How to Use a Website to Grow Your Business

How to Use a Website to Grow Your Business

A good website can help net you more sales, grow your business, and build your reputation. And it doesn't have to be hard. Read more to learn why you need a website and how to get started.

Special Offer for WOC 2017!

Use the code BUY when registering for World of Concrete 2017 for $40 Exhibit-Only admission. The World of Concrete 2017 takes place between January 16 and 20, 2017. Exhibits run from January 17 to 20.

How To Build Success With Concrete Restoration

How To Build Success With Concrete Restoration

Concrete restoration is how many contractors break into decorative concrete. The barrier to entry can be relatively low and the opportunities are plenty. Concrete restoration is how Brickform Training guru John Reynolds got his start and it could be how you get yours.

What is Antiquing?

What is Antiquing?

Antiquing goes by many names, including release color, accent color, and highlight color. Simply put, antiquing is an additional color used to accent and highlight textured concrete. It is formed when a secondary color is applied to a textured concrete surface, generally in the deeper areas of the impression.

When should I use Cem-Coat versus FreestylePRO?

When should I use Cem-Coat versus FreestylePRO?

This is a common question at Brickform training. On the surface, the products seem fairly similar. They are both surface-applied coloring agents. They both create opaque color. They both come with the complete Brickform Standard Color Selection. There are a few significant differences that dictate when, where, and how both Cem-Coat and Freestyle Pro are used. Find your application below to see which is better and why.

Live Photos at Structural Materials Demo - Grand Forks, ND

Here we've got some live photos taken by John Reynolds at the Brickform demo at Structural Materials in Grand Forks, ND. Josh Cunninghaminstructs attendees on the finer points of stamping with Brickform textures and Color Hardener. Hopefully those dark clouds don't rain on their parade!

All About Exposed Aggregate

All About Exposed Aggregate

Exposed aggregate is a classic decorative finish for concrete. It is arguably the oldest form of decorative concrete, dating back to the early 20th century. Exposed aggregate is a versatile finish for flatwork, vertical applications, and as a component of larger, more complex projects. Surface Deactivator is the exposed aggregate surface retarder from Solomon Colors. It is just one of the many products offered by Solomon Colors to make exposed aggregate better. Surface Deactivator offers more control and consistency than sugar-based retarders.

VIP Offer For International CP&S Conference & Expo

VIP Offer For International CP&S Conference & Expo

Polish your skills at the 2016 International Concrete Polishing and Staining Conference and Expo. This is the only event of its kind. If you are even slightly interested in concrete polishing and concrete staining, the CP&S show is a must-attend. With more than 20 technical and business management seminars – including an All Day Leadership Boot Camp with Brad Humphrey – and dozens of manufacturer exhibits, the CP&S show is perfect for improving your skills, growing your business, and networking.

Lythic and Solomon Colors are bringing you an exclusive VIP offer. Register online with the promo code SOLO for free access to the exhibit hall. While you’re there, make sure to visit us at Booth #101. We will be discussing the latest and greatest in easy-to-use, environmentally friendly, polishing and maintenance products.

CP&S VIP

Project Profile: Acid Stained Basement

Project Profile: Acid Stained Basement

Acid stains belong to a class of materials called reactive stains. These stains do not use pigment to color concrete. Instead, they chemically react with calcium hydroxide (lime) in the concrete to change color. This leads to rich, amazing, and durable color. Beauty comes with a price, however. As the color change is reliant on a chemical reaction, it may be hard to predict or control. Read on to see how Brickform Blush Tone Acid Stain was used to stain a basement floor.

Water-Based Stains at a Glance

Water-Based Stains at a Glance

Water-based stains are another weapon in the war on ugly concrete. Over the past couple decades, water-based stains have grown in popularity due to their ease of use and wide color palette. The growth of water-based stains has democratized the staining market.

DAY1 Educational Program

DAY1 Educational Program

What is the DAY1 Educational Program - The event is a 4 hour, hands on demonstration. Featuring how DAY1 can increase productivity in addition to solving some of the everyday issues that concrete contractors face.

