Walt Tools Blog

Tips, Tricks, and Info

So good, its almost divine.....

museum of the bible constructionA little over two years ago Walttools sent some bags of Tru Pac X out for review by a theming company. This is not out of the ordinary, but always raises some curiosity. The only info we had then was that this involved a large project and the company wanted to be sure that the material would do what they needed.  It was a comparison of many vertical mixes, from east coast to west, to be sure it suited their needs. Once the comparative dust settled, the project began with an order of Structure Coat and Tru Pac X. A month later, another order. Then another. Then another. A phone call to see how things were going, and if there was anything else we could do, was met with a simple, "... everything is great, just keep it coming when we need it, we are on a schedule..."  Soon thereafter, we learned this was for a project in D.C - A museum, an not just any museum, the Museum of the Bible. Much of this project was being built off site and would eventually make its way further east to be installed in its proper place. The regular check-ins with the company were always met with positive feedback along with the eventual prospect of completion!

Should I Use Paint or Stains When Coloring Vertical Decorative Concrete
By Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans tru tint stain on vertical concreteThis is a tough topic to talk about. There are many angles to this conversation but I can only offer up my experience over the last two decades and hopefully you will walk away with a little more understanding on the topic.

When I first started my career in Vertical Concrete Systems. There were very few options. Technologies were evolving but the standard was acid stains, integral color, color hardeners, color release, and house hold paint that you thinned out.

Acid stains did a good job but were dreadful to work with on vertical concrete. Every drip was a problem and you had to be very careful that it would not bleed into protective areas. That is still true to this day, not much has changed. There have been some advances with taking acids and mixing them with a jelly that then can then be applied to the wall without dripping. This method of a spreading the jelly on the wall and staining is not the most efficient. There is a considerable amount of labor and clean up to follow. You still should neutralize unless you have the time to wait for it to self-neutralize. Early in my career I used acids in spray bottles to speed up the process and then go back and touch up areas that had drips. It’s a long process and troublesome at times. I do not have any desire to go back to that process today.

Concepts on Mix Designs vs Bag Mixes and Add Pac’s

by Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans

Tru Pac x vertical concrete mix“What do you use” is the most frequent question I have been asked over the years. It has been a journey I must say. But I feel after twenty years of sculpting concrete, I should be able to weigh in on some of these issues that frequently pop up in various circles.
I would like to take some time to identify a seeming blind spot to most newcomers in this unique market we call artificial rock, stone facing, vertical decorative concrete and various systems. There are a few myths in the industry. Some don’t need to be promoted because they are ingrained in the mind already and others are promoted out of personal gain.
Let’s look at some interesting statements and questions:
If I make my own mix will I save money?
This is probably the biggest question in people’s minds. The reason this statement is often believed is because there is a certain level of truth to the concept of saving money by making something on your own. An analogy I sometimes use is don’t buy a car filled with gas just to get the gas from the gas tank. There are several factors that must be put into place to properly access the truth of this statement. What seems to be the overwhelming direction to go, more often than not, turns out to be a crucible most are unwilling to finish. Why?
First let’s look at the obvious – Materials
There are many factors when talking about materials. You have the sand itself and there are many sands to choose from. This is a science in and of itself. Then there is portland cements, plastic cements, lime, various clays, polymers, fillers, sand replacements, lightweight aggregates, water reducers, retarders, plasticizers, various fibers and potentially many other elements depending on how sophisticated you want to get.
Who is the chemist on the job site?
All of these elements require a good understanding of how they work together and what is the best or least expensive way to get the objective completed. They also need to be organized and orderly to ensure an element doesn’t forget to find its way into the mix. Even if you have a good formulation that you feel works good for you, there is still the guy who is mixing the ingredients and must get it right each and every time. I speak from experience when I say that anything and everything can take place or go awry when mixing the raw materials together. Consistency is paramount. Everything effects the mix. The sand effects the mix whether it is dry, damp or wet. If you are loose or have too much water in the mix, throwing more wet sand in the mixer is not a quick fix. I mean, it’s already damp so you are not really improving the consistency of the mix, your changing it to solve a problem. So, you must add more dry cement or portland to make up the difference. If you run out of an ingredient you are also dealing with more in the field changes and alterations. This is a hassle for even the most experienced artists and companies out there. I recall once on a project the “mixing guy” decided he didn’t like the mix design I had and he changed it. Well, during the project I could tell where the design changed. There were noticeable problems with the mix. Another time we ran out of a crucial ingredient and nobody told me until we broke for lunch. This is not good. These changes could include more surface cracking, a change of color, and even a weaker mix in those areas. There are so many variables that can cause problems and create a loss of time when you do not have the time to spare.

