Outside decorative concrete a landscaping option for Gulf Coast

The Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald

With infinite variety, sidewalks, driveways, patios, decks, floors and landscaping accents along the Gulf Coast are taking on a new look. Best of all, they are much more resistant to hurricanes and flooding.

“I have had my decorative concrete landscape setting for several years and I love it,” said Wanda Bullock of Saucier. “I wouldn’t have anything else.”

Bullock and her husband, Ray, wanted to eliminate a flowerbed along the walkway to their front door. They replaced it with a kidney-shaped concrete landscaping accent. The surface is stamped and colored to look like cobblestones. The setting includes a night lamp and a bench.

The setting was created by Chuck Leidigh, owner and operator of C&L Concrete in Saucier. He has been installing decorative concrete sidewalks, driveways and patios for the past seven years and his business is booming.

“Decorative concrete has really taken off,” Leidigh said. “When I first started in this business, things were slow. Now, we have a month-and-a-half to two-month backlog of orders.”

With the wide variety of colors available and the patterns that can be stamped into the concrete while it is wet, concrete can be made to look like wood, ceramic tile, cobblestones or even carpet, Leidigh said. It can be used to decorate the borders for driveways and sidewalks, to rejuvenate driveways and walkways, to decorate garage floors or pool decks and to create attractive curbing.

Leidigh, who is also a full-time firefighter, started the concrete business as a part-time job. The part-time job is now a second full-time job, he said, pointing out that stamped and colored concrete has become an increasingly popular building material, especially since Hurricane Katrina. Leidigh’s business takes him into all three Mississippi coastal counties.

“We had done the concrete work for a large condo,” Leidigh said. “That was before Katrina hit. Tornadoes took away the building and floodwaters washed across it. They have rebuilt the condo. We went in and resealed the decorative concrete and did some touch-up repairs. It looks just like it did when it was new.”

Leidigh is installing a raised concrete deck that is replacing a wooden deck destroyed by the storm.

Decorative concrete has a number of advantages, Leidigh said. In addition to the wide variety of patterns and colors, it is durable.

“When someone employs decorative concrete,” Leidigh said, “they are making a statement about themselves and their property. It will last more than 100 years and is more affordable than ever before. Their grandchildren will be able to enjoy it as well.”

Curtis and Sandra Sanders, also of Saucier, wanted to increase the size of their back porch area, including the concrete. Sandra had seen examples of decorative concrete and decided it would work well for her back porch. They selected a color and a pattern.

“It is an abstract pattern,” Sanders said, “with dips and swirls in it and a variety of colors. We are very happy with it.”

Most people should work with an experienced contractor, said Leidigh, because a number of challenges can arise. However, do-it-yourselfers with the skills and confidence to work with concrete can find the help they need to successfully complete a project.

Renew-Crete in Hattiesburg is a distributor supplying materials to contractors and homeowners. The business will soon be opening a retail store with a variety of samples as well as colors and stamp patterns for the DIY.

“You have to see to appreciate what all you can do with decorative concrete,” said Joe Ashley, the owner and manager of Renew-Crete.

One way to see what can be done is to visit the Renew-Crete Web site at www.renewcretems.com. Other Web sites can be found by typing “decorative concrete” into your favorite search engine.

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