May 21 2005

Melinda Casto could not believe her eyes.

In one week, her 20-year-old, cracked, rust-stained driveway had been transformed into a mosaic stone pattern work of art that perfectly matched the exterior wall of her home.

Her neighbors in the Mosswood development in Indialantic flocked to her home, admiring the expert workmanship.

“I’ve got the best driveway in all of the area,” said an exuberant Casto, early this month. “We recently painted the house and this just finished it off — it all went together beautifully.” Now, she’s trying to persuade her husband, Terry, to redo the pool deck.

Artist Karen East is thrilled to hear her client is satisfied with the work and she is determined to transform Brevard County, one driveway or patio at a time.

Karen East and her husband, Jim, are owners of Concrete Designs of Florida Inc., the only factory authorized dealer in Brevard County.

They are licensed and insured. For the past 12 years, they have spent every working day on their hands and knees, etching and faux-finishing custom-designed stone, tile or inlaid brick patterns into clients’ driveways or patios.

“All of the designs are permanently engraved in, not on top of, the concrete and it is not a topping that can be chipped off,” Karen East said.

According to the Easts, the etched concrete adds no thickness to create drainage problems, maintains a safe and level footing and has a skid-slip resistant grooving.

The Florida sun, famous for fading materials it comes in contact with, can be destructive to painted finishes. The Easts use an oxide paint that protects from the sun.

“We have a multitude of patterns, an unlimited number, really, to choose from and you will choose one of our many colors to match or contrast with the exterior of your home,” said Karen East. “We have over 1,200 colors.”

Casto, who sought out the Easts after admiring a job they did in Indialantic, asked to select a color and pattern to match her home.

“You can beat the sun with neutral earth-tone colors — it’s all in the colors you select,” Jim East said. “Blue and yellow will fade, so we stay with natural oxides that don’t fade as much, and if it does, we will come back and touch it up,” Jim East added.

Since they have been in business, they have transformed more than 1,000 concrete surfaces in Brevard County with designs ranging from utilitarian to European flair. They have done driveways; pool decks, their most popular request; sidewalks; parking lots; and commercial entrances, such as Healthsouth health care facilities in Melbourne, Vero Beach and Tallahassee.

The Easts say they have 12-year-old jobs with no visible fading or damage.

“You will not have to worry about tile coming loose, and there is no way weeds can grow between these etched and hand-painted grout lines.”

She added the surface resists tire marks. “Those horrible rust stains, mildew and oil marks will wash off easily with ordinary soap and water,” she said. “The inevitable hairline cracks in concrete can finally be disguised.”

This hard-working couple, who are in their 50s and share four grown children, spend up to a week creating each driveway or patio.

They visit every location to “assess what kind of design can be done, based on the condition of the concrete and the style and color of the home,” said Karen East.

They make recommendations and, depending on those factors, they may charge less than $2 or up to $7 a square foot.

“It’s very detailed work, not easy, and it’s labor intensive,” said Karen East, who often sits on a stool under an umbrella to work. “If we cannot work with the concrete, we will recommend another surface.”

The Easts’ got into this business after retiring from corporate jobs in Ohio. They wanted to start a business so they looked at every business for sale in Brevard.

“We wanted to buy a turnkey business but couldn’t find anything that made sense,” Karen East said.

They eventually met the Sarasota-based inventor of the Engrave-A-Crete design tool that Jim East uses to cut the designs in the concrete.

They purchased equipment, attended a two-week training course, and with a $100,000 investment, became the second dealership in Florida.

“For the first six months, we dabbled and did our neighbors driveways for free,” Karen East said.

Initially, they hired employees to assist them, but soon realized that because this is such a specialized business, the two of them needed to be at each job.

Karen, who always enjoyed decorating her homes, became creative with the paint design, introduced faux finishes to her stone work.

Jim, who describes himself as handy around the house, created an endless variety of engraved stone designs.

The Easts, who do a lot of work in the Baytree development in Melbourne; on Merritt Island and Melbourne Beach, are booking jobs for September, some for repeat customers.

Just recently, the Easts finished a pool deck area at the Melbourne home of Brian and Renee Maxwell. It was their second time at the home, having designed the Maxwell driveway a year ago.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Renee Maxwell said of her new deck.” It adds such a finishing touch.”

She says the Easts have a “knack” for taking all of the elements of a home, such as paint color, landscaping and roof tile color, and coming up with “an unique color combination that adds an amazing finishing touch to the concrete.”

“Color is really hard to pick and they make the process so much easier because they listen to what you want and come up with custom color solutions and they pull it all together,” said Maxwell, who has only one regret.

“They are such nice people and I’m disappointed that I don’t have any more concrete for them to finish,” she said.

Comments are closed.