Once more into the breach....
Hi again. Twice in the same fortnight I’m back here writing some more personalised content. People are going to start thinking I’m not working and sitting at my computer too much…Truth is, I’m looking for a little escape tonight.
I’m at that stage in life where it seems like all I’m doing is working, then blessing the single day off I get (occasionally), so I can rest and get some house work completed, before again entering the fray the following day to rinse and repeat.
Combine that, with the typical problems we face as we get older. Trying to comfort parents as they age beyond capabilities of looking after themselves. Giving my daughter as much time as I can whilst at the same time feeling guilty that work always seems to take a forward seat to everything that’s far more important, not knowing how to change things due to pressures of this modern society.
But alas, lets forget about all that rubbish. Everyone has their dramas and mine aren’t anything special and the point of this unedited wall of text is to take the mind off the hamster wheel of life and chat about something on the only platform I have available for such purposes……
Ironic it’s only to talk about more work stuff huh?
What I thought I’d run through, is putting a few of my most memorable projects within the past stones throw of a memory I can still recollect. I’ve realised sitting here that all of us, including myself, just put up the “money shot” of photos that best portray the actual outcome of all the hard work and thought we put into what we do.
We’re all guilty of it. It’s great to see the final result and it’s what all the hard work is for. But since my fiance (calling her wife as of this Sunday, never thought that would happen), came on board, she’s started taking some photos of me in action doing some of these finishes and what goes into the whole process. So I thought I’d run through, in as much detail as my words will allow, the whole process of completing a single piece of work.
Maybe in this context, a few ill informed peoples might see why a certain piece or project cost’s so much, and why some contractors are more expensive than others, often by a long way.
The Long Grind
This project here, was for a lovely client at Mermaid Waters. After inspecting the project, I presented the client with two options for refurbishing their existing stamped concrete, that at some stage, someone thought was an intelligent idea to re-colour it with paint….instead of far more superior products.
PS….If anyone is reading this considering revamping their stamped concrete, for the love of airconditioning on a January afternoon, DON’T LISTEN TO BUNNINGS! They don’t know their ass hole from elbow. Paint is not your friend.
Back on track….
I half ass.ed.ly? (is that a word?), gave a price for what a cheap option would be for simply colour sealing what was there, making emphasis that this option would not work and I’m not interested in completing this. More just a forewarning of what they might run into from the cowboys.
The only option I gave that I said I would complete for them, is to hand grind off as much as possible of the existing paint, doing my absolute best through nothing but falling onto hands and knee’s, sweating cussing and cursing why I got in this industry to start with, leaving us with at least some traction for our new products and a chance of it only requiring at least small amounts of upkeep over a long period of time.
For this job, it was 300sqm+ all up. The final coatings you see in the second picture, the one that looks great and shiny and sexy and you think wow, I wish mine looked like that! Took me nearly 2 weeks to grind back by hand to prepare it. What a slog,
I hated it, but I also priced accordingly for it and have walked away from that project, paid in full and confident that my client’s project is the best that I could provide them.
Confidence in results, cost money. Combining this thought, with realising that most people in the world are quite intelligent and aren’t after a cheap job, see us busier than we’ve ever been.
Custom stamped installation
There are many different levels of concrete finishers.
There’s men and women who work all their life on three story walk ups, house slabs and stand behind a trowel machine for hours on end and can finish a concrete slab to mirror perfection without fail.
There’s men and women who can place and finish exposed aggregate to absolute perfection without a single stone out of place.
There’s also many pretenders who call themselves finishers, reaching out for top pay when times are good, only to find themselves out of work when it comes crunch time.
Then there’s finishers you talk to for completely custom installations. Finishers that foresee an outcome and know exactly what path needs to be followed to get there. From artistic design, to installation and completion, if you’re in talks for a custom concrete install, treat these people with the upmost respect because there’s many many years experience behind what they’re saying, and they will quite happily walk away from you if you barter pricing with them.
This project here, is the peak of my knowledge and experience. This is literally 25 odd years doing what I do. Not only that, but also a direct piece of my artistic and creative side, attempting to show what I can do through sheer creation the only way I know how to do it.
This project here, (to get back on track and stop shamelessly plugging), is a very lengthy and challenging process throughout all it’s aspects.
Apart from all the quoting to get some estimate pricing’s down for our client, then the real challenges begin. After sitting down on several occasions and exchanging tens of emails shooting ideas past each other, we cam to a conclusion of what direction we wanted to head. Now this kind of design is like going to a tattoo artist. It’s ok to have a design that you want done, but the installer needs to be confident they can supply it. Asking for a Traditional Tattoo Artist to complete a Japanese Windbar theme will work of course, but you’d be better keeping things in line with Traditional, to make sure all angles have been covered.
