Sub Q Artistic Concrete, LLC
Concrete Floor

Acid Stained Concrete

Product Benefits... The true engineering of an overlay

In order to properly understand our point of view, it is necessary to know where we came from and how we got to where we are today. Elite Crete Systems, Inc. actually started off as a simple product line for decorative concrete resurfacing that was manufactured and sold by Advan-Tech. Prior to 1996, the Elite Crete product line didn’t even exist and Advan-Tech’s sole business was the manufacturing and private labeling of products to other companies that provided product for the decorative concrete, epoxy and concrete restoration industry.
What products exactly did these companies purchase? As it pertains to the decorative concrete resurfacing companies, CPR1000™ Liquid Polymer Modifier, UCS Emulsion which is now known as ULTRA-STONE™ Antiquing Stain and CSS EMULSION™ were the main three products. But understand that virtually anyone can contact a large chemical company and purchase raw liquid modifiers, i.e. acrylic, styrene or vinyl emulsion or redispersibles and many still do to this day. However, the companies that we sold to hand already been down that path and recognized the inherent problems with those raw, unrefined products.

What are the problems? There are many to list but below is a quick overview of the problems related to the three primary types of cement modifiers:

ACRYLIC Cement Modifiers: Many companies still today sell a diluted form of acrylic emulsion as their cement or overlay modifier. Typically it has a mild ammonia smell. The reason for the ammonia odor is because the manufacturer diluted what started off as a 50% solid acrylic liquid with water. Even filtered tap water contains micro organisms and those organisms eventually die. When that happens they begin to literally rot in the pail with the modifier and the solution ends up smelling like rotten eggs. If you have been in this business a while, you have surely opened a pail of someone modifier and smelled either rotten eggs or ammonia. The addition of ammonia to a diluted modifier acts as an anti-microbial and eliminates the rotting of the micro organisms.

On to the performance characteristics of acrylic modifiers. First of all it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that acrylic paint doesn’t permanently adhere to concrete. Everyone has seen concrete surfaces that were painted where the paint is flaking off for what looks like no reason. With that said, the technology in acrylic modifiers for cement are no different that the technology in acrylic emulsions used in paint. Acrylic in general does exhibit good resistance to UV exposure and mild to moderate short term adhesion characteristics but the downside is a lack of long term water resistance, texturing capabilities and abrasion resistance when used as a cement modifier.

VINYL Cement Modifiers: Where acrylic modifiers were once the dominant modifier emulsion, vinyl’s have been making a huge surge with manufacturers because of the visual benefits which we will explain. These vinyl modifiers consist of one of two types of chemical make up; polyvinyl acetate (PVA) or vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE or EVA). PVA’s are the oldest of old school modifiers dating bad to the earliest of modified tile grouts. Tiles grouts modified with PVA were simply easier to use, flowed better and increased the dry strength of the grout placed between the tiles. However, there was a tremendous downside to PVA modified tiles grouts which was lack of short and long term water resistance. Because the sand was being encapsulated by the PVA resin, the cement could not adequately bond to the sand and when the PVA re-emulsified from moisture or water, the tiles grout quickly failed.

VAE or EVA modifiers were the second generation of old PVA modifiers with a mild increase in short term water resistance due to the ethylene addition. However, VAE’s still exhibit very poor long term water resistance which manufacturers try to resolve with the application of sodium silicate or lithium based concrete densifier being applied to the concrete before the application of the VAE modified cement. This is only a short term solution to inevitable product delamination.

So why are VAE modifiers popular? VAE’s create cement mixes that are much more user friendly to installers compared to acrylic modifiers. In addition, the versatility is greatly increased. Where acrylic modifiers were primarily used for skim coats, base coats, trowel coats and spray coats, VAE’s expanded the realm of application methods. VAE’s modified cements can achieve all of those same applications and with a definitive level of ease but VAE’s also allow applications such as broom finished overlays and thing stamped overlay application to be easily achieved where acrylic modified cements cannot.

Although VAE’s create a mix design that is easier to use and with greatly improved texturing capabilities, they create overlay systems that greatly lack water resistance, abrasion resistance, UV resistance and overall strength and hardness.

