It may have started out decades ago as a niche, but today, decorative concrete is–for many–the face of the industry, says Todd Scharich, an industry expert scheduled to present at the 2015 World of Concrete. Here's his take on where this key industry segment is today, where it's going, and why you need to pay attention.

Q: Why is decorative concrete “no longer a niche?

Scharich: The niche tag is not applicable to decorative concrete due to the longevity of use (50+ years), market share (unknown %), and full acceptance within the design-and-build community.

Q: Describe design trends.

Scharich: (1) Commercially the use of integral color with alternative finishes is experiencing exponential growth. Non-stamped color usage options include sandblasting, swirl, and artistic directional brooming often combined with secondary colored borders. (2) Metallic epoxies available for five to 10 years have finally hit their stride with endless color combination possibilities and a somewhat unpredictable finish. The retail market will be especially receptive to metallic epoxies. (3) The use of dyes and stains combined with polishing will continue it’s strong commercial market presence. The affordability and durability of the floors have made them a favorite in schools and commercial interior flooring applications.

Q: Where does decorative concrete fit in, in terms of the entire concrete market?

Scharich: In volume, decorative concrete is definitely less than 10% of the overall concrete market, but it’s high visibility usage is the face of the concrete market that many see. Walking through a municipality, to a stadium, or through a mall, the concrete viewed is likely decorative. Although we are a small piece, decorative concrete is extremely important to the concrete industry.

Q: How does a concrete contractor who does not currently do decorative concrete get started?

Scharich: Existing concrete contractors need to look at the decorative market and choose a segment or two that fit their skill set and interest. If they are strong concrete finishers, then cast-in-place options like stamped or decorative finishes on colored concrete would be a good start. Those with less experience in placement can look at many of the overlayment options or topical staining choices. When entering the decorative market do not try to be everything to everyone, there are too many applications to be good at all of them without experience.

Q: How has the economy over the past several years impacted interest in decorative concrete?

Scharich: Although the six months following the quick downturn in the fall of 2007 were difficult, I believe the poor economy positively impacted our market. Engineers and architects had to resurface instead of replace, dye or stain instead of tile, and use color instead of pavers. We acknowledge the residential market disappeared for a few years, but that cycle has now turned and the homeowners are back in the showroom looking to improve their properties.

Q: What does the future look like for decorative concrete?

Scharich: If you like moderate but steady growth then you will be happy with the future of decorative concrete. Just as we develop new offerings, other industries will as well so there will not be any staggering growth stages. However the concrete usage projections for the next five to10 years are promising and our segment of the market will hop on the growth train.

Todd A Scharich is owner of Decorative Concrete Resources, a Midwest distributor of decorative concrete products. He is also Decorative Concrete Specialist with ASCC’s Decorative Concrete Council, and he serves on two ACI committees dealing with decorative concrete. Register for World of Concrete 2015 to attend his presentation, and find out more about his seminars and other decorative concrete education here.