Ask vs. Need

How do you handle a homeowner that doesn’t know how to get what they want?

There’s a mostly finished basement in my parent’s empty nest of a home. We live in Wisconsin, and I realize that “basement” might mean a few different things around the country. So, let me clarify – if ground-level was zero, there’s a bare concrete floor on the -1 floor; think cellar. Picture a man-cave with a carpet that transitions to a sea of gray concrete. They are early in the process of figuring out a decorative topping and are currently investigating, getting estimates, and trying to figure out plans. While they know what they want as a result (a marbled effect, not flakes) but what they don’t know is how to get there.

It has been an educational journey so far and since we’re featuring decorative concrete, it’s where I’d like to comment on for Concrete Contractor's December 2021 Editor's Letter. One contractor quoted an epoxy floor noting that the product that shall not be named could become scratched. The solution would provide the marbled floor effect, but the situation left me wondering if that was what they asked for or if that was what was needed.

A lot of truth can be found behind the “that’s what they asked for” statement. But in the situation where you are asked to act as a designer because the homeowner isn’t an expert in decorative concrete, there are also buckets of honesty poured in the “treat every job as it’s your own home” mentality.

So, what can you do?

From what I can tell, one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is to ask questions. I spoke with Paul Wuenneberg, principal at KWK Architects regarding the dedicated work they do in engaging as many users as possible as well as the owners in university constructions. Where they actively engage students to better understand how the space will be used (although I do understand that a decorative floor is a different situation) that communication became vital to the design.

The homeowner may likely not be familiar with the options concrete can offer. Such as today’s efforts towards sustainability and all the recycled or lower-carbon alternatives they may haven’t considered.

Here’s to a brand-new year. Stay safe out there. See you in 2022.