Backyard kitchens with sinks, bars, and cooking surfaces that allow everyone to enjoy being around a central area, is trending in the industry. Concrete countertops naturally are the best materials option for these areas because it's both decorative and functional for cooking and entertaining guests. There is a myriad of design options, flexibility, and most importantly, ease of maintenance which makes it attractive to homeowners that don't want to spend more time cleaning up after the party. Below, we have a number of tips for a cast concrete countertop finish.
Where To Put The Outdoor Kitchen?
This step is crucial in designing an outdoor kitchen to maximize convenience and fun. These tips will help you make the right decision.
Views: Taking into consideration the views from different aspects will enhance the enjoyment of the space.
Designing An Outdoor Kitchen
Making the backyard area into another living space is a growing trend in landscape and hardscape design. In the past, this was just an area for the BBQ grill but now is growing in size and functionality as it becomes the main focal area of the backyard. Outdoor kitchens are now more elaborate and sophisticated extensions of the indoor kitchen to meet the entertaining and dining needs of the homeowner. We will go over some of the design parameters.
Entertaining needs: These questions will help you size the counter.
Stamped concrete, also called imprinted or textured concrete is made by imprinting patterns in freshly placed concrete. You can achieve the high-end look of stones such as slate, flagstone, tile, brick, or even wood with a much lower cost. There are many choices of patterns and colors which makes it popular for customizing unique patios, pool decks, driveways and hardscapes. It’s an affordable paving option that requires less maintenance than other materials. Because of its superior durability and weather resistance, colored and stamped concrete is the perfect choice to bring the high-end look of stone, brick, or wood to patios, pool decks, driveways, walkways and courtyards.
From an aesthetic standpoint, stamped concrete is hard to beat when it comes to pattern and color options, which are virtually unlimited. Many people get inspiration from their surrounding landscape or home's architectural style and choose patterns and colors that blend with existing stone, tile or textured concrete elements. For example, if your house has a brick exterior, consider echoing that theme with a simple brick-patterned border, or choose a pattern and color scheme that ties in with your surrounding landscape.
The myriad of options in natural stone patterns such as slate, flagstone, fieldstone, brick, cobblestone and wood is why stamped concrete is common choice for homeowners. Patterns can be pressed into the concrete even in complex projects with steps and fountains.
The most popular colors tend to be earth tones and grays that produce a look of warmth; however, classic brick patterns are often colored in red hues. Colors can be mixed, layered or antiqued with stains or tints, creating designs that are only limited to your imagination. Multiple colors can be used within the same project for a contrasting color pattern, decorative borders, or a realistic stone coloration.
Other Design Options:
Stamped concrete can also be used with other decorative concrete elements such as acid staining or the following ways:
This article will go into detail why concrete walls are a good option for mild climates and modern homes. We see examples all day of poured concrete walls along freeways but seldom appreciate the skill involved. Many things can go wrong in the process so it is not an easy feat to do this on a massive scale like the Department of Transportation. The contractor must be experienced because it's a difficult solution for residential landscape retaining walls. Contractors in areas of weather extremes or heavy rainfall try to avoid fine poured concrete due to its challenges. When a wall fails, you have to build a new wall from scratch. Cracks are also a huge problem because patching them is so difficult that the entire wall can be a loss. In areas with better weather like southern California, there is more interest in this modern design aesthetic. A major factor is the skill of the concrete contractors. The forms have to be on point, otherwise you risk a wave or bulge in the wall
so this can destroy the look of the project. Also, the concrete has to be finished perfectly to get a smooth surface which can be difficult because there is so much steel inside. This makes poured concrete for retaining walls less of an option for residential landscapes.
The resulting changes in processes for more reliable retaining wall systems and the use of a CMU core allows the landscaper to achieve a great look without the cost or risk. However, some landscape architects and their clients who extend poured concrete architectural elements of a modern house must bring this material into their exterior walls and retaining walls.
Landscape architects can use either method but there's no question, an 8" concrete wall is stronger than an 8" block wall. For greater control of moisture intrusion, additional mixtures can be used. For walls under four feet, a Simpson tie system will allow for the walls to be poured quickly with a high degree of success. The downside is that it takes a long time to build the forms, but once they're up and the pour is complete, there's nothing more to do.
