Stained concrete adds to children's boundless enjoyment

Playgrounds are a place where kids can run free. But some children don't have that option. That's why Benjamin McCarthy and McCarthy Concrete, South Windsor, Conn., volunteered to help create the South Windsor Boundless Playground in the summer of 2007.

"A lot of playgrounds are built for kids who can run around. There are stairs everywhere, there's woodchips around everything and you couldn't really access it if you were in a wheelchair or on crutches," McCarthy says. The boundless playground is different because it is paved entirely.

McCarthy Concrete is a family run business that started five and a half years ago. The company, which employees around 40 people, does structural and decorative concrete and poured all of the sidewalks for the boundless playground. Benjamin McCarthy's job was to create a decorative centerpiece for the Sensory Garden.

"Everything is basically right at waist height," McCarthy says about the Sensory Garden. "They [kids] can touch everything and feel everything."

The area has a lot of flowers that McCarthy tried to incorporate into his decorative project. He created a 9-ft.-diameter, stained concrete sunflower at the center of the Sensory Garden. The cast-in-place flower was made from a concrete mix of 3,500 psi and 3/4-in. stone and reinforced with mesh and fibers. McCarthy used four colors of Scofield Tintura water-based stain to create the flower.

McCarthy's inspiration for the project was a real flower. "I took an actual picture of a sunflower, figured out those dimensions and scaled it," he says. He created three different stencils for the petals and one for the center of the sunflower.

After the concrete slab was poured and had cured for a few weeks, McCarthy taped off the center and stenciled on the three different petals. He allowed some overlap on the petals and used the stencils to prevent the colors from mixing. The petals were allowed to cure and then sealed. McCarthy created the center of the flower in the same manner.

After the staining was complete he topped it off with a couple coats of sealer. The entire staining process took approximately three days, he says.

"I thought it was a really interesting thing," McCarthy said about the playground project. "I don't see too much of that stuff around."

He says the flower serves as both an aesthetic and functional piece. People can walk on it and roll their wheelchairs on it when they are in the garden. Plus, it is another way for children to use multiple senses in the Sensory Garden.

Do you have a project you would like Concrete Contractor to consider for "On the Job"? E-mail your idea to Kim Johnston at