The explosive growth of decorative concrete over the past few years has been exciting, but somewhat harrowing. Manufacturers burst onto the scene with new products of every description. Contractors started with little basic knowledge of concrete or business. Magazines and Web sites seemed to spring from nowhere with sometimes-suspect information.
I feel, though, that this industry is beginning to mature. That's a good thing, although we don't want to lose the playfulness and creativity that makes decorative concrete so much fun to be around. As we begin to see decorative concrete on large commercial and public projects—especially on interior floors—you know that it is gaining acceptance that it never had before. But big projects bring big responsibility and place the industry in a spotlight that in the past it could avoid, making the maturation process critical to its future.
Another sign of the increasing maturity is the amount of training now available. Virtually every responsible manufacturer in the business has some sort of training program to teach contractors successful use of its products. Although this trend is partially motivated by self-defense and self-promotion, it nonetheless benefits the industry across the board. A single disastrous stamping project sends out ripples that hurt everyone who is marketing stamping tools and release agents. Every decorative manufacturer should strive, as one of its primary goals, to increase the size of the decorative pie, not just its own piece.
I'm also seeing the decorative concrete industry advancing through the effort being made within the American Concrete Institute to certify decorative craftspeople. Within the next year, you will see a certification program offered for Decorative Concrete Flatwork Finishers. This first industrywide certification will focus on stamping and exposed aggregate finishes—fresh concrete work rather than overlays or staining. Other decorative certifications will likely follow. An industry that regulates itself, protects itself from poor craftspeople and shoddy products, and provides potential customers with confidence that the job will turn out as expected. That ACI is willing to get involved implies a maturing industry.
We are only beginning to scratch the potential of the decorative concrete market. If the industry behaves responsibly, educating and regulating itself, which it is now doing, I'm confident that growth will continue at a furious pace for many years to come.
William D. Palmer, Editor in Chief