Questions for Concrete Contractors

The concrete industry has advanced leaps and bounds in the last ten years. To prevent hiring a contractor who isn’t properly trained here are some common questions to ask when looking for professional work.

Concrete Repair Specialists has been provding expert service to both residential and commercial customers in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area for years.

To learn more about

  • concrete issue evaluations at your business or home, contact us today
  • common questions for concrete contractors click on the FAQs below

Common Questions

Do they do know what CSP is and how vital it is for a proper job?

CSP , aka Concrete Surface Prep, is  defining the coarseness of the substrate to ensure that the coating will adhere.  Proper CSP requires an understanding of the methods and the standards referenced when preparing concrete for installation of the coating/surfacing.

Does the contractor understand the importance of a moisture mitigation test?

Moisture mitigation tests evaluate the amount of moisture wicking through the concrete slab. It is over a billion dollar issue in the United States alone.

Moisture can lift certain types of coatings.  If moisture may be a problem topical applications can be applied or  compounds can be added to wet cement to ensure a  coating adheres.

How do you determine the difference between an active and a dormant crack?

By looking at the edges and measuring deflection contractors can determine what type(s) of  crack is present.  This information helps determine the type and amount of material needed to repair concrete cracking.

This is a very crucial issue when dealing with the structural integrity of all concrete.

Do they follow ACI strandards for concrete?

These are the standards set forth to make concrete the strongest and have the best longevity.  In the residential part of the concrete industry very few follow these standards.

The ACI  (American Concrete Institute) is a leading authority and resource worldwide for the development and distribution of consensus-based standards for concrete work.  The ACI publishes standards for

  • installing concrete that govern key factors such as slump, air entrenchment, and the ratio of water to dry materials
  • evaluating and repairing concrete

They also have standards for specialized concrete work such as

  • cold weather concreting
  • load distribution
  • fiber reinforced concrete

The success of your project depends on how knowledgeable a contractor is and how well he applies known standards.


Can an overlay crack or delaminate?

It can if it’s installed over an unsound surface.

Overlay materials are polymer modified and are designed to go down thin and still remain strong and wear-resistant. However, overlays are only as good as the subbase they are applied to. They are not intended to fix bad concrete.

If you put an overlay directly over a cracked surface the overlay is likely to crack as well.

Delamination is caused by excessive moisture rising up through the subbase.  A good contractor will test for excessive moisture vapor transmission and apply some type of a membrane between the existing surface and overlay if needed.

How long does it take to install a concrete overlay?

One of the big benefits of a decorative overlay is that it can restore existing surfaces quickly with minimal downtime. Polymer overlays cure fast, some systems can support foot traffic within a few hours.

The total time for overlay installation will vary with each project depending on the

  • surface preparation requirements
  • decorative treatments used
  • curing conditions
Can a decorative overlay be applied to all existing concrete surfaces?

Not always. It depends on the condition of the existing concrete. The underlying base for an overlay must be sound. If your concrete is

  • heaving
  • cracking severely
  • spalling due to damage from de-icing salts and freeze-thaw cycles
  • resting on unstable soil

an overlay will not fix your problems. If your concrete is simply discolored or has minor stains and cracks, then an overlay is an ideal way to cover up these surface imperfections and give your concrete a complete face lift.

For more information, see When to Use a Polymer Overlay.

Are different finishes and textures possible with a concrete overlay?

There really is no limit to the finishes you can achieve with a decorative overlay, ranging from ultra-smooth to heavily textured. It all depends on the type of overlay system and the tools used to apply it.

  • Spray-applied toppings  are probably the most popular finish for knock-down texture
  • Microtoppings and skim coats allow you to achieve a wide variety of decorative finishes by using tools such as hand trowels, floats, rollers, and rubber squeegees
I love the look of stamped concrete. Can an overlay also be stamped and colored?


With stampable overlays, which are typically applied at a thickness of up to 3/4 inch, you can use the same stamping mats and texturing skins used for traditional stamped concrete to produce patterns and textures that mimic stone, brick, slate, and other materials.