Project Profile: Fireplace and Hearth

Project Profile: Fireplace and Hearth

The applications for decorative concrete continue to surprise and expand. For decades, decorative concrete was limited to stamped patios and the like. However, with some creativity, it can touch nearly every part of the home. Here’s how Cory and Justin from Huber Custom Coatings used vertical mix, stampable overlay, and water based stains, to build an attractive fireplace.  

Part 1: The Surround

  1. Install the scratch coat. Cory and Justin first fastened a lightweight, fiberglass lath (SpiderLath) to the existing wall. They firmly troweled the Type-S Mortar over the lath and used a notching tool to cut deep grooves into the mortar before it set. This is also where Cory and Justin installed the wood mantelpiece.

  2. Mix the Vertical Mix according to instructions found in the TIS. Water content can be altered to ease application. A thicker “peanut butter” consistency will yield best results.

  3. Apply the Vertical Mix to the scratch coat in a thin layer. Begin by squishing the material deep within the grooves. In this video, Cory and Justin used their hands (always wear the appropriate protective gear when handling cementitious products) to firmly press the material into the grooves. Some applicators like to throw handfuls of the material while others choose to use trowels. Do whatever works best for you as long as you get the vertical mix deep in the grooves of the scratch coat.

  4. Apply the build layer. Larger handfuls of Vertical Mix will grab onto the thinner base layer and provide a good start for texturing. Smooth the material with a trowel. You may want to consider using forms to maintain a clean edge and uniform depth.

  5. Texture the Vertical Mix. Use tools such as stamps and texture rollers to texture the surface. More advanced applicators may also free-texture and sculpt using trowels, chisels, and whatever they can think to use. When using texture rollers or stamps, always use Brickform Liquid Release to keep the material from sticking.

  6. Start detailing when the Vertical Mix has started to set up. For a more realistic and varied appearance, Cory and Justin used small margin trowels to cut deeper grooves in the brick texture and add more depth. They also rounded edges and chipped some of the bricks for a more realistic look. Remove any dust or debris prior to the application of other materials.

  7. On this job, Cory and Justin used Brickform Cem-Coat for a durable, stain-ready base color. They mixed the Cem-Coat following the TIS instructions and applied the material in thin coats with a brush. You can also apply Cem-Coat with an airless sprayer.

  8. After the Cem-Coat dried, Cory and Justin used water-based Brickform ARTesian Stain to detail and highlight. They sprayed individual bricks with different colors for a more weathered, natural look.

  9. Seal the Vertical Mix to preserve and protect it. Choose a Brickform sealer that best suits your application and desired final appearance. Penetrating sealers such as Stealth Seal protect without leaving a film. Water-based sealers such as Satin Seal will protect while maintaining a matte, natural finish. Solvent-based sealers like Gem-Seal or Poly-Seal add gloss and enhance color.

Before: The existing wood mantle was dated and boring. While it matched the trim, it did little to improve the overall appearance of the room.

Part 2: The Hearth

  1. Build a form to the desired specifications, with form liners on the out-facing sides. Cut the urethane form liners to size and use plumber’s putty to fill in the joints at the corners for a smooth transition. The form liners will give the out-facing edges a natural looking stone texture.

  2. Mix Brickform Stampable Overlay following the TIS mixing instructions. Add color, as per the TIS, if desired. In this case, Cory and Justin added pea gravel as an aggregate during mixing. This added “bulk” to the mix and made it more suitable for a counter top-like application.

  3. Spray the forms with liquid release and pour a thin layer of Stampable Overlay.

  4. Place the rebar for support. Make sure it is not too close to the top or else it may affect the appearance.

  5. Continue adding material to the form until it is full. Use a vibrator to consolidate the mix and eliminate air bubbles. Pockets of air may negatively affect the texture on the form liners. Allow the material to set and remove the forms.

  6. Apply the sealer. Cory and Justin used Brickform Uermax WB for a durable, matte finish layer of protection. Once the sealer is set, they installed the hearth in the fireplace.

After: The addition of the faux-brick surround makes for a homier, more rustic room. Other looks can be achieved using these same materials and methods.

