Contacts
 




Keyword Site Search











Endless Possibilities

An Exclusive Interview with Francis "Sully" Sullivan, president and founder of Sullivan Concrete

By Leslie McGuire, managing editor






Constructed in place from poured concrete and imprinted using interlocking forms, the monolithic nature of the process withstands constant use, won't sink or heave, and looks great for years.







After the excavation, first the base is prepared and leveled in preparation for pouring the high strength ready mix concrete mix.







Next, the mix is worked into the surface with a wooden bull float. The bull float is not only used to level the concrete but also to bring up the water and mix it uniformly into the matrix.


Amazingly enough, the first stamped concrete project ever done was a couple of streets that were stamped to look like brick. Those streets have lasted longer than brick would have lasted--and are still level today!

If anyone is curious whether this process is long lasting, they can lay their fears to rest. The stamped concrete concept, developed by Brad Bowman in 1941 and called the "Ornamental Concrete Process", originally had only three designs. There were just three molds, cobblestone, brick and 12×12-inch tile patterns. Those molds duplicated the look of the real thing when pressed into freshly poured concrete. There has since been an evolution starting with the original bladed stamp (Bomanite) and moving on to the imprinted stamp, which is known as Bomacron.

As one of Brad Bowman's first licensees, Sully ended up with all of Southern California as his territory. He started out doing driveways and walkways, and over the years, the process has been refined and manipulated to make the most perfect end product possible.

Initially, it was imperative that the concrete mixture be exactly determined so it wouldn't impede the blades of the tools that create the shades of color. The use of color and its process was a very closely guarded secret. To this day, they still use the dust-on color and hardener, which is the only way to consistently provide a uniform color throughout the project.






Color is added by dusting powdered pigment over the surface of the wet concrete. This may be repeated during the troweling process







After the initial smoothing and working in, the wooden bull float is now replaced with a steel trowel which finalizes the finish.







Then the release agent, stearate, is dusted on top. Stearate is the filler for aspirin. Bayer is the largest color supplier for concrete.


Many patterns have been designed for specific projects. The "fish scale" tool used at South Coast Village in California was designed by Lifescapes and it has become very popular. Used at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, the design is also highly imitated and copied everywhere.

A very prolific designer of tools and forms was the Peridian Group. They also designed a slate mold that precludes the stamp tool. This five-foot by five-foot square carries the imprint of a slate pattern. It was especially useful at Beverly Park Estates that required miles of sidewalk.

Preparation is Everything

After the base is prepared and leveled, the concrete mix is poured. Then the color mix is dusted on top and worked into the surface with a wooden bull float. The bull float is not only used to level the concrete but also to bring up the water and mix it uniformly into the matrix. After the initial smoothing and working in, the wooden bull float is replaced with a steel trowel, which finalizes the finish.

A release agent, stearate, is then dusted on top. Stearate is also the filler for aspirin. Bayer is the largest color supplier for concrete. When the finish is correct, the two-foot by three-foot square forms are laid on the wet concrete. Designed to fit together so they won't shift as they settle, the forms are pressed down 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in the wet concrete.

The forms are designed with a "kicker" making it possible to line them up and then walk on them. Lining up the patterns is often harder than it looks. The installer must "eyeball" the curves, and not everyone is able to do that uniformly. Experience certainly helps with this part of the process. The forms are then pulled out almost immediately, but the timing is dependent on the concrete mix.






When the finish is correct, the selected pattern in the two-foot by three-foot square forms are laid on the wet concrete to create the imprint.







Above and Below: Designed to fit together so they won't shift as they settle, the forms are pressed down 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in the wet concrete. The forms are designed with a "kicker" making it possible to line them up and then walk on them.






What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

There are also several other issues that need to be considered. Weather has a strong affect on how the concrete mixture sets. Temperature can affect setting time as well as color mix. Humidity is also important. Whether it is raining or just humid, this will affect setting time. Timing is also key. The amount of time that has passed between pouring the concrete and actually setting the molds in place (depending upon weather, of course) will all affect the final outcome.

There are, luckily, a couple of signs by which the installer can tell if things are not exactly as they should be. For example, if the concrete suddenly seems too hard, which is easy to see because the tools won't penetrate, it means the concrete mix reacted too soon. Sometimes, when pulling the forms, the imprint will leave ragged edges if the matrix has set too quickly. In addition, after dusting the color and hardener on, sometimes the color isn't correct because of the weather conditions or the condition of the concrete matrix.

Unfortunately if either of these things happen, the installer needs to start over. That means sending back the truck and getting an entire new truckload of cement delivered.






The forms are then pulled out almost immediately, because timing is dependent on the concrete mix. Then jet washing removes the excess release agent.







Finally, once the surface is dry, the sealer is added







In 1941, Francis "Sully" Sullivan started with Brad Bowman, the inventor of Bomanite, the first stamped concrete. Originally called ornamental concrete, they started with a standard brick pattern. Since then, the concepts have ballooned. The possibilities are endless, and new ideas are coming every day.


Know-How Saves the Day

In the stamped concrete business, one needs experience and that only comes after multiple installations. But eventually, an installer can figure it out and ultimately get a feel for the behavior of the matrix. Installers also develop the "eyeball", and are able to produce some spectacular results.

The possibilities are endless!

Award Winning Style

Francis “Sully” Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Concrete Textures in Costa Mesa, Calif., was honored for his lifetime of achievement at the Bomanite Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony in Anaheim early last year. Sully started with Brad Bowman in 1941 and has been a Bomanite franchise partner since 1970. He has also contributed immeasurably to the architectural concrete industry worldwide, and is credited with several contributions to the decorative concrete industry as a whole, not just to the evolution of Bomanite. People lined up at the podium to sing his praises at the awards ceremony.

"They came from all over the world," said Sully. "Friends from long ago and far away, and I was humbled not just by the award, but the surprise, too. I didn't expect that at all.

My greatest achievements have also been my greatest joys," he told LCN. "I got acquainted with wonderful people who helped make me a success, and I was instrumental in bringing concrete into the profession." It was Sully who developed the stamp for Disney World decades ago, and it has become not only one of Bomanite's is most popular patterns, but one of the most often used patterns in the industry.

"I always had the vision," he says, "and I still have it."



Related Stories



September 18, 2019, 9:47 am PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy