Since the beginning of civilization, man has been building abodes with stone. Even today, with all of our innovations in wall claddings and micro toppings, stone can still be found in almost any environment. This natural element generally transcends the passing fads and remains a staple in building aesthetics. In fact, when stone is used today, it generally carries a more affluent feel to the décor. Stone also comes in many forms ranging from real veneer, Cultured Stone and even in GRFC panels. There is no lack of variety and price seems to be fairly competitive.
In the last 10 years or so, there has been a rise in a particular type of stone work-that being vertical decorative concrete. This lightweight cementations product comes in a 50-pound bag and can either be stamped or hand carved to emulate a stone wall or surface. I predict that vertical decorative concrete will blossom into a whole new trade in this country and generate modest revenues that will compete with a fair number of alternatives.
What can be done with such a product? How versatile is vertical decorative concrete and why should contractors consider this option for clients?
CREATIVITY AND SKILLThere are many limitations to the stone and brick product lines that are used today but instead of trying to list them all, I’d rather just explain what can be done with VDC. The answer is just about anything can be done with this revised medium. You are not restricted to shape, size, texture, color, weight or scope. From Old World brick ceilings to chateau stone walls, there is no shortage of what can be recreated. The only thing that stands in your way of producing such environments is the knowledge and education of how to apply, manipulate, and color VDC.
If you have a general knowledge of plaster applications or understand hawk and trowel techniques you already have an edge. Contractors have been improvising with joint compound for decades but now there is another product that can handle the “foot traffic.”
If I were to say the words decorative concrete, what are the images or thoughts that first come to mind? Do you think of a stamped patio, acid-stained floor or perhaps a sidewalk or driveway that has a pattern embedded in its surface? You may even have seen a wall that has been stamped or poured into a form liner on a highway or a bridge. Very few have seen VDC in a home or business but that is all about to change. VDC is fast becoming popular among decorative concrete contractors, faux finishers, decorative painters, plasterers and many other trades. In addition to innovation, vertical decorative concrete’s unique versatility offers applicators the ability to compete with masons, bricklayers and many other such trades that offer “out-of-the-box” options.
It only takes a few men or women to produce an environment that looks like it took 10 men to engineer or heavy machinery to place. From pillars, archways, fireplaces, wine cellars and all forms of walls and ceilings, whether they are stone or just an elaborate texture there is no end to the possibilities of vertical decorative concrete.
A TRADE IN INFANCYIn the last decade, I have seen the rise of themed environments move from the amusement parks and casinos into private residences. Basements, man caves and even unused garages are being transformed into environments that add real value to the home. With the economy as it is today, people are focusing more on how to better what they have than what they can get. This has given revenues to home improvements and other such additions that normally would have been soaked up with new real estate.
Overall, vertical decorative concrete offers a unique form of revenue to its installers. Unlike the traditional building blocks of the marketplace vertical decorative concrete offers a fresh new look at décor and perceived value. I have seen it time and again in this craft when a home or business owner wants to improve the look and feel of their building or property. There is nothing wrong with the structure as is but yet it needs a facelift and aesthetic overhaul to spark new life into its environment.
One of the most marketable elements of vertical decorative concrete is the ability to create something that you and the client generate together. I literally take the client to the Internet and together we research the look and feel desired. It might be an Italian wine cellar with a Tuscany feel or a Romanesque wall and pillars. Baroque is also very popular among the affluent. Being able to deliver what the client likes is always better than having the client settle on one out of four or five styles from a brochure that they may not be wild about in the first place.
Another element is the architects. These people have been restricted to the traditional tools used to establish the overall décor of a building or environment. Most of the manufacturers of vertical decorative concrete are now turning their attention to educating the architects. Architects have a good understanding of design and when they realize the potential of VDC, you will see more of it in broader applications. I want to encourage contractors to examine this new up and coming trend. We have seen it effectively penetrate the floor industry for the last decade and most recently, the countertop industry. Five years ago, there were maybe half a dozen manufacturers of vertical decorative concrete. Today there are a few dozen and more are considering the line.
From my point of view as an educator and innovator of this craft, those who learn it will reap the benefits. My belief is strengthened by the success of the many subscribers and followers of this craft, to date. I am constantly encouraged by their success and excitement as they plot a new course in their careers.
I might add that this craft is not just in America. People in Japan, China, Australia and all thoughout Europe have taken notice and are acquiring materials and training. No longer is it just a structural element that is a glorified substrate but rather a refined product that will no doubt leave its mark on our culture and in many others around the globe. W&C