STYRENE Cement Modifiers: First of all, very few companies utilize styrene because it is not very user friendly, exhibits poor UV resistance to the point of yellowing, cannot be easily textured and tends to get brittle over a short period of time. The one advantage that styrene does have over the other types of modifiers is water resistance. Styrene is almost a water proofer if used in conjunction with a proper mix design.
Continuing, some decorative concrete overlay manufactures knew that the modifiers they were using were simply not the long term solution for them or their customers and had experienced problems and failures with their products. They turned to Advan-Tech because it was well known at the time that we had overcome the problems associated with the various cement modifiers that were being use. As a matter of fact, we assisted a popular concrete related magazine with a cover story about the various modifiers used in cement overlays and although we declined to be named outright as the source of the data, it was known throughout the who’s who of manufacturers that we were the sole company mentioned in the article that was hybridizing multiple components and resins to create a cement modifier that did not have short comings or performance issues. The product they were referring to was our CPR1000™ Liquid Polymer Modifier. It was that article that helped created the snowball effect of decorative concrete manufacturers contacting us to supply them with products, mix design and product development assistance. Once these manufacturers got their hands on our modifier and used with in a specific mix design that created for their application, it was blatantly obvious that we provided a superior product without performance limitations. Many of the companies that we assisted or sold products to are still to this day present in the market place but we have dialed back considerable on private labeling products.

Back to how Elite Crete Systems went from a product line to its own separate entity. It was not our intention at the time to create a product line that would essentially compete with the companies we were private labeling products to. However, we started to see a growing need for improved systems, techniques and most notably, product specification through design professionals. The fact was, very few architects were at that time specifying decorative concrete finishes for exterior or interior applications and we felt that creating a product line that was directly promoted to this sector would help all of the companies in the decorative concrete industry.

The first thing we did was join several architect related associations to give us the opportunity to speak directly with design professionals about their hesitation and often time absolute refusal to even consider a decorative concrete overlay as an exterior finish or interior flooring. What we found was pretty astonishing. Many architects informed us that there were indeed times where they specified an acrylic type decorative overlay for pool decks or commercial sidewalks and although the manufacturers claimed 10 year warranties they still have failure issues. Most of these architects were quick to admit that the problems were more than likely a result of poor workmanship and not necessarily that of an inadequate product line but they also made it clear that the application procedures seemed to allow for too much room for error. That at least gave us a fairly clear idea as to the direction that we needed to go in if we were going to launch a product line geared specifically to specifiers.

Our first goal was to present a product line that was a fool proof as possible. Fool proof to the point that an installer would be able to simply add a required amount of water to each product, mix and use. We needed a “Just add water” overlayment line…Therefore our first task was to create an overlayment product that got away from the industry standard “modifier” and “bag mix” or installer blends of a modifier that was to be added to various amounts of sand and cement. Our research told us that specifiers simply did not trust the finishes applications with such a huge chance of error. So we went on a 15 month design and development period of creating the perfect mixes for the various overlayment applications we felt were the most attractive and marketable. The key to this project was to design a line of overlay mixes that contained the exact size, shape, amount and composition of silica quartz, cement and redispersible polymer formula built off of our CPR1000™ modifier.

Even before our engineering process began we knew that although we were going to use the same formula as our CPR1000™ as the modifier, the sand and cement composition was equally critical. And so we began… Understanding how sand composition and mix design worked was a good starting point. The fact is, if you looked at our mix design recommendations that came with a five gallon pail of CPR1000™ you would notice multiple amounts of sand that varied depending on the intended use and on the size of sand that the installer was able to obtain. Below is an example of two different mix design formulas for a skim/base coat application.

  CPR1000™ Water Cement Sand
1 5 gallons 8 to 9 gallons 94 lbs. 300 lbs. of 20 sieve
rounded silica quartz
2 5 gallons 8 to 9 gallons 94 lbs. 150 lbs. of 60 sieve rounded silica quartz

Keep in mind that those are only two examples of the many that we provided. Even still, the mix designs were very critical yet confusing to the average installer. You can see that all of the components in the formula are the same amount except for the sand. You are surely wondering why. A 20 sieve silica quartz is roughly 3 times larger than a 60 sieve. Understanding that the purpose of CPR1000™ is to modify the cement and encapsulate the sand for optimum performance, you must also realize that CPR1000™ by it self cannot properly suspend or support the silica quartz. Too much CPR1000™ in the mix design will result in a softer finish with decreased abrasion resistance, water resistance and chemical resistance. Too little CPR1000™ will result in a finish that is too brittle and a lack of tensile strength. But how does is that affected by the sand size? This is where it gets really confusing but it is very important.

Imaging you have two 5 gallon pails and you fill one of them up with baseballs and you fill the other up with golf balls. Now you fill each of the pails up with water and remove the balls from each pail. As you can imagine, the amount of water remaining in each pail will be considerably different. The pail that had the golf balls in it will contain much less water than the pail that had the baseballs in it because the void around the golf balls is much smaller. Therefore getting back to the importance of polymer content, the baseball mix would require less CPR1000™ if it were sand instead of baseballs because the void around the baseball is larger. But looking back at the formula chart above, you can see that CPR1000™, water and cement content was the common denominator so it is easier to simply increase the volume of the larger sized sand.

