One of the most requested projects completed by a concrete contractor is the driveway. However, not long ago the choice of materials for a driveway was a lot simpler: asphalt or concrete. In today's designs concrete has exploded in dozens of new styles and colors that have even pushed aside pre-cast concrete, paving stones as a decorative choice. And while the plain concrete slab is still very popular new techniques can brighten up old driveways by adding colorful stained concrete or stamped concrete.
Decorative and Stained Concrete
When a landscape designer looks at a new property to decide where the hardscape and greenery should go the driveway is not far from his or her thoughts. In some cases the driveway is the welcome pad and the more exposed pads can be the Yellow Brick Road leading up to the home. Sometimes the driveway winds around to the back of the home where it melds into a stamped concrete patio and swimming pool deck. Whatever the design concrete has proved it can do more than just support cars.
Acid-stained concrete is a method in which a mild, acid solution is used to bring out the natural colors of the conrete aggregate and affect the limestone in the concrete. The colors are usually a reddish-brown and black to a greenish-blue.
Dyed concrete begins at the concrete plant where a color agent is added to the mix. This mixture will form the base for the floor. After the concrete has been leveled powdered dyes can be sprinkled on and troweled in. The color will intensify based on how long the concrete has been sitting and how the dye is applied because they also can be mixed with water. After the concrete has begun to set some designers will dye the pad by painting it on with a brush.
By using method called stamping concrete driveways can be made to look like cobblestones or even marble tile. The concrete arrives in a premixed color and then dyes are spread over the poured surface to emulate the striations of rock like slate or marble. The process of producing stamped concrete requires an expert crew because not one person can efficiently manipulate all the processes to produce the effect. First, the concrete has to be smoothed and while this being done the dye is applied. A secondary team prepares the mats that will be placed on the surface to get the textured effect. Another worker goes ahead and puts on a release agent that will act as a buffer between the mat and the concrete. This is so the mat will come off easily after the concrete cures. After the concrete cures the surface is then power-washed and then an epoxy sealer is applied.
But why would someone want to emulate cobblestones when these products are available? Pavers and other stones are subject to the freeze/thaw cycles that occur in most of Canada. They can heave and pop out if not properly installed. As well, after a few years of parking vehicles on the surface unsightly grooves and even ruts can form. Properly-reinforced concrete will not move and, unlike paving stones, moss or grass will not grow because it is one large sheet.
Since concrete is a mass it can be cut and shaped. However, it can also be polished in a special process that transforms a slab of gray into a glassy, easy-to-maintain surface that can last longer than a regular concrete pad.
For a great, marble or terrazzo effect an aggregate-dense mixture of concrete is used. This could have black stones or any color of material that will contrast with the mix color. Once the pad has dried then polishing gear is brought in. These machines have diamond-encrusted pads that not only put a high-polish on the concrete but shaves the aggregates down. The result is a surface as smooth as glass. This also makes the slab stronger and increases the wear resistance. In addition, polishing can take out the mars and cracks of a finished floor, revitalizing it.
Sealers prevent harmful agents from penetrating the patina of the concrete. For interior floors these consist of acrylics, urethanes and epoxies. Acrylics are UV-resistant and inexpensive but are softer than the others. Urethanes are solvent-based, but are fairly soft, whereas epoxies are the hardest and bond well to concrete. This is great for concrete countertops. However, epoxy sealers can trap moisture and this can cause problems down the road such as cracking and freezing. In exterior applications acrylics allow moisture to escape so that the concrete will not have moisture trapped inside.
If choosing a finished concrete surface it is best to consult a professional concrete contractor because, unlike wood, concrete is as forgivable. So a trained eye is worth the money. For a list of concrete professionals, contact out Contractor Directory. Also you can post your project on our site at www.trustedpros.ca and get a professional to contact you.Posted by: TrustedPros