Homeowners have begun to recognize that concrete has a fresh new look—and they want to take advantage of it. This growing fascination is apparent in outdoor living areas, where people are spending more time and making a greater financial investment. Today the options are as varied as manufacturers have products and artisans have imagination. Consider combining any of the following: color, stain, imprints, saw-cuts, stencils, sandblasting, engraving, and free-form design. Imagine full-depth concrete placement or cementitious overlay material applied to concrete, wood, or tile. Think of vertical and horizontal placement with rock and waterscape features. All are candidates for patio and pool deck installations.
“Cast-in-place textured concrete combined with vertical applications and water features is becoming popular among designers and architects for pool and patio areas. So is combining complex layers of color and texture to create an inviting place to relax,” says Clark Branum, director of technical services, Brickform, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. “Overlays are popular options because replacement of pool decks is complex and costly.”
Sherry Boyd, director of marketing, L.M. Scofield, Los Angeles, points to the growth of the industry saying, “A strong direction in the market is to resurface. But one of the biggest changes in the industry is that contractors have more skill. There are more qualified people that satisfy more customers, which translates to more business.” Manufacturers today are challenged by the demand for new products and the integration of new installation techniques from contractors using their products.
Overlays are a mix of cement, aggregate, polymers, and admixtures that are packaged as a dry mix. Overlays, depending on the manufacturer, require the addition of precise amounts of water before application. Most overlay manufacturers include a coloring method—either in the bag or added to the mix. The products vary according to purpose and can be put down as thin as 1/32 inch or up to the 3/8 inch necessary for a stampable overlay.
Gary Jones, owner of Smart Surface Technology, Vancouver, produces the Colormaker line of decorative concrete toppings. Jones brings unique artistry to his work. On a recent pool deck overlay, he troweled 1/8 inch of integrally colored overlay onto the slab. Over that he broadcast amber colored limestone fines. The next day he gave the work a light sanding to remove any rough edges, applied a chemical stain to create a natural earth-colored appearance, and sealed the work with acrylic sealer. He also uses aggregates such as glass and marble dust, colored sand, crushed granite, and various pigment combinations. “You can broadcast almost anything on the top of these polymerized toppings,” says Jones. “But before you try out new ideas, always make sure you pick the right client, the client who trusts you.”
Mark Hahn, president of Adobe Coatings, Mesa, Ariz., refreshed a 16-year-old pool deck using an overlay cement made by Miracote, Rancho Dominguez, Calif. Hahn also serves as a trainer for Miracote and stresses the importance of surface preparation. For instance, to restore the pool deck, he first pressure washed it to remove old coatings, acid washed it to clean and open the surface, and repaired cracks by stitching them with rebar anchored with epoxy. He placed the integral color overlay with a hopper gun and lightly troweled the surface to impart a “skip” trowel texture. To get a travertine stone pattern for the pool coping, Haen used fiber masking tape to define the pattern then troweled another 1/8-inch overlay color coat over the masking tape. Pulling the tape away revealed the pattern. “Taping Bubble wrap to the pool tile is a way to keep cementitious material from dripping into the pool, saving costly clean up,” he adds. Another Miracote product makes it possible to cover wood decks with decorative concrete overlays by installing the material over diamond lath on the wood surface.