Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Simple is Good


Whole FoodsI cannot tell you how many times over the years we have been asked to do something intricate with sidewalks, only to come back in a few years and find them not as cool for any number of reasons–cracks having surfaced, outdated brick pavers or concrete that’s gone out of style. Perhaps the argument is, “Who walks into a building looking down?” I would counter that an unattractive sidewalk alters first impressions, devaluing “curb appeal” in a literal sense.

We recently completed this project pictured above, collaborating with the decision-makers who wanted a decorative concrete finish for the sidewalks, but not over-the-top. It featured exposed local river stones, finished with integral color for a unique, high-end look that should stand the time test.

Starting with a quality concrete finisher is vital. The finish of exposed aggregate concrete highlights small, smooth stones and pebbles which are brought to the surface uniformly. We followed the pour with a chemical retarder, which delays the set and gave us the flexibility to remove the cement paste the next day with a pressure washer. Using the surface retarder provided a more consistent depth and a more uniform aggregate appearance.

Where used, exposed aggregate concrete has all the durability, strength and flexibility of regular concrete, with a bit more interest brought to the surface. The simplicity will stand the test of time, and in my opinion, trump the instances when designers get too cute with sidewalks. Simple also saves money.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.