When you’re out strolling, do you look down at the surface upon which you’re walking? I do, and am a little surprised when I find that most others do not.

I’m always looking down and the concrete is the first thing I notice. There are countless Florida vacation photos from which my family is completely absent. I’ve taken entire rolls of 35 mm film of theme park concrete alone. I recall other visitors staring strangely as I pointed my camera at the ground, taking photos of apparently nothing. They had no idea what they were walking on.

Because it’s out of the line of sight, horizontal decorative concrete often goes unnoticed by the public and is just another surface to walk on.

But a vertical surface is higher, right in front of their eyes. Even an unobservant person will notice a very unique building exterior. Concrete is the perfect medium for creating stunning visuals. 

No one knows this better than Walter Smith of Corbin, Ky., whose patented system takes vertical concrete to an unsurpassed level of realism. His company, Old Kentucky Logs (www.oldkentuckylogs.com), creates rustic, hand-hewn “timbers” using lightweight concrete. The award-winning products are so realistic that even when looking closely, you can’t differentiate them from the real thing.

Their minute detail makes them appear very authentic. Smith’s molds were taken from actual logs, so bent nails, bug holes, and knots are all present in the cast logs. Some castings even contain carved initials from a bygone era.

The “logs” are 2-inch-thick lightweight concrete siding that’s installed like cultured stone veneer. It’s mortared over diamond lath (hardware cloth) that’s been attached to the building’s exterior. For added stability and to support the siding as the mortar sets, the logs are also held in place with screws. To cut and trim the 8-foot sections of siding, a concrete saw is used. Patching is easily accomplished with mortar. When the siding is installed and the mortar has set, the logs are sprayed with a water-based stain applied with either a pump-up garden-type sprayer or airless equipment. 

The variegated effects provided by the stain make the timbers appear extremely realistic. After the stain has dried, concrete “chinking” is applied to the spaces between the timbers. The rustic nature of the structure minimizes the need for perfection when applying the stain and chinking. Some defects can even make for a more realistic job.