Texturing skins produce a seamless texture with no grout lines while mats produce a deeper pattern with well-defined lines.

You can also add color using the same dry-shake color hardeners and antiquing releases used for typical stamped concrete.

How durable and long-lasting is a concrete overlay? Will it wear well under heavy traffic?

When an overlay is applied properly and well-protected by a sealer or coating, it should last indefinitely, even under heavy foot or vehicle traffic. On floors, the use of a floor wax or polish can provide extra protection in high-traffic areas. The key is to reapply the sealer or wax if it begins to show some wear. Otherwise, wear patterns may begin to show, especially in colored surfaces.

For more information, see Concrete Overlay Maintenance.

Our building is currently having concrete repairs done. How can we avoid having to do this again?

Although necessary, concrete repair projects can be a headache for all involved. Having repairs performed the right way will ensure a long-lasting repair at that location. Having inspections performed during the repairs is crucial to ensure proper repairs are performed.

  • A small cut corner can mean a significant problem later on.
  • Damaged areas of concrete will get worse faster over time. This means repairs should be performed every few years.

Inspecting repair work will maximize the efficiency of repairs projects and limit the growth and spread of damaged areas.

Our handyman has been repairing areas of broken concrete and caulking cracks. At what point should we consider hiring a contractor for repairs?

Although well intentioned, repairs performed by association staff could end up causing more harm than good. The repair

  • can loosen and fall, causing injury or property damage, creating liability issues
  • may not be performed in accordance with requirements which can make the repair become unsafe and short lived

There are published standards and codes regarding how to perform proper concrete repairs. An association should consider hiring a contractor after the area has been investigated by an engineer and a proper repair method has been written. If a contractor is called in first, before an engineer, they will usually recognize if the repair is significant and recommend hiring an engineer. All building departments require engineering specifications for structural repairs to concrete.

Can overlays be used in any conditions? In other words, is it important to select an overlay based on what it will be exposed to?

Be sure the overlay system is tough enough to withstand all the conditions it will confront.

  • Is the slab outdoors and subject to weather extremes and freezing and thawing?
  • Is it a floor surface in a high-traffic area or subject to chemical, grease and oil spills?

Not all overlays are designed for exterior use and some systems are better suited than others for harsher exposure conditions. Ask the overlay manufacturer or installer to confirm that the material you plan to use will work for your purposes.

What do overlays typically cost?

The average cost of an overlay ranges from about $4.5 to $7 per square foot, depending on the type of system installed.

However, the total cost can run considerably higher if you choose elaborate decorative treatments to pattern the surface or use more than one coloring method (such as integral color accented by stains or dyes).

Be sure to ask the installer how much these decorative options will boost the final price tag.

What is the best way to achieve the look you want with decorative concrete?

The main reason to use an overlay system is to restore and beautify existing concrete.  To make the best selection:

  1. determine the color, pattern and texture you want for your rejuvenated surface
  2. find a system that can achieve the look you desire by consulting with the overlay manufacturer and your installer for advice.

Don’t hesitate to ask to see samples of various finishes, color selections and a portfolio of completed projects.

How much maintenance do decorative overlays need?

Most decorative overlays, when coated with a protective sealer, are very resistant to stains, dirt and grease. Still, they will need occasional cleaning to look their best.

Ask to have all cleaning and maintenance procedures as well as life-time performance expectations put down in writing before committing to a particular care regimen.

What are some examples of concrete damage?
  • non-structural-concrete-crackingCrazing from over troweling or cement dusting to speed drying (1) or surfaces formed with impermeable materials(2)
  • Cracks caused temperature related contraction (3)
  • Plastic shrinkage crackes are caused when drying ocurrs to quickly and low rates of bleeding.  This can be seen on elevated slabs (4), grade-level slabs (5) and over reinforcement (6)
  • Plastic Settlement Cracks (7,8,9) caused by excess bleeding and early drying that is too fast.
  • Ineffective constraction joints caused by cuts made too late in the drying process(10), cuts that are too shallow (11) overlays between reinforcement and joints (12)

This information is condensed from the Concrete Society’s publication
TR22 Non-structural cracks in concrete.

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