That confusing explanation is only half of the story. The other important factor in these mix design and in the example using the baseballs and golf balls is the exact shape of each. The silica quartz and the balls are rounded. Exact roundness is also very critical for two reasons. First of all, it creates a completely consistent surface void around each piece of sand which allows for perfect and consistent strength across the entire area of a finished project. Essentially, because the grain is perfectly rounded, there will be a precise amount of sand, cement and CPR1000™ across the entire surface. The second aspect of importance is the ability to recreate the mix exactly the same way every time.

To explain that, imagine a third 5 gallon pail… But this time you aren’t going to fill it with a perfectly rounded ball but you are going to pour angular gravel into it. Now there are two problems. The void around the gravel is not consistent and therefore the surface area around each piece of gravel is not the same. If you were to shake or vibrate the pail of gravel, you would be able to help compact the gravel together in order to be able to add even more gravel. If this were a polymer modified mix, as you compacted the gravel, you would decrease the amount of cement and polymer that is encapsulating each piece of gravel. The problem with that is you decrease the consistency of the various important strength characteristics in different parts of the mix. If this was an applied overlayment, some areas would have increased levels of flexibility while other would be brittle. Some areas would have excellent water resistance where other would re-emulsify. Finally, the other problem with angular sand is that you cannot recreate the exact mix every time because the void between the angular sand would be different from batch to batch.

After all of that confusing explanation on mix design and sand shape and size you can see why it was critical that our new just add water overlayment products to be exact. So we created two flagship products to serve as the cementitious parts of our product line, THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™. Each of these products contain eleven distinctively different silica quartz sizes. We found that by blending various shapes, we were actually able to create an overlayment that would be stronger than any produced with the formulas we provided with CPR1000™.

Here is how… Going back to the examples of the 5 gallon pail with the baseballs in it. Imagine shaking the pail while you poured one inch marbles into the pail with the baseballs. The fact is, you would be able to add a considerable amount of marbles and still not overflow the baseballs because the marbles would only fill the void between the baseballs and yet still create a consistent yet smaller, measurable void between the marbles and the baseballs. Now imagine pouring in BB’s into the pail that has the baseballs and the marbles. Still too, you would be able to pour a large amount of BB’s into the pail without overflowing the baseballs or the marbles because the BB’s are only filling the void between the marbles.

You get the idea but the key is that the sand much remain rounded and we must be able to calculate surface void and void volume in order to create a proper mix design ration of cement to sand and cement to CPR1000™. It isn’t rocket science but it is confusing and overly important.

Now that we had the perfect mix designs for the THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™, our next task was changing the way that modified cements adhered to concrete surfaces. This was even more of a challenge initially because up until now, polymer modified cements adhered to concrete via a mechanical bond just like paint. Sure some of the modifier seeps into the concrete but all of you have seen acrylic or VAE based decorative overlays that had a crack in them. But it isn’t the crack that should concern you. Fact is, concrete cracks and because an overlayment is only a 1/8” thick or so, that crack is going to reflect up through the overlay. What should concern you is when you see the overlayment delaminating on both sides of the crack. Why did that happen? Why should anyone assume that the bond is better anywhere else on that surface than it is where the crack occurred?

So we went back to the drawing board and realized that as porous as concrete is, penetrating the capillaries of the concrete was not only our goal but perhaps our biggest hurdle… Test after test we were dumbfounded to find that although concrete is porous, we could not get an adequate amount of polymer modifier to penetrate and settle in the capillaries. Ultimately we narrowed the problem down to two issues. First of all, many times even though the concrete itself was saturated during testing, pockets of capillaries remained dry and would not let any liquid penetrate the dryness. The other problem was that even if the capillary was saturated with water the water itself acted as a resist to the modifier penetrating it.

Our solution to one of the problems soon appeared obvious to us. First, we needed to shock the concrete with a light water and muratic acid solution. Keep in mind that it wasn’t our intention to etch the concrete open like other manufacturers recommend because this can actually damage the concrete but we wanted to open the capillaries with the acid solution and immediately neutralize the acid to prevent damage. This simple solution was the answer to the dry capillary problem and now we hand nothing was wet, water filled capillaries. But what about the wet capillary issue? Even though we had all capillaries wet and holding water, we still could not get the modifier to penetrate them. After more testing we determined that the problem was directly related to pH incompatibility. Essentially, the pH of the water in the capillaries was not compatible with the pH of our modifier or the overlayment.