The majority of landscapers today can achieve a similar look of poured concrete with a block CMU core plastered. They can use block with a hard trowel plaster that looks identical to poured concrete. Another option is to use smooth stucco that looks just as good.
If poured concrete is to be used, it should be designed by a landscape architect to ensure there is adequate footings and steel. For example, if waterproofing fails and moisture causes the face of the wall to discolor, the plaster may be stripped, the seepage repaired and the wall recovered to look like new. Comparatively, such a problem with poured concrete is disastrous. Poured concrete walls also offer the opportunity to achieve very creative and unique finishes.
The architect will specify the footing that will extend outwards from the face of the wall or out the back which will influence the planting at the base of the face of the wall. Drainage issues for lawns can develop if the footing is too large. It also prevents excavation of planting holes of shrubs and trees. For this reason, your designer will coordinate the footing size and dimensions with paving or planting that runs along the face of the retaining wall to accommodate any limitations.
Concrete can seem to be a messy and dirty material to work with, but sleek, modern, designs can be done easily with some knowledge. The industrial vibe of concrete and it's clean classic look will never go out of style. Professional-quality projects are totally accessible to the average person as long as you have patience. In this article, we will go over some trade secrets that make working with concrete easier and to get attractive professional results.
Include An Additive To Make Your Concrete Easier To Mix
Most do-it-yourselfers can start with a bargain $5 bag from the hardware store instead of a more expensive concrete. Stick to the standard mix for simple projects because there are no additives needed. For larger or more complicated projects, adding a plasticizer will help the concrete mix flow easier ensuring it gets into all the areas. There are no mixes that will slow down or speed up the drying time, however, in hotter temperatures, using a tarp to cover the concrete as it cures at a cooler temperature will prevent cracking and yield better results.
Better Consistency & Curing Is In The Pour
The major factor to a successful project is to reach the right texture when you make your concrete batch. The goal is to have a cookie dough consistency, not too dry or too runny, which can cause cracks or voids in the end product. When pouring the concrete, using a vibration technique will help eliminate any voids or holes. This can accomplished by tapping a rubber mallet against the sides and bottom during the pour.
Choosing The Right Mold Can Save Time
There are a lot of materials you can use for the mold such as cardboard or plastics but melamine is the best option for one reason is that it is not porous. With a porous material like cardboard, the water from the concrete will seep out and create a rougher finish; in a melamine structure, the water has nowhere to go. The concrete takes on the melamine’s smooth appearance resulting in an attractive finish without the additional work. When creating a custom cast from the material, piece together the strips using screws, then run a thin layer of silicone over any cracks so no water seeps through. Just remember to make a mold that is sturdy enough to hold the heavy concrete.
Use Concrete's Impressionable Quality To Your Advantage
While concrete is soft, you can add virtually limitless design elements. Rocks, coins, sea shells, or bottle caps to add your own style are possible.
Choose The Right Finish For A Custom Look
There are many options on the finish of the concrete. Many of these options are simple but make the final look custom and expensive. Acid stains, concrete dyes, and stamping all can create a unique finished look. For a clean smooth finish, polish it with an orbital sander and then seal it with three to four thin coats of a water-based acrylic sealer and your concrete structure will look sleek and even be easier to clean!
If you don't have the time or inclination to do the work yourself but want professional results, give the experts at All American Concrete a call.
Concrete has been used in hardscaping features like walkways, stairs, patios, and driveways because of its durability to the elements, but that is also why it is a great option for flooring. Concrete floors have been used in factories and warehouse buildings around the world for that reason. Concrete can withstand hard use over time resulting in less maintenance costs for the company. It doesn't crack, dent, or get scratched easily even with heavy machinery traffic. It is resistant to stains and odors, fire and moisture, concrete flooring can last at 20-30 years, only requiring regular cleaning and occasional resealing and/or waxing. If patching ever becomes necessary, a rapid setting formulation makes repairs quick and easy.
Lots Of Custom Aesthetic Looks
The majority of people have a perception that concrete is coarse in texture, gray in color, and drab in overall appearance. But the fact is that with advanced manufacturing processes along with improved methods of installation, concrete can take on any number of high end looks. For example, after it's been poured, concrete can be dyed, scored, or stamped. Once the concrete has cured, the finishing options broaden to include staining, painting, and etching. You can have a glossy, one-color surface or a multi-colored floor with a matte feel. The custom options are myriad.