With a little creativity, you can accent any room of the home. Overlay materials can be used in many non-standard ways to replace traditional materials such as stone, brick, and granite. Always read and fully understand the literature for every product you intend to use before you begin any project. Make sure the existing structure (wall, cabinets, floors, etc) will be able to support the weight and stresses of your materials – making upgrades and improvements as needed.

Stampable Overlay for New Construction

Most associate overlays and microtoppings with restoration, but they can prove useful in new construction applications as well. Decorative concrete installation may not be possible due to structural requirements, scheduling, or other complications. When this happens, it may be possible to come in a little later and use an overlay to get the same look.

In this video, John and Todd installed Brickform SC-60 Stampable Overlay in a new basement after the slab was poured and drywall hung. This way, stamping would not interfere with the other processes. Here are the steps they followed:

  1. Clean and prepare the surface with Brickform E-Etch. The original installers did not hard trowel the concrete, probably anticipating the Stampable Overlay. This left a good profile for the overlay. Neutralize with Brickform Neutra Clean and scrub with a rotary floor scrubber until contaminants have been removed. Rinse with clean water.

  2. Fill in control joints. This provides an even surface for more consistent curing later on. Use a high quality epoxy. Broadcast silica sand in the epoxy to ensure proper bonding. Make note of the control joint locations as you will likely want to re-cut them after the overlay has cured.

  3. Prime the profiled and prepared surface with Brickform Triple Seven Bond Coat for optimal adhesion. View the product TIS for application instructions.

  4. Mix the Stampable Overlay according to the instruction in the TIS. Start by mixing the Brickform Overlay Liquid Color of your choice with water. Then add the powder component and mix thoroughly. Use Brickform Turtle Set to extend pot-life in hot or dry conditions.  

  5. Apply the Stampable Overlay. Use a gauge rake to achieve a consistent, pre-determined depth. Close rake-marks with a rubber squeegee, fresno, or hand trowel. John used a rubber squeegee in this video, which is what he generally recommends. Do not overwork the product because this will cause blistering.

  6. Let the material set, or cure, until it is spongy and does not stick to your finger when placed on the surface with moderate pressure.

  7. Begin stamping by applying Brickform Liquid Release to your texturing tools and the Stampable Overlay just ahead of work. Place your tools and apply the appropriate amount of pressure. Avoid moving or dragging stamps after they have been placed. Always make sure you know how the stamps go together before you begin stamping. Never trowel in the liquid release.

  8. If you must stop work for an extended amount of time, stop stamping, leave the tool in place, and scrape away excess material. Then you may remove the tool.

  9. Allow the material to cure for 24 hours. Use a masonry rub brick, chisel, and other hand tools to detail the surface and remove minor imperfections. Vacuum and clean up any dust or debris. Use a mild detergent to remove liquid release residue. Small details like this are what separate good jobs from great jobs.

  10. For best appearances, add secondary color using Brickform Antique-It, Blush Tone Acid Stain, ARTesian Water Based Stain, or Pro-Dye Plus. John and Todd sprayed ARTesian Stain and applied it to mimic aged wood.  

  11. Apply the best Brickform sealer for your application. In this case, John and Todd used Brickform Gem Seal 700. When possible, apply Brickform Premium Acrylic Floor Finish as a sacrificial coating for interior applications.

This article is a brief overview. Always make sure to fully read and understand product literature for EVERY product you plan on using before you begin work. When possible, create samples using the exact products and techniques you plan on using. If you are interested in learning about these processes, attend Brickform Training. Ask your local Brickform distributor or follow this link for dates and details.  

Hassle-Free Contractor Promotion by Brickform

Take the hassle out of promoting your business by letting us handle some of the marketing for you. We want to give contractors using Brickform products every tool they need to succeed. In the past, we’ve done this by providing mailer, flyer, and brochure templates to attendees of the Contractor Education Seminar. This was useful, but far from the easiest way to get print materials.
 

The Brickform store has a number of reasonably priced promo items.

The Brickform store has a number of reasonably priced promo items.

