Top 5 Tips for Successful Decorative Concrete Contracting
As decorative concrete flooring options expand, the choices available to clients can become bewildering. As their best resource and as the concrete installer, you as the professional must be on your game to ensure their satisfaction and continue to build and maintain your own reputation.
Because the “latest and greatest” will ultimately fall to you to deliver.
Here are 5 Tips to Keep You Ahead of the Curve
Know your products.
In its early days, decorative concrete was limited to the number of finishes used. But today, the wide range of additives, finishes, and techniques used in decorative concrete (along with the almost infinite combination of the above) each has their own set of advantages and limitations.
Whether for aesthetic, practical, or financial reasons, it’s important for you to understand the application and desired outcome of each material in the concrete mix or applied to the finished slab. The exciting part of the range of options available – stamping, staining, overlays, micro-toppings, dyes, polishes, aggregates, and more – is that the end result is only limited by the designer’s creativity and the contractor’s product knowledge.
Of course, the downside is that the result will rely totally on the contractor’s product and practical knowledge. Even as a staple of the building industry, concrete is sensitive to a number of variables that can mean a bad outcome if not understood and managed properly. And decorative concrete pushes it into an even higher-stakes territory. So be sure you understand the necessary specifications for each product involved in the process.
Educate yourself and your client.
Educating yourself means staying current on new products or applications, training techniques to build your skill set, and researching the products best suited to your local region’s climate and conditions. It means knowing local suppliers for the best supply sources and building an experienced crew with hands-on knowledge of decorative concrete techniques and finishes. And it means communicating with the entire build team to prepare and complete the job as specified.
Educating your client may be the most important task you, as a flooring professional, have. While they will be relying on your professional expertise, you can also keep them informed about the project schedule, the finished outcome, and the necessary post-installation maintenance. Showing samples of techniques you’re trained in can be a great time to discuss the natural variances of concrete products. The more these expectations can be made clear before the work begins, the more amenable the relationship is likely to be through the project and the better the end success of the project as well.
Negotiate a milestone schedule, not a calendar one.
One of the key elements of any building project is the schedule. Trying to keep all subcontractors on time is a time management and a financial reality. But with concrete, the danger of running the project by the clock is that a concrete drying schedule cannot be predicted by any rule-of-thumb approach.
Too many variables will influence the concrete’s drying time – the initial mix, ambient conditions, troweling methods, specific requirements for stamping or texturing, the presence of color dyes or tints in the admixture, and so on.
Trying to rush the job with concrete flooring can ultimately mean a flooring failure of applied floorings or decorative finishes. Any excess moisture in the slab will ultimately work its way to the surface, where it can cause scaling, staining, adhesive or overlay failure, blistering, or other surface problems. To prevent moisture-related flooring problems, relative humidity (RH) testing provides the best indicator of when a slab has reached the specified moisture level for the chosen finish technique.
By measuring the slab’s internal moisture conditions, you can be confident in making a go/no-go decision for proceeding with the chosen decorative concrete finish. Negotiating a schedule that allows for the readiness of the concrete floor will save both time and money in the long run.
Free Download – 4 Reasons Why Your Concrete Is Taking Forever to Dry
Don’t neglect the basics.
The standard practices of concrete flooring installation become even more crucial to a successful decorative concrete flooring finish. As much as possible, keep the surface free from contaminants, including possible materials or residue from other subcontractors. Try to minimize foot traffic over the green concrete slab – even the slightest foot or tool impression can appear when a stain or texture is applied.
Make sure HVAC systems are operational at all times. Clean the surface before applying any finishes, stains, or sealers. And make regular RH measurements to monitor the slab’s moisture conditions.
Provide a maintenance schedule.
Once you have successfully completed each decorative concrete floor, including applying a protective sealer or covering as necessary, ensure the maintenance schedule or procedure is clear to the client. (It should also be discussed during the project planning stage.) Some floor finishes require regular renewal or reapplication, and whether you negotiate to be responsible for that aspect of the floor’s care or the client will take that responsibility, the expectations again must be clear to protect and ensure the beauty and durability of the floor, as well as any possible warranty that you will provide.
Decorative concrete flooring is becoming increasingly popular for its durability, beauty, and basic maintenance appeal. Ensure you have laid the best foundation for that client’s floors by providing constant professional installations and informed communication.
Jason has 20+ years’ experience in sales and sales management in a spectrum of industries and has successfully launched a variety of products to the market, including the original Rapid RH® concrete moisture tests. He currently works with Wagner Meters as our Rapid RH® product sales manager.
Last updated on May 2nd, 2023
Decorative concrete contracting involves creating unique and visually appealing designs using concrete as the primary material.
Amazing tips! very helpful, thank you for sharing these with us.
