Taking Decorative Overseas

Unique Concrete Systems may be a small company of four employees, but that doesn't stop them from sharing their staining work all over the world. In 2006, Unique Concrete Systems traveled overseas to work on a staining project at Ideapark, a shopping mall in Tampere, Finland, says Vice President William Gonzalez.

It took Gonzalez and his father, Jesus, president of Unique Concrete Systems, four months to complete the approximately 250,000-square-foot job, according to Gonzalez. It was the largest project Unique Concrete Systems had ever done.

The staining was done in all the common areas such as hallways and bathrooms as well as some restaurants and shops. A total of about 3,000 gallons of SuperStone acid stain - shipped over from Miami - was used on the project.

Although Gonzalez and his father completed all the staining with just a two-man crew, the prep work for the project called for a little extra help. Before any staining could be done, the entire area was diamond grinded to prepare the surface and remove anything that was not part of the concrete. Unique Concrete Systems decided to hire some extra help so they could get the prep work done faster, Gonzalez says.

"There was one or two guys working an HTC grinding machine, and they did most of the prep work. And we were right behind them doing the rest of the work," he says.

When the prep work was done, the staining could begin. The job was done in nine sections, Gonzalez says, with the largest one consisting of 30,000 square feet. A 15-gallon tank with a 12 volt battery powering a pump was used to spray on the stain. For smaller, more detailed areas the stain was applied with brushes.

After staining was complete Gonzalez says they used water and baking soda to neutralize the concrete. The water and baking soda worked quickly allowing Gonzalez to pressure wash the concrete right away without having to wait. "It's not something that takes that long. It's just wash and rinse. What takes the most time is the drying process," Gonzalez explains.

Once the concrete was dry, Gonzalez and his father used paint rollers and paint brushes to apply a polyurethane, solvent-based acrylic sealer that was manufactured locally in Finland. Gonzalez says the sealer worked so well that no wax coating was required for the job.

The biggest challenge Unique Concrete Systems ran into while working on Ideapark was the different aggregate that is used in Finland. Gonzalez says the aggregate is much darker than aggregate used in the United States. "We had a really hard time staining the concrete because it wouldn't stain. Every color would turn very, very dark, especially the blues and greens. Those stains are very difficult to get on the dark concrete," he says. "In reality there was nothing much we could do. There were times when we had to reapply. If there were areas that we stained in blue, and if they wouldn't react, we would just do a sprinkle effect of another color that would just give it a different effect."

Ideapark was no small project, especially for two people. But the size of a project isn't necessarily what the employees of Unique Concrete Systems pride themselves on. "What separates us from other competition is we do very specific work, very artistic work," Gonzalez says. All the staining designs for Ideapark were created by Unique Concrete, and it is just one example of the artistic work the company is capable of.