Concrete Resurfacing

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....

It’s intimidating, dealing with contractors, car mechanics, and other such craftsmen who presumably know a lot more than you about the thing you need help with. This gap in knowledge can make anyone feel like an easy target of manipulation and schemery. The purpose of this post is to help close the gap between you and decorative concrete contractors (such as ourselves). But some of the points you’ll find in this article may apply to other contractors and craftsmen. 1. A Good Contractor Will be Licensed, Bonded and Insured There’s a quick and easy way to check this all in one place. Just conduct the following Google search: “(Your state) contractors state license board” Just like this: “California contractors state license board” Look for the “.gov” result. In the case of the California Contractors State License Board, cslb.ca.gov, you can see the “Check a License” button right there in the search results. Once you’re there, click “Business Name” to search by name, rather than by license number. Then, type the contractor’s business name and see if a result matching their name comes up. If it does, click on “view more details”. In the case of the CSLB, they have information such as business name & address, qualifying individual (the person whose name the license is under), and information the company’s bonds and insurance policies. And if a result matching the contractor’s name doesn’t show up in your state’s license board, contact the contractor in question and ask them if they are registered with a different name. If they aren’t registered with a different name, they simply aren’t licensed. If a contractor isn’t licensed, that indicates they’re lacking insurance, as well. We recommend staying away. 2. A Good Contractor Will Reply to Your Calls/Messages You’ll be surprised by the number of contractors who won’t return your initial call or message. If they don’t care enough to get back to you, it’s safe to assume they won’t care enough to install your decorative concrete properly. 3. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Should Show/Make You Samples You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for something you don’t even like. If your contractor is any smart, he won't want that either. That’s why, unless you’re absolutely certain about the design you want, your contractor should offer to show/make you some samples. There’s not a more secure way to ensure that you’ll love your resurfaced concrete than to touch, see and feel it first. Us, decorative concrete contractors, usually apply our systems on small cut-outs of plywood sheets for samples. Sometimes, though, a sample area may be done directly onto your concrete (somewhere in a corner). That is usually the case with acid staining, as the same color acid stain will produce a different look on every different slab it’s applied on (because acid stains create a chemical reaction with minerals and lime in your concrete). 4. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Will Prepare Your Surface to Perfection The surface preparation, or the first phase of any type of decorative concrete work, is one of the two most important steps for ensuring a long lifespan. The contractor should tell you that they’ll thoroughly clean your concrete floor to make sure there’s no dust, dirt, oil, or other contaminating particles on it. If there’s a coating covering your floor (paint, tiles, old overlays, etc), that coating must be removed completely before the installation of any other flooring system. All this prepping is done to make sure all of the decorative concrete solutions either bond, or in the case of acid stains - react with your concrete to their fullest ability. 5. A Good Flooring Contractor Will Seal/ Clear-Coat Your Floor for Protection Sealing, or the last phase of decorative concrete works, is the second most important factor for the durability of any colored concrete floor. The sealer, a clear protective coating, should be applied after all other steps in the resurfacing process have been completed. In most cases, at least two coats of sealer are recommended. The sealer serves two main purposes - it enhances the look of your floor, and most importantly, it protects your floor. That protection includes UV resistance so that the colors of your floor don't fade away from the sunlight, as well as protection from scratching, staining, chipping and other such undesirable outcomes. You can see why it's so important. 6. A Good Contractor Should Offer Information about Maintaining Your Concrete The sealing phase we talked about in the last paragraph needs to be repeated every 6 to 24 months if you want your concrete to last as long as possible. Your contractor should offer that information to you without you even asking. How often you need to reseal will depend on how much traffic the concrete undergoes, how much UV lighting it gets, and other such factors. In our case, we offer a 10-year warranty as long as you keep up with the recommended maintenance of your floor. 