How to Effectively Use Texture Rollers
By Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans

tru tex rollers on countertopThis may seem like a silly statement but many who buy texture rollers are only getting the obvious use out of them.    The simple release and roll over fresh mud is the obvious method for using a texture roller but is there more to these simple tools.
Keeping your rollers clean and free from cement build up is important.   It’s easy to just throw the rollers back in the bucket when you are finished, but once cement has a chance to really lock on to your roller even with release it tends to grab or tear the design as your using the tool. If that does happen you can use a mild cleaner for breaking down concrete material such as C-Etch. This will not harm your rollers(or any of your finishing tools).
It’s also important to note that texture rollers are a wonderful asset to flat work contractors as well as vertical decorative concrete contractors.   Adding texture to patterns and corrective measures using these rollers is very effective.  Edging your pours with texture is invaluable. A roller can be attached to a telescopic pole and corrections can be made.
Over years of using texture rollers I have a few things that might just offer you some neat concepts and add more value to that texture roller.
1.)    Choose a very aggressive roller and texture the mud as normal but then go back with your trowel and lightly cover up your work or knockdown the texture design.  It is a good idea to do this in the same direction of the roller if you can tell.   The look will offer a travertine effect or a cut stone revealing the organic natural pits and depressions.   These types of finishes will color up nicely and create depth in a relatively flat surface.   Flat work users can take full advantage of these techniques and interior flat work can be coated with solids or epoxy finishes for even more depth effects.

2.)    Use your texture roller for color.   Yes, instead of covering the entire wall with a powder or liquid release, lightly roll the texture roller in a favorable colored release and then texture your wall randomly.   You will have to reapply the same amount of release each time to allow proper color to show up evenly.   The heavier the texture the better the effects.  If you use very light texture like in the soft roll technique, then this method will not work out very well because the texture is almost like a sand finish.   The Coral or Heavy roller would be perfect for this effect.

3.)    Are you bored with the patterns?  Try rolling another texture roller over the same area just rolled.  You can create unique patterns that are effective and contrasting with everything else in the wall.  

4.)    Roller over roller techniques can be used but in striated stone patterns you can use roller next to roller designs to help define the sedimentary lines.   This is a great way to stay consistent with texture on stone or rock work where this effect is needed.

5.)    Close up your design lines creating a dry stack look.  If your stamping, use your roller while the mud is still very soft.  Release the roller and the desired area including the joint itself.   Lightly close the joint until the two stone barely touch.  This effect creates a closeness and hair line split between the two stones giving the appearance that the weight is being distributed over the surface of that stone.   This effect looks great for dry stack designs.

6.)    Don’t think your roller is just for stone effects.  I have textured whole areas the same for a simple texture plaster look.   Faux finishers in the painting industry get paid big money for creating the simplest textures with dry wall mud and finish trowels.   Our texture rollers deliver the dreamiest impressions that faux finishers can do by hand.   

7.) If you are vertical stamper(or Stone Matrix), make good use of texture rollers to place random texture on your project prior to stamping.  That will give you more texture variety in the project and removes the worry if may have missed the impression on every last inch of those mats.

8.)     Another cool effect for a Ashler Slate type of design is to use rollers but to use them in random directions.   The square and rectangular stone designs can seem mundane but when you use a variety of texture rollers and choose random directions over each stone the effect is realistic.   Don’t make the mistake of just using 45-degree angles left or right.  Introduce 25 degree and even 15-degree angles as well.   Real stone will be even more random than this and it’s important to create the most realistic effects possible.
Texture rollers really help us in our quest of simulating rock and stone textures.   These tools however simple can unlock profits in future projects.

9.) Countertops.  Don't forget countertops.  Rollers are perfect for applying both bold or sublime textures on concrete countertops.  Similar surfaces such as step treads and border effects deserve the same treatment.

   Look for ways to offer “upgrades” for particular textures and multi-step methods using texture rollers. 

Perceived value IS value.

