Concrete Overlay

Aside from the obvious stuff contractors have gotten a bad rep for (dishonesty, lack of punctuality, etc.), many contractors get the two most important components of concrete resurfacing wrong. Usually, getting those two things wrong leads to a problem with your floor (deterioration, peeling or chipping away, fading of the colors, etc) shortly after it's been resurfaced. That’s a no-no. So, in this post, we’ll tell you about those two things decorative concrete contractors can’t seem to get right. That way, you can hire a contractor who won’t screw it up. 1. Half-Assing The Surface Preparation Surface preparation is the common term for the first, and most important, phase in the process of resurfacing concrete. In this phase, your concrete needs to be thoroughly cleaned. If any type of coating is covering your floor (paint, tiles, old stamps or overlays), that coating likely needs to be stripped off. There can’t be any dirt, dust, oil, or any other type of contaminating particles, or else the decorative coatings won’t bond to your concrete to their fullest potential. You can’t have that. Honestly, the surface prep is a huge pain in the you-know-what. Pressure washing is no fun, especially when there are lots of oil stains on your concrete, but grinding is the real thorn in your side. That’s probably the reason why so many contractors ignore it. But if they don’t want any callbacks, and if you don’t want to have to deal with calling them back, they take this step very seriously. 2. Skimping on The Sealer (or Using The Wrong Kind) Sealing is the last phase of the concrete resurfacing process. The sealer does two things - makes your newly decorated floor shinier, but more importantly - it serves as a shield to your concrete. It protects from UV rays, foot and vehicle traffic, and from getting dirty. Yet, somehow, many people skimp on the sealer or even skip it altogether. That’s just crazy. Therefore, you must ask your contractor about how they plan to seal your concrete surface. Solvent-based sealers usually provide greater protection, so ask for such sealer. Solvent-based sealer is a must for exterior surfaces exposed to tons of sunlight. Ask for at least two coats of sealer. 3. Failing to Instruct you about Maintenance (bonus) That sealer we were just talking about - that’s not a one-and-done type deal. Every decorative concrete contractor should tell you that your new floor needs to be re-sealed every 12-24 months, based on the amount of traffic and exposure to sunlight your concrete is undergoing. The contractor should instruct you on how to do it (as it’s relatively simple), and should offer to do it for you for a reasonable price. I wish I could tell you what that price is, but it’s different at every place. Here, in LA, re-sealing costs about $1 - $2 per sq. ft. But who does it is not important. It’s important it gets done....

Here in Los Angeles, California, resurfacing floors with concrete overlay can be quite a challenge. Sure, we don’t get the harsh temperature drops and the piles of snow they get on the East Coast. But we do get hot, dry, windy days with temperatures of over 100 degrees. Such conditions are equally undesirable when working with concrete overlay (or any cement-based material like regular concrete, stamped concrete, etc.), as they can result to outcomes such as plastic shrinkage cracking or chemical drying shrinkage. Thankfully, there are tips and tricks on how to handle such weather conditions and that’s exactly what we plan to share with you in this post. Obviously, this information could be useful for contractors, but we thought it can be quite helpful for consumers as well. If you’re hiring a contractor to work on your concrete this summer, it’s good to be able to make sure they have a coherent plan on how to handle the LA climate. Let’s jump right in. 1. Mix Retarders with The Concrete Overlay Once the concrete overlay gets applied, the water that was previously mixed with it begins to evaporate. When it evaporates too quickly, it can create plastic shrinkage cracking. Same applies to pouring regular concrete, and even concrete stamping. Retarders are admixtures that slow down the evaporation process. They are a must for hot, dry, windy climates such as the one we have here in Los Angeles. 2. Apply The Overlay (and The Sealer) in The Coldest Possible Points of The Day (or at Night) This one is pretty self-explanatory. Unfortunately, when it comes to decorative concrete, you can't start working right after sunrise. You have to wait until the morning dew has dried up, which normally happens between 8AM and 9AM. Unless there’s a heatwave, you’re going to get a milder temperature until about 11AM, which gives you enough working time to coat most projects less than 2,000 sq. ft. After this window, your second best bet is to start a little before the sun sets (around 6:00 - 6:30PM). If you’re worried the sun will set before you can finish, get yourself some high wattage LED lights from Home Depot. They’re usually bright enough to do the trick. 3. Mix the Overlay with Cool Water Not much to expand on here, just make sure the water isn’t too cold. 4. Place Your Mix In The Shade This is common sense. When you mix your bucket of overlay, make sure not to leave it in direct sunlight. It’s better to have to carry it a few feet every time you need to pour some down than to be rushed while applying. 5. Avoid Leaving Masking Tape Overnight if You Can Masking is really time-consuming as it is. Try not to create even more work for yourself by leaving it overnight (or for several days). If left on for too long, the masking tape is bound to either rip in very small pieces while pulling it off, to leave a hard-to-remove residue after it’s been peeled off (or both). We try to avoid all of these as best as we can. 6. Get a Tent for Shade You can get a 20’ x 10’ tent for about $150 in Home Depot. It gets pretty windy here (especially around the beach) so we usually have to weigh our tent/s down to prevent them from flying away. Wrapping plastic around the poles of the tent may serve as a good windbreak that will increase drying time, which will increase the time you have to work the overlay. 7. Spray the Sealer Instead of Rolling It Rolling the sealer with a foam roller is an often preferred method of applying the final protective coating by many contractors. When it’s too hot out, however, the roller may lift little strings of sealer only after the second or third time it goes over a certain area. This can ruin all of the hard work you’ve put prior to sealing by leaving ugly spots throughout the surface. Apply the sealer with a pump sprayer, instead. This method of application will definitely increase your cost (you can only spray sealer once with every pump sprayer because it gets clogged up), but it will save you a ton of stress and frustration. An evenly sprayed coat of sealer tends to be heavier than a rolled one too, which only gives better protection and fewer callbacks. Conclusion Working with any cementitious materials (or sealers) in a hot, dry, windy climate is not easy. Thankfully, through proper planning, you can make sure the climate doesn’t negatively affect your project....