What are the cheapest types of finishes available?
*The most common types of concrete finishes are broom finish and exposed aggregate. Depending upon square footage and concrete yardage, pricing varies from project-to-project. Broom and exposed aggregate are exterior finishes typically found in driveways, walkways, and patios. Most city sidewalks are broom finish because the light broom marks used on the surface allow for excellent traction and do not wear as fast as other concrete finishes. Exposed aggregate is when you remove the layer of cement from the surface in order to "expose" the pea gravel rocks. This typically is the finish used in most neighborhoods because you can pour exposed aggregate in light rainy conditions. Builders love this finish because it allows them to build houses faster no matter the weather and get houses sold. However, exposed aggregate is not "feet friendly" and can be annoying to walk on for patios.
What types of reinforcement should I use in my new concrete driveway?
*Most people tend to think more reinforcement is better than less. In fact, builders and other concrete contractors sometimes don't use any secondary reinforcement because it takes time and adds to the cost of construction. The reason for secondary reinforcement is to keep your slab from settling / twisting and to keep cracks tightly held together. However, the #1 guarantee is that concrete cracks no matter how its designed or installed - that's the nature of the beast. Your only as good as the dirt your pouring on so make sure your sub grade isn't soft. Otherwise, you're setting this heavy mass of rock, sand and cement on something that won't support it. The idea is to control cracking. Most people tend to think the more rebar and wire mesh they install, the less cracking will occur. The problem is too much reinforcement leaves you with very little concrete and makes it difficult for the concrete finishers to work. So you have to consider both ends of the spectrum. Fiber mesh is another reinforcing alternative - mixing small strands of fiberglass into the concrete mix. However, the small strands can be annoying to people because it looks like the slab has hair in some instances. You can burn off the strands at a later date although this adds another day of labor. Fiber mesh does help with excessive shrinkage and is an excellent option for hard troweled slabs.
What designs do you recommend for patios?
*This is a loaded question because it depends upon your budget and what is cosmetically appealing. Most patios are used for entertaining and enjoying the weather. Always consider how your patio furniture will perform on the surface you select. No one likes shimming every leg of the table in order to keep it from wobbling. But, if you elect to install stamp concrete for the entire patio surface (and pick a cobblestone pattern) this can be an issue with furniture. Some of our most popular patio designs involve broom finished colored concrete with a simple stamp border with matching stamp steps. Its cheaper, look terrific and reduces the wobble effect. If you can, build a bigger patio than a small one because most people regret their small patio later. Also, you get more bang for your dollar when installing patios over 700 square feet because concrete manufacturer's and contractors charge more for smaller projects. A small patio can take the same amount of time to install as a larger one - something to consider. Also, consider smoother concrete surfaces than rough finishes (such as exposed aggregate) because the small rocks can make it uncomfortable walking from the hot tub to the back door of the house. Lastly, if your not planning on being at your house for the rest of your life, think about the effects of resale value. Exposed or basic gray concrete may be the cheaper alternative, however, your home will appraise for more if you have good looking hardscapes that appeal to buyers.
What should we consider for driveway designs?
*Driveways usually have the most square footage of all exterior concrete hardscapes. Most architects, builders and homeowners really want the driveway to create visual impact with people but don't consider all the pro's and cons. Although we are a concrete company, we seriously put thought into driveways because typically this is a big piece of concrete and you need to break it up so that it doesn't resemble a mall parking lot. On the other hand, you don't want your driveway to look like a checker board and focus your visitor's attention from the house onto the driveway - it should compliment the house. Consider more simplistic designs rather that running borders all over the place. Most people cannot afford to stamp their entire driveway and substitute stamp borders with basic gray concrete as an alternative. However, stamp borders that run the length of the driveway on both sides and intersect through the center of the driveway pose a logistical issue when installing that adds cost. Most people think by pouring basic gray concrete in between the stamp borders that they are saving cost. But, stamp borders with basic gray concrete in between requires (2) concrete pumps! Due to the massive increase in gas, concrete pumps can range between $650.00 - $1, 200.00 per day increasing your driveway installation. Most driveway installations (unless you have an extremely steep incline) should not require any pumps. In addition, stamp concrete requires a sealing process which enhances the color, locks in the release powder and protects the concrete from moss, rain, dirt and oil from your vehicle. Consider if you want to seal your driveway every 1-2 years and how much maintenance your ready to commit to. A more important concern for driveways should be traction. The more incline the driveway has, the more you should lean towards selecting a concrete surface with better traction - you'll be thankful in the fall and winter time.
Is there any "hidden" costs to consider when installing an exterior hardscapes like a patio, entry or driveway?
*All estimates are bid as close as possible to industry standard costs in most instances. However, most hidden costs involve landscaping or drainage which we do not specialize in and would require another contractor. When you demolish an existing concrete hardscape it's difficult for us to determine the actual thickness of the concrete. On some occasions, when we remove a driveway there can be surprises like a section which is well over 8" thick an would require either additional fill material (recycled concrete or gravel) or you attempt to fill the holes with existing concrete from the demolition. Recycled concrete or gravel is fairly cheap to purchase and can be installed by ACDI. In some instances, we can purchase and install drains for patios, pool decks and driveways, however, its much cheaper to hire a contractor specializing in these fields than to contract us for drainage installation. As for landscaping, any plants or grass can be damaged during the installation because the finishers have to stand on the perimeter of the slab (we cannot hover). We recommend either figuring these costs into your budget or remove the plants before you install your concrete.
What's the difference between colored concrete and broadcast colors?
