Logo for a Cigar Lounge

A Cigar Lounge Logo

In July of 2012 a local cigar store called Monte’s contacted us about the covered patio which was the entrance to their store. It had twenty-year old pitted concrete with a cracked step and improvised wheelchair ramp. The owner wanted to demolish the slab, pour new concrete, and include a shiny new logo on the floor at the entry to his Cigar Lounge door. Photo A. shows the entry during demolition.

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of a “cigar lounge” before. It proved to be a dark-panelled English style men’s club upstairs above the cigar store. It made me think of the club in “Around the World in Eighty Days” where David Niven hobnobbed with representatives of the nobility. (In this cigar club women are allowed, but I never saw one there). Each member has his own key card for the door and can gather around couches and small tables to smoke cigars, read newspapers and watch TV.  Drinks and the best coffee in town are served by a nubile young woman, while the men happily puff cigars and discuss solutions to the world’s problems.

We found a subcontractor, T & V General Construction, willing to demolish the old slab and pour new concrete in the entry. The work had to be done at night after the shop and lounge had closed. Fortunately there were electrical outlets nearby and a window to a basement where a hose could be rigged up for water. Unfortunately, our work was halted in mid-stride by an irate neighbor from across the street complaining about jackhammer noise at 9:00 p.m. One week later we started again, armed with a Noise Abatement Ordinance Waiver saying that we could work during certain early evening hours.

Our company was to provide the logo work and stain the new concrete once it was a month old. We bagan by cutting two Hardibacker boards 3 feet by 4.5 feet and covering  them with a layer of Super Flowcrete (a commercial overlayment) and two fine layers of a smooth and reactive microtopping (Roy’s formula) . When the boards had cured we took the second-best one and wrapped it all around with heavy plastic. We gave this to our concrete placement guy to drop into position at the Lounge entry door, so we would have a correctly- sized depression into which to place the second board upon which we were creating the logo.

We knew that the Gurkha design would be time-consuming and  that we would not want to be working on it at night on our hands and knees. I had never before glued a board into place in a slab with Liquid Nails, but could see no other solution.

I called Tammy of Surface Gel Tek to see if we could think of a way to do shadings of black and white which might give the look of the original etching. She had a hunch that it could be done by staining the entire silhouette of the logo with black stain, then using an artist’s flat “fan brush” and a mild gelled acid to etch away the highlighted areas more than the shadowed areas. Intrigued by this unique problem, she enlarged our design and did the staining and etching herself during a workshop demonstration.  It worked very well and she proceeded to make a Gurkha Flattoo for us and gave me careful instructions over the phone. 

C. Overlayment on Hardibacker Board

 

I decided to complete the Gurkha figure first and add the lettering below once the background color had been painted in. Our first step was to trace the outline of the entire Flattoo, so that the placement of the logo on the red background would be as it was on the original design. We masked

the outline of the Gurkha by brushing on a band of liquid latex rubber, so that no black stain would crawl beyond the silhouette. (I have previously written about the many uses of liquid latex mold builder).  Photos D. E. & F. show the first stages on the Gurkha.

E. Seal Around Silhouette of Gurkha

G. Apply Flattoo over Stained Area

Photo G. shows us pressing the plastic stencil over the stained Gurkha silhouette. Tammy’s Flattoo could only give us outlines of the main areas of the design (e.g. the Gurkha’s hat, his sword, his hands, and the buttons on his coat). All the fine interior shading would have to be done by us using the original design as a guide and eyeballing the removal of black in gradual stages. Tammy warned me that we might have to etch five or six times, wiping the fan brush on a damp sponge between passes with the gelled acid, in order to get the whitest highlights. This proved to be the case.  This gradual approach kept us from making any rash mistakes, however.

It took my assistant and me four hours working on the board to complete the etching on the Gurkha figure.  I only stopped once to remove my mask and take a photo during this long process. Photo H. shows the figure about half- way done. We started at the bottom of his jacket and hat, generally working upwards to the crucial facial area which we knew would be the most difficult. His hands turned out to be the trickiest, since they had so many shades of gray and parallel bends.

When the Gurka figure was done we washed it with a damp sponge and let it dry overnight. The next morning I painted in his sword with gold lacquer paint (semi-translucent) so that the dark accent lines would show through. Once it had dried, I masked off the white background area of the board and sprayed the Gurkha several times with our solvent-based clear acrylic  sealer (Decra-Seal by W.R. Meadows) diluted a bit with lacquer thinner and put into a Pre Val Sprayer to atomize it. I waited an hour between coats. No way was I going to risk brushing a solvent sealer across our work.

 

I. Seal Figure and Apply Background Paint

 

 

 

 

The next step was to mix some red-orange oil paint into a pool of Decra Seal and apply it by brush to the entire background. The first coat showed brush marks. I let it dry and applied a second coat with a slightly damp sea sponge which evened it up nicely.

When the background paint-in-sealer had dried overnight, my assistant returned and we laid down the lettering segment of the Flattoo and painted dark brown and gold into the letter openings. The brown was artist’s oil paint mixed well into Decra-Seal, while the gold we used straight from the jar, as on the sword. We had to do two coats with a tiny brush on the gold sections, since one coat did not adequately conceal the red background.

After staining and sealing the entry slab with dark brown, it was finally time to pry out the placeholder board and replace it with our finished piece. I had not thought to paint the half-inch vertical sides of the Hardibacker board with red paint; when we put it into place, some white edges could be seen from certain angles. I used my touch up acrylics and a small flat brush to paint the edges of the board once it was glued down. The concrete around the “placeholder board” had shrunk back just enough to leave room for us to do this.

K. Stain and Seal Slab around Placeholder Board

I had sprayed the finished board five times with sealer using the Pre Val at home. However, when we began to brush a final coat of sealer on the board in place, we smeared a tiny part of our logo. We sprayed many more coats of atomized sealer on the board and gave it longer to cure. We returned one night a week later and were able to brush two more coats of full strength Decra Seal on the logo board. At this point it probably has about ten layers of clear solvent-based sealer on it.

