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"A Driveway To Dye For"

CLEARWATER - Joe Trillo was tired of weeds poking through the old gravel driveway leading to his house. The 53-year-old real estate agent wanted an elegant drive-up; maybe something in a brick color. Driveways by DeGeorge, a Largo company, had what he wanted and more.


© The Tampa Tribune Published: Aug 12, 2006

The company offers pigment-infused concrete in a variety of colors, from Baha red and silversmoke to sequoia sand and flagstone brown.

Trillo went with brick red concrete with a slate finish. He figured it would complement his terra-cotta roof and light beige ranch-style home.

"For years and years, all you could get was just gray concrete," says Phil DeGeorge, who runs daily operations for the family-owned Driveways by DeGeorge. "People just settled for gray concrete."

For decades, creative homeowners have painted their driveways, but even tough paints easily chipped and peeled, exposing patches of gray concrete beneath.

Colored concrete has also been available in solid pigments for decades. The powdered colors came in bags that were torn open and hand-poured into the concrete, says Christian Forgey, market manager for Grace Construction Products in Cambridge, Mass.

The process got simpler in the 1990s, when soluble bags were developed, Forgey says. Those bags could be tossed right into the concrete mixer at the site.

Another popular option is a color hardener - pigments are applied to the surface of the concrete and tooled in. It produces vibrant shades, but only on the concrete's surface.

A big breakthrough in colored concrete came a few years ago with the creation of liquid pigments. Now, concrete suppliers with the right equipment can mix four base pigments to create up to 70,000 colors that completely permeate the concrete, Forgey says.

Florida Rock Industries Inc., which has a plant in Tampa, added the technology in January, says Rick Edwards, president of the company's Gulf Coast division. It supplies DeGeorge's colored concrete.

The only other Bay area supplier offering Grace's product is Cemex, which has locations in Tampa.

Just like house paints mixed at home-improvement stores, pigments are injected into the concrete in computer-measured doses.

One advantage of that is the color can be replicated later; if a customer orders a Southern blush driveway in January and wants a matching Southern blush patio in September, it's just a matter of checking the records.

Hues even can be mixed to match paint chip samples, Edwards says.

A half-dozen local driveway companies have been ordering the colored concrete.

"The high-end residential homebuilders are really starting to take an interest," Edwards says.

Terra cotta is a popular color choice, along with hues in the tan and red families.

Driveways have become a canvas for other forms of artistic expression. Stamps and rollers create surfaces that look like bricks, granite, slate or seashells.

A driveway can be framed with a border, or designed with a pretty focal point, such as a family crest in the center.

Colored concrete should last 30 years or longer, if properly installed, DeGeorge says.

It should be pressure-washed every year, Forgey says. He recommends resealing it every couple of years to prevent staining.

It's worth the cost and effort to reseal, because colored concrete is a bigger investment than gray, Edwards says. It typically costs about 70 cents per square foot more, but costs vary by color.

Trillo says his driveway and matching sidewalk to the front door cost roughly $8,600 - about $2,800 more than if he had gone with gray. He says it's worth it.

"Maintenance is the big issue. I had weeds growing up all over the place. Now, I don't have to worry about it."

And plain Jane gray just wouldn't do.

"That was not me."

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