You need to read less and think more!

This blog is about getting stoked and getting worthwhile things done. There is a sea of useless information bombarding you, and this is a desert island where you beach your boat and build a hut. There are also some clever little construction tricks to be presented.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

3 things to watch out for when using color hardener.

All tools do more damage than good without competent hands around them. (Imagine a crazy moron with a Skil Saw).  Some materials are the same.  

In our part of Texas, Color Hardener is woefully underused.  When used correctly, it imparts  permanent color to the top of the slab and makes the slab harder. Here are 3 things to watch out for:

1. The wrong color.  Color charts should be taken "with a grain of salt".  This is appropriate size for this metaphorical grain:


NEVER INSTALL COLOR HARDENER BASED ON THE CHART WITHOUT MAKING A MOCKUP FIRST.  

2.  Under-application = wasted money.  If there is not enough material on hand or if the finishers don't realize how much really needs to be broadcast into the slab, the color hardener will end up somewhere between the fines and the grey cream on the surface.  That is, you will not end up with any color other than the natural grey, and the money you spent at the decorative concrete supply house will be completely wasted.

3.  Lack of education + color hardener = bad finishing practices.  If the concrete finishers are not ACI certified or have no clue about the chemistry of concrete, odds are they are doing things that make the concrete much weaker than it is engineered to be.  Add color hardener to that and you will likely make it worse.  You can tell a guy to let it wet out before floating it, and you can tell him not to overwork it or to apply it at 50sf/bag or whatever.  But if he doesn't have the understanding of what is happening at the molecular level, he will not be as able to improvise as conditions change to create great concrete.  If the concrete is going to be covered, you can get away with some bad practices.  If it is to be a finished surface in a custom home, the guys had better know what you are doing.  

 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Take it off.

Your floor may be wearing bad clothes.  It wants to be stripped naked and tanned so badly, you can almost hear it crying out.

Here is a little house in Granite Shoals that is getting nicer one surface at a time.  It started off with 3 colors of tile from the early 90s.  From some points you could see all three.

We pulled 3 crews together to get this house masked off and all the tile out by noon on the first day.  Here is a shot of the kitchen before we started grinding:

To keep our artisans safe and healthy, we grind wet whenever possible.  It's messy, but the concrete dust stays out of our lungs that way.  Notice the tile pattern persists even as the rocks in the concrete are exposed from the grinding.  We have found that no matter how much we grind, the concrete is a different color where it can "breathe" through the grout.  Here is a shot of some wet grinding:

What nearly all stained concrete floor installers are taught to do is a bad idea.  The industry standard is to somehow lay up a layer of plastic over the finished floor and hope that the customer maintains it.   Plastic scratches; homeowners can't easily be taught how to fix the floor; installers can't afford to come out every time it is scratched; and concrete flooring is supposed to be hassle-free, right?  So, what element7concrete does is chemically harden the floor, polish it with diamonds, and finish it with stuff that goes into the concrete rather than on top of it.  The result is a floor that is not too shiny, super-durable, and really easy on the eyes.  This is before trim and staging, but you get the idea:


What's cool is that for $4/sf this homeowner has something that will never wear out, go out of style.  Interested?  Call 830-798-2717 for a bid.  Thanks for reading.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Mopping doesn't work - this does

One of the best parts of concrete floor is how easy it is to clean - with the right approach.  If done wrong, it is pretty frustrating.  Check out this funny (cheesy) little video about the perils truck-mopping.




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stay Stoked, My Friends

I find marketing fascinating, but here's a dirty little secret: they don't want you feeling fulfilled.  If you are fulfilled, you are not parting with your money - you are not looking to do anything.  You are fulfilled.

What's this got to do with concrete?  Well, when we go to work with you, we try to create the opposite experience.  We want you to appreciate the value added.  We want you in a state of gratitude.  We are truly more interested in your collaboration than your money.  We still need your money at the end of the job (we pay our vendors and feed our families with it), but this is all a lot more fun from this other perspective.

