Well-planned, beautiful landscaping is the goal most home owners have for their home and garden areas. We admire perfectly manicured lawns and lively flower gardens during a Sunday afternoon stroll. But how often do we notice or point out the beauty of concrete walkways and patios? Oftentimes, this type of work is overlooked as an element in landscaping, that adds a unique touch to your home. All that stops now!
Concrete is amazingly versatile and can be a creative method to add decorative detail to your home, especially on a budget!
What is Stamped Concrete?
Stamped concrete is an easier, and less time-consuming method for creating beautiful, multi-dimensional walkways and patios that look very similar to their more expensive counterparts of stones and pavers.
After concrete is poured and settled, an experienced contractor uses large stamps from a set of patterns to press the desired decorative look into the soft concrete. Adding a powdered color additive to the mixture before it is poured is another option that creates a beautifully unique element to the finished product. Once the stamped concrete is dried, it can also be sprayed with a color additive; however, this can begin to peel over time. For this reason, many professionals recommend using the powdered additive before pouring the concrete. Another piece of advice is that a good concrete sealer is invaluable to off-set any fading of the coloring over time.
It is important to note that while this finish work does sound simple, there is plenty of room for error. It is advised that only experienced contractors or very serious DIY pros undertake this type of project. If the concrete mixture has too much or too little water, stamping can be quite the challenge, with many undesirable outcomes such as rough or brittle edges.
What are the Pros?
Using stamped concrete to bolster your landscaping can really add an elegant touch that is considerably less expensive and is also a much faster process. Stonework and pavers can be a long and tedious way to break the bank!
Concrete work that is well-designed and poured correctly has proven to stand the test of time and is a remarkable method for keeping weeds and grasses at bay as well. Stones and pavers allow weeds to grow between the joints, creating an uneven pathway. Concrete certainly has the advantage if this is a concern in your yard.
What are the Cons?
As with all good things, there are some drawbacks to consider. There are some stamps that can actually make the concrete be smoother than it might be otherwise. This can produce a slippery affect when wet. To avoid this problem, the use of a non-slip additive can help to prevent this.
The stamping texture itself should be considered. This may cause some uneven places that are not suitable for the elderly or small children who are learning to walk. Moreover, these small grooves are likely to cause some patio furniture to wobble slightly if the placement isn’t just right.
Snow removal can also be a point of frustration due to the uneven textured surface. Moreover, for this same reason, debris and dirt can become lodged in the grooves more easily as well.
If the concreted area will be load-bearing, such as a driveway, it is important to use a stronger concrete mix, or to plan for a thicker slab. Additionally, it may be a good idea to use a textured skin for this instead of an actual stamp, as this will still offer a unique look without creating grooves.
Is Stamped Concrete for You?
Stamped concrete can be a budget-friendly and creative way to add some elegance to your landscaping. While there are a few special considerations, many find this additional touch to be esthetically pleasing and a durable choice for their home and yard. If you are considering concrete work for your new home or you simply need an outdoor upgrade, stamped concrete can really take your landscaping to the next level.
What is a Concrete Vibrator?
A concrete vibrator is a machine used for construction-based purposes. These machines can come in several different shapes and sizes. Some are small and run strictly on battery power, while others are much larger with a primary power source stemming from electric power cords. Choosing the right concrete vibrator can help settle your concrete for long-term stability and maintenance.
Why Use a Concrete Vibrator?
Using vibration to assist concrete during its settling period has proven a worthwhile method that aids in long-term durability. As wet concrete is poured, air bubbles become trapped within the mixture creating cavities or honeycomb-like spaces. Left untouched, “honeycombing” can compromise the cement’s longevity and strength. Vibrators force the trapped air out of the mixture leaving the final product a more compact and level slab. It is not uncommon to see small bursts of air surfacing from the wet mixture when the vibrator is being used correctly.
What Kind of Concrete Vibrator Do You Need?
The length and depth of your project determines what vibrator is best for your needs. There are many types of concrete vibrators, each with its own head size.
The practicality of internal vibrators makes them the most commonly used choice available.