The cigar shop owner was happy with our work and placed large foot-wiping mats outside the patio entrance. Installation was completed in late August. As of this writing, some seven months later, I am happy to report that the logo board has suffered neither visible abrasion nor cracking.

 

Benign Neglect – Part Two

This is the double globe design selected by the balloon museum’s curator to go in the center of the entry rotunda. The brown color inside the globe was our original terracotta floor stain. A large Flattoo in eight separate sections was laid across it so that we could etch through the slots (all the white lines) with etching gel to create the design. One side effect of laying a sticky plastic template on our freshly stained floor was that when it was removed, a good deal of our terra cotta stain came up with it.  That, along with seven years of heavy traffic, is why the browns look paler inside the map than outside.

We should have etched the whole floor before staining to give it more tooth, but we had no time for an extra step on that deadline. The entire museum floor was too slickly troweled, but we noticed that the blue-green areas we stained showed much better penetration and wear-resistance than the terracotta areas. This close-up shows the chipping up of both brown and white lines which happened with heavy traffic across the entry.

We decided to order a new Flattoo from Surface Gel Tek and use the same technique of painting with artist’s oil paints dissoved in Decra-Seal that is outlined in the previous blog, Part One.

Step 1:  Our first step was to apply a thick layer of Uni-Stripp by Increte Systems to one globe area, cover it with aluminum foil, and let it melt through the layers of final finish, sealer and stain  for about 30 minutes. We then scraped up the gooey residue with wide razor scrapers and scrubbed with TSP and a heavy stripping pad on the floor buffer. The second globe area was also stripped.

Step 2:  We used an acid-water solution (one part muriatic acid to five parts water) to scrub the globes again and etch into the terracotta areas, trying to make them more even with the white lines which were fairly deeply etched during our work in 2005. We were not able to remove the shadow outlines of our previous work, which meant that we would have to align the new Flattoo over the old design VERY carefully.

We neutralized the concrete with a hand scrub of TriSodiumPhosphate in water, rinsed, and let the floor dry.

Step 3:  We mixed raw sienna and burnt sienna oil paints with a touch of white very thoroughly into a small amount of Decra-Seal on a flat white palette, using a curved palette knife. It is important to get every blob of paint thoroughly dissolved and mixed into the sealer. This was then poured into a larger beaker of clear sealer until we had a color we could brush into the concrete across both globes with a soft bristle brush. We applied two translucent layers until the color matched the surrounding acid stain on the floors. We allowed some variegation of hue across the globe to make it look more stain-like.

When the background fill painting had dried we brushed on a clear coat of Decra-Seal to strengthen the coating. These were allowed to dry overnight and the area cordoned off from traffic.

Step 4:  The next morning we arrived with a new double globe Flattoo in eight sections. Each two foot strip had to be carefully aligned with the one above it and sometimes stretched a bit to align with the shadow pattern below it of the older design. There were a few areas where the new pattern was off by 1/8th inch from the old one, but in the end it was not noticable. Laying down the Flattoo was by far the most difficult part of the job and took three of us about 4 hours on our hands and knees.

Once the stencil was down we only had to mix the dark brown paint into sealer for the outlines of the continents and some translucent white paint for the latitude and longitude lines. These could be fairly quickly painted into the gaps in the stencils with small and medium sized brushes (called “filberts” and “flats” by artists). This dried fairly quickly and one worker could begin to remove the Flattoo bits at the top, even before we finished painting in the outlines of the continents.

We held our breaths to see if lifting off the sticky sections of stencil would also lift off any of the sealer and paint beneath. Since it was a solvent-based acrylic sealer and had had overnight to dry, not a bit came off!

Step 5: Removing  all the stencil bits took two more hours. They had adhered well and we used an Exacto knife with a thin blade to gently get under one corner before we could peel the section off with our fingers. Some flat-nosed tweezers also came in handy.

Step 6:   We had just enough time left that day to put clear sealer into a PreVal sprayer and spray 4 more coats of clear Decra-Seal over the double globe design to protect it for a week.

When we returned the following Monday the map area looked fine. We dusted it well with microfiber cloths and applied two coats of Terra Glaze final finish.

A new janitor has been hired and trained to look after the floors of the balloon museum. When I returned six months later I was surprised at how wonderful the floors looked under several more coats of final finish.

Benign Neglect – Part One

I hate to see public  floors we have done fading away due to high traffic and poor maintenance. However, in this long recession we are finding that the neglect of the janitorial staff can be benign for our bottom line.  In the past two years we’ve had some profitable calls for what we call “Floor Preservation Work.”  This is not just on jobs we originally did, but on jobs done by do-it-yourselfers who knew enough to stain their floors quite well, but then ignored maintenance for years.

If you’ve ever tried to re- stain the worn gray spot on an old acid-stained floor, you know that it doesn’t work. Even though you’re looking at a blot the size of a throw rug, which certainly looks like bare concrete, there is no way you can get acid stain or even colored dyes to take on it. That’s because there is still a good deal of invisible sealer left in the pores of the slab.

We gave up trying long ago, and switched to concealment. If you’ve seen my videos, you know the process: we use artist’s acrylic paints and clear gloss medium to mix colors which closely match the background. We usually mix these on a white plastic plate (our palette) and dab the paint thinly over the gray area with a barely-damp natural sea sponge.  The addition of clear medium to the paint makes it somewhat translucent. We avoid the use of pigments containing opaque white as much as possible, which also helps our faux spots look stain-like.

 If the first color match is not quite right, we can apply another thin layer of adjusted color, letting the first layer show through. Most stained floors are a mottled combination of closely related colors, in any case.  When the acrylic paint dries (in about 10 minutes) we go over it with two coats of Terra Glaze final finish, and when that’s dry, our faux-painted areas meld into the background and appear to be part of the original floor.

In 2005 we stained the floors of the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum using plastic stencils by Surface Gel Tek (called “Flattoos”) for 13 fantasy balloon designs placed in circles around a large double-globe image in the entryway.  Here are two examples of etchings made in the 1700’s when dreamers had the concept of being lifted up into the air in some manner, but had not yet worked out the technology of hot air ballooning. The curatorial staff chose 13 such designs and Tammy at Surface Gel Tek was able to simplify them somewhat to fit into 24-inch diameter circles which would look like etchings.   Here is the cupola design we originally etched into the concrete floor in the entryway.

