What we call decorative concrete is still concrete, “it’s not magic concrete,” says Chris Klemaske, the marketing and customer relationship half of the team with husband Byron who runs the decorative concrete operations for T.B. Penick, San Diego.
“Here at Penick we follow the installation rules for concrete when it comes to both curing and jointing,” says Byron. “We try to explain to our clients that decorative concrete is still concrete and that all the rules still apply. Many decorative concrete contractors lose sight of this and end up having issues on their projects. It’s our reputation on the line even if the customer signs off on the risk.”
The Klemaskes have learned this from nearly a lifetime in the decorative concrete business. “I worked for a landscape company in the summers while in high school,” says Byron. “I loved being involved with the concrete aspects and eventually started running concrete crews right out of high school. I was involved on one of the first stamp jobs in Southern California. I’ve been working with decorative concrete since that day.”
Chris came at it from a different angle, first working with Byron’s company, then starting her own business in the late 1980s to do sealing of stamped concrete projects. “I realized that decorative contractors were paying really good money to clean, seal, and restore concrete. I spoke to a friend of mine and we started Classic Concrete Care. After five or six years, that business evolved into me working for another company, helping to design and sell residential concrete work and then commercial work.”
Today, Chris works with architects, owners, and builders while Byron runs the decorative concrete construction operations for T.B. Penick. In 1999, Penick asked if he would work with them and he brought his whole crew of 60 people with him. “We’ve been there since and it was the best move we ever made,” says Byron. Chris agrees and adds, “We never looked back.”
“Over the years,” Byron explains, “decorative contractors have not always been seen as serious contractors. But over the past few years I have seen that evolving quickly. Today there is at least one leading company in every city that is the go-to decorative concrete contractor for their area.”
“For a young decorative contractor,” Byron continues, “I would tell them to portray yourself as a professional, including working safely and providing quality. And follow the rules of concrete — it’s not magic concrete.” From her work with architects, Chris emphasizes the point, “Know when to say no and don’t try to do things you don’t know how to do. If you lose a project, that’s better than risking your reputation.”
“And finally,” Byron says, “get the right people in place. If not for the people we work with day in and day out here at Penick — and their families —none of this would be possible.”
Visit www.tbpenick.com for more information.
T.B. Penick submitted the project "Santee Town Center" for the 2016 Triad Award.