Internal vibrators are typically better priced and offer unparalleled maneuverability due to their size and weight. High frequency concrete vibrators perform a power conversion of single-phase energy into three-phase energy, which is a beneficial feature due to the power consistency it provides for large-scale projects. These vibrators are generally used for commercial sites and for projects done by the Department of Transportation.
External concrete vibrators are an optimal choice for any vertical project, such as walls or other areas that require maximum reinforcement. They can also be useful for downsizing mistakes that can be caused by other types of internal vibrators.
Internal gas vibrators are clearly the best option when electricity is either not available or presents a safety hazard on the work site. They also work well for distinct locations such as curbing, gutters and construction joints that call for additional precaution.
Vibratory screeds are a suitable, user-friendly option due to the operator’s ability to remain standing in an upright position. Ease of use and a reputation for being lightweight makes the screed a good choice for large or small, indoor or outdoor projects, such as patios, driveways, and indoor or outdoor basketball courts.
The value of using a concrete vibrator for your next project cannot be overstated. While there are many components to consider in order to achieve a positive end-result, this is certainly not one to ignore. The outcome of any concrete pour is highly dependent upon the use of proper tools and at what stage they are used along the process.
Every year when winter rolls around the avid skiers are jumping for joy and the average joe is grumbling about snow and ice removal. To the average joe—we don’t blame you one bit! Getting that old shovel out usually means sore shoulders and an aching back. It is not uncommon to rely on ice melting granules to help bust through thick ice buildup. However, with so many chemical compounds available, you might be scratching your head as to which ice melt is best for your concrete. Calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)—what’s the difference and why does it matter? Stay tuned and we’ll melt it down for you!
Considerations Before the Winter Season
As with any concrete care, it is always best to plan ahead. Performing a detailed inspection of your concrete areas is advisable before you need to put down ice melting products during the frosty winter months. Locating and repairing any broken or crumbling areas is strongly encouraged due to the physical and chemical composition of commercial ice melting agents. The de-icing granules are hard and coarse—this can cause more damage to vulnerable areas of concrete when ground-in by foot traffic and vehicles. For more on fixing crumbling concrete see our latest blog. A small fix before winter is always preferable to a larger one after the fact. You’ll thank us later.
The Difference in Chlorides
There are a wide variety of ice-melting compounds on the market today, and they all have their place within the parameters of their intended use. One key element to consider is how low the temperature will drop. The availability of moisture on the top layer of ice is an imperative factor that determines the effectiveness of the product. The colder it is, the less moisture is available. “Hygroscopic” ice melting agents work by attracting moisture and absorbing it into the granules. This process is known as “exothermic” and it creates heat when the salt and moisture bond together—thus melting the ice. Take a look below at the most common de-icers on the market.
Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride appear to be the superior products when it comes to quickly melting ice. While there is potential corrosion risk with all chloride compounds, adhering to the application instructions and precautions will provide the best results for your concrete and surrounding areas. A high-grade and well-maintained concrete should withstand any corrosive properties produced by these agents. As mentioned above, removing any leftover granules once the ice has melted is a best practice tip to maintaining your concrete throughout the winter season.
Crumbling concrete can be such a frustration—especially when it is your own driveway! Not only is it unsightly but it also jeopardizes the longevity of the remaining concrete area. Many people will offer their advice on some quick, cheap fixes but when it comes to cement work it is important to be cautious and plan ahead. Having the proper tools and products will make or break your project experience and outcome.
What You Will Need
Each concrete repair is different depending on its location. Recommended products are based on whether the area is vertical or horizontal and what kind of repair is needed. Because driveways are typically horizontal, certain products excel for these types of flat surfaces. Our favorite repair mortars provide amazing results for driveway repair work:
* Lyons Patchcrete * WR Meadows Spectrum Rekote * Mapei Quickpatch
Primers or bonding agents are not necessary for every circumstance, but they are certainly recommended in order to successfully adhere the new repair mortar to the effected area. Our list of favorites include:
* Lyons P100 Primer * BASF A660 * Grace Daraweld C
An effective method to clean the crumbling area ahead of time is essential, so be sure to plan for that in advance. A nice power sprayer is a good recommendation, but not a deal-breaker.