I just read your article “Top 5 Tips for Successful Decorative Concrete Contracting” and thought it was really insightful. I know how hard it is to keep on top of all the rules and regulations that come with being a contractor– especially when you’ve been in the industry for awhile.
Thank you for posting an awesome article about Decorative Concrete and the benefits of using decorative concrete. I really appreciate your work in this area! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for providing helpful and informative tips for your decorative concrete. I learned a lot from you today. I am excited to read more posts from you. I can see how expert you are on this matter.
Although the exact nature of the contract work may be different, you’ll still be able to ask about the quality of work, if the contractor stuck to their predicted time frame, and if the cost was fair.
I stumbled on your article because we recently finished a remodeling project and the concrete contractor had to pour inside the home with improper ventilation. We warned that in Arizona, even in the winter, the windows must be kept open and he needed to wait until our sealants were dry to pour so the windows and doors could be open. It was like a sauna inside the house and we had to prematurely provide fans and ventilation to keep the concrete from curing too quickly and causing damage to the paint and other fixtures in the home. Great tips and I’m glad we stumbled on your advice!
Solid write up. I have to agree on the importance of staying on top of decorative concrete maintenance. It’s never ideal for a homeowner to make a sizeable investment in a great looking concrete feature – only to have it lose its luster because of improper maintenance/sealing neglect. As in this article, I find the best approach is to let the customer know upfront how ofter their decorative concrete needs maintenance to keep it looking its best. This way it keeps the homeowner happy and protects the concrete contractor’s reputation = win-win for all.
I’m needing some concrete work done. It would be a good idea to go with a professional on this. As you said, I should learn about the products as that way, I could know what I do and don’t need.
I’m glad you talked about making sure everyone involved is educated. I am looking to install decorative concrete for my front yard walk path and your tips made me realize that I need an educated professional to install my path. I can’t wait to see what my guests will say!
I liked that you said that one thing to consider when you are needing to hire a concrete contractor is to find someone who will go over their schedule with you so that you are informed as to what their plan is. I have been thinking about having concrete paved in my backyard but I have been worried that the contractor wouldn’t keep me up to date about the plans for completion. I will be sure to do research to find someone who will offer professional services, indicating their timing on the project.
I really appreciate your tip to try and stay on top of different types of new materials in decorative concrete. My wife and I have been thinking of getting a new decorative concrete for our back patio, and I know that my wife is very particular to the type of concrete. I will be sure to tell her that we should keep an eye out for any new materials that may come up!
I appreciate it when you said that there are a lot of different types of decorative concrete designs nowadays, however, the person needs to be aware that they have their own pros and cons. If so, then I better do my research first to see what will best suit my situation. Or maybe I can ask the contractor about the best thing that they can advise me. Either way will do as long as the project turns up successfully.
Not many people would think about it, so I like that you include the importance of a maintenance schedule. After all, while the decorative concrete might look really nice for the first year or two after it is installed, it will need maintenance eventually. Because of this it is important to figure out the proper maintenance process from the contractor before the job is completed.
I appreciate the advice to stay current on new products or applications when figuring out decorative concrete. My backyard is going to get some renovations, and getting a really nice pathway made out of concrete is something that I would like. Speaking with professionals and learning about current methods in the field will be steps I’ll take to make sure that I get a great pathway made in my backyard.
I love how you mention a maintenance plan, I think that’s one of the most important ideas.
I totally agree that you must provide a maintenance schedule after a successful concrete decorative flooring so expectations are set right between the customer and client. It is always nice if you could work with each other again in the future or if they provide a referral. I would definitely take this into consideration if I were in the same situation. Thanks.
I think you were spot on with the idea of having a set maintenance schedule. Getting the floor planned and installed is the main concern. Once you get to that point, though, maintenance has to be the top priority. Without maintenance, the floor could fade or get damaged, and it almost negates the whole installation process entirely. I will definitely keep all of this in mind if I ever choose to get concrete flooring done.
It makes sense that having the correct concrete flooring in the first place is important to be able to get a decorative finish applied. Hiring a concrete contractor who is experienced in his job would be important in this instance because if it is installed incorrectly there wouldn’t be a good way to get it looking nice afterward. I would imagine that talking to friends and family would be a good way to find someone who fits your needs and would do a great job.
I liked how you talked about how exciting it can be the end result with all of the options like stamping and overlays, as long as you’re knowledgeable about the products. My sister has a pretty design in her concrete and I am looking into options for my own driveway. Knowing which products to use for which design would guarantee a better outcome with the project.
I appreciate the information on successful decorative concrete contracting. I agree that one of the best things you can do is to provide a maintenance schedule because if you keep up on the maintenance then there is less of a chance of something going wrong. I would imagine that most of the time when something goes wrong after a contractor leaves, it is because either the basics were neglected or the maintenance schedule was not followed.