With the economy improving, business is growing for residential and commercial concrete contractors. Opportunities abound in hardscaping—from residential pools, patios, floors, walkways and concrete driveways to malls, event halls, waterfronts, sport courts, skate parks, theme parks, business parks, hotels and hospitality.
Decorative concrete projects increasingly need to meet architectural design specifications or aesthetically match existing work. Yet typical stamped concrete is not always up to the task, particularly when stamp quality is insufficient and training is limited to a one-day seminar provided by stamping tool manufacturers.
“Starting with a quality stamp is crucial, and so is proper training,” stressed Darlene Rodriguez, co-owner of Patterned Concrete by Rey, a Plano, Texas-based full-service provider of stamped concrete, resurfacing, overlays, staining and scoring. Patterned Concrete is a registered name and trademarked brand of stamped concrete with industry expertise that goes back to 1972. The brand has expanded throughout North America and now includes franchisees in both the U.S. and Canada.
She added, “Many stamps look artificial—nothing like our rock, wood or natural patterns that people want today. What’s more, every job is challenging due to differences in location, layout and weather, as well as stamping pattern and stamping alignment used in the field.”
“Not many people are installing plain white concrete residentially these days—it is mostly stamped,” explained Dino Padula, a project manager at Patterned Concrete Mississauga Inc., a franchisee in Mississauga, Canada. “Architectural concrete is a permanent product and customers do not want to take chances with a fly-by-night contractor.”
Patterned Concrete’s stamps are imprinted from pieces of stone and other natural materials to produce a textured, authentic look. For example, the pattern for Old English Brick displays worn-out identification stamps in the brick; Adoquin has a volcanic look with coarse ridges, chisel marks and craters; and Board comes complete with nail holes. Some patterns are deep enough to be grouted for an even more authentic look. Currently, the company offers more than 30 unique styles in a number of sizes.
“The textures are seamless and we can give customers an authentic look in any style they want, from wood, slate and brick to cobblestone, herringbone and random cut flag,” Padula noted.
The company will also create new custom patterns at a reasonable cost. “Recently, we had to match some old stone pavers in a big residential job,” recalled Rodriguez. “We sent a sample to our corporate office along with some photos. Within two weeks, they created a custom stamp that matched the existing home’s concrete driveway. With a minor change, we completed the job and the customer was happy.”
Though the typical one-day, stamped concrete class offered by stamp manufacturers may be enough to get a contractor started, it is just as likely to get him or her in trouble, according to Rodriguez.
“One-day classes often teach you on a 10’ by 10’ slab,” she stated. “That’s easy—you just start in one corner and go. But when you work in a backyard, you’re dealing with variables like weather, timing and backyard shape. It may include alcoves that require you to cut in the stamping work by hand.
“We are often called in to correct the decorative concrete work of other contractors that have ‘gone bad.’ One contractor had poured about 10,000 sq. ft. of decorative concrete on a big residential project, but the work got away from him. He tried to overlay it, and now 5,000 sq. ft. of it has to come out.”
While Rodriguez and her husband had almost two decades of textured concrete pool deck experience before becoming franchisees, they said the Patterned Concrete training they received was invaluable for developing their business.
According to Rodriguez, “We were trained for four months on the job by a neighboring franchisee before we went out on our own. Afterward, anytime we had a question we could call headquarters or a franchisee and someone had an answer.”
Additionally, the corporate office tracks all jobs to ensure a consistent, quality match if future repair or renovation is required. This includes specs on the footages, colors and patterns used in the project.