7. Check Reviews From Sources Outside of Their Website Be very skeptical of reviews you see on people’s websites. Unless they have embedded reviews from a third-party source, they have full access to writing, editing, posting, and declining reviews. That much control, for something that important, can cause even an honest person to do shady things. That’s why it’s a good idea to reference a company's website reviews with reviews from Yelp, Facebook, and other such public platforms. Also, be skeptical of reviews from third-party platforms that require businesses to pay for a listing. Such sources are Homeadvisor, BBB, and others. That point is so important that it deserves more delving into. 8. Be Skeptical of Reviews From Third-Party Sources That Charge Businesses for Listings and Reviews The one that comes to mind initially is the BBB (The Better Business Bureau). Many of you remember the stories that were in the news a few years ago, about all the cases of convicted criminals who had perfect ratings in BBB. That’s not necessarily because the folks over at the BBB are bad people, it’s because their business model promotes that type of behavior (intentionally or not). A business has to pay $500 a year to get a BBB listing nowadays, which is a price that scares many small business owners (ourselves included). To incentivize people to list their business on BBB, and to eliminate their buyer’s remorse, BBB employees are naturally inclined towards giving better reviews and making business owners happy. The same applies to other similar platforms - Homeadvisor, Thumbtack, etc. Instead, focus on public review platforms like Yelp, and Facebook. Such platforms don’t stand to benefit from inflating business reviews and ratings. Therefore, those platforms are much more likely to show an accurate representation of a business. 9. A Good Contractor Should be Accepting if You Tell Them You’d Like to Get a Second Opinion If you tell a contractor that you want to get a second opinion, and if he doesn't seem to take it well - be very cautious. If the contractor starts resisting your statement by trying to convince you that you won’t find a better deal - it’s almost certain that you can find a better contractor (and probably even a better deal). If a person is confident in their pricing, expertise, and customer service, they won’t be threatened by a simple competition comparison. It’s important to get a good deal on your concrete resurfacing, but it’s more important that the job lasts a long time. If you have to fix your decorative concrete in two years, your bottom line will be worse off than if you paid extra for the proper installation to begin with. So get plenty of opinions and go with the contractor you trust the most. 10. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Won’t Resurface Your Concrete If It's In a Bad Structural Condition Things like concrete degradation, sunken concrete, concrete that has been risen by a tree root, or other such irreparable problems with your concrete make resurfacing it a waste of money. A good contractor should tell you that (especially if they offer a warranty). Research the problem in your concrete in a little before calling a decorative concrete contractor to see if what they are talking about matches the information you found on your own. 11. A Good Contractor Will Take Special Measures in Temperatures Under 50° or Over 90° Most types of decorative concrete cannot be performed in temperatures below 50 and 90 F. That’s, at least, what’s advertised by the product manufacturers. We’ve installed concrete overlays in 100-degree weather, and we know of people who’ve done it in 20-degree weather. But resurfacing concrete in such weather conditions isn't like resurfacing it in the right temperature window. For extremely hot and dry days, retardants must be mixed with the concrete to reduce its drying time and prevent cracking. In cold days, the contractor must heat up the freshly resurfaced floor with propane heaters to also prevent cracking. So, our point is - if the temperature is less than 50 or over 90, make sure your contractor has a plan on how to deal with it. 12. A Good Contractor Will Instruct You About Your Resurfaced Concrete's Drying Time This time frame varies slightly between the different systems, but generally speaking, not walking on a freshly resurfaced floor for at least 24 hours is recommended. If the weather is cold and humid, that window may be bigger - 48 hrs. Intuitively, vehicle traffic is considerably more impactful than foot traffic, and the window for curing is around 5-7 days. 13. A Good Contractor Will Follow The Payment System Allowed by The State’s Licensing Board In California, we have many rules and restrictions about contracting. One of these restrictions applies to down payments. Here, a down payment can only be 10% of the total cost, or $1000 (whichever one is lower). So, if you’re in California, you should be skeptical of any contractors who are trying to take a down payment larger than $1000. 14. A Good Contractor Will Provide You With a Detailed Contract At the bare minimum, your sales contract should include a detailed description of the services that are to be provided, the total cost of the contract (as well as the amount taken as down payment), information about possible additional costs (not a huge concern when it comes to decorative concrete, but a big concern things like electrical, and plumbing), estimated start and end date of the project, and a notice of cancellation (your right to cancel the project three or seven days prior to its starting date). If you’re not too busy, it’s useful to check the rules established by your state’s contractors board. We found their website in the first step if you remember, and in our example, we used the California State License Board (CSLB). To find their guideless, let’s head over to Google and type: “Your state license board sales contract” In our case, the very first result is a very helpful PDF the CSLB has provided for both contractors and customers. Inside the PDF there are templates and information about what your sales contract should look like. Conclusion Finding a good decorative contractor may turn into quite the time-consuming task. However, the money and the headache a good decorative contractor will save you is well worth the time spent on researching. Dare I say, that applies to many other types of contractors and craftsmen. Thanks for reading!...