Because of its considerable weight, concrete flooring requires necessary structural modifications so that can be prohibitively expensive to install in certain locations such as the upper level of a home, for example, or the ground floor of any house with a basement. Therefore, budget conscious homeowners choose concrete flooring not with a fresh pour, but by removing the floor that currently exists over the slab foundation. Once that's completed, the only costs are elective ones. You can hire a professional to refinish the exposed concrete surface between $4 per square foot for a straightforward job up to around $12 or $15 for highly decorative faux finishes.
Long lasting concrete rarely requires replacement unlike other types of flooring. However, if years down the line, you decide that you are weary of the look or performance of your concrete floor, you can always make changes. You can easily change its appearance by refinishing it. Alternatively, you can also return the floor to blank slate condition, using a cutting-edge product like Rapid Set NewCrete that imparts a pristine, like new appearance. Afterwards, you can either leave the concrete as is or install another material over it.
Many pet owners are concerned about pet damage such as scratches, odors, and stains so concrete flooring is the best option. Unlike many other types of flooring such as carpeting and wood, properly sealed concrete can not be ruined by a pet. Thorough cleaning of pet accidents requires nothing more than soap and water.
Indoor air quality has an effect on home health, hence the discussion of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds). The flooring market is saturated with so many products that off-gas harmful VOCs, it’s well worth noting that properly sealed concrete does nothing to detract from indoor air quality. It's also crucially important to know that different manufacturers use different processes to produce slightly different concrete mixes. Nonmetallic, with no chlorides added, Rapid Set Concrete Mix stands out from the rest as one of the most ecologically sensitive concrete products out there. In fact, compared with regular Portland cement, Rapid Set boasts a 65 percent smaller carbon footprint!
If you need help with customization options for your home. All American Concrete is there every step of the way. Give us a call can we can do it all.
Some homeowners might have a situation where they have a choice between a concrete driveway or an asphalt one. This article is designed to help them make an educated decision after learning the pros and cons of each material. While both are laid over a substrate of gravel and is composed of a mixture of sand and stone, tar is used to hold asphalt together while cement is used for concrete. The characteristics of those adhesives amount to the differences between the two popular driveway surfaces. Asphalt and concrete both create durable attractive driveways, but there’s more to choosing between them than simply going with the cheaper option. We review all the major categories in comparison to see whether asphalt or concrete is the better choice for you property.
Concrete Offers More Custom Options
Asphalt is commonly called blacktop because it is usually dark gray to black and concrete is pale gray. Unlike asphalt, concrete is easy to stain or tint to whatever color you like. Concrete can be stamped into patterns or brushed for a textured finish. Concrete is a better option if you're trying to match your home's color scheme, reproduce the look of brick, or a particular pattern. Asphalt is a good choice if you want a streamlined appearance that matches the street.
Climate is a major consideration when choosing between asphalt and concrete. Concrete does not perform well in the colder temperatures and asphalt does not do well in high heat situations. This will need to be taken into account for your particular area. If you live in an area with very hot summers, an asphalt driveway becomes gooey or sticky when the temperature increases. The cycle of softening in high heat and cooling down can cause asphalt to crack or sag. On the other side, concrete can buckle, heave, or crack in the coldest winters. Plus, the salt used to de-ice can pit, stain, or blotch concrete, leaving ugly marks. It also takes longer for snow and ice to melt on concrete than asphalt.
Asphalt has to be initially sealed after a few months installation to protect the surface and increase its lifespan. You’ll then need to reseal it every three to five years thereafter. It's a very simple process of pouring the asphalt sealer onto your clean, dry driveway, and then using a driveway squeegee to spread it evenly over the entire surface. While it’s not mandatory for concrete driveways, sealing concrete helps cut down on fading which is an important protective measure for a tinted driveway. For driveways that will have more rugged use and is exposed to engine oils, gas drips, and rust, the dark surface and matte finish of asphalt hides most stains well. Concrete on the other hand will show every mark and spill, so you’ll need to do more aggressive cleaning and degreasing to maintain its good looks.
While both asphalt and concrete crack, asphalt tends to deteriorate faster due to its softer consistency although it’s fairly easy to repair cracks and damage in asphalt. The repaired areas also blend well with the rest of the driveway and it's easy to apply a new topcoat of asphalt if the surface is deteriorating. Concrete is tougher to repair and patched spots are usually fairly obvious unless you plan on resurfacing the whole driveway.
