Most of the decorative concrete movement came about since Concrete Construction was first published, and some of it unfolded in the magazine. For instance, in 1956, the first issue shows Brad Bowman stamping concrete. Individuals and company names were seldom mentioned in those days (to focus on educational and not commercial content) so you would have to know him to identify him.
Between 1890 and 1920, many precast companies produced members for building façades, using colors and stains to make their work more interesting. Sometimes they mixed pigment in fresh concrete, and sometimes they submerged castings in solutions similar to modern-day chemical stains. They mixed their concoctions as they had pieces to produce so there was a lot of inconsistency.
Today the decorative concrete market is growing faster than any other segment of the concrete industry. There are hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of contractors, coinciding with the development of strong, durable concrete. And there are highly skilled concrete finishers with a good understanding of concrete. Here are some of the pioneers.
Adding color to concrete
We've long known that metallic oxide colors don't fade in ultraviolet light. At the turn of the century, many companies blended pigments for specific applications, but marketing colored concrete meant producing a consistent product, batch after batch, that would mix evenly and permanently bond to the cement paste. In 1915, Lynn Mason Scofield started a business on Dearborn Street in Chicago, later renamed the L. M. Scofield Company. It became the first company to manufacture color for concrete. Scofield's first products included color hardeners (cement, color, and aggregate broadcast on the surface of fresh concrete to color and harden the surface), integral color, color wax curing and sealers, and chemical stains. In 1920 he moved the company to Los Angeles, believing that southern California was a better market for decorative concrete than the rest of the country. Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Mary Pickford, and other famous people agreed and used large amounts of Scofield's products when they built their homes.
Brad Bowman caused significant interest in decorative concrete by developing and patenting both the tools and process for stamping patterns in concrete flatwork. As a contractor, Bowman installed exposed aggregate concrete walls and slabs in Carmel, Calif. By 1950 he began experimenting with ways to pattern his work. He first made a single wooden blade, then two blades spaced the width of a brick apart, and finally platform stamps that imprinted several units at a time. His first stamps were of wood, then sheet metal, and finally cast aluminum platforms. In 1970, the Bomanite Corp., using his patents, franchised contractors across the United States to install imprinted concrete using his process. Bowman was an artist whose fascination with the creative process stayed with him until his death at age 90.
In 1956 Bill Stegmeier, owner of the Stegmeier Co., began installing his company's “Cool Deck” on swimming pool decks—a finish that kept bare feet from getting too hot on sunny days. By adding color to a powder broadcast onto the surface, he achieved an antiquing effect. But it turned out that this “release powder” also kept texture stamps from sticking to the concrete. So Stegmeier invented a latex rubber tool to impart a wood-grain texture to fresh concrete.
Contractors complained that Bowman's cast aluminum tools were too heavy, didn't last long enough, and printed patterns but not textures. In the late 1970s Jon Nasvik became the first to develop urethane stamps that were light and durable. He also developed a flexible stamp that imprinted both pattern and texture on fresh concrete, the first stamp being a used-brick pattern. The patterns that followed were used by Bomanite contractors exclusively and were called “Bomacron.” Stegmeir's release powder became part of the system. At the same time, The Disney Corporation was designing EPCOT in Orlando and wanted fresh ideas for their decorative concrete so they commissioned 12 to 15 Bomacron patterns. Today textured, patterned stamps are the standard.