by Jan K. Allen
SBJ Contributing Writer
Decorative concrete has been around for a long time, but innovative uses of pattern and color are catching on and resulting in increased demand, according to area suppliers.
Concrete technology is evident in many commercial buildings in the Springfield area and is growing in popularity for residential projects, according to Elise Crain, marketing manager for Increte of the Ozarks.
Increte supplies materials to several local companies, including Advanced Concrete Technology, Concrete Impressions, Eoff and Associates, Imprint Concrete, Liberty Painting and Stone Effects.
Through the use of integral colors, which are mixed with concrete; chemical stains, which are painted on and absorbed into the concrete; and surface hardeners, which add strength and durability, almost any tone can be achieved. With stamped patterns to emulate rock, brick or tile, almost any effect desired can be obtained, Crain said.
Tom Ehler, owner of Stone Effects, is kept busy through word-of-mouth referrals for his creative interior designs using concrete.
Ehler is best known for his fireplace mantels, in which he uses the integral-color method for the tone, he said.
The design begins with a plaster cast from which Ehler makes a rubber mold, used to mold the concrete.
Designs may be generic or personalized, depending upon the whim of the buyer, Ehler said.
"You can duplicate just about anything," he said.
Ehler installed the bar countertop at the Gallery Bistro restaurant on Walnut Street.
Sherry Keating, owner of Concrete Impressions, said it is important to use hardeners on an exterior finish in the Missouri climate.
The annual freeze and thaw of the area creates stress on unprotected surfaces. Hardeners not only make the surface more attractive, but it will last longer.
Often, on an outdoor surface, the contractor will use chemical stain covered with a hardener to penetrate and seal the surface, Keating said.
Every pattern imaginable is available, from cobblestone to basket-weave. Applications can be single color, multicolor, stamped or flat-surface.
Crain said the best policy to ensure
longevity is to keep the surface clean. Foot traffic is harder on flooring than auto traffic because people tend to grind their feet when they walk.
The decorative floor at Universal Studios has been walked on by 40 million people, according to Crain. The secret to its long life-span is simply that they clean it daily.
Decorative concrete has been used extensively in restaurants and other public buildings for floors, entries, sidewalks and pool decks, Keating said.
It is catching on in residential projects on driveways, entries and in family rooms.
More people are also beginning to use it in kitchens for floors and countertops, Keating added.
In the residential subdivisions of Highland Springs, Emerald Park, Hunters Glen and Millwood, decorative concrete has been used in common areas and on individual properties.
A new example of decorative concrete at Concrete Impressions is the Belgian basket-weave design, which graces the sidewalks at the new Sinclair Building, Keating said.
The cafe at Dickerson Park Zoo displays a floor and walkway with a stamped wood-plank design, also done by the company.
The flooring was stained and treated with a color hardener to add beauty and protect the surface.
The Keating family brings more than 70 years of experience to the concrete business. Sherry Keating's husband, John, was taught by his father to use decorative concrete in the 1960s in the St. Louis area. John and Sherry Keating moved their business to Branson in 1994 and quickly expanded to Springfield.
On the cutting edge of concrete technology is insulated wall blocks. Increte distributes a product called Blue Maxx wall systems.
The manufacturer promotes quality in product and workmanship and requires its installers to be certified.
Blue Maxx literature touts an impressive list of benefits. The insulation factor stops heat and cold; the steel reinforced blocks also stop fire, bugs, drafts, rot and sound.
The sound-barrier factor is one reason the system has become popular with motels, Crain said.
Elise Crain, of Increte of the Ozarks, said that concrete can be colored and stamped to emulate brick, rock, tile or even wood, creating almost any effect the buyer desires.[[In-content Ad]]
Fishing retail shop Modern Outdoor Tackle moved; Healthy Spot LLC opened; and Springfield law firm Strong, Garner & Bauer PC changed names and moved its office.