For this pool side pergola, the look of dry stack stone just couldn't be achieved with vertical stamping tools. Using techniques in handcarved decorative concrete, the columns of this patio took on a realistic stone look, a completely custom design for this inviting outdoor living area.

Nathan Giffin of was hired to help train the staff of Barba Concrete to create the look of stone for these patio pillars. "The concrete company specialized in foundations. They poured the footings and the pillars, but they had no experience in handcarved decorative concrete," explains Giffin.

A 2" overlay of Cantera vertical wall concrete mix from Butterfield Color was placed on the pillars. "We colored it in earthtones with a combination of Elements from Butterfield Color and solid stains from Smith Paints," says Giffin. The handcarving technique uses a series of texture rollers, trowels and tools for relief. "Vertical concrete can accomplish things you can't normally accomplish with standard building materials," says Giffin. "You couldn't get this look the client wanted using regular stamps. That's the beauty of handcarved decorative concrete, you can sculpt any style whether it be limestone, granite, boulders, or any geological structure," he says. "You can create an architectural look or a very organic look."

"Outdoor kitchens and pergolas are hot items," notes Giffin, "and more people are moving in this direction." Using concrete allows for outdoor areas to blend naturally with their environment at a fraction of the cost it would require to install natural stone. Advances in technology and skills make the end results very natural and authentic-looking. For contractors interested in the handcarving technique, Giffin offers both hands-on and online training courses. His site,, is the largest site on the web teaching the handcarving method. " has a plethora of information about vertical concrete. There are 16-17 online videos that illustrate, in-depth, how the handcarving technique works," explains Giffin. "These videos are free to watch." For those with an eager desire to learn more about the techniques, Giffin offers online training through subscription with nearly 100 videos and articles illustrating and explaining how to handcarve decorative concrete.

This one-of-a-kind outdoor living area is a great representation of the type of look handcarved decorative concrete can achieve. For those interested in watching Giffin explain and demonstrate his techniques, his handcarved vertical concrete class is offered in conjunction with Bob Harris at the Decorative Concrete Institute training center, September 23-25, 2009 in Temple GA.

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