What Is in Your Decorative Toolbox?

After completing his kitchen, his friend’s kitchen and several furniture pieces, Philip Ferreira, owner of B-more Custom Concrete Inc., decided to turn a hobby into a career. “Fabricating concrete countertops was something I enjoyed, and I was fortunate enough to take the plunge of starting my own business,” he says.

Located in Baltimore, Md., B-more Custom Concrete Inc. began in 2008. Since then, Ferreira has taken a variety of training courses with industry leaders. With a lot of trial and error, Ferreira continues to expand his skills as a concrete artisan.

B-more Custom Concrete Inc. completes a variety of precast, glass fiber reinforced concrete projects including countertops, sinks, tubs and fireplace surrounds. Currently, B-more Custom Concrete generates business from 60 percent commercial clients and 40 percent residential with a new focus targeting designers and architects.

Using a variety of tools ranging from different sized polishers to hopper guns, one of Ferreira’s most valued tools is his Buddy Rhodes Triad Planetary Polisher. “It cuts down my polishing time by at least half. What I would normally do with a 7-inch polisher I can do in a third of the time with the planetary polisher,” he says. “It is very efficient and produces a good polish pretty effortlessly.”

Another reason Ferreira prefers the planetary polisher is the smaller size, its 10-inch polishing area and being able to use it wet or dry. “It also has enough weight allowing the tool to do the work versus you doing the work,” he says.

Ferreira believes the tools he uses in his projects before even touching the concrete are also significant to his business. “We have a full range of woodworking tools including table saws, circular saws and band saws,” he says. “To me, that is almost as important as the concrete — it all beings with the form building.”

 

Working in the decorative concrete industry for 12 years, Todd Rose has had the opportunity to participate in various aspects of the industry. Whether it is completing projects, writing articles or giving presentations, Rose has continued to be active in the industry. He recently opened a new company, Todd Rose Concrete, located in Charleston, S.C.

Specializing in commercial and retail establishments, Todd Rose Concrete offers overlays, microtoppings, staining, stenciled concrete and epoxies. Rose also gives architectural presentations on how to spec decorative concrete.

As for his favorite tool, he would choose his Graco HVLP spray gun because of its versatility and ability to control the amount of stain used. “I’ve built my reputation on fixing screw ups, and the HVLP gun has been the tool that has allowed me to do that,” he says. “You can start staining at a controlled cut or joint, and by the time you go a foot or two away from that spot the stain is already dry. This allows you to put down a minute amount of stain and come back in 5 minutes to put another color down.”

In one project, Rose had to blend the colors of three different floors. By using the spray gun, he was able to have complete control over the amount of variation of the stains. It is also useful for vertical overlays. “A lot of people have trouble staining verticals, but this gun allows you to stain a little amount at one time,” Rose says.

He adds that chemicals and admixtures are right behind his HVLP gun in importance, while one of his most used tools is the 3-foot textured roller from Decorative Concrete Impressions. “The great thing about textured rollers is that they are so much more efficient than stamping,” he says.

Not all Rose’s tools are so traditional. “Once a corner has gotten hard or if I need a little more texture on it, I will take a paper bag and scrunch it up in my hand add liquid release and powdered release,” he says. “It gives wonderful texture where you can’t get texture in other places.”

 

John Buteyn, senior technical manager at Colorado Hardscapes, has witnessed the progression of the concrete industry from standard concrete to decorative concrete, having worked at Colorado Hardscapes, Denver, Colo., since the early 1970s. The company is a Bomanite licensed contractor and offers flatwork, integral colors, shake-on colors, staining, polishing, stamping, exposed aggregate finishes, toppings and overlays, water features, and simulated rock work. Completing both residential and commercial work, the last 10 years has been more commercial work in places like museums, hospitals, schools and retail centers.

In a recent project, Colorado Hardscapes used the shotcrete process to complete a tree for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. Buteyn believes that texturing skins are one of the most essential tools on such unique projects. “The texturing skins are a latex tool that has texture built into it allowing us to impress the texture on the wet surface to create a bark like look,” Buteyn says.

Colorado Hardscapes uses the texturing skins to make other impressions in the concrete including animal footprints and fossils as well as stone and brick patterns.

Buteyn believes that regardless of the type of project, finishing tools are the most valuable tools because they help ensure an end product that is quality work. “We definitely need the tools that help detail the final product to color it and finish it out,” he says. “Some of those tools are the small trowels, paint brushes, grinders and pigments used to touch up repairs.”

Additional finishing tools Buteyn uses are hand chisels and edge tools. “The difference between a great job and a mediocre job is how you address the edges and the details,” Buteyn says. He believes contractors will find true success in having the right focus on detail and being able to properly finish along edges and around columns and drains. The tools help to execute the vision.

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