Educational institutions, such as this culinary school, are a growing market for decorative concrete flooring. A self-leveling microtopping was used on this floor.
Educational institutions, such as this culinary school, are a growing market for decorative concrete flooring. A self-leveling microtopping was used on this floor.

While we have all felt the effects of the slowdown in new construction, for many there has been a quiet surge in decorative concrete overlays. Perhaps it is our silver lining.

There is a convergence of factors that favor overlays, and the opportunities are tremendous now. Continuing advances in technology mean there are more choices and better-performing products than before.

When new home sales decline, people typically spend more time at home and more money on upgrading their properties. So the public is more aware of these decorative options for their flooring or hardscaping needs. They've been exposed to decorative overlays in the businesses they visit, in the home improvement shows they watch on television, and in other homes in their neighborhoods.

Another influence in the growth of decorative overlays is the sheer size of the marketplace. While less concrete will be poured this year, just consider what's been poured over the last 10, 15, or 20 years. It translates into billions and billions of square feet of opportunity.

In our business, the canvas we use is the concrete slab. Unlike other decorative overlays that coat and cover the concrete, staining allows the concrete itself to be the finished surface. This can present a challenge when working with interior flooring, as historically, interior slabs were never intended to be exposed.

One of the most popular choices in decorative concrete today is staining, including acid staining, acrylics, dyes, and more. While these systems can vary greatly in application and resulting looks, they have one thing in common—the “canvas” on which they are applied.

Rather, the concrete was meant to be covered with tile, carpeting, or wood. When these types of floor coverings are removed in preparation for staining, one never knows what will be revealed: glues and mastics, ghosting of tile grouts, battered and beat up surfaces, and patches that stick out like a sore thumb.

Self-leveling overlays

Along with the growth and development of staining has come the growth and development of self-leveling overlays. Developed specifically to fill the needs of the staining contractor, overlays are a fresh “canvas in a bag.” They are the answer when the concrete doesn't meet the requirements for a finished surface.

A water-based, semi-transparent stain over a non-self-leveling overlay gives this home a unique look.
A water-based, semi-transparent stain over a non-self-leveling overlay gives this home a unique look.

The decorative concrete contractor now has options when faced with an ugly interior concrete slab. If you've never used a self-leveling overlay, there are a few things you should know.

Self-levelers are typically used for interiors only. Most of these products can withstand the rigors of weather exposure. But they will not hold a broom finish or other textures necessary for exterior slip resistance.