Why dry grinding does not work as a surface prep technique for urethane concrete countertop sealers

Dry Grinding with Omega

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

The Question About Concrete Grinding

I’m often asked whether dry grinding can be used to prepare the concrete surface for Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM. The answer is NO.

Dry grinding is not the same as wet grinding, even with the same 200 grit. Dry grinding/polishing tends to burnish the concrete surface, making it too smooth for good sealer adhesion. This applies to any coating sealer, not just Omega.

Here’s Why You Can’t

The dry polishing process creates concrete cuttings which don’t get flushed away like they do with wet polishing. Because the powdery cuttings tend to remain under the polishing head longer, they break down and act as finer polishing media. This is why dry polishing is more effective than wet polishing when trying to polish concrete to a mirror shine, because the concrete cuttings themselves act as a finer polishing compound than the diamond pad that created them.

Polishing Your Countertop | Grinding Surfaces

Omega Concrete Countertop

Additionally, the super-fine cuttings get forced into the open concrete surface pores, contaminating the surface, and that can cause adhesion failure.

The Drawbacks

These two characteristics are the major drawbacks of dry polishing, and why dry polishing is not permitted as suitable surface preparation for Omega (nor recommended for any urethane coating sealer).

If you can’t wet grind with 200 grit, use the muriatic acid method. The Omega instructions you receive after purchase contain full details of this method.

The following two videos show how variable your concrete can be depending solely on the surface preparation technique used.

Introduction and How to Wet Process:

Why Dry Grinding Does Not Work:

How to increase sheen of Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

Buffing Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM to increase its sheen

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer is designed to cure to a low sheen. It’s not quite matte/dead flat, but it’s duller than a satin or semi-gloss finish. Increasing the sheen of the cured Omega finish is straightforward and uses readily-available tools and materials commonly used in the automotive industry.

First, Omega must be well cured for the best results. Omega can be polished as soon as it’s sandable, but only a moderate sheen will develop. For a higher gloss, it’s recommended that the finish cure for at least 4 days at room temperature to achieve the best results.

Tools needed:

  • Variable speed rotary polisher, or a dual action polisher.
  • Hook & Loop Rotary Flexible Backing Plate.
  • Wool or foam compounding and a polishing pad.
  • Swirl-removal or polishing compound.

Bear in mind that these tools and materials are designed for and sold to the automotive industry. They are mainly used to improve the surface appearance of automotive paint and are thus readily available from reputable suppliers catering to that industry.

Polisher

Polishers are power tools that can quickly increase the sheen of cured Omega when used with the appropriate polishing pad and polishing compound. There are two basic types of electric polishers: rotary and dual action.

Rotary polisher

A Makita variable speed rotary polisher.

A rotary polisher is a powerful tool that spins the polishing pad in a clockwise circular motion, just like a diamond polishing disc is on a wet polisher for concrete. Coupled with a wool pad (more on that later), a rotary polisher can easily buff and polish curves and challenging shapes. Variable-speed is necessary to regulate the rotational speed to minimize heat build-up and control the cutting/polishing intensity. Generally, polishers have speeds that range from around 600 rpm up to about 3000 rpm. The typical speed range used is around 1000-2000 rpm for most applications. Rotary polishes take patience, skill and practice, as the polishing head needs to be continuously moved to apply even polishing action. Polishers are fast, but they can easily damage a finish if used incorrectly. Too much speed, too much pressure, too steep of an angle, a firm pad and compound that is too aggressive all can damage the finish, leaving streaks, haze, dull spots or even worse.

Dual action polisher

Porter Cable dual action polisher.

Dual action polishers are much more forgiving than rotary polishers, yet are still very effective. Dual action polishers are characterized by the motion of the head. It spins on a central spindle, and this spindle rotates around an eccentric offset. This creates a semi-random pattern that minimizes swirl marks and dramatically reduces the chance of damaging the finish. Dual action polishers tend to be more controllable as the cutting action is less intense, and thus slower than a rotary polisher. They are often variable speed. However, the benefit is a more even, swirl-free sheen that involves less risk to the finish. They can’t remove scratches like a rotary polisher, but dual action polishers can take a flat finish and give it an even sheen without much effort.

Backing Plate

Backing plate

The backing plate is the interface between the polishing pad and the electric polisher. Backing plates usually have a 5/8”-11 pitch thread, which is standard on most North American polishers, and often are hook-and-loop faced, allowing for easy and rapid polishing pad changes. Generally the backing plate is sized for the task at hand. Larger backing plates (6” and 7”) are for larger 8”-10” wool pads and 7”-8” foam pads used on larger areas, and smaller backing plates (2” to 4”) are for smaller, or more difficult to reach areas. Backing plates should have a thin, flexible edge to allow for polishing curves. A hard backing plate can apply too much pressure to the edge of the bonnet or pad, resulting in sealer damage.

Compounding and Polishing Pad

The compounding and polishing (C&P) pad is charged with polishing compound and rotated by the polisher to act on the sealer. C&P pads can be made of wool, wool blends, or various densities of foam. Some C&P pads are designed only for rotary polishers, while others can be used on either rotary or dual action polishers. Polishing pads attach to the backer plate with hook-and-loop fasteners.

Wool

Twisted wool pad.