In the spring of 2012 we were called in to survey the badly scuffed areas and suggest some repairs. In high traffic regions near display cases we could no longer discern what the original image had been. The museum had been hosting not just ballooning enthusiasts, but troops of scouts, high school proms and even dog show parties to raise extra money. The janitorial staff had lost our maintenance instructions and contributed to the damage by buffing the floors weekly without adding any fresh layer of final finish or polish!  After seven years of such treatment I was surprised to see any legible designs left at all. Part of the challenge was that the Board of Directors did not want to close the museum down for even one day for us to do repairs. The museum was closed to the public on Mondays, and we would contract to accomplish the job in several months of Mondays.

The plain worn areas were treated via our usual routine. We divided the museum into sections of about 800 square feet, scrubbed the entire section, faux-painted worn gray spots in the manner described above and then applied two coats of acrylic final finish (Terra Glaze by Spartan Chemical) to the whole section. The refurbished sectionwould then have overnight to dry before thundering herds of visitors came through the next morning.

The tricky part was how to restore the complicated Flattoo designs in the entry?  Fortunately, Tammy  still had the original designs she made for us, and the dimensions.  After a good deal of talking on the phone and plotting out the fastest possible procedure, we decided we would restore just one or two medallions each Monday. We would use a paint and sealer stripper called Uni-Stripp by Increte Systems to remove everything inside the circle, acid etch the circle down to raw concrete to give it tooth, neutralize the cleaned area with a TSP scrub and let it dry. We would then adhere a new plastic stencil over the circle and paint in the design to restore it. This would have to be done the opposite way to how Flattoos are commonly used. (In 2005 the entire medallion was stained dark rust brown, the Flattoo was applied to protect each tiny line in the design and the whole brown background was etched away using a gelled acid to remove color, which left a dark line drawing on a light background).

This time Tammy would create the same stencil, but she would weed out the lines and a few colored areas in the drawing. The larger sections of the Flattoo would protect the light gray background color. With a small sable brush we would paint in a yellow-orange color for details like flags and shadows, and a dark brown for edges and guylines of 1/8th inch or less. This would give the medallions more colors than we had time to achieve when doing the original etchings.  This is a photo of the restored bicycle medallion. The shot was taken before we faux painted some of the white spots surrounding the medallion. Applying (medium tack) masking tape around the medallion while working on it invariably lifted some finish and stain from the floor.

Acyrlic paint does not flow enough to make tiny thin lines and it would cling to the edges of the Flattoo and get pulled up later when the stencil was removed. I discovered that we could use oil paints blended into our solvent-based clear floor sealer (Decra-Seal by W.R. Meadows). This would dry rapidly and stay in place when we removed the Flattoo sections surrounding the painted lines.  We could seal the white, porous background of the medallions with Trojan Masonry Sealer (by Envirosafe Mfg.) in order to waterproof and keep the background white.

We wanted to protect each medallion with layers of a penetrating solvent-based acrylic sealer, but that would have the effect of darkening the raw concrete unless we waterproofed it first. Fortunately, we are working in a very dry climate and our waterproofing sealer could cure in an hour. The multi-colored designs we made  using paint-in-sealer became more legible than the originals, since we could create higher contrast. They also have more layers of protective sealer and finish, so we expect them to be more durable over time.

Once the oil-painted lines and the white background had dried, we could put our solvent sealer into a PreVal spray bottle (with some lacquer thinner to atomize it) and spray two or three coats on the finished medallion. After waiting an hour for those to dry, we could spray two or three more thin coats, cordon off the area so the staff would not walk over it on their way out the door,  and feel okay about leaving the medallions for another week of public traffic. The following Monday the solvent sealer would be completely cured and we could apply two coats of Terra Glaze final finish to the medallions we had done the previous session.

It took us even longer to figure out how to restore the double-globe design in the center of the entry, but we managed that by working on a Sunday holiday as well as a Monday. I will describe that process in my next blog, Benign Neglect – Part Two.

 

Adding Folk Art to Floors and Steps

Last spring we began a job on a new log home being built by Precision Craft, an Idaho builder, in the wilds of the Gila National Forest in Southern New Mexico.  The clients were a veterinarian and his wife (an award- winning animal wood carver). They lived on a farm on the east coast and began planning their retirement in New Mexico with a land purchase near the village of Mimbres in 2007.

I met with them in 2007 and again in 2010 to help flesh out the details of their  floors. They wanted the ground level floors stained a variegated medium brown, just a bit darker than the log walls and rafters.  That was easy – they chose a mixture of 2 parts Scofield’s Antique Amber to one part Padre Brown, one of our more popular stain blends.

The jobsite was a 5.5 hour drive into very scenic country near Lake Roberts. I went in the winter to see the new slab and do stain samples.   I met with the clients on this visit and found out that they had an ancient piece of Mimbres pottery featuring a leaping rabbit, which they wished to have reproduced on the  entry rotunda floor.  The rabbit on their bowl was scrawny and had odd appendages.  Once back at home, I was able to find other examples of antique Mimbres pottery done with a curved rabbit placed over a crescent moon. I felt that this fit much better within the circular border of their design and got the client’s permission to change it, incorporating elements of their rabbit with some others.

I centered my drawing of the design on a 12” by 12” piece of Bristol board (heavy paper) and took it to a copy shop to be enlarged.  We had measured the entry area by the front door and decided that the finished logo should be about 30 inches across.  I had two copies made, in case we decided we wanted the design a bit larger

Faux Real began work on the house in March.  After we had cleaned the floors, filled cracks and holes and stained all the concrete, except for the masked off entry circle, we scrubbed the floors and let them dry overnight.  The next morning we sprayed a light stain within the circle, then scrubbed it and dried it with a hair dryer.  My assistant, Michael, began the logo by laying the paper template within the circle and tracing around it with a soft pencil. The design featured concentric circles, so he traced the largest one first, then cut that one from the edge of the template and outlined the next circle — and so on down to the zig-zagged inner border.