*Colored concrete is manufactured by your local concrete supplier and the color comes already mixed within the concrete. The suppliers usually have color charts and samples for you to review. Broadcast colors is exclusively used for stamp concrete and comes in buckets or bags. It's thrown onto the surface of gray concrete, troweled in and stamped with large rubber molds resembling various slate, stone and wood patterns. If your considering broom finish with stamp borders (all the same color with the stamp having a highlight tone - typically dark gray), you should pick colored concrete because it displays broom finishes much better than broadcast colors. If your stamping the entire slab, consider either option. Broadcast colors typically offer more color selections than colored concrete and allow faint hues of the gray concrete to come through offering a more authentic feel to the stamp work. The sell to the homeowner is that colored concrete is the same tone throughout the entire thickness of the slab. However, it's more like a fudge brownie.....lighter in color on the outside and darker in the middle. You can make easier repairs and match colors better if you use broadcast colors.
What types of existing concrete surfaces can be overlayed?
*There are some limitations to what you can resurface. If you have a driveway, don't even consider overlays because you can demolish and replace your driveway cheaper with ACDI than you can overlay. Patios, thick concrete entries, interior concrete floors and walkways are much better candidates for overlays. We only recommend stamp overlays for exterior concrete because most smooth applied overlays which are stained offer far less customer satisfaction. Stamp overlays can be very appealing but we always recommend you get a removal and replace cost before settling for an overlay. Some concrete slabs that have too many cracks or have settled at different elevations cost more to patch and repair than to replace and re-pour. So consider the alternatives. In some cases, removing concrete is too difficult because it may damage a pool or is installed on a steep incline. These are excellent candidates for stamp concrete overlays. Overlays can be as thin as 1/4" thick making it easy to meet door elevations. Interior overlays can be stained and polished creating an excellent wearing surface that requires no wax or maintenance. In fact, you can install interior self leveling overlays onto wood sub-floors at 1/2" thickness with minimal cracking, if any. ACDI's stamp overlay product is made of 100% color hardener and mixed with a polymer binder which makes the thin coating extremely flexible. We use the same color hardener in stamp overlays as we do when installing actual stamp concrete slabs. Color hardeners are a mixture of high strength cement, silia sands and pigments that are used to densify concrete surfaces.
Do we have to hire ACDI to re-seal our concrete?
*The answer is no. Sealing concrete doesn't take a scientist. In fact, most of our past client's re-seal their concrete on their own with little assistance from ACDI. The trick is making sure it's not going to rain, it's not under 50 degrees, the slab is clean and dry, and the temperature isn't hot outside (over 80 degrees). The same principles in painting work in re-sealing your concrete. If you purchase a 3-gallon Chapin concrete sprayer, you'll make sealing much faster and easier. Pour the sealer (roughly $100.00 for 5-gallon pale) into the sprayer (sprayer costs about $90.00), tighten the lid and pump up the can until the handle won't move. Lock down the handle and pull down the trigger on the sprayer wand which releases out sealer in a fine mist. Keep your sealer thin and use multiple coats. If you apply a heavier coat, you'll need to backroll the sealer in order to spread it over the concrete surface. Depending upon how porous the surface of the concrete is you may need more than (2) coats. Always check the weather forecasts in search of good weather. Never seal a dirty slab - you need to powerwash the surface before you apply sealer. Make sure its bone dry before applying. Contact local concrete stores (usually owned by concrete suppliers), such as Cadman Building Materials (Redmond, WA), about solvent based acrylic sealers they offer. Do not buy from Home Depot or any large hardware stores because their sealers are lower in quality and more difficult to apply. Always wear respirators graded for use with solvents.
How long can I expect for a typical patio or driveway installation?
*It depends upon the scope of work and the size of the project. A bigger determining factor is the weather. If the weather cooperates, installations can be swift and scheduling is precise. However, all scheduling and start dates vary most of the time due to rain forecasts or temperatures (hot or cold). One of the most frustrating parts of our industry is how the weather affects our scheduling because we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. All scheduling is taken on a day-by-day basis because it constantly changes due to weather patterns. Concrete is destroyed by excess water creating major strength losses and damage which may require removal. Also, when temperatures become too cold it can freeze the dirt under the slab causing it to sink once the dirt thaws. If it's too hot, you risk concrete setting up faster than you can pour reducing finishing quality and increasing the speed of shrinking causing excessive cracking. Most patios and driveways can take a week or more but all scheduled projects are affected by weather - good or bad.
What are concrete pumps?
*There are (2) different typed of concrete pumps used by ACDI: 1) line pumps 2) boom pumps. Both transport the concrete from the truck to the installation site. Line pumps require hoses to be placed on the ground piece-by-piece and get connected running from the pump truck to the site. Usually, line pumps are cheaper than boom pumps but require more work to connect and disconnect the pieces of hose. You start at the farthest point of the concrete pour and disconnect the pieces of hose as you work towards the truck. Boom pumps are much larger and require more space to operate. They are the most expensive concrete pumps you can get and vary in size. The hose is permanently connected to the truck and the metal arm unfolds with the assistance of the operator. Power lines are definitely something to consider when ordering a boom pump. Boom pumps make it much easier to place concrete because there's no need for disconnecting any hose. However, sometimes the size of the truck cannot fit into small alleyways. Most patios require concrete pumps which allow ACDI to place the concrete within the forms without wearing out the concrete finishers. You can save money using good old wheelbarrows but you have to weigh the cost of the pump vs. the cost of tiring out workers. Pricing can vary because jobs are different sizes.
What is sandblasting?
*Sandblasting is typically used to expose the fine sands in the surface of the concrete. In some instances, it's used to remove existing sealers, paints and drywall from exterior slabs. The popularity of sandblasting is growing because it leaves new concrete with a timeworn effect resembling the surface of a "sugarcube." It also mellows out brighter colors by exposing various gray sands and evens out blotchy slabs which can happen with colored concrete. It's an aged concrete effect that's being demanded by many consumers.