Out of this spirit of abundance comes all sorts of cleverness.  Last night, I went to check out a very special project overlooking Lake Travis for Hausman Homes.  I was there to address the owners concerns about a stain, and the builders concerns about the texture of the slab (it was finished roughly in anticipation of grinding but lightly sanded after clarifying what the owner really wanted, which created an interesting "dimpling" of sorts).  

I discovered another cool use of low-end materials:


The builder has done dozens of homes with these "2 by 6" floors.  To be clear, the stairs are 2X12's, but upstairs is all tongue-in-groove pine.  It is cool because there is no sub floor (these go right over the joists).  The floor is strikingly rigid.  It polishes up surprisingly well.  But what really got me was the shear simplicity.  

The point is, this might just seem half-assed to the habitually hungry.  The way the marketers often work us is to subtly peel back our scars so we want to buy their salve.  It's done subtly - if you knew they were doing that, you might respond violently.  But purchasing happens most when pain and urgency intersect in a space with no other perceived options.  There is so much of this bombarding us, we become numb to it, but we may find ourselves conditioned anyhow.  Such conditioning makes us want 6 step solutions when 3-steps are better.

So I leave you with this.  Get grateful.  Think of how blessed you are to breathe right now.  You have hands and feet and a brain that can read this.  When they make you feel horny and railroad that to sell you a car, decline.  Make stuff that lasts.  If you have to buy stuff (floors are a hard purchase to escape), buy stuff that doesn't go out of style.  Make today great.  






    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Make it last.

Since we went into business many things have changed, but the ethos that put us into business has not.

We want to make the most durable, timeless floors on the planet.  Everything else will wear out or go out of style before the stuff we make.  That's the goal.

I was reminded of this when I took a break from revising our systems to walk to my favorite coffee shop, Main Street Coffee, in Marble Falls, TX.  The coffee shop was a bar before that, a restaurant before that, another bar that, and a builder's office before all that.  The builder was named Autumn Group Homes, and when I stained their front porch, I threw in some leaf engraving for free.




The leaves are still there, the job still looks great, and I walked out thinking how lucky I am to feed my family making pretty things.  The point isn't me, though.  It is restraint in design.  If we are all about us, we may do the boldest thing possible to elicit the most praise from people for our work.  It's when we think about the world outside us, that we are drawn to the simple, subtle things.  Things that endure timelessly.  This is how we make the world better with what we learn.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Profoundly American


The other night, I went to fetch a fifth of Tennessee whiskey on a Harley Davidson wearing Levi's and Vans and it occurred to me.  I love Americana.   

I cringe a bit when I hear someone say "...what made America great..."  I well up a little for the same reason.  What makes it all so good is how heterogeneous it all is.  It is the harmony in the chaos.  It is hodgepodge, the mishmash and the jumbalaya.  It is the opposite of" what [one isolated thing] makes America great".   

Few things are more American than 21st century concrete.  Though the Romans had a magnesium based mortar that turned out to be incredibly durable, Portland Cement is the New World Standard.  And while the formwork of European architects is great, decorative concrete as the world knows it is an American invention.  

My favorite niche of chemically stained concrete was pioneered in the construction of the Awahnee Hotel in California.  Built in 1927, the architects casted against wood, and created intentional rust stains that look elegant and timeless today.  This was neither strikingly engineered or painstakingly executed.  It was practical (fire resistance is good), well done, and endearing.  Just like the the Vans on my feet, the Levi's on my legs and the Harley under me.  Just off enough to be right on.  

This is all of it.  The perfectly imperfect material.  The soup that becomes like a stone in a fossilization of the materials and men that mix and place it. 

I can't tell you how thankful I am to feed my family making cool stuff out of this material.  I am pretty glad you took the time to read about the work here, too.  To the men that work for me, I try to preach home the value of putting some spirit into the work and the material.  I guess the best I can do for you here is to chide you a little to do the same.  

