Cost-effective design solutions for retail floors turn `blah' to beautiful.

Graphics. Art. Style. Beauty. Function. Design. Words at one time that were used to describe flooring options other than concrete. That is not true today. Shedding the hard, cold personality it once was famous for, concrete has fully emerged from its cocoon, proving to be a naturally beautiful, incredibly versatile flooring option. That option has been extended one step further for the retail industry with the advance of micro-thin concrete flooring toppings.

These cost-effective, timesaving flooring systems use a troweled-on colored, cementitious topping that tenaciously bonds to a variety of stable flooring substrates, including concrete, wood, metal, plastic or asphalt. These concrete toppings, applied at a thickness of approximately 20 mils (less than the thickness of a credit card), are popular for shopping and retail centers, allowing for unlimited color and design options.

From simple accenting to extravagant patterns, micro-thin toppings provide a durable, colorfast, high-strength graphic splash to any retail project utilizing unlimited graphics, swirls of color and marbleized hues to reach the perfect color combination. Concrete flooring this thin can also incorporate designs and borders, from simple accent colors to complicated custom retail logos. This type of flooring product also creates an ambient feeling that works with a specific design, producing something that is so unique that no two projects are alike. Whether the need is to create a warm, inviting environment or to design a trendy, upscale food court floor, the design flexibility of micro-thin toppings provide the unique ability to design a coordinated look and merge a project's interior elements. Although its plain, gray counterpart is not normally used as flooring in shopping center environments, architectural colored concrete is becoming a creative alternative to other traditional flooring products such as carpet, wood, tile or natural stone.

Not confined to a standard color palette or to the limitations of coloring products such as chemical stains, micro-thin toppings succeed where other coloring methods have failed. Because of the very thin application, the toppings offer substantial savings in comparison to brilliant, high dosage cement coloring used in typical concrete construction. Micro-coatings also provide a cost-effective method to achieve multiple colors and hard-to-produce graphics without the high costs associated with elaborate forming and design work. New construction surfaces, where complex design and color choices require costly multiple forming and pouring phases, can now benefit from less expensive and time-saving application methods. With the tight deadlines and budget constraints, shortening overall scheduling is a definite plus for shopping center developers, architects, interior designers, managers and owners.

According to one concrete expert who has installed micro coatings on several shopping malls, Scott Balch, the owner of North Texas Bomanite, finds one of the key benefits for retail operations is that micro-thin concrete toppings can be applied at night.

"The product can be installed when the store is closed, making this flooring option an excellent candidate for use in retail environments where the facility must remain open during normal business hours," Balch explains.

One example of Balch's work with micro-thin toppings is evident at the Katy Mills Mall in Katy Mills, Texas, where approximately 1.3 million square feet of shopping and entertainment thrive. The entrances and courtyards used concrete micro topping as part of the floor element to carry themes throughout the mall, providing the design versatility and functional utility needed for such a project.

Very often, existing concrete will have another flooring product on it when a new floor is desired, says Balch. "A micro-top overlay is an excellent fix for the problem floor, since the product has the ability to easily bond to existing adhesives and cover other defects," states Balch. When a laminate floor or carpet is removed, no costly, abrasive blasting is normally required before micro-toppings are applied over the substrate, saving both time and money.

The unlimited color and design options from micro-thin concrete toppings can also transform existing, damaged concrete or other materials into art forms without affecting the surrounding materials and fixtures. The micro-thin material can turn expanses of plain, gray concrete spaces into distinctive and dynamic areas, placing color where color could not normally be placed. Create a floorshow with spectacular results using micro-thin concrete flooring options.