Concrete Driveways Last Longer Than Asphalt
A concrete driveway, if properly installed and maintained regularly, should last 30 to 40 years, while an asphalt driveway is generally good for 20 to 30 years. Failure to install without an even stable substrate of gravel or improper maintenance will cause either type of driveway to fail within a few years.
Concrete Must Wait To Cure
You can normally use an asphalt driveway within a couple of days of installation while concrete will have to wait at least a week before it fully cures enough for you to drive on it.
Concrete Costs Considerably More Than Asphalt
A concrete driveway costs around 45 to 50 percent more than an asphalt driveway. According to price site, homeowners report an average price of $2.24 per square foot for a new asphalt driveway and $4.36 for a new concrete driveway, but prices can fluctuate drastically depending on where you live, the complexity of the job, and the size of the driveway. The decision comes down to which is best for your climate, your budget, and your tolerance for maintenance needs.
Concrete is more durable than other materials but it will still crack and wear out over time. These tips will increase the longevity of your concrete patio so you can enjoy it without having to repair and maintain it as often. You can delay it longer with proper maintenance from some of the many factors that contribute to deterioration.
Plain Concrete Patios Vs. Stamped Concrete Patios
There are basic maintenance differences between stamped vs plain concrete patios even though they are both attractive, economical, and durable. Stamped concrete is designed to look like brick or concrete pavers without the higher maintenance. Stamped concrete has more surface detailing and coloring to match the look so to preserve the details in stamped concrete, it must have a a color hardener and sealant.
Homeowners choose stamped concrete because it’s more decorative than plain concrete. Stamped concrete has a higher end look but is more affordable than pavers, bricks, or stones; and it’s more environmentally friendly. Stamped concrete is more durable and better maintenance than brick or stone with the same look.
Plain concrete is cheaper than stamped concrete but you can still get the right finish if done properly. Plain concrete requires slightly more maintenance because of fewer treatments to the surface, but the durability is similar to what you can expect with stamped concrete. The primary difference in maintenance concerns between stamped concrete and regular concrete is the finish. The sealer, which creates the shine on the surface when it’s finished, may need to be replaced often, but it’s more visible with stamped concrete.
When your concrete slab is properly installed and maintained, it should last for decades irregardless if it's stamped or plain concrete. Cracks from the ground shifting or tree roots can be a problem over time but otherwise, your patio floor will remain intact for years. Stamped concrete usually includes a color hardener and a sealant applied to the surface, which protects it better from wear and abrasion and will typically last longer than plain.
Maintenance Tips For Concrete Patios
The low maintenance aspect and affordability of concrete patios is one of its most best features. It’s better value and cheaper to install than pavers, a wood deck, or stone. With proper maintenance, you can make it last for decades. Follow these seven rules for to preserve your concrete for years to come.
Keep It Clean
If you don't keep it clean, the surface will develop holes and start the erosion process sooner. This is when water and soil wear away at the concrete. You can use a garden hose to wash away dirt, debris, or other foreign contaminants every few weeks. You can also use liquid soap and a broom to scrub away spills or bird poop, then rinse with a garden hose. If the concrete gets stained by grease, food spills, or something else, try to clean up the spill as soon as possible. Pressure washing and stain removers will generally eliminate such spotting.
Sealer will protect your concrete from early corrosion as well as the color and shine of stamped concrete. The recommendation for reapplication of sealer is once every two to three years, but if you notice the color fading or the sheen disappearing, you can have it reapplied sooner. If you decide to reapply the sealer yourself, make sure to do it properly. The area should be fully cleaned and completely dry, because wet surfaces can make the sealant bubble or break. To ensure full coverage, a second coat should be applied.
Homeowners prefer concrete because it’s resistant to scratches and damage from furniture but over time, chair and table legs can scratch the sealant. You can use rugs and soft tabs to protect the surface as well as protect the floor from stains and spills.
The sealant on concrete patios is designed to resist strong elements and normal wear and tear. However, certain industrial chemicals can corrode it and eliminate the shine prematurely. Products that contain ammonium nitrates and sulfates are particularly harmful because they attack the concrete directly. In particular, deicing salts on stamped or treated concrete should be avoided because they can cause damage to the concrete surface. This is most important to avoid during the first winter since the sealant is more vulnerable at that point.
