly.
3. Check for and repair delamination and voids.
4. Color (using proper methods according to the type of stain used.) Clean and neutralize if using acid stain.
(4a.) Wave and smile to pedestrians and drivers who slow to see what you’re doing. Great PR for you.
5. Lightly seal to protect the color.
(6a.) Pause to explain the decorative concrete process to passersby who stop to watch. They might be your next customers.
8. Add additional highlights with Water Reducible Concentrate stain (WRC.)
(8a.) Continue to greet people. Great marketing practice.
10. Caulk the cracks
11. Collect your check
For more helpful hints on staining and engraving concrete, check our Groov-E-News blog and the Tips of the Trade section of our website.