Until Labyrinth Enterprises developed its proprietary polymer concrete technique (see polymer), the most common way for the decorative concrete industry to address a pattern as complicated as a labyrinth would be to make a stencil and sand blast the pattern into the concrete. It would then be stained, typically with an acid stain which reacts chemically with the concrete. These days, there is a wider selection of stains, including water-based, soy-based, and dyes. However, working with stains is very challenging, as is typified by the email exchange I had with an unhappy client of our competitor, a major labyrinth company on the East Coast that has a high visibility on the search engines. I have made slight edits to protect the identities, for the sake of privacy. Note that the problem of appearance is actually the way stains usually are, which is why we like the opacity of polymer concrete.
CALL FOR HELP
I very much appreciate you taking the time to respond to our dilemma by offering your insight and advice. I've shared this information with our project director and others. We are now seeking guidance from area professionals who specialize in all aspects of concrete. I have every confidence that through our good intentions, vigilance, and prayer our labyrinth will become the sacred work of art it is destined to become.
Robert believe me, D____ has no defense. You cannot imagine the heartache, frustration and disappointment he has caused. Unfortunately and unbelievably, he walked away and left us with a mess. The paths of circuits 9, 10, 11 and the center flower are completely colorless. The rest of the path is a mish-mash of "here some stain of one shade, there some stain of another shade, and mixed throughout with areas of absolutely no stain. Honestly, we understand color variation and a mottled look; we actually wanted something that resembled an "old world, ancient look" in deep, rich, earthy tones as opposed to something that was noticeably brand new. D____ created two concrete [samples] that looked absolutely gorgeous with the coloring we selected. Unfortunately, his attempt to stain the circular slab wasn't even close to what we were shown. The stain did not penetrate the concrete. The lines distinguishing the paths were meant to be a deep, dark brown (almost black). In some spots they have faded to a pale gray shade. D____ also added aggregate stone to the cement in order to give texture and interest to the finished look. Well, that didn't happen. When it took him about two hours to sandblast a 12" square, I guess he decided it was way too much work and did a real half-assed job from that point exposing a minimal amount of stone.
What is most upsetting to me is that I specifically asked D____ if he was going to be on-site for the entire project. He said absolutely, and yet, he was not here one time during the entire process of digging the foundation and pouring the concrete. He was supposed to have the job completed for us in April and didn't finish it until November with one excuse after another. He accused the subcontractor of not mixing the concrete according to his specifications. We contracted D____ to do the job. If he had been here overseeing the project as agreed upon, he could have made certain all was going according to his plan.
Lastly, D____'s customer service skills are greatly lacking. We had a horrible experience dealing with The L________ C______. End of story.
Our goal is to bring this to closure by mid-Fall. Once again, thank you and please keep us in your prayers!
I have seen photos of stained labyrinths made by The L________ C______ which also showed some light areas such as you describe. I still think this is typical for stain. The problem with samples is that the maker labors over a sample of one square foot, getting a result that is virtually impossible to repeat on a larger scale. It's a common mistake in the concrete business, and not an attempt to defraud anyone. It is, however, a formula for unhappy clients such as yourselves.
I just returned from a four-day trip to California to repair a polymer concrete labyrinth that we made earlier this year.In five years, this is our first problem. The issue, which was also about color, defied the laws of concrete technology. I was able to do very little. When I left it wasn't much better than when I had arrived. The client is not happy,not are we. We plan to return in October when we are again in California with our crew, hopefully finding a solution by then. We will do everything reasonable, at our expense, to resolve the problem. However, if we don't find one, we must fall back on the fact that we installed the labyrinth in good faith, in the same way as all of our others, which have been successful and none of which have ever had this problem. We would not be in a position to remake the entire labyrinth without a financial consideration. So, I have some sympathy for D____, whom I know is very busy. (As deficient as his service may be, he is very strong at marketing.) It's too bad that you were not in a position to switch to polymer concrete when you had a chance. I can only hope that my clients will be as faithful to me as you were to D____.
Tell your concrete contractor that Jasco makes a Sealer and Adhesive Remover that will easily remove the sealer (although with some considerable mess). There is also a soy gel on the market (the brand name escapes me) that may do the same, with less toxicity. They could then attempt to use an opaque stain such as New Century Coatings makes. In fact, their stain has sealer mixed right in with it, making it a one-step process. I think you would get a pretty good result. Please stay in touch and let me know how it comes out. Before and after photos would be instructional, as well as good notes about products and techniques. Perhaps there will be instances in which such repairs will be needed in the future for others who own stained labyrinths.