Adequate preparation to the area is the essential first step when you begin any type of concrete repair. The products you use will only be as good as the conditions beneath them. Removing any crumbling debris is key, and while there is more than one way to do this, using a power sprayer can be a great help. Another important step is to eliminate anything that may hinder the adherence process of the mortar, such as grease, paint or oil that has previously been in contact with the area.
If you are using water to clean the area it is important to allow plenty of drying time before you apply the primer or bonding agent. If moisture is present, the primer cannot properly adhere to the surface. Be certain to follow the instructions for each chosen product, as they may vary slightly depending on brand.
To apply the primer or bonding agent, make sure to keep it well stirred. Preference in application techniques can range from brushes and brooms to rollers. The key factor is making sure you effectively work the product into the surface. Allow for the recommended drying time as provided in the product instructions; 2-3 hours is usually adequate but not all products are exactly the same so be diligent in reading and understanding the directions. It is worth noting that some products, such as Lyons P100 Primer, change opacity as the drying process is under way. Application often appears milky, but the end result will be a more clear-like coating.
Applying the repair mortar comes next and the goal is for a nice, smooth finish. It really is as simple as reading the product’s directions for correct water/mortar mixture ratio and using the recommended tools. Refer to our past blog 14 Concrete Tools and Products You Didn’t Know You Needed to learn which tools will work best for your individual repair project.
Why This Matters
Fixing a crumbling driveway is actually pretty simple with great products and a solid understanding of the process. Taking special care to prepare the area and using appropriate tools is the best advice anyone can offer for this type of cement work. In the end it really pays off to make these repairs in a timely manner after crumbling has started. Diligence in maintaining or replacing worn areas in concrete is crucial for overall strength and longevity of the overall cemented area.
That darn cold weather has crept up again and you still did not get your concrete poured this year—again. Summertime can be busy for many, and with fun activities and vacations, pouring concrete can get pushed to the back of the line. This may leave you pondering the possibilities of pouring your concrete in less than ideal weather conditions.
First of all, you have to know there are some unique challenges to pouring concrete in cold weather. It certainly can be done but it is not ideal. Cold weather can greatly alter several factors when pouring concrete. Knowing some best practices can go a long way in your chilly adventure. The hydration level, freezing risks and overall durability over time are just a few things to consider, so be prepared to baby your concrete until it’s cured.
Now that you know you may encounter some challenges, here’s the facts to help you prepare. First of all, the standard for pouring concrete in cold weather is not defined by your grandmother’s thermostat—it is three consecutive days of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Concrete has many phases and each one is important. The phase in which concrete is moist is known as the plastic phase. During this phase it is crucial to control the temperature of the concrete. If outdoor temperatures fall below 25 degrees Fahrenheit the concrete will most likely freeze. A concrete popsicle is never a desirable outcome because it can compromise the overall durability and strength by up to 50%.
Protecting the concrete from freezing is the highest priority for at least two full days. Ideally, you want to maintain the concrete at a temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, this phase may take longer to fully set.
You should also understand how lower temperatures can affect the hydration levels in your concrete. Moisture creates a chemical reaction when it is combined with the cement mixture. This reaction causes heat and with it an acceleration in the setting process. The lower temperatures can alter the hydration levels, thus causing less heat and slower setting times for your project. Because you may encounter these delays in setting times, some of the normal finish work and removal of forms will also be delayed.
But fear not, there are additive options designed specifically for cold weather concrete conquests that can help the concrete set faster or retain heat to prevent freezing.
Calcium chloride can be highly effective in pushing along the setting rate. However, this additive should be limited to no more than two percent of the cement mixture itself. Insulating your concrete is a critical step that can aid in heat retention. Plastic sheets and enclosures are also popular and an effective barriers against the elements. Additionally, concrete heat blankets can be quite helpful during the cold winter months. Not only can they be used to help thaw frozen ground but they add a substantial amount of protection for newly poured concrete. Typically, heat blankets are made from durable polyethylene fabrics and insulating foam that hold up nicely in harsh weather conditions.
