Originally created 08/07/03

Designers let concrete take on different look



Concrete: It's not just for sidewalks anymore.

That dull-gray surface you played hopscotch on as a child has matured and is being used to make kitchen countertops, emulate stone walls and create beautiful floor and patio surfaces that mimic wood, slate, stone, brick and tile.

When Twisted Chicken Cafe owner Tom Werner was investigating flooring options for his new restaurant, he turned to concrete artist Jonathan Holdeman, of Louisville, Ga.-based Decorative Concrete.

The concrete floor Mr. Holdeman is crafting for the restaurant, which opens this fall, resembles wood.

"That stuff will look like a hardwood floor but will wear like concrete," said Mr. Werner, the president of local building company Pierwood Construction. "I didn't want to put a wood floor in, and tile is too slick."

The advantages are many. One is cost: The $5.50 per square foot is about $4 more per square foot than a regular concrete slab, but 50 cents to $1.50 less than topping the slab with wood or tile.

Other benefits are durability and low maintenance - a garden hose or leaf blower will do the job, Mr. Holdeman said.

He can choose from several patterns, including cobblestone and brick. Many clients also want customized finishes.

"There's a lot of peer pressure there," Mr. Holdeman said. "They'll say, 'I like that a lot; can you do something fancier at my house?"'

After a concrete slab is poured, Mr. Holdeman trowels in the color. He put in a dark sienna for the restaurant's floor. Next, a stamp-release powder is dusted on before the rubber mold imprints the pattern. An acid wash and sealer finish the job.

Mr. Holdeman, who works with his cousin Jason Holdeman, tackles 500-foot sections at a time with precision timing. There's a five-minute window of opportunity during which they must begin working or the concrete will harden and the results won't be as smooth, Mr. Holdeman said.

Other companies can spruce up plain concrete. Surface Solutions of Georgia refurbishes old concrete surfaces using a product called Permacrete, which comes in 176 colors. It can create the illusion of brick, cobblestone, flagstone or 6-, 8-, or 12-inch tile.

Surfaces must be pressure-washed and the cracks sealed before the first bonding coat is applied, and the price ranges from $4 to $6 per square foot, based on the restoration that has to be done to the existing concrete before the surface is applied, Surface Solutions owner Tommy Greene said.

Concrete is a composition of cement, sand, stone and water. It has other filler materials added, and the proportions of the ingredients and the mixing process are adjusted to its purpose. The lime in the cement creates heat when it reacts with water. The mixture hardens after the water dissipates.

"Concrete is universal; it can be used for anything," said Carl Darlak, the manager of Lafarge Building Materials, which provides ready-mix concrete and block in the Augusta area. "Anything you can think of, it can be used for: buildings, concrete benches, even houses where the entire house is made of concrete."

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113 or melhall@augustachronicle.com.