New life for old concrete

#599 in a series of true experiences in real estate
March 2010, Hills Newspapers

Anet has the will, the patience, to power wash concrete. I watch her while she pulls the washer machine around, rearranging the hose and the cord as she goes, and I can see that she is cheery, she likes it, she enjoys making the surfaces clean. This week her subject-to-be was a concrete front porch and the path that runs along the side and back of a house, soon be on the market.

As the house had come together, walls painted, lawn clipped, curtains hung, the concrete looked, by contrast, dingy. “Let’s just jump in the car and go give it an hour of power washing” Anet said early one morning. “No showers, we won’t see anyone, we’ll come right back home.”

We both knew it would take more time but it seemed exciting, almost daring, to go just as we were, and right then, so we loaded up washer machine and hose, extension cord and boots, and drove to the house.

I’m not the power washer person. I get so bored, can’t stand to do it, but I can happily become absorbed in cleaning almost anything for long periods until its looks satisfy me. I don’t like working with machines though. The noise bothers me and I can’t get the attachments right, they don’t fit or the whole thing mysteriously stops running. On this morning I concentrated on sweeping the street in front of the house, a wide sloping gutter on a cul-de-sac where our house is placed beautifully and widely at the end.

Over time loose street gravel and run-off from lawns wash to our end of the street where there is a low spot that gets muddy. I was hoping to pick up all of the grit so I swept over and over again and scooped the larger bits and the fines into my dustpan, then dumped them into a bag. I enjoyed myself. All the while Anet held the washer wand, and the motor loudly hummed, and the water washed.

The concrete emerged, bit by bit, shades lighter. It probably hadn’t been washed, except for an occasional hosing off, for 50 years or more. I like the look of old concrete, the color somewhere between the color of aged window putty and poppy seeds. Not long ago as part of sewer work at my house, the contractor said he’d have to cut out part of my old concrete patio, the one outside my kitchen where we often sit. He planned to cut a section and replace it with new concrete.

“Isn’t there anything else that can be done? I love the old concrete,” I asked. He seemed surprised. Probably the look of old concrete is not important to him. But he believed me. He figured an alternate sewer route, thank goodness, so my patio, which reminds me of sandpaper, the dark sand particle kind, is intact. New concrete doesn’t look the same at all and, I think, never will, even after years of weather and use.

The old concrete that Anet so ably washed, careful to avoid uprooting adjacent grass lawn and freesias just now in bloom, is beautiful. And the wide street-side curve of the cul-de-sac looks pretty good.

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