Sculpted Shotcrete

Sculpted Shotcrete

Sculpted Shotcrete: A Natural Finish to Accent Any Environment

Sculpted shotcrete, is pneumatically applied concrete that has been sculpted by skilled craftsmans shortly after application when the shotcrete is still wet and workable.  Sculpted shotcrete or gunite is used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Residential retaining walls
  • Commercial retaining walls
  • Highway retaining walls
  • Roadway widening
  • Landslide repair
  • erosion repair of exposed soil or rock faces
  • Contemporary architectural design
  • Residential and commercial landscape design

The most popular sculpted finish is one that mimics a natural rock outcrop.  A sculpted shotcrete finish can  be applied to existing structures or used as part of new construction.   Sculpted shotcrete is most commonly used atop the exposed face of retaining walls, both new and existing. 

Aging timber tie walls are often an eyesore due to timber rot and soil erosion through the timbers or from under the timber at the bottom of wall.  A sculpted shotcrete finish totally transforms the aesthetic and appeal.    

Existing retaining walls that are tilting or cracking can be stabilized with soil nails or tiebacks anchors that are drilled through the wall at regular intervals to provide the required lateral stability and mitigate further movement.  A bearing plate and nut at the end of each anchor rests atop the existing retaining wall surface.  A sculpted shotcrete finish can be applied atop anchor ends and the existing retaining wall face to hide the anchors and transforms the aesthetic from unappealing to one that engages.  After sculpting the shotcrete is stained to natural colors either native to the local rock or that accent the colors of adjacent architecture.   

Sculpted Shotcrete Finishes

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There are boundless shotcrete finishes.  Sculpted shotcrete can be crafted to blend into the landscape where they are installed, mimicking the local bedrock, or  sculpted to resemble any rock to provide the desired aesthetic.

Stamped shotcrete provides a finish that mimics dimension stone, flagstone or masonry.  Instead of manually sculpting the finish, the stamped shotcrete finish is furnished by impressing  prefabricated concrete stamps.  Stamped shotcrete finishes can mimic a dimension stone wall, a flagstone veneer wall or other geometric pattern.  Stamped shotcrete finishes require more planarity of the final finish face. 

A Brief History

Shotcrete is a durable product that can provide several different uses. It was invented back in the early 1900s and was originally called gunite. An American taxidermist by the name of Carl Akely used this method to inject molds for model animal replicas. Over time, the process was discovered to be effective at fixing decaying and weak areas of old stone buildings. Akely was given a patent for the installation method, originally named the “cement gun”. Eventually, the process was re-patented as gunite.

The dry process continued to be used for decades. By the 1930s, workers began introducing a coarse aggregate to the original dry mix, creating what we know today as “shotcrete”. A new rotary gun was introduced in the 1950s and by the end of that decade, a wet-mix process had been developed which is what is still used today. Because of legal implications and the changing nature of the installation process, the term “gunite” is fading from use and the processes are now described simply as shotcrete, regardless of whether they are wet or dry applications.

  • Did you know? – The rocks at Walt Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain are made from shotcrete. This is a preferred material for theme parks because of its density, durability, water-resistance, and cost-effectiveness.

Benefits of Shotcrete

There are many benefits of using shotcrete and include:

  • Shotcrete applied atop an existing surface, no concrete forms are required and takes less time to constructe than cast-in-place concrete and is therefore more economical..
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  • Shotcrete can produce decorative and realistic looks for various applications.
  • Shotcrete is generally stronger and has better durability than concrete.
  • The options for installing shotcrete are limitless. There are literally endless options for shapes, sizes, and applications of this unique material.

Ready to Start Your Shotcrete Project?

If you have a project in mind, you should contact a shotcrete contractor right away. Proper shotcrete application requires experience and training.  Make sure to engage an experienced reputable shotcrete contractor. A reputable shotcrete contractor will help you explore shotcrete finishoptions and will provide guidance for choosing the best available options given the context of the project.  Shotcrete provides a durable, cost-effective material that can be sculpted or stamped to provide a variety of aesthetic finishes and colors. Learn more and start planning your project today.

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