When we do something in concrete or with acid staining, every nuance is captured.  It’s obvious with our work, but likely no less true with yours.  Work like it really counts.  It must.  That notion, is more American and lasting than any of the landfill fodder discussed above.  




    Sunday, May 12, 2013

    What are you leaving behind?

    Everything.  You know you are going to die, right?  Someday (hopefully decades from now) you will not be here and odds are most of your stuff will end up in a landfill.   This doesn't have to be a bummer and it is not unrelated to element7concrete.

    To be clear, element7concrete is not what sidewalks are made from.  That's just concrete.  What we are talking about is inspired design, excellent workmanship and timelessness.  These things can resonate for a long time.  We do this work because people need homes, homes need floors, and there is nothing on Earth more durable or less likely to go out of style than polished concrete flooring.  

    Back to the butterfly effect of good design.  In his brilliant biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson made the connection between the homes built in what would later be silicon valley and renaissance of computer science there.  Eichler Homes created the backdrop for a cohort that would grow up to change the world and drive the American economy even after they died.  

    Good workmanship inspires.  Every well built thing you have touched or seen has made it tougher for you to leave things half-assed.  I can assure you personally that if you focus on how well things are made long enough, you will become a compulsive "fixer".  You may well drive your spouse crazy by repairing things in hotel rooms and public spaces when you think no one is looking.  It is like a disease (albeit a very positive one). 

    Timelessness is ironic.  The most "timeless" things surely age, they just do it in an artful way.  I have an old Harley Springer I like to ride when the weather gets warm.   The finish is coming off the cooling fins of the motor.  I could pull the motor and have the cases chromed or powder-coated, but I know she just wouldn't be the same.  So I have grown to love her flaky plating.    

    Similarly, concrete will take on stains and chips from abuse that linoleum will not.  However, old masonry becomes charming while more "durable" surfaces do not.  It is the difference between patina and age.  

    So, as you go about your work this week think about what you may be leaving behind.  How are you inspiring people you encounter?  What will your artifacts say to our descendants?  Does it matter?  It must! 

       

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    It's not art if no one is fighting


    Hot Coffee is great.  Orange-mocha Frappaccinos can really help you sort through these important issues 

    Lukewarm is no good.  Of course, this blog here craftsmanship and concrete and the point is that uninspired work just sucks.  Even God says " 'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

    My motivation is pretty simple.  I know that I want to fill my days and get paid enough to feed my family meeting a basic human need in a way that is clever enough to not be done as much as it should be.  People need homes>homes require floors>nothing is less likely to wear out or fall out of fashion than a polished+stained concrete floor.  Out of this clear simplicity, we are passionate to create value in this field.  We aren't cool or lukewarm about our work.  We bring the hot.   

    This is where the battle rap starts:



    We have character and competence, and not everybody does.  Out of our character, we develop competence.  Out of their poor character, their competence is eroded.  They get distracted, burnt out, fall to drinking, try being a cop or whatever, don't stay physically/mentally/spiritually strong, etc.  

    Element7concrete has a local competitor that has been scoring and staining concrete floor nearly as long as I've been alive, and yet compare their work:



    with ours:






    Our circles are perfectly round.  Our proportions are tight.  Their copy of our design (they didn't try the hard stuff until we got in the game) is lumpy and wack.  Now this is frankly not really tough to do, but our character demands that we become competent to do it correctly, or we don't do it at all.  Most people trying to compete with us do this work because they don't know anything better to do.      

    Concrete flooring is inherently imperfect - notice the patch in the photo of our project above.  However, when you can trust your artisans as world-class, the patches can be embraced as a nuance of the material.  If you do not have someone genuinely good doing the work, minimalism becomes half-assed and efficiency becomes cheapness.  As the great American author O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube) once wrote "If you want it raw now, make the call now...I got it all day, in the hallway
    ..come on home - holla at your boy".  We'll keep bringing it.