Mike applied our solvent sealer with a small brush to each area which was NOT going to be stained with Dark Walnut stain, using the clear sealer as a resist. This took a lot of care and patience, as one drop of sealer splashed in the wrong spot would create a flaw. Fortunately, Mike has a hobby of making model figures with small painted details, so he was well suited to this job.

The rabbit was relatively easy to cut out and trace, once we had him placed within the circle where we wanted it.  We did not think the contrast was strong enough after one staining with Dark Walnut, so we stained the design twice. A bit of dark stain leaked through our sealer the second time, but that, along with the crack in the floor, added to the antique look of the artifact. Most prehistoric Mimbres pots are found cracked and are glued back together.

This log home also featured a sunken den off the main floor, which was to be carpeted in a dark chocolate color. The den was going to be filled with artifacts and animal sculptures from the owner’s travels in Africa. They envisioned multicolored zig-zag designs on both the treads and the risers of three stained steps going down to the den.  The steps had been poured and finished differently from the main floor slab, but in the end their slightly darker stain color did not matter. I liked the idea of decorating the vertical risers of the steps with a simple faux tile pattern, but not the treads. In the end, the clients agreed that leaving the treads undecorated made a better transition down to the den as they matched the floors above.  Once you enter the den and turn around to face the stairs–then you see the African designs painted on them, so it is a more subtle effect.

I considered doing a repeating design and ordering a Flatoo (plastic stencil) for each step riser from Tammy at Surface Gel Tek. However, each step was roughly troweled, curved at the ends, and of a slightly different height!  I felt that there was no easy way to do these designs with two contrasting colors of stain. It would actually be simpler to paint a series of designs-in-a-square over the concrete stain with arthist’s acrylic paint. As we went along, we could adjust the number of “tiles” to expand a bit or contract so as to accommodate the varying stair lengths.

I had recently hired a young man named Dru, who had worked many years for a mural painter and had experience with freehand painting.  I got a book of African designs from the library and did some samples for the client’s wife to okay via e-mail.  The trickiest part was working out the placement of the “tiles,” since she also wanted a few small tourquoise accents. I cut a template for the tile placement in a repeating pattern out of file folder material.  This we could tape as a guide across the top of the step and keep in place while we drew the borders of the squares with a soft pencil. The danger when drawing a series of squares freehand is that they will gradually get larger or smaller. The template forced us to keep them evenly spaced.

I sketched out six sample tile designs and Dru and I began painting, altering them as we went along. It would have been too tedious to use exactly the same designs in rigid repetition! Anyway, I had noticed from folk art books that no two designs were ever quite the same.  We thought that the variations of line width and the imperfections lent some charm. We got more creative as we went along, but we stuck with certain “rules” which we deduced from the study of the African designs in our book.  E.g., they used a lot of squares, triangles, slashes and dots in their motifs, but very few curves.

It took us about 5 hours to paint the upper two stairs.  The next day I had to paint the lowest stair myself, whilst lying on the concrete slab on my stomach and propping my head up with my left hand. It was quite uncomfortable, although I enjoyed doing the patterns. The bottom step took me eight hours, since Dru was needed to help Michael with floor sealing in the main part of the house.

Our final task was to seal the painted stairs several times, take photos to send back to the clients on the east coast and then pray that they liked them!  (Our clients were very happy).  I took a few pain pills for my sore neck and slept in the back seat as the crew drove us home with the trailer.

Odd Surface Cracking

By Gaye Goodman

On this website I give a list of “Preferred Suppliers.”  I would like to explain why we list two kinds of cementitious fillers by Lyons Manufacturing. Both are very good fillers, but we found out the hard way that Patchcrete should be used ONLY for flat patches and never in cracks. Super Flowcrete, which comes in large sacks and is made to be used as a slightly rough gray overlayment, however, is just fine to use as a pre-stain crack filler.

My crew had been using Super Flowcrete to fill cracks for years. Just prior to staining we would clean out and vacuum the cracks in the floor, apply bonding cement with a woodworker’s syringe or accordion squeeze bottle, so that it went only into the crack, and let it set up until dry.  We then mixed the powdered Flowcrete with enough water to make a stiff paste and pressed it into the cracks, being careful to wipe away any excess alongside the crack before it set up. All of this is shown clearly in my DVD, “Acid Staining for Commercial Spaces.”  As you can see, this is a procedure requiring two steps, often with an hour’s wait for the bonding agent to set up within the crack.

One day our supplier gave us a box of Patchcrete by Lyons and told us that it would speed things up. The bonding cement (or polymer) does not need to be squeezed into the crack first, but is mixed right in with the dry powder and pressed into the crack as soon as you are ready to fill it. The crew went for this shorter system and also liked the fact that the Patchcrete was finer (less gritty) than the Super Flowcrete, which made the texture of the filled crack match the floor better. So we switched to Patchcrete for both hole-filling and crack-filling and seemed to be doing fine with it UNTIL we had a catastrophe. Naturally, this occurred on a problem house with a fairly particular client – a house where another problem with stain absorbed by the rough-finished Variance walls had already wiped out our profit margin!

Photo A

The homeowners had moved into their new home and were happy with their floors. All our work had been done in the spring and summer months. That winter they turned on their radiant heat and “Whoa!–” every crack we had filled proceeded to chip and turn white.  Photo A shows what happened to one crack in a bathroom. There were fifty such cracks all around the house.

Photo B

The owners called and told me that our filler was popping out of the cracks. I had never seen THAT happen before, so I rushed over to look. It was not true. The Patchcrete was still holding well in the original cracks, but the thin, delicate “cream layer” on each side bordering our filled cracks was chipping off, taking all our stain with it. (Evidence that acid stain only penetrates about 1/16th of an inch into most slabs).

Photo C

We could only conclude that when the radiant floor heat was turned on, the slab expanded as it warmed. There was no space for the slab to expand into, since the Patchcrete was smooth (not grainy) and very durable. So what “gave way” was the delicate layer of surface concrete bordering the crack.

