World of Concrete attendees have come to expect a full and diverse program of educational seminars as part of their well-rounded experience at the show. This year, for the first time, contractors had a unique opportunity to witness real-time demonstrations during two Concrete Construction Live! educational sessions.

The action took place in Concrete Construction’s How-To Zone, a 1600-square-foot area of the Concrete Surfaces & Decorative Pavilion that’s dedicated to live-action displays of products and techniques. During the three-hour outdoor sessions, attendees had an intimate audience with decorative concrete experts.

The morning session (8 a.m.–12 p.m.), “Advances in Decorative Concrete Stenciling,” explored the use of stencils and solvent-based dyes, with a special focus on the technique of color alignment using registration marks. Instructor Rachel Bruce, of Placerville, Calif.-based Floor Map Designs, is a graphic design expert who began designing decorative concrete stencils while working for a concrete stain and dye manufacturer. In 2008, she began working exclusively with stencils, and developed a simple method for designing complex patterns using techniques from the printing industry.

She was joined by co-presenter and business associate, Chris Swanson, a contractor with more than 10 years of experience in decorative concrete. Bruce and Swanson showed attendees how to properly prepare a surface, and lay out and apply a multilayered, 3D stencil design by aligning registration marks. They offered tips to ensure accurate placement and avoid bubbles or creases. “You have to have plenty of patience to work with stencils—it does take time,” she said.

Bruce offered practical tips for getting the best results, such as the importance of using painter’s tape, using a microfiber cloth to clean the surface before stenciling, and wetting the water-soluble transfer tape before removing it, so it won’t pull the stencil off the substrate when removed. But for all the do’s and don’ts, she was encouraging. “It’s easier than you think to create designs that really make an impact,” she said. “The beauty of stencils is, you don’t have to be an artist—the stencil does the work for you.”

Offering stenciled designs can give a contractor a competitive edge, as Swanson has experienced first hand. Ever since his Placerville, Calif.-based company, Colour, delved into dyes and stains, it has been the fastest growing part of their business. Swanson now offers design, installation, construction, and training.

There’s still time to watch Bruce and Swanson’s techniques in action. They will be applying a multilayered stencil with a polishable overlay at the Runyon Surface Prep Rental & Supply (Booth O40628), in the Concrete Surfaces & Decorative Pavilion.

Contact Rachel Bruce at 713-884-5182 or; Chris Swanson at 530-409-9232 or

In the afternoon session (1:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.), Dave Blasdel, west region representative for Butterfield Color (Booth O40859), demonstrated “How to Efficiently Lay Out and Form Steps and Risers.” Drawing on more than 25 years of experience as a contractor, Blasdel showed attendees—including decorative concrete contractors, landscapers, and carpentry instructors—how to lay out and set up formwork for exterior steps, using the latest tools and techniques.

During the course, he covered four types of steps: straight, tiered, cantilevered, and curved. “The most critical aspect of riser and step layouts is the planning,” he said. “You have to make sure they are configured to the specifications of your project, or you could be facing failures and tear-outs.”

Blasdel introduced new tools, donated by Bosch (Booth O30204), that many contractors have not yet begun to use for laying out steps and risers. He demonstrated how to use a digital level and 360-degree three-plane leveling and alignment line laser for setup and layout work. He also showed how a lithium-ion impact driver—a relatively new tool—can easily help contractors switch to building forms with screws instead of nails. “Using screws makes a lot of sense for several reasons, and the impact driver is a game-changer,” said Joe Nasvik, senior editor of Concrete Construction.

Attendees also were introduced to a pre-manufactured riser forming system, designed by Steve Chmelar of Carroll Distributors, Ottumwa, Iowa. The patented system is designed for straight or radius risers, and sold as a kit.

The Bosch tools used in this seminar—and others—will be available for hands-on demonstrations in the How-To Zone during the week. Contact Dave Blasdel at 406-250-7169 or