Depending on the project circumstances, a heater may help retain heat and prevent freezing. If you use a heater, you must be vigilant and take adequate precautions. A fossil-fueled heater should always be placed in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide dangers and to avoid the carbonation of a newly poured concrete area, which can cause an undesirable result called dusting. Additionally, heaters can create a surface temperature that differs greatly from the center of the concrete. If this variation becomes more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit, cracking may result. Another potential risk with heating concrete is prematurely drying out the surface which creates shrinkage cracks. Corners and outer edges can be particularly vulnerable to these problems.
Pouring concrete in cold weather may seem like a daunting task to undertake and it certainly comes with risks. Whatever options you choose to protect your project will require your time and attention to detail. However, being deliberate in your planning, reviewing and implementing these recommendations will put you on the pathway to a successful, albeit chilly, concrete adventure.
So, you’ve decided to be industrious and do your own concrete work. You’ve done some research on what tools to buy, how much concrete you need and even scheduled a day off from work to bust out this project. Your friends and neighbors have chimed in with a mountain of tips and even offered up some helping hands. You’re ready to get rolling so you can have that patio you’ve always wanted for barbeques and entertaining friends. But wait—when can you actually use it? How long does it need to dry? Does climate affect it? These questions do need to be addressed before starting any concrete work in order to avoid problems.
Curing vs. Drying
Individuals who do not typically work in the concrete industry believe that once concrete feels dry it is ready for general use. This common mistake happens all too often, and unfortunately ruins a surface and its durability. Concrete can feel dry to the touch within hours of being poured, depending on the climate and time of year. However, concrete needs to do far more than just dry. For all poured concrete, big or small, a curing period is necessary to ensure strength and durability that will last over time and through inclement weather conditions.
So how long do you need to wait to get those patio parties rolling? Here are several factors that play into that answer:
With these factors in mind, the minimum curing recommendation is seven days—provided that the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Compressive strengths of concrete mixtures can vary and each one requires a different curing period so a good rule of thumb is to wait between 7–14 days.
What is the Process?
Do additional steps need to be taken during the hardening period? Indeed they do! Maintaining moisture while curing is key to the overall concrete strength and durability. You can leave the forms used to shape and hold the concrete in place to aid in moisture retention. You should also pay close attention to when and how additional moisture should be applied. If you pour your own small concrete projects at a residential site, a misting nozzle or some type of light spraying can help retain moisture. However, enough hardening must also be present to avoid surface damage. It is also recommended that water temperature be no more than 20 degrees cooler than the concrete itself, to eliminate chances of cracking—those pesky cracks! Some use large sheets of plastic to cover the concrete to discourage moisture loss. When used these sheets must be consistently saturated with water and can only be applied after the hardening stage is settled enough to avoid surface damage.
Temperature and Climate
Temperature and climate recommendations can vary and may need to be altered, depending on climate conditions in your area. Each climate has moisture variations that range from extra dry to very moist. Colder conditions can affect your concrete plan and the rate in which the curing takes place. The colder the conditions, the slower the cure rate. Curing agents and insulated blankets can be used when pouring concrete in less than ideal conditions. However, keeping the temperature regulated can be a tricky job. On the flip side, pouring concrete in extreme heat comes with its own set of risks; certain precautions must be taken to avoid rapid moisture loss. Wetting or spraying down the area before pouring concrete is recommended because it will aid in the curing process and help keep moisture from absorbing into the ground area. Once the concrete has been placed, it must be kept wet so it won’t dry out too quickly. Evaporation retardants are available for these circumstances and can certainly be of benefit when needed.
A Trial Run
For a project to look professional and hold up over time, knowing the curing process before pouring your concrete is a must. It may be a good idea to do a trial run on a very small mock area just to get some practice. You can familiarize yourself with the tools and the curing process—and how your climate will play a role in moisture retention. It might be extra effort on your part but can certainly make or break the outcome of your concrete experience
As an experienced concrete contractor or home renovator, you probably know what tools you need to get the job done. But having the right tools and the best products is essential to getting the job done not just right but in the best way possible. Here are some of our favorite concrete products that you didn’t know you needed.
