Problems with Flake Decks

Flakes systems are used all the time on garage floors and other indoor surfaces. They look great and perform well. However, a number of problems occur when flake systems are used outdoors on pool decks and driveways.

Cracking

Concrete cracks for a number of reasons including improper compaction of the base, a lack of saw cuts, erosion under the slab, a lack of reinforcing, thermal expansion and contraction, and heavy loads. Ideally, our industry would have a glue that would permanently adhere moving concrete slabs back together. Unfortunately, that material does not exist. Concrete slabs which want to move apart exert tons of force and will break any bond. Even if such a material existed, the concrete has demonstrated that it needs to move and it would then crack in a different, but nearby location.

However, if the concrete is done moving, there are a number of techniques for repairing cracks including Vshaped cuts and filling with epoxy or other material. These repairs may successfully mend the crack as long as the crack is not moving. It is impossible to tell if a crack is moving or not until after it is repaired. Since our industry can’t tell if a repair will hold or not, reputable resurfacing companies do not warrant crack repairs. If one does, beware.

Cracks look terrible on a flake deck because flake decks are always without a pattern or with a geometric pattern and the human eye is drawn to a
crack which stands out from the surrounding area. Companies often provide long warranties and promise to repair cracks. If the company is still in business and they do show up for the warranty, they only repair the crack itself. By this time the old flake has faded in the sun and the new flake does not match the deck. The repair often looks worse than the crack.

We have found that the best approach to cracked decks and driveways is to incorporate the cracks into the design. Our Pacific Stone system uses the
existing cracks and adds new artificial cracks to create an attractive flagstone appearance. Cracks become part of the design and any new cracking simply becomes part of the intended look. We avoid solid, no-pattern decks and geometric patterns such

Slip Resistance and Cleanability
The coatings used in flake systems are naturally slippery and are applied smooth with no texture. This is not an ideal surface for a wet pool deck. Slip resistant material is typically added; however, the surface tends to remain slippery. A common remedy is to not scrape the flake after application which does provide a bit more texture to the surface. However, the downside is that when the flake is not scraped it leaves small voids under the flakes which are not filled by the coating material. These voids hold water and will shorten the life of the deck dramatically. If too much slip resistant material is added to coatings, the decks can become hard to clean. Imagine rubbing a cotton ball across sand paper. We have selected our textures and coatings to provide a good balance between slip resistance, cleanability and durability.

Moisture
Moisture is a problem for flake decks for two reasons – the coatings deteriorate under constant exposure to moisture and they do not breathe.

Breathability – Concrete is a porous material which absorbs and wicks moisture. Moisture is constantly moving up or down though an exterior slab. Interior concrete usually has a moisture barrier under the slab; however, exterior concrete rarely does so the soil moisture must be allowed to escape through the slab and the coating. The coatings used on flake decks do not allow moisture to pass through. In other words, they do not “breathe”. The moisture is trapped under the coating and pressure builds. This is called hydrostatic pressure. The pressure will eventually cause the flake and the coating to come off. Some companies claim to use a vapor barrier to prevent this. However, a proper vapor barrier requires extensive grinding and/or shot blasting surface preparation, and effective vapor barriers are quite expensive. To do the job right would put the price out of most customer’s budget, so it is often skipped.

Deterioration – The product data sheets for all of these materials clearly state that they are not recommended for use in constant contact with water. Since Florida has a high-water table (no basements) all exterior coatings are constantly exposed to water from above (condensation, rain and pool water) and water vapor from below. This will break the coatings down over time, turn them black, and shorten the life of the deck. Note the photo to the right.

Ultra-Violet Light
Flake coatings tend to break down or turn yellow under UV light. Our experience has been that even coatings rated “UV Resistant” tend to fail in areas with strong UV like a pool deck or driveway. They may be UV resistant in Ohio, but they tend to not hold up under Florida strength sun.

Licensing, Reputation and Integrity
Licensing – While the State of Florida does not require a license to resurface concrete, some counties and cities do require a license. This license is usually a flatwork license or a general contractor’s license. Many companies will try and pass off a general business filing as satisfying the requirement; however, it does not.

Insurance – Make sure you request a certificate of insurance from every installer showing both general liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Many small companies will provide an “Owners Exemption” from the state. However, this exemption is only good for the owner, not anybody helping the owner. Using an installer who doesn’t have worker’s compensation insurance could lead to the customer becoming liable for lawsuits and damages.

Company History – Many decorative concrete installers will try and pass off their manufacturer’s long history as their own. Manufacturers generally don’t install materials; they simply sell them to others to install. Your contract will be with the installer, not the manufacturer, so understand who it is you are dealing with. Owners can check the installer’s status and time in business at www.sunbiz.org.

Manufacturer Distributorships – Disreputable manufacturers will solicit unsuspecting entrepreneurs, sell them a few zip codes as an exclusive territory, train their installers for a few days, and sell them a large initial material order. These new business owners are woefully undertrained, can’t make a living in the small territory, and greatly overpaid for both the territory and the materials. They go out of business in a short time and the manufacturer repeats the process. Don’t expect these installers to perform well or be around to honor a warranty.

Warranties – Manufacturers will only warrant the cost of the materials, which is only a small percentage of the job. The vast majority of the cost of a resurfacing job is labor. That portion of the warranty is being provided by the installer. Long-duration warranties are being given by companies in business for less than 2 years. The likelihood of them being around to honor a “lifetime” warranty or even a 5 year warranty is almost nil. Check www.sunbiz.org to find out how long they have been in business.

Lead-Gen Companies – Some decorative concrete companies aren’t really decorative concrete installers at all. They are lead-generation companies who collect leads and sell them to real installation companies. They have great looking websites but no installers.

Credentials – Creative Resurfacing is the largest concrete resurfacing company in Florida with locations throughout the state. We have been in business for 13 years, have A+ BBB rating, and are a licensed and bonded Florida general contractor. We maintain full general liability and worker’s compensation insurance. We have worked for the largest hotel chains and general contractors in the country, and have appeared on the long-running television show “This Old House”. Sherwin Williams is our primary material supplier. They are a publicly traded Fortune 500 company with over 1,500 locations.

Conclusion
There are many problems associated with flake decks – very short lifespan for a multitude of reasons, slippery, visually unattractive when cracked, and difficult to blend repairs. This system suffers from very high warranty claims and the materials are not recommended for outdoor use. For these reasons Creative Resurfacing no longer offers flake decks or driveways. Concrete resurfacing projects done the right way will result in a beautiful job that will stand the test of time. If you have any questions, please call us at (888) 402-1152.

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