Concrete Basics

Concrete 101 – Intro to Concrete for Property Owners

Concrete is an amazing product that has been around for centuries and one that we would be hard-pressed to live without. As common as concrete is in our world, what it can do, what it does, and what it should do is often misunderstood. When you are considering decorative concrete or a protective finish for your floor, it’s important that you have realistic expectations of what your concrete is and what it and subsequent treatments can do.

Concrete is one of the most durable and long lasting products around your property when installed properly. Durable, high strength, and crack resistant concrete does not happen by accident.

Concrete Construction Basics

There are important steps concrete contractors should follow during installation to ensure that concrete will look good and hold up for many years.

  • Appropriate site work – proper cleaning of the area and removal of all grass, rocks, vegetation, weeds, etc. to expose raw earth.
  • Proper grading and installation of perimeter drain systems – keeps water away from the slab allowing for proper drainage.
  • Installation of an appropriate subbase – at least 4” is recommended and subbase prep is important to minimize the chances for heaving from frost and expansive soils, prevalent in Colorado.
  • Soil composition and compaction uniformity – provides adequate support, ensures an even slab thickness, and prevents the slab from settlement and structural cracking.
  • Installation of a vapor barrier – prevents moisture from wicking into and through the slab (MVE – Moisture Vapor Emission).

“The right concrete mix ratio can solve problems or it can create them.”

Installing concrete is a challenging job and every concrete placement is different. Concrete’s performance characteristics over the long-term are largely related to the quality of workmanship and materials that go into it.

  • Concrete forms must be properly set which allows for proper slope or grade for drainage.
  • Concrete delivery may not seem to be an important concern, but it should be. Did the delivery truck arrive on time and was there proper spacing between multiple delivery trucks?
  • Concrete materials and admixtures contribute to the characteristics of the concrete that arrives at the job site.
  • Proper troweling creates a smooth, hard, and uniform finish across the concrete surface. Over-troweling and troweling too soon can create a weak surface.
  • Control joints must be properly installed and the depth of control joints is critical.

Other factors play into concrete’s end result and longevity:

  • Did the contractor add cure and seal to the concrete when it was poured?
  • Was the concrete poured when it was really cold … or really hot?
  • Have the prior property owners added or applied products to the surface? If so, what are they?
  • Has the concrete been exposed to any contaminants?
  • Is there excessive moisture in, around, or under the concrete slab?
  • Have you properly maintained your concrete including damage and crack repairs?
  • Can you provide the details of all possible contaminants, glues, stains, etc. to which your slabs were exposed?

Shades of Color installs and applies decorative and protective coatings to decorate and/or repair concrete surfaces – we do not “fix” the slab. As a concrete coatings contractor, we cannot guarantee the viability of your concrete slab after installation of our finishes. However, installation of decorative and protective finishes onto your concrete slab will help to protect your concrete and ultimately add to its longevity.

Your concrete isn’t going to last forever. And if you ignore spalling, excessive cracking, and other damage, you will significantly accelerate the failure of your slab which will ultimately lead to complete tear out and replacement. The good news is there are many options available to you that can protect and decorate the slab, thus adding years to the life of your concrete. You don’t have to tear it out – you can protect it, seal it, and add a decorative or protective finish to it. If you need more information, view our FAQ’s on Concrete Finishing.

NOTE: If you have concerns about the structural integrity of your concrete slab, or if your concrete is heaving and/or displaying more cracking that you think it should, we strongly recommend that you contact a soils or civil engineer for a professional evaluation. Again, our finishes do NOT prevent heaving, cracking, or slab movement – our finishes protect the surface of your slab.