- Staining Concrete
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- Repair & Maintenance
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- Building with Concrete
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- Decorative Concrete
Turning Concrete Into Metal: The New Alchemy
Long thought of as one of the most versatile materials around, concrete's ability to be transformed into everything from roadways to exquisite faux marble and granite pool decks and patios has been extended one step further.
PlateAll Metal Coating, a relatively new, one-of-a-kind product, can be applied to virtually any surface – wood, glass, foam, stone, plastic, and, of course, concrete – to achieve a seamless metal finish with the appearance of solid cast metal. The cold spray process, which can be applied with a conventional spray gun, can be applied, cured and polished within hours from start to finish to give the look of brass, bronze, copper, nickel-silver, stainless steel and aluminum. On concrete floors, the product can be used to create patterns, murals, or any other type of creative treatment traditionally done with standard stamped, stained and colored concrete – all with the finished look of metal.
The base of the product, and the core of its durability, is a polyester resin. This is a resin similar to that used in the boating industry to ensure fiberglass boats hold up in the harsh outdoor elements to which they are exposed. This specialized polyester resin is mixed with a composite metal powder and a catalyst.
Jerry Kidd, owner of Creative Vision Construction outside of Sacramento, CA, is a general contractor who specializes in concrete enhancement. He says that as far as he knows, he's one of the few, if not the only, contractors to have used PlateAll on concrete floors at this point.
"I started using PlateAll as a kind of sculptural art form on glass, plastic, wood – pretty much anything that didn't move," he says. "But since my day-to-day work involves concrete staining, sawcut designs, patina acid stains, methanol dyes, and other approaches to bringing concrete alive, I decided to add a metallic finish to these methods of concrete enhancement by applying PlateAll to a concrete floor. The very first project I did involved an extensive overcoat of PlateAll on my own showroom floor, incorporating an elaborate design."
Naturally, applying a product to a floor is quite different than using it on an objet d'art. When asked about the durability of the product in holding up to foot traffic and other abuses a floor must generally take, Kidd says, "PlateAll has a specially formulated resin that allows for the emulsion of granular particles of metal, which are then adhered to the concrete surface. It's the polyester resin that you're really talking about which gives the floor its wearability. Of course, the metal in the product is just that: it's metal. Which is durable in and of itself. And you have such a close composite of these metal particles that you literally have what appears to be a solid metal surfacing. As far as it standing up to foot traffic, I don't think there's enough information yet at this point to give a definitive answer. To say that if you had it on the floor of the United Nations building it would last ten years, or anything of that nature, I just don't know."
Kidd says he bases his confidence in the durability of the product by extrapolating from the fact that, while the combination of metal particles and polyester resin may not have been time-tested from a concrete application standpoint as a compound, certainly both materials have withstood the test of time individually in terms of durability.
Yet, there is another component to be considered in the durability equation, which Kidd calls "the X-factor," and that is the sealer that is used over the product
"Since PlateAll is a true metal finish, it has a tendency to tarnish due to the oxidation process," he says. "Usually, when you apply a product like this, the finished look you have achieved is the look you want to maintain. In order to do that, you invariably have to put a sealer coat on top of the whole thing, not to protect it from damage, but merely to keep its aesthetic appearance without tarnishing."
This coat is an extra barrier and a boost to the floor's durability. "The sealer becomes, basically, your wear ingredient," says Kidd.
Like any good concrete application, the use of PlateAll starts from the bottom up, and that means proper preparation of the concrete (we will assume here that we're starting work with a sound slab). Since concrete is a high porosity substrate, it's necessary to first apply a good penetrating sealer – one that prevents efflorescence, in particular. Then, a catalyzed polyester or urethane primer follows the penetrating sealer.
The product is mixed using a gram scale capable of measuring from ½ gram to 5 pounds, and is then cold-sprayed onto the surface using a standard spray gun. Kidd's experience with the product has tight him that using a high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) spray gun and a compressor which can maintain a steady 100 psi at the gun's regulator gives him the best results.
"Standard coverage of PlateAll is around six mil per square foot, but floors aren't really a standard application," says Kidd. "On concrete floors, in traffic areas, I tend to use about two or three times the recommended amount that I would on a wall or other area that's not going to be receiving a lot of wear. It's really kind of a judgement call. If I have a skip trowel floor, then I want to make sure I have a nice, thick coating on there. The textural element in the skip trowelling means those high points are going to get hit harder when I get to the finishing stage. Sanding or sandblasting might actually cut through the application, meaning some touch-up work, so I want to be sure it's thick enough."
Within several hours after an ideal application temperature of 60-80F, the metal coating is ready for finishing.
"After application, you have a slight resin residue on the surface which has to be removed in order to bring out the beauty of the metal," says Kidd. "This is done with a very light steel wool or sanding. In some cases, I've even used a very light sandblasting."
For concrete floor work, a durable sealer should also be applied. Kidd says he uses the same kind of two-part polyurethane sealer used to protect warehouse and airplane hangar floors against damage and excessive wear. "The stuff is pretty much bulletproof," he says.
The entire process is not exactly rocket science, but to help their customers out, PlateAll offers a training video and a manual, as well as technical support from their company-trained national representatives. So far, the product is only available from the manufacturer. For more information, you can visit PlateAll's website at www.plateall.com, contact PlateAll toll free at: 877-927-7701, or in Maryland, 877-862-7501. You can also contact Cheryl Andersen, sales and marketing, at 888-756-2556.
Learn more about metallic floor coatings