A Brief History Of Decorative Concrete

Posted on June 04, 2019

With origins dating back to ancient times, modern concrete and its main ingredient, i.e. cement, has been significantly modified over time. This remarkable material was used by the Romans and Greeks some 2,000 years ago – who used volcanic ash and lime, which, when mixed with water, formed a hard mass.

It was finally in 1891, that the first concrete street was poured in the United States, in Ohio.

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Decorative concrete can improve the visual appeal of your concrete surfaces.

The Creation Of Decorative Concrete

Between 1890 and 1920, concrete manufacturers started producing innovative building facades. Among these were pre-cast builders, who used colors and stains to enhance the look of plain concrete.

While some manufacturers chose to mix pigments into fresh concrete for casting, others simply dunked the entire casting into solutions that were similar to chemical stains.

Concrete craftsmen also started blending pigments to add color to plain concrete. Some even maintained recipe files to mix and create various colors.

The introduction of colored concrete highlighted the need to produce it in batches. Contractors wanted a mixture that would not only mix evenly with concrete, but also form a permanent bond in cement paste, for a long lasting finish.

Manufacturing Decorative Concrete

To meet the growing need for pigments, in 1915, Mason Scofield, a young engineer, started manufacturing colors to make decorative concrete.

The business, later renamed as L.M. Scofield, made a permanent mark in the history of decorative concrete. Its products contained color hardeners like cement, color wax, aggregate broadcast (to aid in coloring and hardening the surface), chemical stains, and sealers.

In 1920, Scofield moved the company to Los Angeles, with the belief that the southern Californian market would be open to decorative concrete. This shift proved to be a very profitable one; famous celebrities including Groucho Marx, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin started adding Scofield’s colored concrete products in their homes, giving rise to the popularity of decorative concrete.

Introduction Of Stamped Patterns

Around 70 years ago, Brad Bowman, now known as the father of stamped concrete, introduced texture and embossing to the world of decorative concrete. This meant that plain concrete could be made to resemble brick, slate, flagstone, wood, tiles, etc. He developed, and patented, the tools and procedures required to create various stamping designs. The best part of his creation was that people could easily customize it to their specifications.

It was in the 1950’s that Bowman had started experimenting with ways to produce patterns on concrete on a larger scale. While he had initially started working with a single wooden blade, he eventually set up two blades which were set apart approximately the width of a brick; the final step was to set up platform stamps which could imprint multiple units at a time. The first material to be used as stamps was wood, then sheet metal, and finally, cast aluminum platforms were created which proved to be more efficient.

The demand for stamped concrete grew exponentially in the 1970s; ever since, it has become a common material that architects, designers, and contractors use in most of their projects. The Bomanite Corp., using Bowman’s patents, franchised his tools to make decorative concrete for contractors across the country. This further promoted the use of decorative concrete in building projects.

With time, different designs of decorative concrete started flooding the market, at attractive prices. The variety of designs and colors available – from acid and transparent stains to high-quality dyes – pretty much took the world by storm. The best part was that, this type of decorative concrete was not only attractive, but also more durable.

Stamped designs are now commonly used for patios, sidewalks, driveways, pool decks, and even interior flooring. The main reason behind its success is the ease in crafting delicate designs, and its affordability.

The Dive Into Pools

In 1956, the owner of Stegmeier Co., Bill Stegmeier, installed the first ‘Cool Deck’ to build swimming pool decks. It was designed to keep bare feet from burning on a hot, sunny day.

Stegmeier also created an ‘antiquing effect’ by adding color to a powder broadcast, but it kept texture stamps from sticking to the concrete. To solve this problem, he invented a latex rubber tool to give fresh concrete a wood grain texture, taking the concept of decorative concrete a step further.

Improvements To Stamping Tools

The aluminum cast stamps made by Bowman were heavy, had a limited life, and only served to print patterns, while doing little to provide texture.

In the 1970s, Jon Nasvik took it upon himself to fix this issue, by developing stamps made out of urethane. The resulting stamps were not only durable, but also lightweight.

Nasvik further improved concrete stamping by introducing a plastic stamp to the market in the late 1970s. Since the stamps were made out of plastic, they could be easily used to imprint patterns, and add texture to fresh concrete. The first commercially applied pattern was that of a broken and used brick.

The stamping patterns that evolved from this were used by Bomanite contractors only, and were given the name ‘Bomacron”. However, had it not been for Stegmeir’s release powder, the use of these stamps would be impossible.

Adoption By Disney

Around the time that plastic stamps made their entrance in the concrete market, Disney Corporation was already designing EPCOT in Orlando. The Bomacrons were included into their designs, and helped create 12 to 15 of the most unusual, decorative concrete patterns for the project. This led to the widespread use of decorative stamping around the world.

Overall, development of the decorative concrete industry can be credited to a few people; those who manufactured materials for concrete contractors, those who created the necessary tools and processes for creating stamping designs, and those who improved the quality of decorative concrete overall.

These individuals and companies did extensive research to develop decorative concrete – and it is due to their hard work that the decorative concrete industry is so successful today.


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