The Challenges of Renting Out Texture Mats

Texture mats, probably the most common type of concrete stamps, are flexible tools used by decorative concrete professionals to imprint patterns in wet concrete and overlay surfaces. Many artisans buy them, but some consider them pricey given their obvious limitation of one type of pattern per mat. Combine that with the fact that they’re reusable, and they present an obvious rental opportunity for you. But as one retailer in Pennsylvania has discovered, renting them out isn’t always easy money.

A texture mat being used on a waterfront walkway in Bandon, Ore. The project was completed by concrete contractor Greg Brock, of North Bend, Ore., in 2005.

Renting out texture mats can add some income to your bottom line. Once you have rented them out enough to cover the expense of purchasing them, you will start to see profitability.

The problem with this plan is that some folks will throw a monkey wrench into the works if you do not oversee and monitor the rental operation wisely.

First, you need to decide what patterns you think would be good for your area. This is important because not all patterns work well in every region. There are different styles and fashion trends from state to state.

What’s more, I think just about all of my employees, as well as several good customers of mine, have had to go on retrieval missions and actually remove texture mats from abandoned job sites or take them from the individual who rented the tools, now thinks he owns them, and does not return them. If need be, we physically remove the tools with the help of local police and transport them back to our facility. The problem is, you never know when you are going to rent your tools out to a bad egg who ruins everything for all.

Tools not being returned in a time frame agreed upon at time of rental will wreak havoc on someone else’s schedule if you have another contractor lined up for the rental of the tools. The delay of one guy’s job will send a cascading effect through your rental fleet if you do not have enough rental tools to satisfy multiple contractors simultaneously. You’ll get caught in the middle of this.

Sometimes we deal with some pretty cranky contractors in our field. This is also the usual when poor weather patterns have delayed everyone’s schedule and there is a break in the weather.

Good communication with your renters and getting phone numbers and identification at rental time minimizes problems. I tell customers that it is no different from renting a car — you need good identification, valid state-issued picture ID and a security deposit. We even take down the plate number of the vehicle that does the rental pick-up.

Horror stories

We have seen both the good and the bad side of renting texturing mats to the public. The good side is your customer telling you the results look great and they hit a home run with their project. It’s a great feeling when you see them do well. The down side is something that is normally only learned through experience, but I will share a few memories.

Let’s start with unreturned tools. We once had to retrieve tools from our neighboring town’s mayor’s house because a guy started the job — tore everything up, got the supplies and tools — took the down payment for the job from the mayor and decided to skip town. He left everything: his tools, our texture mats, forms and all. Took the mayor’s money and ran. We had to help the mayor get a replacement contractor to pick up the pieces of his project.

Also, I have had housewives break down crying at my service desk due to a contractor utilizing really mismatched colors on a job and doing really shoddy work and leaving a mess behind. We had no idea what the poor homeowner was going through or had been put through. They just know we sell the color and provided rental tools. Sometimes the saddened homeowner thinks we have control over the person who rented the tools from us and they want us to get involved. This is a difficult spot to be in when things go wrong.

Abnormal wear and tear

Next I will go into the destruction of texture mats.

We have had tools come back destroyed because to the contractor who rented the tools hired a young laborer to move the tools from work area to truck. A simple request? Certainly … until the lazy laborer drags the tools back to the truck and scrubs the texture off your rubber texture mat on blacktop, broom-finished concrete or some other abrasive surface. Once the joints and texture are scrubbed off the tools, they are ruined.

We have sent out a brand new set of 12 London Cobble texture mats — that have never been used — in the morning and had some cheap crap knockoff junk texture mats returned in the afternoon. In this case we banned this customer for life from doing business with us again for any reason.

We had customers try to clean the texture mats with a zero-degree tip on their pressure washer and cut grooves into the rubber texture, ruining the tools.

Bart Sacco takes photos such as this one to document the condition of rented-out concrete texturing tools that have been returned. The mat has a London Cobble pattern. Photo courtesy of Concrete Texturing Tool & Supply

I had another poor soul use sealer as a release agent on a stamped overlay job. The stampable overlay and sealer were welded to our rental texture mats. This guy spent literally days cleaning this crap off the tools and returned them clean about a week later. Otherwise we were going to bill him for a new set of tools and let him keep the ones he screwed up.

I have watched a guy returning tools cut the joints clean off of a Large Ashlar pattern as he took the tools off his truck. He had them stacked vertically against the front of the truck box and had a mortar box pushed up tight against the mats. His son pulled a tool straight up to remove it, and the edge of the mortar box cut the joints clean off the mat. He purchased the mat he ruined. There was no dispute about whether he had ruined it as the matching rubber joints were still lying in the bed of the truck.

We have also had contractors cut tools in half with a circular saw because they could not figure out the floppy mat.

You name it and I think we have been there on this topic, but you can be certain that our main warehouse guy Anthony, who is responsible for our rental fleet, and I are always on the lookout for new ways we will be amazed by the public.

All that said, the problems we encounter are very rare. Most of the folks renting are competent and those who are in the dark usually ask a lot of questions and we help them through. If they are really lost and the job is beyond their capabilities, we tell them so and refer then to a competent crew to do the installation. Problems with renting texture mats do not arise daily. You just need to keep on your toes.

Besides what I have mentioned so far, here are a few tips that will help you along the way:

  • Build yourself a good rental contract and have the customer sign it.
  • Take a security deposit on the tools in relation to their value.
  • Define the time frame of the rental period. This will help you schedule the use of popular patterns.
  • Send out your texture tools clean and expect them back clean. Impose a HEAVY cleaning fee, or you will get the stupid mentality from the renters of “Just charge me and you can clean them.” You can accept the tools back dirty, but it is going to stop your business day dead in its tracks. You will have to clean them before you send them back out again — especially if one customer has dry powder release residue all over your mats and the next customer will be using a liquid release agent. The colors will transmit from one job to the other!
  • Instruct your rental customers to clean the tools using TSP (trisodium phosphate) or dishwashing detergent and water already mixed in a pail. Tell them to scrub the mats with this solution and a brush, then rinse both the top and bottom of the rental mat clean. If they don’t clean the top of the mat as well as the bottom, everything gets dirty again when the tools get stacked for storage or moved from job to job.
  • Tell the customer to NEVER squirt dishwashing liquid directly onto your mats and move it around with a brush. The detergent will stick in the lower areas of the texture profile, become sticky and cause a problem for the next guys using the tools. (TSP and water, coupled with a little scrubbing with a stiff brush, works the best.)
  • Check the tools for damage upon the return of the tools. You will have normal wear, but damage is a different issue.
  • Provide good instructions for using texture mats as well as texture skins. The timing is different for both types of tools. Explaining proper usage of the tools will help ensure success for your customers.
  • Sometimes customers have the myth in their heads that if they pour the concrete wetter, they will have more time. This is absolutely false. Concrete that is placed too wet will not be workable upon placement and will hinder the texturing process due to rapid set time at the end. Instruct them to place the concrete at a slump that is workable but does not promote bleed water. They will be able to start edging, floating, and going through all the normal steps of finishing without delay, before the stamping process begins.
  • Instruct the customer to pour the size of slab that their experience with concrete dictates. The amount of area to pour is different for every crew, and it all related to experience. I know a six-man crew that can pour and stamp 40 yards or 50 cubic yards in a clip and make it look effortless, and I have seen a different four-man crews suffer badly doing only five or six cubic yards.

Bart Sacco is the president of Kingdom Products and also owns and operates Concrete Texturing Tool & Supply and the Concrete Kingdom Training Center, based in Throop, Pa. He can be reached at (570) 489-6025 or by email at