Cementing Your Style with Concrete

Cementing Your Style with Concrete

When people think of concrete, they tend to associate it with massive objects of strength and utility — bridges, sidewalks, even the very foundation of their homes.

Increasingly, however, concrete is coming into its own as a decorative building material that appeals to homeowners and builders for its strength and versatility, especially in counters and floors.

For Aaron Porter of Double A Concrete in Grants Pass and Medford, decorative concrete is a "major new trend in flooring." He explains that there are a number of reasons, both practical and aesthetic, for this surge in popularity. Practical considerations include concrete's durability and resistance to mold. It's also an excellent material for use with radiant floor heating. Additionally, concrete floors are easy to maintain, requiring only an initial sealant and occasional waxing.

What Porter sees as the major advantage of a concrete floor, however, is the homeowner's option of creating a completely custom design. With a vast array of stains and patterns, you can have a totally unique floor in any number of shapes, patterns and colors. Stains can be custom-applied to resemble other materials, or assembled to make a mosaic. Pictures can be stamped and grouted, too, to give you an entirely unique look.

If you decide you want a concrete floor in your existing home, you'll want to avoid pouring it over a floor of another material. While there are overlay products on the market, Porter warns that they are not a good fit for our climate and that it is far preferable to go down to the existing concrete slab under the floor.

But floors aren't the only home element being transformed by decorative concrete. Kitchens, too, can benefit from the durability and design possibilities of concrete countertops. These countertops are usually made from a combination of concrete, lightweight aggregates, and additives (like some fiber reinforcements and acrylic). The counters can either be built in a contractor's shop or on-site, and while standard cabinetry will support the weight of concrete counters (since the weight is distributed over the entire surface area), a contractor will call in reinforcements: structural steel, wire mesh, or fiberglass are most often used.

The versatility of concrete countertops has made them popular with designers and architects, but homeowners are a little slower to come around. Rod Wilkerson of Wilkerson Concrete in Gold Hill notes that the endless variety of design options has made concrete popular in flooring, but he and Porter both believe that concrete countertops are less seen due to their expense. While a homeowner might think of concrete as a budget material, after construction, shipping, and installation, concrete countertops can often run up to $300 per square foot. For somebody looking for a distinctive design element for his or her high-end kitchen, though, concrete can be an ideal choice.

Regardless of whether you're looking for a highly practical flooring material that's durable and easy to maintain, or a beautiful and distinctive design element in your floor or countertop, concrete is an ideal choice, useful not only as a foundation for your home, but contributing to its spirit and style.

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