Standing in a sweaty t-shirt holding a stain sprayer, Grant Pointer doesn’t embody the typical artist mold. “It’s kind of hard to find a concrete guy who has a beret, but that’s kind of what we morphed into,” says Grant. He doesn’t need the artisan garb to design the masterpieces. His typical medium isn’t a canvas, but rather, concrete. And being in the business for almost 15 years with his company, CustomCrete, has made him a master of the craft.
Before staining the concrete, Grant has to exterminate the ghosts of the concrete’s past, otherwise explained as applying a thin layer of a microtopping to ensure damage, contaminants and past tile patterns will not show through. The marks of nature are random, which is why straight lines are almost never natural. Thus, a paper-thin layer of porous, gray-based microtopping is applied, sinking into the grooves, and then covered in a finishing material to create a brand new, smooth, concrete canvas.
After the crucial first step produces a blank surface, it’s time for Grant to mix up his medium: an acetone dye. While there are many different dye choices, from water-based to acid stain, Grant prefers acetone dyes even though they are arguably the hardest to work with. “They dry faster; you get more flexibility with the coloring,” says Grant. “They are a little problematic in that if you make a mistake, they’re kind of permanent. That’s what makes a good tradesman out of a bad one. You’ve already made the mistakes and figured out how to solve them, so solve the mistake before you make it.” Grant’s mastery of the art of staining allows him to work with better, more temperamental materials.
Kneeling behind his white 4x4, the trunk filled with supplies and splattered with stains, Grant mixes up the perfect concrete stain to complement the basement he is working on. “There is no recipe to come up with this color,” says Grant. “You start with what are maybe 20 different base colors, and out of those base colors, it’s infinite the different shades you can come up with,” says Grant. He often uses nature as his muse, inspiring him to find a mixture of his medium that resembles stones that took thousands of years to achieve their coloring.
The mixing combined with the motion of the application makes every project a unique work of art. “You have to take special care to constantly turn your body and walk all over the place,” says Grant. “It’s real important that you stay as random as you possibly can.” Since it’s human nature to fall into a repetitious path, Grant forces himself to be somewhat scatterbrained to avoid an unnatural, man-made look.
The versatility of concrete has given Grant a tremendous amount of room to be as creative as he can. “The possibilities on it start with your imagination,” says Grant. The trend is often earth tones like deep, dark reds, browns and walnuts, making the finished project a close comparison to polished marble. Stenciling can be utilized to create unique designs on the floor and to make the floor look like tiles, from as little as 12 inches and as big as 6 foot. Almost maintenance-free, stained concrete floors can be easily cleaned with a Swiffer and remain damage-free against the elements.
While the options are limitless, stained concrete’s natural appearance and unsystematic creation process make the finished project somewhat uncontrollable. “That’s the thing that you embrace with the staining of concrete, you embrace the uniqueness,” says Grant. “Release the control and trust me, I’ve been doing this for a long time. There is a compromise that you have to accept. You’ve got a big hand in designing it, but it’s all an interpretation from your mind to my mind translating to that sprayer.”