Inside ACI certification for laying and finishing decorative concrete flat works


Now is the perfect time to explore the business opportunities in the decorative concrete flatwork market. Known for its strength, attractive finishes and durability qualities, decorative flat concrete has steadily gained popularity as a cost effective option for homes, hotels, shopping malls, entertainment venues, apartment buildings. office and public works projects. Contractors who already install flat concrete jobs may find it helpful to obtain the training and certifications necessary to provide quality decorative options.

While the area of ​​expertise of your business may well align with the expansion in decorating work, it takes time and financial resources to successfully enter the market.

Some of the driving forces behind the current growth in the decorative concrete flatwork market include:

  • Project owners are realizing the benefit of applying texture, color, stamped patterns or top surface retarders that expose aggregate to enhance the appearance of walking or driving surfaces on their projects.
  • Taking advantage of the durability of flat concrete and the various finish options, architects and landscape architects create designs and applications that, in turn, quickly expand the use of decorative concrete.
  • The introduction of superior surface retardants in varying etch depth capacities has resulted in increasing acceptance of the natural appearances of concrete over other options.

Formerly a U.S. Post Office, The Reserve in Playa Vista, Calif., Is a 20-acre office campus that features seeded, textured granulated concrete paving, steps, and walls in yards, plazas, and boardwalks. Work performed by Trademark Concrete Systems.Branded concrete systems

Specialized skills

The proper placement and finishing of decorative concrete requires specialized skills in the use of products and techniques that are not required for most concrete placements. Applying surface retarders, seeding aggregate to the concrete surface, and decorative saw cutting are all tasks that require detailed knowledge and care to achieve satisfactory results. In addition, the design of the concrete mix used often depends on the type of decorative application.

First, concrete contractors will need to train their office and field staff in the distinctive skills needed for decorative applications. Decorative concrete expertise goes beyond knowing how to use surface retardants, color hardeners, full color, stamping tools, release agents and sealants. For example, the right joint layout and panel sizes, along with the ability to create consistent color and texture are all necessary for a successful decorative concrete earthwork project.

When it comes to concrete mixes, contractors should be aware of the effects that additional cementitious materials, such as fly ash, have on colors as well as the correct dosage and type of microfibers so as not to alter the aesthetics. concrete. They need to know when air entrainment is needed and what types of problems they can expect to encounter when finishing air entrained concrete. Understanding how to use surface retardants for decorative concrete and when admixtures should be used is also a necessity.

The list goes on.

Where to get training and advice

Many contractors get their feet wet by taking training programs from manufacturers that introduce them to the use of specific decorative products. However, it is also important to look to credible industry sources for more advanced training and advice. Two organizations positioned to assist contractors in the decorative concrete market are the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI).

The Decorative Concrete Council (DCC) is a specialist council of the ASCC and the only professional organization dedicated to the decorative concrete industry. DCC provides educational resources, including technical papers and mentoring, and hosts discussions, trainings and networking events. Members also have access to hotlines staffed with specialists who can answer questions about decorative concrete, polished concrete, concrete construction, security and insurance. Being able to connect with industry experts and network with decorative concrete contractors, manufacturers and other interested parties is well worth a membership.

ACI certification for laying and finishing decorative concrete flat worksThe American Concrete Institute’s Concrete Craftsman Educational Document Series includes CCS-5 (16) “Placing and Finishing Decorative Concrete Plates,” to help raise and maintain quality standards in the flat concrete industry. decorative.American Concrete InstituteACI also offers expert advice. Many of the skills associated with decorative flat concrete work are not currently covered in existing flat concrete resources and programs. ACI’s publication “Plating and Finishing Decorative Concrete Flats” fills the knowledge gap by providing detailed information on the materials, equipment and techniques required to successfully install decorative concrete flats. Sometimes referred to as CCS-5 (16), the educational document is one of five titles available in the ACI Concrete Craftsman series.

Topics covered in “Placement and Finishing of Decorative Concrete Flats”:

  • Design of mixtures for decorative concrete mixes.
  • The use of full color and dry hardeners.
  • Identification and use of decorative finishing tools and equipment, such as stamping mats and stencils.
  • The use of surface retarders to produce exposed aggregate surfaces.
  • Stamping and texturing of concrete.
  • Seeding of fresh concrete surfaces with decorative aggregates.
  • Decorative treatments for steps and risers.
  • Methods for cleaning and sealing decorative concrete.

The document also covers topics universal to concrete patio construction, including jobsite and personal safety, ensuring that designs comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, preparation, and site identification prior to placement and use of concrete finishing tools.

Perhaps most importantly, “Flat-to-Flat Decorative Concrete Placement and Finishing” serves as the source for ACI’s Decorative Concrete Finisher certification programs.

ACI certification for laying and finishing decorative concrete flat workThe playground at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills in California consists of two colors of concrete in combination with natural stone to create a spectacular entrance to the hotel. The Decorative Concrete Flatwork Project was completed by Trademark Concrete Systems and won the top spot for In-Place Casting – Specialty Finishes of over 5,000 square feet from Decorative Concrete Board in 2018.Branded concrete systems

Obtain certification

Recognizing the need to improve the quality of education to maintain high-level know-how in the decorative concrete industry, ACI introduced the Decorative Flat Concrete certification to its programs in 2018. ACI’s certification programs help entrepreneurs gain a competitive advantage. Many local, state, national and international building codes, specifications and agencies now require or will require ACI certified personnel on the job site. The training required to achieve certification also ensures that team members can still produce quality work, which in turn will help build your reputation in the market.

Contractors can have their staff certified as a decorative concrete earthwork finisher or decorative concrete earthwork associate. While both certifications require individuals to pass a written exam and maintain current certifications as an ACI Certified Finisher or Concrete Technician, the Decorative Concrete Finisher certification also requires 1,500 hours of work experience. . (Editor’s Note: For comparison, according to, this is the same number of hours it takes to become an airline pilot for those who wwith only a commercial pilot’s license, no diploma and no military flight experience.)

The Decorative Exam covers the basic knowledge of proper installation and finishing procedures for decorative concrete flat jobs, including:

  • Coloring: Application and finishing of dry hardeners, full color finish.
  • Stamping: form layout, formwork squaring, pattern layout, release agents, texturing tools, finishing for texture applications.
  • Exposed finishes: seeding aggregate, finishing for top surface retarder applications, application of top surface retarders, surface washing to expose aggregate.
  • Stairs: formwork, stamped finishes, visible finishes, colored finishes.
  • Cleaning / sealing: application of curing products and sealants, surface preparation for sealants.

An ACI Certified Decorative Concrete Earthmoving Associate may upgrade to the level of an ACI Certified Decorative Concrete Earthwork Finisher at any time during the five-year certification period by completing the work experience requirements.

The work and training required to achieve these certifications will increase the knowledge base of finishers and associates, which will benefit the quality of contractors’ work as well as their bottom line. Plus, when you ensure that your team members receive the right advice and training from trusted industry sources, their level of expertise will continue to improve.

To find certification sessions near you, check the ACI Certification Sessions Calendar. The online calendar is updated as new instruction and test sessions are scheduled.

About the Author

Lance Boyer is Chair of the American Concrete Institute C641, Decorative Concrete Finisher Certification and CEO of Trademark Concrete Systems Inc.

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