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1. How To Know If Your Contractor Is Quoting Or Doing The Job Right


Three Critical Characteristics To Demand From Your Decorative Concrete Contractor … Does Yours Do These?


When concrete is used outdoors it is exposed to the blazing hot Summer sun and the frigid cold of Winnipeg Winter nights. This creates tremendous stress within the concrete. A 100 ft concrete driveway can be almost an inch longer by the end of a hot summer day. A qualified concrete contractor will add steel reinforcement to the concrete. This can be in the form of wire screen or mesh; steel bars called rebar, or steel fibers. This addition of steel gives the concrete strength in tension to resist large cracks. The contractor should also be adding admixtures like:


  • Air entraining: This improves concrete’s durability, workability, reduces bleeding, and reduces freeze/thaw problems.*

  • Superplasticizers: This improves concrete’s strength by decreasing the amount of water needed for workable concrete.

  • Retarders: This delays concrete’s setting time in hot weather and increases the long term strength.

  • Accelerators: This speeds the concrete’s setting time in cold weather and increases the early strength.

       Microfibers: This helps the concrete inhibit the formation of microcracks.*


       * Should be added to the concrete regardless of weather conditions. 


Obviously some of these admixtures are optional depending upon the forecasted weather conditions and others are an absolute must.


Let’s do a quick review:

  • If the contractor doesn’t note on his quote that he is going to add steel reinforcement or if he gives a reason that contradicts what you just learned, then he is not doing a good job or he is holding back on these important steps to keep the price down. Or worse yet, may add these extras to the final bill.

  • It is important to remember that adding microfibers, steel reinforcement and admixtures are critical components not options. If a contractor is not doing these or says you don’t “need’em” show him the door.

  • Again if he says, “It’s an outdoor job. You don’t have to worry about sealing the concrete,” tell’em to “…hit the road,” he is not doing you any favors with a low ball price.


With everything you now know about structural and decorative concrete you will understand why we take these extra steps I’m about to talk about to assure that the job is done right. Let me explain how we do it.


Many contractors will order concrete from the same suppliers that we do. The one man shows with a truck, may just go to the local home warehouse store and pick up a redi-mixed product; usually what’s on sale. The better contractors will specify the strength and perhaps ask that some admixtures and micro-fibers be added. The problem with this is that there is no way to be sure or to tell if you are getting the mix you requested. You are at the mercy of the concrete supplier and unless you are building a bridge there is no way you can get the supplier to certify the mix. At AJ's Concrete again we do something that is unique. We specify the strength of the concrete just like our competitors, but that is where the similarity ends, we add the admixtures and micro-fibers on site to assure the mix meets our standards. We also reinforce all of our pours with steel grating or metal lathe.


We cut control joints as required by ASTM Specifications. After the surface is stamped or finished we add two different sealants to protect the concrete surface and increase its durability and life.


2. How to choose a pattern


The concrete installation should serve a functional purpose first and then an aesthetic one. Therefore, the choice of pattern should be determined based on functionality.




In Winnipeg, residents have to deal with snow in the wintertime. Therefore, driveways, carports, and high traffic walkways should be made using relatively smooth patterns. This will allow for easier shoveling, snow blowing, or plowing. Seamless patterns, ashler slate, royal ashler, and Mexican tile are functional patterns for these applications. On the other hand, cobblestone, random stone, brick, and European fan are not good candidates.


The same idea must be applied to patios and pool decks. Functionality is the key. If furniture will be used on the patio and/or pool deck, it is important to have a pattern that will keep the furniture from wobbling. Patterns with deep impressions are only suitable for walkways that run from the front of a home to the rear. These are usually not used in the winter and normally do not contain furniture.


3. How to choose a pattern that will accent the home and its surroundings




It is important to look at the architecture of the home first. Is the home classical or contemporary? It is not essential to match classical homes with classical patterns such as cobblestone, European fan, and brick, but it is a start. Contemporary homes have a lesser number of patterns that will go with them. Especially homes with a “futuristic” look. For this reason, narrow down the pattern selection by functionality, and then look at the siding of the home. If the siding on the home is wooden shingles, brick, or stone, it is advisable to choose a pattern that is not busy (has less seams). These could be any seamless texture, royal ashler, ashler slate, or tile. Homes with standard vinyl/wooden siding can match up with almost any pattern. Homes with vertical board siding and stucco siding also have the advantage of matching up with many patterns.


4. How to choose colours


It is important to choose complementary colours, not matching colours.




Do not match the concrete with the colour of the home. It is too much to the human eye to see so much of one colour. Accent the home by choosing colours that are either warmer or cooler depending on functionality. You want people to notice the front of the house before they notice the front walkway. The colours should be cool and inviting, not hot and in your face. In contrast, pool decks are the attraction. Therefore, these colours can be brilliant and bold. This will also depend on how close the pool deck is to the house. You may not want to overstate the pool deck if it is near the house.


Therefore, choose a cool colour. It is also important to take into consideration the colours of wooden decks, sheds, fences, and retaining walls if applicable.


Experienced sales associates will explain the colouring process and assist in the selection of the best colours for your project.

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