Superior Surface
For patios, pool decks and other projects using stamped concrete, homeowners turn to one source: Architectural Concrete Design
by Sharon A. Shaw

Doctors, dentists and attorneys have specific qualifications that set them apart from one another, and most discerning consumers will consider those factors, seek out referrals and even do background checks before deciding which professional to hire. But when it comes to home projects, many of these same consumers will hire a contractor based simply on the lowest price, without a true understanding of their methods, knowledge or experience.

In home projects using stamped concrete, however, experience is everything. Stamped concrete has become increasingly popular due to its ability to mimic other hardscape materials—flagstone, Belgian block, brick, even wood decking—while being more beautiful, durable and affordable than the original. While many contractors have only recently begun offering stamped concrete, one local company has a storied history and a hard-earned reputation for excellence: Architectural Concrete Design, or ACD.

Chris McMahon, ACD’s president and CEO, was one of the first to bring the product to the East Coast in the early 1990s, and it has been his passion ever since. Although ACD specializes in decorative stamped concrete, as well as stained concrete, exposed aggregate and other hardscape services, the company’s staff also designs pool decks, walkways, patios, driveways and more.

ACD has been building its knowledge and skills for more than 20 years, and in that time the company has gained the distinction of being the preeminent resource for prominent and challenging decorative concrete projects. ACD has been hired for high-profile jobs such as SugarHouse Casino, Valley Forge Casino, Willow Grove Mall and the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. It has even been entrusted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to construct the slope walls beneath turnpike bridges.

“We are considered in the industry to be the go-to guys for these large projects,” says McMahon. “Why would any homeowner not want the same quality?”

While many details go into completing each ACD job, the first step of each residential project is the design, which is included in every estimate. “We employ landscape designers who understand plants, color and lighting,” says Steve Groch, one of ACD’s two designers. “These are people that can help you get the best patio.”

Groch earned his undergraduate degree in landscape architecture at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, while his counterpart Dave Schaeffer studied landscape design and horticulture at Temple University. The duo will often meet with homeowners to discuss their ideas and preferences for style and shape, and to show them examples of colors, patterns and options available.

Stamped concrete will retain its beauty without requiring the maintenance or repairs that other hardscaping products might. It is durable enough for high-traffic areas—even driveways—while its ability to remain cool and slip resistant makes it ideal for pool decks. “Anyone who has had pavers in the past and then gets a stamped-concrete patio from ACD is pleasantly surprised at how realistic it is and how ants don’t live in the sand joints,” McMahon says.

ACD has even created its own line of stamps. “Our flagstone is created from real stone, and our Belgian block is from real block,” McMahon says. He also notes that these products are not limited to the colors nature has provided. Homeowners who choose decorative concrete have the option of selecting the color that best complements their landscape. Multiple colors can also be applied to lend more realistic variations, such as the appearance of mortar.

ACD also does interior work. Decorative concrete can make for a unique application for garage flooring, wine cellars, basement floors and more. Along with using stamped concrete, the company also offers a Venetian finish that is truly original. The finish resembles the Venetian plaster technique used on walls, offering the same multi-toned look for floors. Regardless of the application, ACD goes the extra mile to ensure durability by using a color hardener with the addition of special agents applied by hand, making the surface harder than regular concrete. According to McMahon, the surface needs to be as hard as stone in order to wear like stone.

“We are innovative in the field especially when it comes to large jobs, such as driveways,” says Schaeffer. “The procedures we have created for large commercial jobs, the smaller home customer will also benefit from.”

ACD handles projects in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It generally takes three working days to complete most residential projects—one day to establish the subgrade, set up forms and compact the base; a second to pour, stamp, color and cut joints; and a third to wash, seal and detail the job. To assure customers of its commitment to quality, ACD offers a one-year warranty on projects completed April 1 through November 30 and a five-year warranty on those installed in the remaining winter months. “The only thing that stops us is the ground being frozen,” McMahon says. “However, the ground only freezes for a short time each year.”

Operations manager Jeff Jordan oversees the installation of all projects. “The whole reason we got into big commercial jobs is because we started in backyards,” he says. “We mastered that before going out into the commercial jobs. … When you can go to work and complete a job in a single day there is something to be said for the accomplishment you feel.”

ACD has been honored with numerous national and international awards for its work, including a Merit Construction Award from the American Builders and Contractors for ACD’s work on the Chrysler Financial call center, as well as a grand prize for civil site construction given by the American Concrete Institute for ACD’s Maple Avenue Bridge replacement.

Although such rewards are important, perhaps the greatest testament to the quality of ACD’s work is the trust of industry professionals such as Robert Nonemaker, principal, owner and a lead designer with The OuterSpaces Group, a landscape and water feature design-build firm. The firm has worked closely with ACD on many of the high-end residential projects in which it specializes. “They set the standard,” Nonemaker says. “The best anyone else who does this work can offer is that they do it ‘as well as ACD.’

“Working with them offers a certain comfort level; you know you will get best product and they will stand behind it,” he says. “We have had ACD do projects as small as 1,000 square feet to as large as 10,000 square feet, and they can handle it all. Every job is done with the same high quality and they are in and out in a few days. … Everybody we have had them do projects for is very pleased.”

Nonemaker appreciates McMahon’s refined eye and experience working with architects, though he also speaks highly of ACD’s salespeople, whom he describes as both knowledgeable and professional. Then, of course, there is the quality of the product itself.

“The product is price competitive,” he says. “It is certainly not a one-size-fits-all product, and it is the best value out there.”

Architectural Concrete Design
3001 New Falls Road
Levittown, PA 19056