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  • The driveway before faux finishing was in great condition, but lacked color and interest.
  • After faux finishing with water-based stains and custom engraving, the driveway now has curb appeal galore and complements the exterior of the home. The pattern for the brick border was created with a custom template.
  • The lines for the faux slate pattern used on the sidewalk were drawn by hand and then cut with an engraving tool. Various colors of stain were applied to create the realistic color effects.
  • A decorative medallion accents the front porch. The pattern was created with a template, and then the lines were cut using a small hand-held impact tool.

Few projects better demonstrate what an artist can accomplish when using concrete as a blank canvas. The artist in this case is Chris Wassam of Custom Faux Designs and Concrete Engraving, a company that specializes in faux wall, ceiling and concrete finishes. The canvas was an existing concrete driveway, walkway and porch that were in good shape but needed color and depth to complement the home. It also involved color correcting a driveway extension that did not match the color of the original concrete.

“Because the two sections did not match, an overall staining process was needed to bring the whole drive together. We decided on a custom warm gray tone to complement the house color. Since the home was trimmed in brick, we decided on a brick paver border throughout to add elegance and depth. The walk and covered porch needed an extra punch, and it was decided to add a slate design in complementary tones on the sweeping walk and front porch area. Finally, I suggested we add a large engraved medallion in front of the entry door to really set things off,” says Wassam, describing the scope of the makeover.

Because the concrete was in good condition, prep work simply involved pressure washing with a degreaser to remove any oil residue. Because Wassam planned to use water-based stains, no etching was needed to open the surface except for the front porch, which had been power troweled. For the entire project, Wassam used water-reducible stain concentrates, applying them with a portable high-volume low-pressure sprayer to keep overspray to a minimum. “These stains are available in many colors and intermixable, so pretty much any color is achievable and, most important, repeatable,” he says. “They can be manipulated like glazes, so they are very versatile for different effects.”

To complement the house color, Wassam created a warm gray tone by intermixing charcoal and chestnut stain colors. All the surfaces were stained with two coats to achieve greater uniformity and depth. Once the gray stain was applied, Wassam tackled the faux brick border. “We decided on 9-inch pavers for the border and marked them with soapstone. Next was to cut this boundary using Engrave-a-Crete’s Mongoose, essentially an industrial circular saw mounted on an adjustable-wheeled sled. Using different-width diamond blades and other attachments, many varieties of patterns can be cut directly into the surface with a very high degree of precision,” he says.

Once the border cuts were complete, Wassam stained the border areas with a custom blend of fire brick, mocha and black stain applied in two coats with a 4-inch roller. Once dry, the surface was ready for the brick engraving. Although time consuming, the process was relatively straightforward. A thick plastic template produced by Engrave-a-Crete was used to create a border design around the entire driveway and a double-paver pattern along the existing expansion joints. The walk and front edge of the covered porch received the same pattern.

All the engraving of the bricks was done using an air-impact tool called the Shark. “Metal impact rods peck away the surface to whatever depth is needed, allowing the pattern to be embedded into the surface. This system is very exciting to me, with limitless possibilities available for pattern combinations,” says Wassam.

After engraving the brick borders, Wassam moved on to the large 4-foot medallion pattern on the porch area, which was also created using a template. “The initial outer rings were engraved to allow for future template alignment. We then lifted the template away and stained the outer ring a brick tone and the inner circle a warm gray to richen this area and set it apart. Once this was dry, the template was replaced and engraved with a smaller impact tool called the Barracuda. This tool is great for getting in more intricate areas of the template than would be possible with the Shark. Finally we used a small cleanup tool called the Wasp was used to sharpen edges and take out the bridges in the template,” says Wassam.

The final step was to create the slate pattern making up the main fields of the concrete walkway and porch. Wassam used a chalkline, a straightedge, a carpenter's square and soapstone to mark the lines and then used the Mongoose to cut the random stone pattern. He then accented the stones with dilutions of stain in various colors, including brick, warm gray, and warm gray mixed with a small amount of English ivy. “This accent staining really gave a realism to the stone pattern,” he says. Finally, all surfaces were protected with two coats of solvent-based sealer applied with an industrial pump sprayer.

“The homeowners were so pleased with the results they opted to add on two patio projects in the back and a flake epoxy finish in the garage, as well as future plans for a hardwood or tile pattern when the walk-out basement is finished,” says Wassam.

Wassam’s faux finishing background began as a decorative painter, specializing in high-end residential projects and some commercial work. About five years ago, he added faux finishing of concrete and other surfaces to his repertoire because of client demand. “I had several clients request ways to update their counters and backsplashes without the usual tear-out cost or expense of granite replacement. Through research and experimentation, I started doing microtopping overlays to make over existing counters. Over time, this led to applying metallic plasters, glazes and other media for a more unique and custom look. One thing led to another, and these projects spread to hearths, bathroom floors, and finally much larger projects like concrete drives, walkways and complete basement floors,” he says.

This niche has grown to be so successful that it now accounts for nearly 60% of Wassam’s business. “Everyone is just blown away by the way you can take an ordinary, dull and lifeless slab of existing concrete and turn it into a unique one-of-a-kind masterpiece,” he says.

Materials and equipment used Concrete degreaser: Concrete Resurrection's CR580
Concrete stains: Concrete Resurrection's Water Reducible Concentrate (WRC)
Concrete sealer: Decra Seal solvent-based sealer, from W. R. MEADOWS
Concrete engraving equipment: Mongoose 411, Barracuda, Shark and Wasp, all from Engrave-a-Crete
Template patterns: Engrave-a-Crete

Faux finishing contractor Chris Wassam
Custom Faux Designs and Concrete Engraving, Springfield, Mo.

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