Photo D

This house was not a fluke. Several other radiant floors produced the same problem for us that winter. Here is how we fixed the now-wide cracks and made them almost disappear:

Photo B:  We tapped along the crack with a rubber mallet to break off anything which was about to pop anyway.

Photo C:  We scraped up the loose material.

Photo E

Photo D:  With a toothbrush-sized wire brush, we cleaned out the concrete powder and debris from the crack and vacuumed it up.

Photo E:   We filled the void with a pliable latex crack filler made by DAP or Custom Building Products. These are sold in the paint department at Home Depot as concrete crack fillers. They only come in white (even the ones labeled gray look white to me).

Photo F

Photo F:  We only fill a foot at a time, since the product sets up fairly fast. We wipe away excess filler from the sides of the void with a damp microfiber rag. We find that a microfiber rag is much more effective than a damp sponge or piece of fabric.

Photo G

Photo G:  Once the filler has hardened enough to form a firm skin (in an hour or so) we can mix artist’s acrylic paints in colors to match the background floor and paint the area with a small brush. It may take two coats of acrylic paint to cover the white filler.  We have since found that artist’s acrylics can be mixed right into latex fillers to color them, often eliminating the need for this step (see Blog #6 re: cracks on black floors).

The final step is always to brush the repaired cracks with two coats of Terra Glaze Final Finish with a small brush. This is done to increase the gloss of the matte acrylic paint and to protect our faux paint from scuffing. These three layers of material are all acrylic, so they bond well together and are durable. We found that latex crack filler tends to sink a bit, or slump, as it dries when it is put into depressions greater than 1/8th of an inch.  The filled area ends up looking smooth, but dimpled. It took us two or three fillings, letting each layer dry firmly, before we could get the deeper spots level with the rest of the floor.

In this case luck was finally with us. The cracks we treated crawled all over the house and did not look as subtle as they had before the catastrophe. However, our clients had found their evenly-stained floors a bit plain and said that they liked the way the cracks now made the floor look more like stone. Proof, once again, that “it is better to be lucky than smart,” as I always say.

We no longer risk using Patchcrete to fill cracks, but it is perfect for broad depressions or patches in the floor and takes acid stain very well.

Black Basics

By Gaye Goodman

We recently had two separate clients who wanted the drama of black floors throughout their homes. I hope this does not signal a new trend towards black floors. We usually try to talk people out of this by showing them how attractive black stain can look when it is diluted in half with acid water to a variegated gray-brown color. The problem is that it’s a constant struggle to keep black floors looking decent. Each dusty footprint and every bit of sand which blows in through the door will show up white against the dark background. We warn client s that they will need to dust mop their floors daily. However, both parties were adamant and chose the darkest of the samples we did for them.

During our first job, set in a splendid high valley in Colorado, we discovered even more problems which crop up with black floors, creating a good deal more work for the staining crew. I will take problems and solutions in the order in which they occurred.

Photo A

First, no matter how well we sand and scrub a slab in preparation for staining, we find that the stain usually pulls back from the cracks in the slab, which emphasizes them and makes them look wider than they are. Photo A shows how this effect is heightened when the color chosen is black. We find this happens more often with the large cracks we have filled, but also with hairline cracks which we do not fill. If you have seen my DVD’s you know that we use tiny syringes to inject the cracks with concrete glue prior to filling and take every care NOT to smear glue on either side of the crack, since we know that the glue will repel our stain. The edges along cracks DO take stain, but it is usually several shades paler than the rest of the floor. My hunch is that when a slab cracks, it lifts a tiny bit along both sides of the crack, causing the wet stain to roll away, like water down the sides of a mountain range.

Photo B

In this residence we applied two coats of solvent-based acrylic sealer and left the site for four months while plasterers and stone masons finished some walls and countertops were installed. The builder protected the floors wall-to-wall with rosin paper and laid sheets of cardboard over the entire area. This prevented damage by abrasion to the sealer but there was still a thick layer of dust under the paper which we needed to clean up when we returned to apply the acrylic final finish. Photo B shows how the floors looked when we got back to the site.

Solvent sealers have what is called “dirt pick-up” – an almost magnetic attraction for dust – until the final finish is applied. Each room must be vacuumed meticulously with a top quality vacuum, then damp-mopped with frequent changes of water before it will be clean enough to seal. If you try to clean too large an area, the portion you have just cleaned will become white with dust by the time you have finished cleaning the next section. Floor cleaners must wear booties and avoid walking back over dusty areas, or they become a part of the problem.

Photo C

When we got each room clean enough to see the floor clearly, another problem became apparent. A white ring of efflorescence followed the pale edge of every tiny crack which we had not filled. This was a surprise to us all, since the house was built on a hilltop and the builder had installed a moisture-vapor barrier under the slab.  Such a small amount of calcium carbonate coming to the surface would probably not have shown against a paler shade of stain. Open expanses in the kitchen and living-room were laced with a network of white bordered cracks, like those seen in Photo C.

We tried the “easy fix” first, rubbing the white stuff off with lacquer thinner or xylene on a rag. This erased some of it, but large areas were trapped under the upper layer of sealer, which had to be rubbed completely through. As we thought about it, we realized that unless we filled every one of the hairline cracks, more efflorescence would surely emerge through them after future rains and snowfalls. We had to bite the bullet and fill every minute crack in the house before we could begin to faux paint away the lines of efflorescence.

For post-stain crack filling we use DAP or Custom Home Builders’ latex crack filler, which comes in a soft plastic tube. We squeeze it out on a paper plate and press it into the cracks with a flexible spatula and wipe the excess away from the sides of the crack with a damp rag. These fillers are smooth and fine-grained and can fill the tiniest crack. They are bright white, however, so we mixed some dark brown-black artist’s acrylic paint into the latex filler with a palette knife before pressing it into the cracks. We knew this would save us time later in the touch-up phase.