This is where this part of the explanation is going to get evasive. In the end we were able to achieve a neutral pH of the modifier used in THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™. And that is why our products create a chemical bond and not a mechanical bond…

When we first released THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™ we really only expected experienced installers with large specified projects to purchase and use the new products. We knew that the performance of each product was greatly improved compared to any other decorative overlay and our own CPR1000™ mix designs but we also knew that it was going to cost the installers a little bit more money to use it. But word spread quickly about the ease of use, no more having to drive around finding the right silica sand, no more having to send samples of the sand to head quarters to make sure it was going to work and most of all, installers quickly realized how much stronger it was once it was cured out.

Two of the hardest people to convince to try the new just add water mixes was a contractor in Oklahoma who have been installing overlays for years and had tried everything out there and another in North Carolina who had experienced many failures with a previous product that almost led to bankruptcy. The contractor in Oklahoma said he just couldn’t justify the additional cost of $0.11 a square foot but he was known for not actually working on the job because he had employees that did it for him. An order came through for him and we included twenty free bags of THIN-FINISH™ with the order along with detailed instruction in hopes that his employees would use it. Our plan worked… He ended up calling and ordering more and said the reason was because his employees completed a project that would have taken six days using CPR1000 and mixing their own materials in only four days. His employees sold him on the ease of use and he was sold on the amount he saved in labor.

The other contractor from North Carolina wasn’t so easy. He has a similar situation was he was not normally the person doing the installations but had a foreman take care of that for him. We sent free samples a number of times to the point where he flat out requested that we stop sending the samples. Then one day we received a call from him want to make a full switch from CPR1000™ over to THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™. He said that the reason he didn’t want to switch had nothing to do with money at all but that CPR1000™ would ruin a pair of jeans and not wash off in the laundry whereas THIN-FINISH™ sometimes did. Therefore he did not believe it was a better product at all. Then one day his employees ran short on CPR1000™ and had no choice but to use it to apply a base coat. A week later the employee told our customer that he was glad they weren’t going to ever use the just add water mixes because they are so much harder to grind or rub brick when detailing the edges. From then on he was sold.

Now that you know that THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™ out perform any other overlay product available there still remains important factors to the installers that actually use the products; Cost and Ease of Use…

In terms of cost, too many contractors focus on the cost of the product as it sits in the packaging rather than the actual square foot cost once installed. Since most companies sell a bag mix consisting of just sand and cement along with a pail of their diluted modifier, it becomes almost second nature to them to simply look at the cost of the bag they are currently using and instantly compare that to the cost of a bag of THIN-FINISH™ or TEXTURE-PAVE™. If you allow them to make this comparison, you will more than likely lose them as a potential customer. Instead, point out the material cost per square foot by asking them the total cost of the bag and the modifier they are using and breaking that down by how much area their mix will actually overlay. As a general rule, most company’s bag plus to be added modifier mixes cover about 175 to 200 sq. ft. per mix for a skim or base coat and 140 to 150 sq. ft. per mix for a splatter coat. Compare that to a bag of THIN-FINISH™ which typically covers 250 to 300 sq. ft. per bag for a skim or base coat and 175 to 225 sq. ft. per bag for a splatter coat.

Of course the half way intelligent person might say that volume equals mass and although that is correct to a degree, you will need to understand that there are a couple of factors as to why THIN-FINISH™ goes farther than other products. First of all, because the pH is neutral and it is applied to neutral pH water on the concrete, the typical acrylic resist and accelerated drying doesn’t exist. The second reason is due largely in part to the use of true rounded silica quartz rather than angular sand, allowing the material to flow across the substrate easier and cleaner.

It has now been over 10 years since the first bags of THIN-FINISH™ and TEXTURE-PAVE™ were sold and to this day not a single modification or improvement in formulation has taken place. We find it humorous that other manufacturers are constantly changing their formulas and releasing new and improved products. Our view is that if they engineered their product correctly the first time, improvements aren’t needed.

 

Color Charts

>> Ameripolish Color Juice
>> Ameripolish Dye 'n Seal
>> Elite Crete Reflector Color
>> Sedona Acid Stain
>> SS Rainbow Waterbased Stains

Our Contact Info

Levi Knox & Johnny Nava
307 N High Dr
Raymore, MO 64083-9129

(913) 735-6005 KS Phone
(816) 600-7950 MO Phone
(816) 331-3189 FAX

Email: info@subqconcrete.com