Concrete Porch
Time: 01:20
Watch the overview of a unique concrete makeover of home's front entryway.

Mark Long and Jeff Guarisco, co-owners of Michigan's Concrete Impressions, provide Southwest Michigan and northern Indiana with decorative concrete finishes for existing concrete front porches, patios, driveways and pool decks, as well as create custom flooring inside homes and businesses.

They can create everything from thin-stamped overlays that mimic the authentic look of stone, brick and slate, to troweled and splatter texture finishes that create an elegant but useful non-slip finish. In addition to acid staining slabs, basements, garages, driveways, walkways, porches, patios and pool decks, they also provide concrete stamping and stenciling, textured stamping and borders.

Long's background in business includes owning and operating a pressure-washing company that served commercial restaurant kitchens for 17 years. Guarisco, a builder by trade, has extensive experience building large custom homes.

What brought them together was a passion for decorative concrete. Long says it was only after being exposed to it while visiting his uncle in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, that the bug hit.

"Three years ago, I went to visit him," he recalls, "and he had had interior and exterior overlays done for his home. They did their enclosed back patio with a sprayed-on technique to look like granite. I was amazed...I thought it was granite tile, and I thought there were grout lines. It got into my head at that point, and I thought I'd like to do that around my home."

Long says that Guarisco, a good buddy of his, was also exposed to decorative concrete and was equally intrigued, and they decided to partner up. "I decided I wanted to have a partner, because I had already owned two businesses, and I knew going it alone would be difficult," explains Long. "He was my first choice due to the quality work he produces...We treat the partnership like a marriage, and we're committed to making it work. We work together and get along great. Sure, we've had our ups and downs, but we have the same goal." That goal: to keep every single customer.

As such, Long says they did a lot of preliminary research to find the best systems to use. In the end, they chose Elite-Crete and took a class to learn about the products and applications. "The Elite-Crete products we use are great," he adds. "We use them so next year we won't be fixing them."

Long says that around the same time, a local home show was gearing up, and they decided to exhibit in it. "We did our whole booth floor in decorative concrete overlay samples, and also made a table," he notes. "We rented a 10-by-10 and gave out CDs and brochures about our company. We had to have been the busiest booth at that show."

Long says that from then on, it''s been busy for the duo, whose market includes Richland and Kalamazoo, Michigan, with about 93,000 residents. He says they're also within an hour of Grand Rapids, one-and-a-half hours from Lansing, and close to Battle Creek, all of which provides a central location with room for growth.

Concrete Impressions' work is a 50/50 split between residential and commercial, although Long notes that job numbers indicate 80 percent of the work is residential, with the remaining 20 percent commercial. Weather doesn't seem to factor into the equation, as 70 percent of their work is exterior and 30 percent interior.

The hottest ticket right now is acid staining, according to Long. "We answer more questions and do more quotes for that than anything else," he comments, adding, "It's a unique look, it's inexpensive and low maintenance."

One recent project in December 2006 involved creating a unique front porch for a homeowner. But, as is the case in life, this project was not without its unforeseen challenges. The third day into the job it snowed, so Long says they had to make a tee-pee and put an electric blanket on the porch to keep the concrete warm and let it cure.

Before After

But let's start at the beginning. First, they used a 4,000 PSI pressure washer to Muratic acid etch the concrete. Then, they used a dilution of ammonia to neutralize, and then laid a coat of Thin Finish 1 1/16-inches thick in black.

To create the black grout, they let the product dry for 24 hours, then cleaned it off and put down fiber tape, locking in the tape with another coat of Thin Finish over the whole surface, then let that dry for eight hours.

Then, they used a combination of Micro Finish and Thin Finish mixed together and troweled it on. The mixture, a light charcoal color with grey material, matches the siding of the house.

They had to let that dry, but that night there was freezing rain.

"We couldn't work at all and we needed to pull up the tape, but we had to wait for three days for the weather to improve enough," Long recalls. "It took five hours to remove the tape due to the cold. It should have only taken one hour."

Next, they used Ultrastone Stain, a water-based overlay stain, to get the highlight color, making a concentrate by mixing it with water to achieve the correct shade. Then, they mixed Ultra Stone with the color and took a sponge brush and colored the squares and blocks to give it dimension.

They then used Ultra Stone at a higher dilution with the sprayer over the entire surface to blend the whole thing together.

"Then we had her look to make sure we hit the mark," Long notes.

Finally, the whole thing was sealed with Elite Crete CSS a 17 percent solids sealer when mixed with Xylene at a 2:1 Ratio. They sprayed it on, which sealed the concrete and brought out the natural colors, creating a mottled effect. In all, they applied four coats of sealer.

When the job was complete, Long says the client was so impressed she wanted them to start on her walkway. "We're going back to do that next," he laughs. "We've had a few clients that happens with."

Up next for Concrete Impressions is concrete countertops and furniture, including end tables, tables, benches, flower pots and planters. After taking Buddy Rhodes' workshop, Long says they will definitely be using the press technique with molds, and are very impressed with the Buddy Rhodes system.

"We decided if we were just going to do regular concrete countertops, what's the point?" he says.

In addition to getting their products in stores and nurseries, Long says they're also getting more and more interest from designers who are receptive to their work and send referrals their way. They are also working with a handful of custom home builders, one of whom is having them acid stain all of his project's garage floors.

"We're exploring our artistic sides," concludes Long.

Whatever they're doing, it's clear they're doing it well. And having fun along the way.

Concrete Impressions, LLC
Mark Long
Grand Rapids Office:
2638 Blaine St SW Ste 301
Grand Rapids, MI 49507

Kalamazoo Office:
8807 Gull Rd M-43
Richland, MI 49083
(269) 629-4397 Office
(888) 88-OVERLAYS Toll Free
(269) 207-2244 Cell
(269) 629-2216 Fax
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