Photo D

Photo E

After a long day filling cracks they looked better, but opaque and not patterned like the rest of the floor, as in Photo D. You can see from the next shot (E) that the floor was by no means a solid black color, but had a pattern of darker raindrops and blobs scattered against a lighter background shade.  This is the sort of wonderful natural patterning which makes stained concrete so special and endearing to us. But it meant that in order to render the cracks less visible, we had to work in layers from the bottom up, with the top layer of faux paint being a translucent black applied in raindrop fashion with a tiny round artist’s brush.  It took two artists 24 hours of mixing and dabbing to bring all the filled areas into harmony with the rest of the floor.

Even with gloss medium added to the acrylic paint, it dries much less glossy than the rest of the solvent-sealed floor. To bring everything up to the same durability and level of gloss, we had to roll on a fresh coat of solvent sealer, let it gas off for 36 hours, and then apply our two coats of Terra Glaze Final Finish.

Guess what? Despite locked doors and restricted traffic zones during the gas-off period, the floors had to be wiped down with microfiber covered mops several times more before we could apply the final finish.

Photo F

Photo F shows the kitchen floor, finished at last.  We really liked the conscientious builder and the owners of this home, so we did not have the heart to charge them for four extra days of cleaning and faux painting, but we are quite glad that these black floors are now their responsibility.  On the drive home we decided that we would charge extra the next time a client wants black floors!

Va-Voom! A New Stripper Hits Town

By Gaye Goodman

We have discovered a great floor stripper which may open up new jobs for you and will certainly make the whole process somewhat easier. My crew really dislikes re-doing other people’s botched floors. However, in the current economy, those are the jobs we are getting and we are only too glad to have them!

One of my favorite custom home builders called me in to see the floors of his own home which he had stained by his house painter before he knew much about acid staining.  The painter actually did a fine job on the floor prep and staining, but he was given bad advice on which sealer to purchase. He was sold a “urethane enhanced acrylic” which was meant for wood floors. It looked beautiful for the first few months, but began to flake and peel in the traffic areas for the next nine years. This builder has two active children, a frantic dervish-dog, and an artist wife who paints in one room.

I did some test stripping in a corner of his study. I have found it does not pay to base your stripping estimate on a test done on the flaking areas, so I selected a secluded spot where the sealer appeared completely intact. I thought I was simply dealing with a cheap water-based acrylic. We often use a janitorial wax stripper on these with good success. That did not touch it. Next I tried a strong citrus cleaner, letting it soak for 20 minutes, then scrubbing hard. It only penetrated in a few high spots. When my client put me in touch with the local sales outlet for his sealer and I spoke with them, it was clear they had no idea how to remove it.

I sure didn’t want to turn down this large job, but the client wanted me to remove the impermeable sealer and replace it without removing the stain from the floor, since he was in love with the look of the original. That meant that sanding or removing the cream layer of the slab was not an option. I recalled that my friend and staining colleague, John Rodriguez, had been urging me to try a new low-VOC stripper which he had been using lately. He had provided me with some half-pint sample bottles which I had stashed in my truck and forgotten about.

I got out the bottle of thick, gooey Newlook Easystrip 1000 and tried mixing it with warm water before applying it to the floor. It did not seem to mix with water at all, so it must be meant to be brushed on full strength. It appears a lot like liquid latex rubber. I spread it on thinly and waited 15 minutes. Voila! It ate right through that tough sealer and darkened the concrete. John told me it could be sprayed on large areas or rolled on with a paint roller. It remains thick and must be scraped up with a wide razor scraper. Once most of the glop is wiped onto old rags, the residue can be scrubbed away with a TSP solution and a black pad on the rotary buffer.  (The web address for this product is www.getnewlook.com).

I bought a five-gallon pail and we set to work on the builder’s house while he took his family on vacation. We soon found that by applying Easystrip 1000 full strength to a dry or even a dampened floor, we were wasting a lot of product which sat on the surface and did not penetrate well. There was a lot of scraping involved and many spots of old sealer remained. It took us four hours to do one bedroom this way.

Remembering that we were working in an extremely dry desert climate, we decided to ignore the instructions and mix the stripper 1:1 with warm water to increase penetration. Once it was stirred in a bucket, it did not want to mix with the water, but looked like Chinese egg drop soup. We poured this on the floor and spread it out with a rapid circular motion using a Doodle-bug pad and holder. After some brushing the stripper mixed with the water and turned into something which covered the floor evenly with a shaving cream consistency. We let it soak in for 15 minutes and could tell by the even darkening of the floor when it was ready to be removed. We gathered most of it together with a large floor squeegee and wiped it onto rags. A subsequent TSP scrub removed most of the residue, but we did two such scrubs to remove every bit from edges and corners. The second bedroom, done in this manner, took us half as long as the first.

This house had nice white enameled baseboards in every room. We always mask these with three layers of tape when stripping floors. We use a medium-tack tape along the very lowest edge to the floor, then another layer goes on with the masking plastic when we use the masking machine, and finally we try to “waterproof” the lowest edge by putting a band of two-inch colored stucco tape on top. Invariably we find that fluid strippers like citrus cleaner tend to puddle against the walls and creep up under all these layers, holding the stripper against the wall, so the walls get partially stripped also.

I warn my clients in advance that they will probably have to repaint their baseboards. A wonderful side-effect of using a thick stripper like Easystrip 1000 is that it does not flow. Most of the stain color in the floor was also left intact. This might be a fluke. I have never before stripped sealer and had any color left to speak of. When we removed our masking after restaining a few gray spots and doing a post-stain scrub, we found the painted baseboards in pristine condition. That seemed like a small miracle to me!

Finished Floor

Soon after this experience we had another remodel. The clients removed their living-room carpet and wanted us to stain the concrete floor underneath. There were the usual wide bands of carpet pad glue in snaking lines bordering the walls. We were able to get a good portion of the glue off with a citrus cleaner soak. We found that the Easystrip (which is really made for paints and sealers) did not remove glue on the first pass, but after most of it was lifted by means of citrus scrubbing, it worked very well to loosen the remainder of glue which was deep in the pores of the slab. After some wire-brushing on these areas, we removed more carpet pad glue than we had ever been able to do before.

Newlook also makes an Easystrip 2000 which is meant to remove epoxies. We have not tried that yet, and sincerely hope we will not have to.

