Stenciling Concrete for that Decorative Look

Gaye Goodman of Faux Real was able to create this image in the Hot Air Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M,
Gaye Goodman of Faux Real was able to create this image in the Hot Air Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M, by removing all of the acid stain in the latitude and longitude lines, removing a smaller amount in the areas inside those lines and not removing any elsewhere. This gives the effect of layered colors. Photo courtesy of Surface Gel Tek

Stenciling on concrete opens the door to a world of design options that personalize and enhance a decorative concrete project.

The results can be simple or complex depending on the design you are seeking. Stencils can be used to create tile or stone patterns, corporate and company logos, and unique works of art.

So where do you start? There are a few different types of stencils for creating your pattern, and lots of techniques and products.

Daryl Dansby of The Beauty of Concrete in Leander, Texas, added depth to this star design by etching with more acid stain in some areas and less in others.
Daryl Dansby of The Beauty of Concrete in Leander, Texas, added depth to this star design by etching with more acid stain in some areas and less in others. Photo courtesy of Surface Gel Tek

The most common use of stencils has been for creating tile, brick and stone patterns with the use of concrete overlays. The process is: Apply the first coat in your grout color, then when that coat is dry, lay out your stencil pattern.

Stencils for this application are vinyl with or without a sticky adhesive backing. Most applicators will likely use ones with adhesive backing, augmented with additional adhesive from a sticky putty placed randomly in little balls to help keep the stencil flat.

Once the stencil is down, the second coat is applied with your finish color. For instance, a reddish mix can be sprayed on for a brick color. Accents of blacks or grays can be sprayed on top to create a more authentic brick color.

Stencils on concrete walkway creating a flagstone shape with a stencil over concrete.
A sidewalk in the United Kingdom that was created using a Flagstone Stencil and SureCrete’s SureSpray. The contractor applied a base coat, and once it was dry, put the stencil down and sprayed a topcoat to give it a patterned look.

You can also use fiber or strapping tape to create your design. Fiber and strapping tape will not tear when pulled up to expose your pattern. The benefit of using fiber tape is that you can create numerous textures without the risk of bleeding under the stenciled pattern. You can use a trowel, squeegee, broom or any tool to create texture or to work in additional colors.

When you’re looking to create logos or highly decorative custom designs, you can work with Flattoos, created by Surface Gel Tek LLC. Flattoos are not just custom stencils, but a system created to make designs with stains and dyes.

Flattoos are excellent for creating accents, borders and logos. They can be used for vertical wall applications and horizontal floors. You can apply them on ceilings if you have the patience.

Oregon Duck logo using concrete stencils process photo
With other systems, the applicator has to apply masking to cover up the areas that are completed. In the Flattoo system, the areas to be worked on first are exposed or weeded out. The other areas are cut but left in place. When the applicator has completed one area, that area is sealed before the next area is weeded out. The Flattoo system uses gelled acids, which do not etch on sealed surfaces, eliminating the need for masking.

Vinyl and paper stencils won’t get flat enough to prevent stains and dyes from bleeding under them. When you work with Flattoos, you can use Surface Gel Tek’s gelled acid to apply color without it bleeding under the Flattoo stencil. If you are working with acid stains, the gelled acid can be used to pull the stain out of the floor. The stain can be completely removed from within the Flattoo, enabling you to apply custom colors.

There are a few more options when working with stencils. Artcrete Inc. has a stencil system that can be used on freshly poured concrete, then rolled and floated in. They have textured rollers that create a result that looks like stamped concrete. Then, color hardener is broadcast over the surface. When the stencil is pulled up the result has a natural look with grout lines.

Engrave-A-Crete Inc., another innovator in the decorative concrete market, has a plastic stencil system that works with their engraving tools.

Stencil on concrete Oregon Duck logo
Denis Wryn of Rose City Bomanite in Portland, Ore., was able to create this “fighting duck” logo with one Flattoo on a residential garage floor in Cornelius, Ore.

It’s important to understand with stenciling that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Stenciling is a great asset when designing and enhancing concrete, but like with any property improvement, design requires proper balance. Proper design choices and application will add value to a property. In the end that’s really what it’s all about.

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