Now we’ve made it simple to customize and print high quality promotional materials. Just visit our new online store for materials promoting general decorative concrete, restoration & overlays, interior decorative concrete, decorative concrete landscaping, and stained concrete. Just upload your logo and place it, along with your company contact information, onto the flyer, mailer, or brochure of your choice. Each comes pre-designed with high resolution photos and excellent written content.

Each one of these pieces is attractive, clean, and appealing to homeowners. Present decorative concrete as an upscale product, perfect for improving the value of your client’s home. Postcards are perfect for mass mailings. Target specific neighborhoods and properties that meet certain criteria. Flyers are excellent for door-to-door distribution. Carry some around and leave them with neighbors whenever you do a job. Finally, brochures are ideal for client consolations, displays, and home shows. They even have a blank panel should you want to include more specific information of your own.
 

It is easy to customize items by adding your logo and contact info.

It is easy to customize items by adding your logo and contact info.

Keep on the lookout for more products on our online store. In the future, you will be able to buy custom apparel to promote your company, fun and interesting clothing, and all sorts of decorative concrete-related items. Visit our training site to view the Brickform Store. Let us know in the comments if there's anything you'd like to see on the store!

7 Reasons Contractors Should Do Decorative Concrete

7 Reasons Contractors Should Do Decorative Concrete

“Decorative concrete seems like too much work! Why should I do it?” This is something we hear from contractors all the time. Often, when a contractor is scheduling regular flatwork jobs left and right, he doesn’t see the value in doing more. If you’re willing to take the time to do it right, decorative concrete can grow your business. Read more to see the 7 reasons it might be a smart decision to move into decorative concrete.

6 STEPS WHEN YOU'RE CONSIDERING STAMPED CONCRETE

6 STEPS WHEN YOU'RE CONSIDERING STAMPED CONCRETE

There’s more to a successful stamped concrete project than finding a contractor and writing a check. Follow these six steps to get the make sure you get the right stamped concrete for your home or business:

Stamped Concrete
  1. Before more in-depth planning, it is important to answer a few key questions. First and foremost, a maximum budget needs to be set. From there, you should find a general timeframe – this is especially important if the stamped concrete project is part of a larger renovation. Remember that many contractors are busy, with some scheduling jobs as far as a year in advance. From here, you should consider selecting a contractor.
  2. Consider limiting factors and logistical concerns. An experienced concrete contractor should be able to help with this. Some common issues include:
    • Smoothness – highly textured or “deep” stamps can be difficult for people wearing high heels, wheelchairs, and carts with small wheels to traverse.
    • Access – can the contractor access the area with the required tools and materials? Will any accommodations be needed, such as removing fencing?
    • Safety – some patterns or finishes can pose a safety risk. For example, some stamp patterns can pose a slip risk when wet. It could be necessary to make special accommodations to improve traction or select a different finish.
    • Concrete – is the location suitable for concrete placement? If not, what needs to be done to make it suitable?
  3. Get a general sense of the design. This is where the “look and feel” is decided. Chances are, you have already given this subject thought and that is how you decided on stamped concrete. Choose a general style that works with the house and surrounding properties. Select a handful of colors that would make sense with the texture (browns with wood patterns, grays and tans with stone, reds and browns with brick, etc.).
  4. Make final texture and color choices with your contractor. Final selections may depend, at least in part, on what colors and textures your contractor offers in his portfolio. At this stage, your contractor may offer additional guidance based on his experience. It is generally a good idea to listen to this input.
  5. When placement begins, follow your contractor’s instructions. Any requests during the duration of the project should be aimed at ensuring the best possible end product. A good contactor should prepare you by informing you of your responsibilities.
  6. Before completing the project, your contractor should instruct you on the maintenance requirements of your new stamped concrete. Most stamped concrete will need to be regularly cleaned with re-sealing every two to three years.
Stamped Concrete

By taking a little bit of time to plan, you can enjoy spectacular stamped concrete for years to come. For ideas, view our galleries or visit sites such as ConcreteNetwork.com

HOW TO INCORPORATE DECORATIVE CONCRETE INTO LANDSCAPING

HOW TO INCORPORATE DECORATIVE CONCRETE INTO LANDSCAPING

Decorative Concrete

Landscaping is an important element for any home. Decorative concrete is an important element for any landscaping design. Good landscape design must wed natural elements beautifully and functionally with man-made elements. It must withstand the elements and comfortably serve as an extension to the family’s living space.