I’ll just use point form to finish this off to give a general idea of what was involved, along with time frames involved for each section of installation. If I try explain each of them, fuck, we’ll be here all bloody night and to be fair, this is the last one I’ve got in me to share tonight.
- Day 1 @ 9 hours work time: Onsite with machine and tipper. Dig out all areas and allow for correct heights and falls in sub-grade for tricky areas, especially top path section that has only 50mm~ fall over an 8m section in length. Remove hot water system and air conditioning unit. Smash out old plumbing section and remove asbestos, replace with new connections. Form first pour for day 2. Install all steel reinforcing and expansion requirements making sure all steel s chaired correctly. Remove excess spoil from site, clean up and go to Burleigh to hire equipment. Pick up hired stamp pads and off setting colour release powder for tomorrow.
- Day 2 @ 7 hours work time: Onsite early to finalise prep of first pour. Concrete arrives that was booked a week in advance to allow enough time for the colour through oxide that is ordered. Placement of concrete by wheel barrow throughout. Concrete screeded and floated accordingly. Measure out pre-determined dimensions for new diamond and border installations, use string line to flick each install. As the concrete has gone off enough to get onto with a kick board, but not enough that it can’t be worked, hand install (without a straight edge guide), all the of intricate diamonds and borders throughout, roughing it up with a mag trowel. Then return to start and hand finish smooth with steel trowel. Return to start again to throw on release agent powder with full dust protection and PPE. Return to start again and stamp all of the concrete a the right time so as to not go too deep, but deep enough that the release agent is impregnated into the surface enough to allow for a two tone finish. Wash everything off, suck down a beer like it didn’t touch the sides (forget how much I swore throughout the install), then head home fucked to rest.
- Day 3 @ 7 hours work time: Rinse and repeat day 2
- Day 4 @ 7 hours work time: Rinse and repeat day 2
- Day 5 @ 7 hours work time: Rinse and repeat day 2
- Day 6 @ 3 hours work time: Attend site with high pressure washer and wash all concrete off removing excess release agent powder, along with cleaning walls and adjoining areas. Lightly apply hydro acid to stubborn spots to make sure everything is cleaned properly. Block everything off very thoroughly so no body can access for the next 3 weeks until it has cured and I can finish it off and protect it properly. Strictly warn client if they don’t treat it like a new born baby, I will return and bring hell with me….(lol).
- Day 7 @ 8 hours work time: Quick blow off of all concrete (client kept it amazingly clean, you’re awesome). Mix up water based stain at the consistency I want for the application I’m working with. Apply to all borders and diamonds with a paint brush making emphasis for the toning that I’m after, not just solid black. Wait for stain to drain, apply three coats of high grade acrylic sealer throughout with a very light solvent mix at the end to make sure bubbles don’t pop up.
- Day 8 @ who give a fuck at this stage: Take “money shot” photos to show all my friends and peers to brag about how good it it, even though very few of them know exactly the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating something like this.
As you can most likely imagine, this process was not cheap. Quite the opposite, some would probably fall over to find out how much the cost of 50sqm of custom concrete can be. But our client wanted something special and was prepared to pay a proven professional to not only supply it, but bring forth their own creativity and artistic flair for something completely unique, seen rarely, if anywhere, else in the world.
What this created though was a completely focused installer with nothing on their mind but perfection. No cutting corners. No “close enough” attitude. Just giving literally everything they had into every aspect of the job. You don’t see that very often these days.
Where was I headed again?
I seem to start off all of these articles full of enthusiasm, with ideas flowing and popping around my head….only to forget the majority of them half way through and thinking fuck it, enough, what I was here for has been fulfilled.
I guess at the end of the day, if you as the client, are looking for something professional and you’re in turn talking to a professional about the outcome of your project, think about price last. The most successful projects I’ve taken on, that not only look the best but also the install went without much fault at all, were the ones where the profit margin reflected the effort I applied to it’s application.
If your concrete finisher, installer, artist? has nothing on his or her mind but providing you with quality and something truly unique in design, then that is exactly what you will receive. Don’t fill their heads with doubt, because it will reflect in their work.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for letting me vomit some text onto this site and trying to keep you interested for at least a little while. I guess I’m always in a constant battle with being in an industry which has a low reputation in general, but has artists who install some of the most amazing pieces of work, not talking about me here, some of the work I see from other professionals is truly inspiring…it really does resonate from the times when sculptures were looked upon with awe and admiration for the skill set, as opposed to the consumer driven Chinese market of modern times.