Safety first. Next time you are cutting or grinding, make sure to put on one of these Gerson silica and concrete masks. Reduces exposure to respirable crystalline silica dusts and provides at least 99.97 percent filtration efficiency against solid and liquid aerosols.
MBW’s ScreeDemon™solves four problems that other wet screeds have. It’s lower maintenance, highly functional, lower vibrating and easy to assemble. Patent-pending mount retention reduces hand/arm vibration 50 to 90 percent. It’s everything you want in a wet power screed.
When it comes to adaptors for your tools, there’s nothing better than the Pro Tilt™ from MagVibe. Designed to be easily attached to all of your floats, the Pro Tilt features a gear-driven pivot, sealed bearings and Superior Innovation’s QAS™ quick attach system. Stop by your local ICS concrete specialty store in Utah or Idaho to see the difference for yourself.
Another awesome product from MBW, the 36-inch power trowel can edge right up against the wall. You heard that right. The built-in edger feature allows you to do what typically requires two machines to accomplish.
The Marshalltown magnesium Mag Float is a must-have for contract contractors. High-strength, lightweight magnesium construction delivers faster, smoother floating. Make sure you have one of these in your bucket.
Keep walls straight and plumb. Turnbuckle form aligners are an essential part of wall forming.
Reusable concrete stencils take decorative concrete to a whole new level. Designed to be floated into freshly placed concrete, the stencils can pulled up once concrete has hardened, leaving a crisp impression behind.
Decra-Seal Natural is low-VOC, water-based sealer that enhances the natural color and features of decorative concrete. The penetrating water repellent formula chemically bonds to the substrate for a durable, reliable finish.
There’s nothing worse than wet concrete when it shouldn’t be. Hydrophilic waterstop is a high-quality, cost-effective solution to ensure water doesn’t get in where you don’t want it.
Quit falling and stay on your feet. Next time you need to seal concrete to high-traffic areas, add Sure Step non-slip additive.
TYTAN Foam Bond 60’s innovative formula bonds architectural foam shapes, boards, trim and panels in just 60 seconds, becoming fully secure after five minutes. No solvents means no offensive odor. Bonding foam to concrete has never been easier.
W.R. Meadows Pourthane Non-Sag and Self-leveling Joint Sealant comes in 11 different colors and in convenient pouches. Ready-to-use without mixing, there’s no easier way to fill cracks and joints with a colored caulk.
Also from W.R. Meadows: HS-1 SL one-part, self-leveling, SMP-based sealant. Yes, this is colored self-leveling joint sealant in a bag.
Last but not least: power trowels. Designed for continuous use on large floors, these amazing machines offer precision handling for professional concrete finishers to apply an ultra-smooth finish to concrete slabs. Stop in and tell us your favorite brand – and we’ll tell you ours.
When quality and service count, contact one of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ knowledgeable product and tool specialists.
For a building material that’s been around seemingly forever, concrete is constantly being improved, repurposed and reimagined. We dug up these emerging trends for contractors, interior designers, DIY homeowners and anyone looking to improve their space with an interior or exterior concrete update.
This concrete trend has been around for a while, but new developments in coloring and texturing agents keep decorative concrete constantly evolving. While concrete’s traditional gray hues suit current interior design trends like the farmhouse look, homeowners have endless possibilities when it comes to color, pattern and texture. Decorative concrete also enhances outdoor spaces, such as patios, walkways and decorative curbing made with reusable stencils.
Typically associated with outdoor utilitarian uses like patios, driveways and foundations, concrete has made its way indoors thanks in part to the popular industrial design trend. From concrete flooring to countertops and furniture to accessories, interior concrete can be customized to suit any décor style.
Tilt-up construction is soaring to new heights with a recent record lift of 100 feet. Thanks to new developments, products and processes, the tilt-up industry is shaking up conventional labor and production on these large-scale building projects.
