Concrete Gone Wild

Written by Amy Meadows

Our work appears on pages 33–39 of the digital issue.

VIEW DIGITAL ISSUE

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-7-50-11-amYou want a material that’s as beautiful as it is functional.
A material that gives you a variety of options and allows you to customize it to your liking. A material that will stand the test of time and let you enjoy it without an excessive amount of maintenance. Believe it or not, if these are your wishes, then concrete just might be your answer.
“Concrete can be used in most any hard-surface application in a home. It is a very malleable material that can be used to create any shape in any color,” says Craig Smith of DEX Industries. “It’s a fantastic material, and it works well in modern, transitional and
traditional environments.”
Although concrete is usually associated with standard gray driveways, it has become a popular alternative in today’s homes, replacing such coveted building materials as granite, marble and even hardwood. It’s showing up in nearly every room of the house in ways you wouldn’t expect.
And, from its function to its aesthetic, concrete can bring something truly special to your design plan.
In the Kitchen and Bathroom
A handmade, natural material, concrete lends itself beautifully to use in both countertop and sink applications. According to John Ziebarth of Turning Stone Design, its durability is a huge plus, and it can be made more dense depending on the actual fabrication of the material. Concrete also can be poured in any shape, making it a flexible design element (particularly for sink basins). Highly advanced sealing systems can make concrete both water- and stain-resistant, too.
While you may be concerned that concrete will look cold or harsh in a kitchen or bathroom, the exact opposite is true. Ziebarth explains that pigment can be added to create any color imaginable. Furthermore, Smith notes, “Well-engineered concrete can have a very smooth, polished finish and an organic look not attainable
with other materials.” Concrete fabricators also can etch the surface to create texture, form unique countertop edges and personalize the slab with decorative inlays.
What’s the Cost?
Middle- to upper-end cost range (in comparison to granite or marble). Figure $60 per square foot for simple flat tops and $120 and up per square foot for surfaces with decorative terrazzo or complex shapes.
Maintenance Tip:
Craig Smith: Concrete is durable but not fully resistant to chemicals. Cleaning chemicals, like Formula 409, can damage the sealer and the surface. It is best to use low-pH cleaners, like Simple Green, for all cleaning tasks on polished concrete.
In the Living Areas 
“Concrete can be molded like handmade pottery,” Ziebarth explains. This versatility makes it an excellent option for such design elements as furniture, fireplace hearths and decorative walls. In fact, concrete items can be seen as one-of-a-kind pieces of art. For example, three-dimensional decorative concrete wall tiles can provide a dramatic look, while a concrete fireplace surround can serve as a gorgeous focal point for a room.

Furniture pieces—from chairs to tables to benches—can be equally visually impressive. And if you worry about the comfort level of concrete furniture, there’s no need. According to ConcreteNetwork.com, cushions or pillows can provide ample coziness, while some pieces are actually designed ergonomically with contours that deliver great comfort.

What’s the Cost?
Concrete used in this way is completely customizable, so the costs will vary depending on the application.
Design Tip:
John Ziebarth: Unlike materials akin to quartz and Corian, concrete is more like an earthy material—such as wood. Its look will change in different light or times of day.
In the Basement and Garage
There’s no getting around the fact that concrete is an exceptional flooring material. Fortunately, those drab gray floors in the garage or the basement are a thing of the past, as concrete fabricators have found ways to make concrete aesthetically pleasing. Derrek Schneider of All Star Custom Concrete notes that concrete staining can completely change the look of concrete floors. “We can take a concrete floor and turn it into a work of art,” he says. “We seal them and make them nice and shiny. They can actually look like granite or marble. We can even cut tiles into the floor. And the color options are endless.” Decorative designs also can be incorporated into the floor, providing a highly customized finish.
Additionally, Schneider observes that, once sealed, concrete floors are extremely durable, as the sealant creates a waterproof and nonporous surface that can be swept easily. What’s more, unlike hardwood, sealed concrete floors will not chip up, making them ideal for homes with children. While they are low-maintenance, they do need to be waxed occasionally, depending on wear and tear they are subjected to. They should last between 10 and 15 years before needing extensive work or replacement.
What’s the Cost?
Stained concrete floors are comparable to carpet in terms of price. Floor tiles usually range from $5 to $7 per square foot; stained concrete costs from $3 to $4 per square foot.
Resurfacing Fact:
Derrek Schneider: When having your concrete floors stained or resurfaced, prepare for a three- to four-day process. And if you’re worried about being overwhelmed by fumes from the stain, don’t be. Stains used today are odorless.
Why “Weight”?
While concrete is an extremely versatile material, there is one issue that fabricators must address. “The biggest challenge we run into is the sheer weight of the material,” says John Ziebarth of Turning Stone Design. For design elements like outdoor furniture, the heavy nature of concrete can be a huge plus, as the pieces will not blow away in windy conditions or be ruined by inclement weather. For indoor furniture and elements like wall tiles and fireplace hearths, though, the density can be formidable. Fortunately, according to ConcreteNetwork.com, fabricators can turn to lightweight concrete mixes. Additionally, they can use a thinner layer of concrete by reinforcing it with fiber, which ensures that the material doesn’t lose any strength or durability.
Take It Outside 
Concrete may be making its way into home interiors these days, but there’s no reason not to use it outside. In fact, concrete is ideal for outdoor applications. Consider these options:
Outdoor kitchen: Concrete countertops in an outdoor kitchen are durable and easy to maintain.
Lounge area: Concrete furniture can offer a unique look while withstanding the weather and splash from irrigation systems.
Patio: A patio floor can be as impressive as other outdoor elements when customized with stain.