Picking Battles: Decorative Concete and the DIY'er


Save money and experience something new. That’s why DIY (Do It Yourself) has become a mantra for homeowners since the 1970s, only gaining more traction in the past few decades with the exploding popularity of website, magazines, and television stations devoted to the idea. There’s plenty of things for the active homeowner to take on, but some things are best outsourced. Concrete work, much like brain surgery, is often times best left to the professionals.

To the lay person, concrete work looks simple enough. Just mix it with water, dump it, and smooth it out… not too dissimilar from making a cake. But that couldn’t be further from reality.

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This is when concrete work is most demanding and difficult in terms of labor, skill, and consequences. The first hurdle to face is mix design - the selection of aggregates, admixtures, and pozzolans - which is vital to performance. While a good Ready Mix supplier can be a resource, there is still room for catastrophic error for the DIY’er. Furthermore, slope, thickness, subgrade, control joints, forming, and finishing must all be accounted for. An error in any of these may result in underperforming concrete that may need to be removed and replaced at great expense and inconvenience. The room for error is even greater when integral color is added.


Perhaps the most risky decorative application for the DIY homeowner, stamping combines all of the above concerns with an additional series of steps and concerns. It takes experience, patience, and planning to get this right. The contractor needs to know exactly when to get on the slab with stamps and how to account for differential curing times. It is a carefully orchestrated process that involves several experienced crewmembers. Getting it wrong could potentially ruin the entire project.

Overlays and Stains

Stains and overlays in various forms are how some successful contractors enter the decorative concrete game. The less strenuous process may make them seem more DIY-friendly than other decorative concrete projects. The ambitious homeowner needs to ask if the expense of materials and equipment (even rental equipment) will be low enough to make the attempt worthwhile. But, when working with a professional, the homeowner is really paying for experience and skill. The contractor has the experience to properly assess project needs and ensure a long-lasting product. More importantly, the professional has the design skill to make something that can truly be considered decorative.

Mistakes and Repairs

The simple fact is, DIY’ers are more prone to mistakes due to their lack of experience. With many sectors of home improvement, cheap materials and easy disassembly make this a simple thing to overcome. Concrete, on the other hand, is rather permanent with relatively costly inputs. For this reason, it is best to rely on the skill of the professionals. When considering the cost of potential mistakes, hiring a professional is almost always going to be the most economical choice.

Anything can be a DIY project if the homeowner is brave enough. However, when it comes to decorative concrete, a trained professional’s services are always recommended. This is the best way to guarantee something long lasting and attractive. For this reason, Solomon Colors has designated all Solomon Colors, Brickform, and Legacy products as professional use only. Solomon Colors also recommends professionals fully read and understand all literature related to the project before placement and attend training classes if possible. Solomon Colors provides numerous training classes and demonstrations throughout the year. Click here for a complete schedule.

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