Risky Installations – Don’t be a Gambler

When you accept a job that involves bad concrete, you’re gambling with some pretty high stakes – your peace of mind, your profit margin, and most of all your reputation for doing quality decorative concrete work.

How can I know if it’s a job I should walk away from?

According to Chris Mirabal, Technical Adviser at Engrave-A-Crete, one easy test is to attempt to engrave a mark into the concrete surface using a screwdriver or knife. Apply some pressure and see what happens. No mark, or only a very light scratch, means the concrete surface is good. A deep mark means it’s time to walk away, or maybe even run. A soft concrete surface will cause failure of the stain and sealers. Every time. No exceptions.

Is leaving the only option?

No. There are usually some fixes, but you and your customer must know the cost.

The only successful treatment for a weak concrete surface is to remove the top layer with a Blastin’ Betty or a sander. A soft top layer happens when the aggregate that gives concrete its strength has been pushed down within the slab. Removing the soft layer down to the aggregate will result in a surface suitable for staining and sealing. If your customer wants a smoother or different finished surface, a resurfacer can be applied at this point.

Removing the bad layer will take some time, effort and wear on your tools and machinery. Adding a resurfacer costs even more. Be sure to discuss the added expense with your customer and bid the job accordingly. Don’t let your customer (or yourself) talk you into skipping the removal step and going ahead with staining/sealing the soft surface, hoping it will be okay. It won’t. Customers often have short memories when it comes to technicalities, and the blame will fall squarely on you, the decorative concrete expert, when the failure occurs.

So our advice is, don’t gamble on inferior concrete. Take only the jobs that are a sure thing or the customers who are willing to spend the extra money to make the concrete right. We know you need the work, but sometimes walking away is more profitable.

We’ll be talking more about risky installations later. Stay tuned.