Use concrete to compliment nature, not to control or hide it. Style and placement of decorative concrete elements should work with the natural surroundings and the home. A cobblestone stamped walkway would not work well with an adobe home and cactus adorned yard. On the flip side, a richly colored natural stone texture would work well with a wooded yard and rustic home. It does not matter how much the homeowners love a certain texture, color combination, or design. Something that does not fit with the setting will always disappoint.

Decorative Concrete

Not only should the theme match the setting, layout should be carefully thought out. A fine balance needs to be found between function and form. The biggest conflict is between straight lines and organic shapes. Straight lines are appealing because they are easier to construct. They may, however, appear unimaginative or contrast too greatly with the landscaping. An over-reliance on curves can be distracting or appear cartoonish. Successful projects will have a mix of straight lines and mild organic curves. For example, a patio might have straight edges with rounded raised segments or a flowing walkway leading to it.

Take intended use into consideration. A family that enjoys entertaining will enjoy a large patio. Yet, a sports-oriented household will appreciate anything that maximizes open space. Isolated seating and gazebos will please people who value privacy and alone time. To maximize open space, a designer might consider a colored retaining wall to flatten slopes or decorative concrete planters to keep plant life contained. Low concrete walls and planters can held divide open areas into smaller, usable spaces. Entertaining spaces benefit from durable concrete counters, concrete firepits, and low concrete walls.

Decorative Concrete

Remember to take budget seriously. Even the best plans are pointless unless the homeowner can afford it. This is one aspect in which decorative concrete comes into its own. Decorative concrete (specifically stamped and stenciled concrete) can be more affordable than materials such as stone, brick pavers, or tile. By choosing concrete as a medium, premium design options become available to budget-conscious consumers.

Consider conditions and environment when planning any landscaping project. Climate plays a huge role in landscaping. Vegetation and man-made portions are susceptible to the elements. High winds, water availability, precipitation, and freezing are all environmental concerns. When considering decorative concrete as a part of a landscaping project, plan for freezing conditions and soil erosion. If the environment does not support certain design elements, it will be necessary to find a suitable alternative.

A Recap of Brickform's 2015 Training

A Recap of Brickform's 2015 Training

On a mild, if chilly, late October day, a couple dozen men and women stood patiently outside. The sound of diesel engines clattered in the background as a truck from the local ready mix producer backed up to the tent. Justin Huber dumped loads of concrete while eager volunteers rushed to rake and screed. In a few short minutes, this slab would be poured, finished, and ready to Color Hardener and stenciling. Under the watchful eye of Todd Rose, the students busily broadcast Color Hardener - many for the first time - learning techniques that would help them greatly expand their businesses.  

The attendees represented a diverse lot. Some had years of experience in decorative concrete, while others hadn't even touched a trowel until that day. Architects, distributors, and owners were all in attendance, eager to get hands on instruction. Solomon Colors sales managers, technical staff, customer service, and guest instructors were all present to make sure everything went smoothly.  

This was one of three multi-day training seminars that took place over the course of a couple weeks. Come next spring, it will all happen again.  

Solomon Colors' training seminar are nothing new. However, over the past year or so, they have evolved. Emphasis has been added on hands-on training, giving attendees an opportunity to touch and feel product as they place concrete, broadcast hardener, and stamp. They have the opportunity to pick up the sprayer or gauge-rake and lay down their own overlay or stain their own samples for later display. Also, recognizing product application is only a small portion of being a successful contractor, further emphasis is placed on marketing, bidding, and selling techniques. What was previously presented in sporadic nuggets of wisdom is now organized into cohesive and productive discussions, drawing from the experiences of the trainers and the attendees alike.