Outdoor kitchens are not something “new” and, in fact, have been around far longer than indoor kitchens. If you recall, when people were having their wooly mammoth roasts, just after the dinosaurs, it was not likely indoors...maybe a cave at best. It took a very, very long time before cooking became commonplace indoors, and now, there is a big push to return cooking to its roots, the great outdoors. There is one caveat though, we want the same civility we have come to enjoy from our indoor kitchens.

outdor kitchen category pic

Backyard grilling has always been a mainstay of summertime, but now we are seeing that rusty old grill replaced by fully functional cooking stations that become the focal point and extension of one’s indoor entertainment space. Today’s outdoor kitchens have changed dramatically in the last decade and can be created in many budget ranges. Unfortunately bigger and bolder usually means a busted budget. You can always use the stacked paver systems if you are okay with the same thing your neighbors have. Even the prebuilt packages available online provide little in the way of design or finish options.

If you really want a custom look kitchen with freedom of appliances, your choice in surface top, and not need a mortgage, look no further than the Walttools modular panel system.

This innovative lightweight concrete panel system allows you to set up a custom kitchen in a weekend that will certainly help make your backyard be the talk of the neighborhood.

Building a stone style outdoor kitchen with a granite, slate top or concrete top can be quite expensive using conventional methods. With the Walttools modular panels, you get that look without the extensive time and labor. You can put that labor cost savings toward the appliance budget.

The simplicity is in the precast cut stone panels. They are made in two sizes and allow you to configure most any shape you want. In an hour or two you can make your appliance cutouts where you like and either install a natural surface top or form up and pour a concrete countertop. They can be placed on any sound patio, even wood decks in some cases.

Is it permanent? Yes and no. They can be constructed both ways. The larger designs would be considered permanent, although they could be disassembled and rebuilt especially if they were completed with a top such as granite or slate. The smaller islands can be built on a pre-made frame and moved around intact if you insist on mobility.

Whether you want a small grill island or a full three-sided kitchen with a raised bar, this clever system can help allow you to achieve that far easier than you expected. They are available in predetermined package designs or as individual panels, both with or without appliances, and can ship right to your door for your assembly. It’s time to get your grilling clothes on!

outdoor u shape kitchen blog

 If you choose appliances thru Contractor Source, we support two excellent, high quality lines.  Coyote and Delta Heat.  Either has a great selection of everything you may need for your outdoor cooking dreams.  If you do not find what you need, let us know so we can track it down for


For a video to see how to assemble one of these kitchens, check out this You Tube video

CAS sealer srayWhen you’re in the market for sealers, one of the first things you notice is how many options you have available. It can even feel overwhelming. Keep in mind tough the right sealer will make all the difference; picking the wrong one could be costly. One way you can limit your options and still come out with a great choice is by only considering non-toxic concrete sealers. Let’s take a look at the benefits of using these sealers and what your options are.

sealer shotWhen most of us think of concrete, we think of an extremely durable material that can put up with the elements all year round. But that’s not necessarily the case. Concrete is quite susceptible to the elements; in fact, it’s vulnerable to things like moisture, stains, dirt and other forms of debris. The constant wear and tear can quickly grind away at the surface of your concrete floor and cause huge problems when large areas are weakened. As such, it’s essential you choose from the numerous concrete sealers available and apply it in a timely manner. But which type of sealer to choose?

 Patterns You Can Make Using Rubber Concrete StampsImagine how much you could improve your success as a contractor if you could create any type of surface for your clients? Instead of specializing in only providing hardwood, ceramic tile, brick, or any other materials, you could offer all of the possibilities.

This option is made possible, if you use decorative concrete products and rubber concrete stamps. Concrete stamping supplies allow you to transform boring concrete slabs into nearly any type of artistic and elegant surface. These products provide the look of more expensive building textures and have the durability of concrete.

soaring eagle dye n seal 11 It is certainly true that using decorative concrete can lead to easier, faster, and more affordable installations than when working with other materials. However, this does not mean that contractors can afford to be sloppy or disordered with their work.

There are best practices that must be followed when using rubber concrete stamps to create high quality designs on surfaces. When proper techniques are followed, this can be a very successful process. If proper techniques are not followed, the concrete can turn into a disaster zone.

garagepaintwithchipsThere are homeowners and business owners everywhere who are embarrassed by the state of their concrete surfaces. Concrete that has seen a lot of foot traffic or has been used in garages can become cracked, stained, and eroded over the years. Fortunately, epoxy concrete coatings can provide a solution.

As a contractor, you can provide high quality and much needed services to your clients if you are able to make their concrete surfaces look better than they did when they were installed. Decorative concrete materials give you that opportunity.

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