Carving and coloring concrete on vertical surfaces is a growing niche. For those with the right tools and skills, it’s an opportunity to make good money with a creative flair.
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Relief concrete carving is a decorative technique for concrete that allows the artist to create detailed designs on an existing surface. It adds a unique touch to walls, patios and more that will stand out from the rest of the space. The technique is similar to stone carving, but instead of cutting out the design from a block of stone, it is carved into a cast piece of concrete.
Carving into a fresh concrete mix with the help of an experienced contractor can give homeowners and business owners a one-of-a-kind decorative accent. The material can be shaped, colored and textured to resemble stones, rocks, chiseled wood and more. Carving also helps bring more life to plain walls by adding more depth to a room.
Many decorative concrete and overlay mixes contain finer grades of sand, polymers and other ingredients that make the material easy to carve, stamp, color and work with. The concrete holds its shape after being carved and adheres to the wall or other surfaces without moving, sluffing, sliding or drooping.
If you’re new to concrete carving, a good place to start is with a steppingstone project. This is a simple way to build your skills, develop confidence and gain experience. It’s a good idea to wear gloves and a dust mask when working with concrete, as it contains silica. This material can irritate the skin and lungs when inhaled over time. It’s also important to practice a few times before attempting a larger and more complex project, such as vertical concrete carving.
Stamped Concrete Carving
Concrete carving gives the look of natural rock and wood to concrete patios, porches, walkways and driveways. Installation professionals level and pour a new slab, then use rubber stamps to press and tamp the wet cement so it takes the shape of bricks, stones or wood planks. After the concrete dries, contractors apply concrete stains to color the stamped concrete slabs and make them match the shade of pavers or bricks they’re trying to mimic.
Stained concrete is becoming a popular alternative to pavers, especially in homes and businesses that want a more modern appearance. Stains come in a wide range of colors and can be tinted to look opaque or translucent, matte or shiny, and can change the concrete’s surface from dull to polished. Stains also allow the concrete to take on the appearance of other materials, such as marble or slate.
Stamped concrete is a relatively new technique that gives patios, walkways and driveways the appearance of expensive stone or tile. It’s also more affordable than replacing existing pavers or other types of outdoor flooring. The installation process requires more steps than a basic concrete slab, however, and the finished product may not be as durable or long-lasting as the real thing.
Some contractors sand and polish the concrete to give it an even more luxurious finish, but this can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. In addition, the concrete must be resealed frequently to prevent damage from rain, snow and ice.
While stamped concrete is no longer the hot trend that it was a decade ago, the process still holds appeal for many installers and suppliers. The most significant change in the stamped concrete market is the improvement of stamp tool technology, allowing installers to impart texture as well as a pattern.
Vertical concrete sculpting is another market niche that offers opportunities for concrete contractors who can afford the specialty tools and artistic techniques required to create unique and realistic rock, wood and stone formations. This involves mixing a special vertical concrete mixture that contains finer aggregates than regular concrete, which makes the final product lighter and easier to carve.
Concrete overlays are a great way to resurface and beautify existing concrete. Overlays come in a wide variety of colors and textures. They can be stamped or textured to mimic the look of tile, stone, brick, wood and other flooring materials. Decorative overlays are durable and long-lasting when properly maintained. Overlays also cost less than replacement of the original flooring material.
Most decorative concrete overlays are polymer-based systems. These are a combination of dry ingredients and liquids that create a thick cement-like product. Typically, the polymer provides the bulk of the strength that allows the overlay to hold up to traffic and harsh environmental conditions. The dry ingredients are typically a mixture of sand and cement. However, some popular systems have up to seven different dry ingredients each providing a nuance or performance characteristic to the finished product.
The most common polymers used in decorative concrete overlays are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and acrylic. EVA is the most widely used polymer based on its cost-to-performance ratio. It is often referred to as white glue and has the same viscosity as Elmer’s glue. EVA is available in both powder and liquid emulsion form. Depending on the system, the polymer may be premixed with the powder or added in a liquid form at the job site.
Once the overlay is applied it must be sealed to help prevent staining and to protect the material. Floor overlays usually require routine sweeping to remove abrasive particles and occasional wet mopping with mild detergent, depending on how much traffic the floor receives. If you have questions about maintenance for your new floor, ask your contractor to explain the procedure and life-time performance expectations in detail.
Walls are another popular surface to be treated with a decorative overlay. These overlays can be carved and colored to mimic the look of stone, wood, stucco or other wall surfaces. In addition to enhancing the look of the walls, these overlays can fill in cracks and other imperfections.
Before installing an overlay on existing surfaces, the designer will inspect the structure to make sure there are no problems that need to be addressed. If there are, the designer can help you choose a solution that will work with your existing materials and fit within your budget.
Concrete is strong and durable but it can be damaged from wear and tear or from natural events like earthquakes. Whether you have an old crumbling driveway or a broken walkway, it’s important to take care of concrete repair as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at costly replacements down the road.
Many concrete repair contractors offer a variety of services to preserve and extend the life of structures like industrial buildings, parking structures, bridges, silos, and retaining walls. Specialized concrete repair contractors also perform structural repairs using post-tension, carbon and glass fiber composites as well as cathodic protection services.
When repairing existing concrete, the contractor may need to excavate and remove damaged material before the actual repair work is done. In some cases, this will be enough to address the issue and leave a sturdy, long-lasting repair. In other cases, the old concrete will need to be completely removed and replaced with new concrete.
The concrete repair contractor will need to ensure the concrete mix is properly matched for strength with the existing concrete. This is especially important if the repair will be used for a structural purpose. The contractor will also need to ensure the proper curing conditions are met for the repair to be effective. This will include observing surface amplitude and direct tensile testing of the concrete to ensure it has reached its designed strength.
Another important step in concrete repair is to make sure the patch edges are properly defined and that there are no thin areas at the ends of the patch. This can be achieved by using a technique called “feathering.” Concrete feathering is an easy way to add a little artistic flair to your concrete repair project and it can also help to minimize the development of drying shrinkage cracks in the new concrete.
The best way to choose a concrete repair contractor is to ask around. If anyone you know has had their concrete repaired recently, ask them about their experience with the contractor and what the results were like. You can also check online reviews to see what other people are saying about the company. A reputable contractor will have positive reviews and be insured and bonded.