Friday, October 14, 2011

Concrete Finishing is a Craft

Are you a craftsman or crafter? Someone who takes various materials and makes them into a beautiful finished product? If you are, you realize that the quality of the products supplied by others and the skill of the craftsman are very important for the outcome of the final product. 

A concrete finisher is a craftsman. We start with a somewhat runny, slumpy mixture of water, cement, and stone, most often supplied and mixed by a ready mix plant using their special recipe for the type of project that is being done.  Chemical or mineral admixtures may be added to the concrete  to change the properties of the concrete as deemed appropriate for the conditions. Color may be added to the concrete mixture, either a powder or a liquid, often added by the ready mix plant. Synthetic fibers may be added to the mix to reduce plastic shrinkage cracks and provide shatter resistance.

An experienced craftsman has come across many things during his or her time doing their craft and have learned how to pre-plan or react to get the end result desired. However, there are times when it is beyond the control of the craftsman, and the end results are not as perfect as desired.

I want to share a specific project that we completed a few years ago that, although beautiful, did not turn out exactly as we desired. The project was a driveway with integral color and a stenciled brick border and a matching stenciled sidewalk. Heat was installed under the sidewalk to avoid shoveling and icing during the winter. It took two ready mix truck loads of concrete to place the driveway, so we placed the left half first, and then the right half with the second truck. The result was that one side was a little lighter in color than the other.

We struggled with what to do to make it right for the customer. In cases like this, we are at the mercy of the concrete ready mix plant to make sure that, in multiple loads of concrete, the color is exactly the same for the entire project. Our solution was to use a colored sealer to blend the colors over the entire project. Because the difference was subtle, and over time the color of concrete changes as it cures, the result was satisfactory.

Fast forward to 2011. We received a call from the homeowner who stated that a small area of the concrete had popped out. He was not complaining but wanted it patched so it wouldn't get worse. I explained to the homeowner that any patching would not match in color. The materials used to patch are different than the original materials, and as I mentioned earlier, the color of concrete changes over time. The homeowner understood and wanted the work done.  One of our craftsman went to the jobsite to do the repair and, in cleaning out the area, found a lump of integral color that had not mixed with the concrete. He continued to make the repair, but saved the color to show the customer.

Often times, we never get the answers to the difficulties we face each day. We have to realize that God is in control and learn from the challenges He throws our way. Funny how, in this case, seven years later, we find out why the color didn't match. Could we have prevented it? Maybe the drum needed to cycle around a few more times, or maybe the color clumped and wouldn't have dissolved anyway. We don't know. We will just continue to do our craft, learn from our mistakes and attend training opportunities when possible. We share a love of concrete and will continue to serve our customers the best we can.


  1. I agree with the article concrete construction if deffinetly a crsft. It takes skill and experience to get it perfected.

  2. You really defined well for Concrete Finishing. But you have described that Synthetic fibers are used to reduce plastic shrinkage cracks. But is Synthetic fibers are resistible ..??