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Concrete Answers: Style, Substance and a Strong Outlook

Friday, March 18, 2011

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The decorative-concrete industry has experienced dramatic growth in the latter part of the 20th century and early in the current century, but the potential for greater expansion is even more promising.

That was the view expressed by one of a trio of industry professionals addressing a “Style and Substance” program session last week at the Concrete Décor Show in Nashville, Tenn. The session was presented by Durability + Design.

Matt Ranzau, sales manager for Westcoat Specialty Coating Systems, said that even though decorative concrete has experienced rapid growth since the 1980s—when concrete staining really started to hit its stride, followed by engraving and decorative scoring in the 1990s and the meteoric ascent of polished concrete in the last 10 to 15 years—the decorative industry remains a secondary role player in the flooring market as a whole.

Westcoat Metallilc Epoxy

Photos courtesy of
Westcoat Specialty Coatings Systems

The gallery of decorative-concrete technologies
and effects just keeps expanding. Shown here is
an installation of metallic epoxy.

“By some estimates our industry is 1% to 3% of the overall flooring market,” Ranzau said. With the flooring market as a whole projected to grow at a rate of 4-5% a year, the potential for expansion of the decorative-concrete portion of the market is obvious, he said.

“There’s so much room for growth,” Ranzau said. But he emphasized that knowledge and education on the part of industry professionals will be crucial to exploiting this potential. Manufacturers and installers must be able to convey to designers, specifiers and owners a comprehensive assessment of the various approaches available, and explain the criteria that should be used to evaluate the advantages and possible limitations of these alternative systems.

Westcoat Concrete

A stained and polished concrete floor, with
lithium silicate employed as the hardener/densifier.

Figuring prominently in these criteria, Ranzau said, are environmental considerations such as lifecycle costs, VOCs, and maintenance considerations.

“Lower cost and lower environmental impact may carry higher maintenance costs and less durability,” he said. “Higher-durability systems may offer longer life cycle and less maintenance, but may have an increased negative impact on the environment and costs.”

The questions that should be answered in weighing the various approaches, Ranzau said, should include:

• The forecast use of the floor;

• Life cycle (service life);

• Total installation budget

• Impact on the environment

• Cost of maintenance

• “Hidden” costs

Concrete flooring systems can compare favorably when weighed against carpet and tile flooring, which come with higher maintenance costs and shorter life cycles, Ranzau said. They also employ petroleum-based materials that contribute to the overall environmental impact.

Westcoat Concrete Panels

Precast concrete panels colored with a water-
based stain, with a water-based urethane used
as a sealer.

Ranzau also provided an overview of many of the current technologies and systems available for concrete-flooring applications, including stains; sealers; polished concrete; decorative epoxies; “liquid granite” and terrazzo; thin-film overlays; texture-coat decorative products that can be used on plywood as well as concrete; self-leveling cements; and others.

He described advances in technologies such as “stain and seal” options employing water-based stains, acid stains, and dyes combined with water-based acrylic, urethane and epoxy sealers or 100% epoxy sealers. These systems feature “extremely low to no VOCs that still offer durability,” he said.

Polished concrete can be thought of as perhaps the “highest option” in sustainable and durable flooring technologies, with stains and dyes providing color choices and silicate hardeners delivering the durability.

Decorative epoxy materials offer low VOCs and are highly decorative and extremely durable, he said. Metallic, quartz, and quartz-like flakes and chips are used to create eye-catching “dazzle.”

Westcoat Texturized Concrete

A water-based stain and satin polyurethane
sealer were applied to this textured-concrete

The choices are extensive and varied, Ranzau said, emphasizing that the designer, specifier and owner need to consider the intended use of the floor and weigh the environmental factors. The well-informed manufacturer and contractor can play a central role in this process, he said.
‘Stainguard on Steroids’ Technology,
Array of Decorative Methods also Described

Joining Ranzau in addressing the program session were Steven Reinstadtler, Bayer MaterialScience LLC, and Scott Thome, L.M. Scofield Company.

Reinstadtler discussed the development of a high-performance polyurethane sealer technology for decorative and diamond-polished concrete floors, which he called “Stainguard on Steroids.”

Evaluations of recent R&D progress involving the two-component technology demonstrate that sealers based on the chemistry have been shown to provide significant performance gains in stain and abrasion resistance, with near-zero VOC content and no odor, Reinstadtler said. An additional feature of the technology, he said, is the ability to formulate sealers with a range of gloss levels, from matte to high sheen.

The technology has demonstrated superior resistance to many common staining agents such as mustard, ketchup and other food-related ingredients. Additional formulation work and testing are focusing on more powerful staining sources such as petroleum-based oils and fuels and other industrial chemicals, he said.

Thome surveyed the broad array of decorative treatments and techniques that can be combined with ground and polished concrete systems.  These approaches include the use of integral color, color hardeners, exposed aggregates, acid stains, dyes, stencils, scoring, polished overlays, terrazzo restoration, and “cut and shine,” he said.

The program session, presented by Durability + Design, was titled “Style and Substance: Broadening the Horizons of Decorative and Polished Concrete.”


Tagged categories: Bayer MaterialScience; Decorative concrete; L.M. Scofield; Polished concrete; Westcoat Specialty Coating Systems

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