Some topics never get old. Our Web editors recently told us that, no matter the day or year, the most common search on our websites is for “efflorescence.” Staff response: “Really? Out of everything we cover? There’s nothing new about that!” Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Concrete hasn’t changed all that much over the decades. From how to build with concrete to common surface problems like cracks and efflorescence, the basics have remained the same. (Check out “Fifty-Eight Years” under Bill’s Blog in this newsletter. )
Maybe because concrete is ancient. Some say all roads lead to Rome. But did you know that 5300 miles of those roads were built from concrete? From 300 B.C. to 476 A.D., the Romans used pozzolana cement from Pozzuoli, Italy, to build the Appian Way, as well as the Roman baths, the Coliseum and Pantheon, and the Pont du Gard aqueduct in southern France. The mix consisted of small gravel and coarse sand mixed with hot lime and water and horsehair to reduce shrinkage. But concrete is way older than ancient Rome: http://www.concreteconstruction.net/concrete-construction/concrete-facts.aspx.
Polished concrete continues to evolve. At my first World of Concrete in 2005, I saw Artistry in Decorative Concrete participants broadcast colored glass onto a wet slab. After finishing, the slab looked like plain concrete. When the artisan ground down that slab to expose the glass, nearby crews stopped to watch the relatively new technique. Since then, polished concrete has become more commonplace, attracting newcomers eager to win jobs and an influx of new products that protect and “enhance” surfaces. In response, three different associations have formed or evolved to educate and provide best practices, establish standardized definitions, and set performance standards. Keep an eye out for new developments.
Even the trades need to embrace the digital age. The Concrete Surfaces audience comes from hands-on, in-the-field industries, but your customers are probably spending much of their time behind desks, using the Internet both at work and at home. Get yourself an online presence. Build a website. Use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Post pictures of your projects. Word of mouth is great, but an online portfolio might help you establish credibility and bring you even more jobs.
Concrete is fun! And so are the people who work with concrete. I’ve met some great people and seen some fantastic projects incorporating all sorts of show-stopping finishes—from stamped and stained plazas to decorative overlays and polished floors and countertops to outside-the-box applications. I can’t wait to see the next project!