The Labyrinth

Link

By Gaye Goodman

Last spring we were hired by an Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Albuquerque for a job which was completely new to us. They were redesigning an outdoor area which was surrounded on three sides by the old church building. The fourth side featured a wrought iron gateway which gave onto the city sidewalk and could be locked.  The centerpiece of the enclosed patio was to be a walking labyrinth.

A labyrinth is different from a maze in that there are no walls and no tricky dead ends.  A labyrinth has a clear starting and ending point. One enters and walks a convoluted pathway slowly until reaching the center. In the center one can pray or meditate, then walk back out the way he came. The church planned to hire a young man named John Ritter to lay out the design and consult with the artisans. His company, called Paxworks, has created labyrinths made of brick, stone and even mowed grass, but this would be his first design done with acid stains.

The labyrinth selected was one John has designed based on a Medieval French labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, only smaller, containing five circuits to the central rosette. Our slab was to be nineteen feet in diameter. I downloaded the design from John’s website: www.paxworks.com and had Kinko’s copy it onto a piece of clear plastic. I had to convince the church’s renovation committee that we could do the job and show them what it might look like. I made several 8×10 photographs of floors we had done in various faux textures (a marble look, a granite look, and a calligraphic look). When I placed these under the plastic with the labyrinth design over it, they could get an idea of how their patio might look.

The church committee selected a medium brown marbleized look. They had a nice circular slab placed and troweled to our specifications.  I also requested two small sample slabs be made from the same pour which we could use for color sampling. These turned out so nicely that they were later set into the grassy border as stepping stones to the entry of the labyrinth. The committee agreed that we should do the labyrinth outlines in a dark walnut color, rather than black, as it would be more harmonious with the background.

Photo 1

My assistant and I spent two days cleaning and doing the background staining.  Even though it was perfectly troweled, the slab was somewhat resistant to our stain. The weather was unseasonably hot and the slab was not shaded by trees until late in the afternoon. We used thin plastic laid into the stain to create a marbleized pattern, but had to scurry fast to lay stones down on each section, since it seemed to dry instantly in the sun and wind. This lifted the plastic which we needed to keep in place to create a mark. We were disappointed with our first staining and returned early the next morning when the slab was cooler for a second staining. This time we got better pattern and felt lucky that our work area was surrounded by sunken drainage areas filled with handy river stones.  (Photo #1 of second staining)

The next day we scrubbed off the residue and John Ritter arrived to lay out the design. He had a small box containing a few templates and a clever sort of plate with a central spike which he taped down in the center of the circle to use as a pivot for his compass lines. The rest was done with mathematics and years of experience. I saw him do it, but I could not fathom how he laid out the concentric spirals without getting hopelessly confused. In a few hours he had the entire design drawn out for us in pencil.  He wanted to see how we would mask it off, so I handed him a cup of liquid latex rubber and showed him how to brush it outside the lines with a two-inch chip brush. (John is on the right in Photo #2).

Photo 2

Outlining the design took all of us the rest of the day. The next morning we tested our dark walnut color and applied it. The central rosette was the most detailed area to outline and stain. (Photo #3).

Photo 3

A breeze came up every afternoon and caused the trees around the slab to drop small flowers across it. As they decomposed they left darker brown marks which we could not remove from the background stain. We decided that this was God’s input and we would do best to welcome it as an “added layer of complexity.”

We carefully scrubbed our walnut stain the next morning using small brushes and a sponge, before pulling up the latex rubber outlines. The latex rubber makes a crisp line and an impervious resist but it inevitably pulls up some background stain color in the smoother areas. We used a diluted brown stain to re-color those areas. The stain only needs to sit thirty minutes on retouching to even out the color. (Photo #4 shows Gaye cleaning off some retouch stain).

Photo 4

We sealed our work with four coats of an extremely durable solvent-based acrylic sealer which Dayton Superior makes for parking garages and gas stations. It is called J-35 Tuffseal, a high-gloss, single component and UV stable product. We rolled it on using a short-napped phenolic core roller cover made for adhesives. The sun was so intense by 10:00 am, as we finished the first coat, that we got some stringing of the sealer. We knew we would have to wait until early the next morning when the slab was cool to apply subsequent coats. We got lucky while applying the last three coats of J-35. The surrounding trees had finally dropped all their flowers and the wind died down. (Photo #5 shows the finished labyrinth).

Photo 5

Due to trees and the weather, this job involved more steps than I anticipated, so we did not make a profit on it. However, it is a great addition to the Faux Real portfolio. We became friends with John Ritter and expect that he may call on us to help him stain some future jobs. He said that this labyrinth was much less complicated and quicker to execute than those made of brick, mosaic, or stone.  John began his career as a banker, doing his first labyrinth as a courtesy for his church. He enjoyed it so much and received so many requests for others around the country, that he quit banking to become an artist. The labyrinth field is still expanding, as more churches decide to incorporate meditation practice into their other forms of worship.

The labyrinth was really fun for us to do. It convinced me that in a “down” economy I might do well to take on more special logo or design jobs. If I bid them correctly, most could be completed in five days with one or two helpers.

Gaye’s New Staining Video

If you have ever wished you could land really big jobs, twenty, thirty, fifty-thousand square feet or more, but were worried about the risks and didn’t really know how to play the game at that level, then this post will be very good news for you.

My newest video, called “Acid Staining for Commercial Spaces,” is in DVD format only. It is on sale now at the store on my website at www.gayegoodman.com.  It will be useful to professional stainers, architects, interior designers and ambitious homeowners who want more in depth information for their DIY project.I had several reasons for making the new video. I wanted to update my earlier video, “How to Stain Concrete Floors” with some new techniques we’ve adopted to make our work speedier and more efficient. I also wished to discuss some important business matters, which I did not do in the first video. So this is a film primarily for professionals.  I include the kinds of problems which arise on very large jobs, as well as those involving the removal of curing compound, enamel paint, latex overspray, and many other things that stainers often encounter, even on a “new, clean” commercial slab.

