Showing off the brilliant colors of the Central Texas copperhead minus the poisonous bite, a new vertical design created by Spencer Jones of Concrete Encounters provides interesting elements for a home located deep in copperhead country.

Inspired by a conversation about the reptile on his first visit with clients in the brushy hill country near Hico, Texas, Jones created a design that personifies the color variations of the snake and that is virtually indistinguishable from actual flagstone rock.

"Lots of vertical applications that use template stamps and trowels are one-dimensional and look fake or flat," said Jones. "I was after the look of actual rock, and I achieved it at a significant savings over what it would cost to have rock masons come out."

After applying the cement board and scratch coat in the shower, Jones used a vertical mixture and toweled it unevenly. Then, for the look of real stones, he used a live oak stick to craft the grout lines by hand and plastic bags to create texture.

After the mixture dried completely, he began the slow process of hand mixing and coloring each piece individually. "I used various combinations of water-based colorants in buff, antique white, adobe buff, oak, sand and forest brown to create the sandstone look," Jones said. "I finished with two coats of water-based polyurethane sealer. Now my clients have the look of rock without having to worry about the porosity from natural stone that can cause problems in showers, tub surrounds and other indoor areas containing water."

After the shower was finished, the clients loved the look so much, they asked if Jones could repeat the process on a fireplace that was scheduled to be rocked. After several hours of "cussing and discussing," Jones and the client decided to create the flagstone look on the chimney and try for a limestone look on the mantle and surround. "The finished product is so realistic that we haven't had one viewer yet to believe it is crafted from 100% cement products," Jones said.

Jones got into decorative concrete in a roundabout way. "My father was a builder, so I grew up around construction sites, but I wasn't really interested in construction as a profession," Jones said. "I spent the first fifteen years of my adult life operating a dairy farm, and when I sold it and bought a house that needed lots of renovation, I discovered what my wife calls my creative side. As we visited home shows and looked for ways to improve our home, I became very interested in the possibilities offered by concrete. I attended my first week-long training seminar and couldn't wait to construct a concrete countertop."

From there, Concrete Encounters was born. But Jones insists that the business faces changes constantly. "I spent a lot of time practicing on friends and family, and I have turned virtually every space around my house into a project of some sort. I learned the basics at concrete institutes, and I like to attend at least a couple of seminars and institutes every year to keep up with the ever-changing market, but I really learn by trial and error, and by visiting with others in the industry" he said.

Jones specializes in countertops and vertical mixtures. "I do a lot of floors and build some furniture, and I will try just about anything a client asks for, but when I walk into a kitchen or bathroom, I immediately visualize the possibilities that concrete can offer for the space," he said. "I am really excited about the growing trend in outdoor kitchens and patio living areas for the concrete market."

While Jones purchases some items for construction, he prefers to build custom forms and develop specific casting techniques using innovative materials and coloring methods that are not on the market already. "Nothing is more fun to me than for a client to say 'I'm not sure if this can be done,'" Jones said. "When I hear comments like that, I can't wait to get to work on possibilities.

"I try to approach each project with a brand new outlook," said Jones. "I want every client to be assured of a personal, one-of-a-kind look that can't be found anywhere else, so I spend a lot of time up front getting to know the people involved, and then we craft the project to fit their needs."

Concrete Encounters has been serving the construction and concrete design industry in Central Texas for ten years (since 1999).

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