The latest trend in concrete formwork, load-bearing walls utilize an innovative tunnel-form method that allows walls and slabs to be poured simultaneously. This means faster setting and removal of wall forms to allow for acceleration of construction projects.
Performed on the job site, post-tensioning reinforces concrete with extremely high-strength steel strands and bars. Post-tensioning with a combination of concrete and steel creates an incredibly strong component that allows for a final product that is stronger than ever.
Emerging trends in concrete are changing not only what we can build, but also how we build it. Here are two new concrete trends from cement.org.
This highly workable, durable, ultra-high strength concrete eliminates the need for coarse aggregates. With a potential compressive strength of 30,000 psi, reactive powder concrete’s tensile strength is on par with steel fibers.
Adding optical fibers to a concrete mix creates a “see-through” effect that challenges the opaque nature of traditional concrete. Thanks to the optical fibers, light is conducted through the stone from one end to the other.
New advancements in concrete and concrete products are completely changing design and construction. Stop by your local ICS showroom in Utah or Idaho and let us help you decide how to make the latest concrete trends work for you.
Concrete sealers provide more than just protection from the elements. They can also improve the appearance of your concrete. Knowing which product to choose for your particular project is essential for getting the finish you want and concrete that will last.
Choosing a concrete sealer isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. There are a wide variety of sealers to choose from. Some work well on exterior applications, while others are designed for indoor use. Sealers may be chemical-based or water-based. The final appearance, such as a natural or high-gloss finish, should be factored in. The type of concrete project also dictates whether a surface sealer or a penetrating sealer is the best option.
High-traffic commercial areas, for example, will require a different finish than a decorative patio or a concrete countertop. Indoor concrete flooring will have different requirements for durability and appearance than an industrial floor or a stamped concrete walkway.
Surface sealers can form a protective layer on the concrete surface or block the pores to prevent water absorption. Penetrating sealers, on the other hand, absorb into the concrete and are a great option for exterior surfaces that can be affected by the elements. Two of the most commonly requested sealers in Utah are W.R. Meadows for commercial and industrial application and ICS High Gloss Sealer for decorative concrete applications.
Once your concrete is prepped and dry, you’re ready to get started. Follow manufacturer’s instructions closely. Depending on the type of sealer, you may be applying it with a roller or pump sprayer. If required, apply a second coat.
Applying concrete sealer varies by type. A solvent-based sealer might be sprayed on an indoor microtopping or decorative concrete floor and requires good ventilation. Outdoor sealers may be rolled on and should be UV-stable and durable enough to stand the test of time.
Applying a concrete sealer to old or new concrete is always a good idea. When you create beautiful concrete, the last thing you want is the product to start degrading over time. Even light to moderate traffic areas should be resealed every three to five years. Frequent cleaning keeps outdoor concrete surfaces looking their best. Practicing basic maintenance, such as cleaning concrete surfaces immediately of spills and debris, can help minimize damage.
Do your homework and choose the appropriate sealer for that specific application. This will help keep your concrete in the best condition possible, so you can enjoy it for years to come. Visit your local Intermountain Concrete Specialties location in Utah or Idaho so we can help you choose the best concrete sealer for your specific needs.
There’s been a lot of excitement buzzing around ICS lately, with the opening of our new Intermountain Concrete Specialties Draper, Utah location, and open house events at our Ogden and Orem locations.
We are excited to announce the opening of our brand new Draper location on June 11, 2018. The new store is located at 441 West 12300 South, Suite A600. We decided to open the Draper location to serve our loyal customers around the south end of Utah Valley. You asked for it, we listened, we built it!
Our annual ICS Ogden open house event is always a customer favorite, featuring representatives from favorite concrete product manufacturers, product demos, giveaways and, of course, lunch. This year’s open house event was held on May 30, 2018 and featured product demos from Husqvarna and W.R. Meadows.
The Orem, Utah store branch open house event was also a great success. Held on May 17, 2018, we celebrated with more visits and demos from our top manufacturers, plus prizes and lunch.
Intermountain Concrete Specialties would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the customers and vendors who attended our open house. It’s always an honor to host you, and we look forward to celebrating future successes with you.