Last September, Robin Peters and Caleb Thomas, from Dreamscape Design, flew from Illinois to Albuquerque for three days of filming, bringing most of their equipment. They rented a large moveable boom on which to mount the camera so we could get nice shots from above of the entire crew at work. We managed to film all the work sequences in three days. We started in my office at Faux Real, and then moved to the completed Albuquerque International Balloon Museum to shoot the beginning and ending of the script in which I talk about job planning and special designs using stencils.

The third day of shooting covered the entire process of cleaning, staining, and sealing a commercial floor in all its stages. I had been consulting with Alex Leonard, the developer of a new community in the mountains east of Albuquerque, called Nature Pointe. He was constructing a large clubhouse to be his community center with a workout room, billiard and game rooms, kitchen, offices, and a lounge entry equipped with two large fireplaces. Everything except the basketball court was to be in stained concrete. Alex planned to have me train his crew to do the staining, but I offered him a very good deal to have our crew prep and stain the floors, in exchange for his cooperation with our video shoot. This benefitted both of us.

We had completed about one-third of the floor staining before the film crew arrived, so we had clean, finished floors on which to demonstrate sealing and final waxing.  Other areas were stained, but not sealed, and still others were completely raw.  Alex gave us such a clean slab that we had to throw blobs of enamel paint down and “fake” some of the shots we needed to illustrate problem clean-ups. One thing we didn’t have to fake was what happens if someone spills battery acid on your slab! We found a deeply etched rough patch by one column which did not take our stain at all, so I was able to demonstrate how these spots can be colored with penetrating dyes and then faux-painted to match the existing floor .

I was surprised to discover that a one hour long video takes about ten times as long to write and edit as a twenty-minute video. I also found out the hard way that editing cannot be done using long distance phone calls and e-mails, if one is particular about the “look” one wants. In the end, Dreamscapes did the rough editing and then shipped me the hard drive with all their work on it. I was able to take it to a professional editor nearby, Edit House, whose owner worked side-by-side with me through the final editing, music and titles.

Much of the narration was done as a voiceover during the video and still shots. I recorded this at the studio of one of my workers, Ryan Martino. Ryan only works on my crew occasionally. His real forte is as a sound engineer for musicians. He did a great job and is a sound perfectionist.

My publisher and I decided that we really should include a Bonus Section on the DVD to cover some of the business and insurance matters which arise when you decide to bid on public jobs. Adding this delayed us by another few months. We filmed the Bonus segment as an interview at the headquarters of Bridgeworks in Albuquerque.  I also assembled over twenty still shots of nice commercial floors which we have completed in the past, and set them up as a Slide Show on the DVD so that you or your architect can show that segment by itself to clients, as an example of what can be done with acid staining.

We shot the video to be “product neutral” with few specific brand names mentioned.  We are posting a list of brand names of all the supplies we used in the video (listed by chapter), which purchasers can download. Decosup Inc. at www.decosup.com is carrying the same line of acid stains that we used in the video.

In conclusion I will say that I included everything which I would have liked to have in an educational video when I was starting out in this business. It is complete, but moves along quickly. You can return to whatever chapter you need to review, thanks to DVD technology and your Menu button. I feel you will soon gain a boost in confidence and be able to reap new profits from your copy of “Acid Staining for Commercial Spaces.”  I look forward to your feedback on the DVD.

Happy staining!

Latex Rubber with no Kinks

By Gaye Goodman

I don’t know about you, but most of the contractors in the city of Albuquerque are starting to feel squeezed by the building slowdown which has been in progress around the country for several years now.  We used to have the luxury of turning down requests to acid stain backyard patios and garages, preferring the working conditions and artistic scope of indoor jobs. Now we have to settle for whatever small jobs we can get.

As you may know, the Southwestern style of  building involves a great deal of adobe, most of it an imitation latex product called Sto, which is full of coarse sand grains and looks like adobe, but which easily absorbs our acid stain. We can etch stain out of real adobe with an acid-water solution, but not with Sto. This means that before patio staining we must protect adjoining house walls from the ravages of our stain.  We’ve been using colored duct tape pressed down along the bottom edge, but it is hard to get it to adhere well, especially if the stucco is very grainy.

Photo 1

When I was in New Zealand working in Roy’s studio, he introduced me to a great product called liquid latex rubber. Various companies produce it and sell it in cans to artists who wish to create their own molds for casting. This is what Roy was using it for. He would go to a beach when the tide was out and paint on several layers of the viscous yellow substance, allowing it to dry in the sun between coatings. Soon he could peel the entire mass up starting at one corner and voila, he had his own homemade texture mat for stamping the surface of freshly laid concrete to replicate whatever stone surface he’d selected.

Photo 2

We found that it made an excellent resist material on our art boards.  You can apply it to a stained and cleaned surface or an unstained one – it will completely block any acid stain which you apply to the board. When you want to remove it, you start at the edge and peel it up easily like a thick rubber cement. The surface underneath will be pristine and ready to receive a contrasting stain color or clear sealer. The liquid latex rubber leaves no residue.

Photo 4

Here we are applying it to the central petal of a flower design (which we will later dye violet) and around the outer edge of two petals into which we will brush blue dye.

You can order liquid latex rubber through www.tapplastics.com. They call it Mold Builder.

We had a large patio job to do and rather than struggle with the colored duct tape, which always

Photo 5

ends up lifting off before the job is done, I asked the homeowner if we could experiment with some liquid latex on his walls. We applied about four square inches as a test and left it for two days, then peeled it off. There was a very faint line where the latex had been, but it was not due to any damage to his stucco wall—we had simply removed a layer of dust and dirt!

Before scrubbing and staining the patio we applied two inches of latex all around the lowest edges of the walls. When it had dried we put masking plastic over it using the usual masking machine loaded with tape. The tape adhered well to the latex since the bumpy sand grains were smoothed over by the latex. We still used colored duct tape to pin the upper edge of our masking plastic two feet up the wall. Our masking remained up for the four days it took us to scrub the patios, stain, rescrub, and apply two coats of masonry sealer. Since then we have found that the latex rubber requires an overnight dry time if the temperature is around freezing. In the summer it will dry in an hour. I am thrilled to have finally solved the stucco problem which had been plaguing us for 3 years on outdoor jobs.