Wax Or Polish Stamped Concrete
To get a brighter shine, polishing or waxing the concrete in the summer is a great option. This will reduce the risk of wear patterns due to foot traffic. It’s not essential to extend the life of your patio, but it can add an extra layer of protection against wear, scratches, scuffs, and grime.
Provide Overhead Cover
You can extend the life of a concrete patio by sheltering it from direct interaction with the elements. Any type of covering such as a pergola or canvas cover will enhance the beauty and comfort so it might be worth the investment in the long run.
Manage Plant Growth
Tree and plant roots can compromise the integrity of your concrete if you don’t manage it properly. Roots will grow beneath the concrete, push it up, and cause it to crack. Unfortunately, you can’t repair cracked concrete; it can only be replaced. You can avoid this substantial cost with preventive measures. Have the roots in your yard trimmed regularly so they don’t endanger your concrete. You might also need to remove trees that develop extensive root systems to avoid future problems.
Having a list of questions and a little prior knowledge will expedite the process of hiring a contractor or expert of any kind. If you’re planning a concrete driveway project, before you start calling around for quotes, plan out your questions to ask. Have an idea on criteria you feel the concrete contractor must meet beforehand to help prepare you for filtering through the information or sales pitches they offer you about their services. Check out the list of questions and criteria below to guide you in preparing for speaking to concrete contractors.
Be Prepared And Confident
Having the proper knowledge beforehand will make it easier to assess the level of competence or experience of the concrete driveway contractors.
Have Options And Narrow The Field
Compare the responses you get to your questions as you go through your list of candidates and narrow your choices. Speaking to several candidates will likely give you an even better grasp of the criteria you should be looking for, which makes for a more educated final round of phone calls with any additional questions for your top picks.
Have Scheduling Options
Concrete driveway contractors with the most experience and success may have busy schedules. So if they’re unavailable for the dates you want, consider being flexible and ask about alternate timelines before crossing them off your list. And definitely be suspicious of contractors with completely open availability and little to no upcoming projects.
Factor In Drying Time For Your Deadline
Keep in mind that whatever deadline you set for work to be complete, you still won’t have access to your driveway for at least one week. Many concrete driveway contractors recommend 2-4 weeks of drying time to ensure the strength and longevity of the driveway. Planning to host an important event at your home? Needing delivery of heavy appliances? Factor your plans into the project deadline by adding several weeks to the projected completion date.
Find Out What Permitting Will Be Necessary
Asking about permits that you will need is a great way to self-educate with the advice of professionals as you prepare to have your concrete driveway built. It’s also an excellent way to gauge the contractor’s experience. If he is unaware of the permitting process or expects to you to shoulder that responsibility, it may indicate inexperience or a lack of quality service.
Be Prepared To Turn Down Upsells
Adding finishing touches such as stamping or scoring patterns into your concrete driveway or having it stained can give concrete a decorative flair and increase the curb appeal of your property. However, these upsells may not be within your budget, so be prepared to ask for prices ahead of time and refuse extra services if funds are tight.
Get Technical Cost Quotes
A home visit from contractors as you collect quotes can give you a better sense of specifics if you don’t already know them. Gathering several opinions on what materials and specifications you will need can also help you narrow your choices.
Have Written Contracts
Make sure a written contract is a standard procedure for the contractor and ask about what typically goes into his contracts.
Ask What Is Included In The Contract
Contracts should be specific, technical and include cost and schedule to ensure a quality guarantee and clear expectations. This guide for helping decide between going DIY on concrete driveway projects or hiring a contractor points out that you should establish what thickness of pavement you desire and will need to be clear on the compaction of the subgrade and base before signing a contract. And this guide to concrete driveway construction basics can help you build more knowledge about specifics.
Ask Questions To Test The Contractor's Knowledge And Skill
Narrow your list by assessing how comfortable contractors are answering technical questions. An article from Angie’s List on hiring concrete driveway contractors recommends asking a potential contractor how they’ll ensure the prevention of the driveway cracking.
Their response should mention joints for flexing and the amount of water used in their concrete mix. You can also ask them to explain the process they’ll go through before pouring the concrete (during which they should compact the soil and add a base material as a top layer) and how long the total project will take.