Wool pads are for aggressive, fast cut action. They’re only meant for use on rotary polishers. Wool pads are thick and can easily conform to irregular surfaces, but can also focus aggressive cutting action on edges and sharp corners, potentially damaging the surface. Wool can create a great deal of friction and generate intense heat build-up, so greater care is needed when using this type of pad.

Wool pads come in twisted and fluffy, straight-fiber versions. Twisted wool pads have a more aggressive cutting action, useful in skilled hands, but dangerous to your finish in inexperienced hands. Both tend to shed lint, and fluffy wool pads tend to clump and get easily matted.

Foam

Foam polishing pads.

Foam polishing pads eliminate many of the drawbacks of foam: they can be used on dual-action polishers, they don’t generate as much heat, and, foam polishing pads come in a wide range of firmness levels and sizes to regulate the cutting action. Generally, firm foam pads are for aggressive cutting, while softer foam pads are for polishing to a high shine. It’s recommended to start with a firmer pad to start and switch to a softer pad for a higher shine.

Foam pads come in sizes ranging from 1” to 8.5” in diameter, with 6” to 6.5” pads being the most common size. Generally, a 6” pad uses a 5” backer plate.

Polishing Compound

Polishing compounds are abrasive liquids applied to the polishing pad that abrasively increase the shine of the Omega sealer.

Cutting Compound

Cutting compounds are the most aggressive type of polish and should be used only as needed. Compounds are commonly used on severely neglected vehicles and to clean up marks left by wet sanding. Compounds will almost always leave behind some marring, hazing, or holograms and should always be followed up with a finer polish and pad combination.

Cutting Polishes

Cutting polishes are less aggressive than compounds regarding cutting power and usually do not finish down as well as a finishing polish. For a higher gloss, it is recommended to follow up a cutting polish with a finishing. Some cutting polishes break down as they are used, and thus are capable of finishing down to create a higher gloss.

Finishing Polishes

Finishing polishes are meant for gloss development and typically will not remove imperfections deeper than a very light swirl. Because they are relatively non-aggressive, a finishing polish used on a firm foam pad will achieve a low luster.

How to Polish Omega

  1. Ensure Omega is well cured for at least 1-4 days after sealing.
  2. Remove any dust motes and surficial roughness using fine sandpaper (320). Often a light pass done by hand using old 320-600 grit sandpaper is all that’s necessary to knock off any rough areas that are caused by dust in the finish. The surface should feel smooth after sanding.
  3. Clean the surface to remove any debris. A clean microfiber cloth wetted with water works well.
  4. Select a polisher, polishing pad and compound appropriate for the task. Start with the least-aggressive combination of polisher, pad, and polish to get the results you want. Dual action polishers are recommended over rotary polishers because dual action polishers spread out their energy over a larger area because the buffing pad orbits as it spins. Their cutting action is less aggressive, giving you more control. Select a medium firmness cutting foam pad, because it’s less aggressive than a wool pad or a hard-cutting foam pad. And start with a cutting polish, as it will be less aggressive yet still bring up a soft shine. Additional gloss can be developed using a softer pad and a finer polishing compound.
  5. Start at a slower speed, and work methodically, keeping the polisher moving, and spending equal amounts of time everywhere. Avoid focusing on one spot, or spending too much time in one area, as variations in sheen can occur. The idea is to evenly increase the gloss level everywhere so that the piece looks uniformly shinier. Increase the polisher speed as necessary, ensuring the surface gains gloss and does not show signs of damage from excessive polisher speed.
  6. Avoid edges, corners and hard or sharp areas, where the polisher could wear through the finish, or the polisher could catch the edge and cause damage.

Wool polishing pad and cutting compound selected for polishing.

Omega’s natural sheen before polishing.

Polishing with rotary polisher.

Finished sheen.

Eclectic Interests Lead to a Successful Concrete Countertop Business

To say that David Dick of Concrete Alternative in Kingston, Ontario (www.concretealternative.ca) has eclectic interests would be an understatement. Over the course of his life, he’s driven trucks, worked as a maintenance engineer and avionics instructor for Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard and, now, on what he describes as probably his “eight or ninth” career, he’s running his own concrete countertop business. Before attending CCI in 2017, Dick had no formal training in concrete countertops and little personal experience, but his business has grown quickly.

Eclectic Concrete

“I only dabbled,” Dick says. “I had a cousin who asked me if I could make him a concrete bar top. I had never made one before but said ‘Sure, I can do it.’ The thing was a behemoth. It weighed over four-hundred-fifty pounds, but I was the only one who got injured putting it into place,” he laughs.

Since attending CCI in London, Ontario in 2017, Dick has turned concrete countertops into a full-time job. He takes contracts for epoxy floors, as well, and sometimes turns one job into an opportunity for the other.

An Always Selling Attitude

“I’m learning that you have to always be selling,” he says. “I don’t know, maybe it’s obnoxious, but whenever I talk to someone I have my phone with all my pictures of what I make.”

That habit of always selling has resulted in Dick successfully networking with other contractors, and that networking has brought jobs.

One such connection that’s proven fruitful is Dick’s work with a high-end custom cabinet maker. While working on an epoxy floor job, Dick showed his concrete work to the cabinet maker. “Just based on what he saw in the pictures, he said I’d like to put you in the showroom,” Dick says. Dick has since created a piece for that contractor that will be set atop a walnut cabinet.

Dick also uses a website, which he put together himself using a building platform, to advertise his business; a place where he can “put up all his creations,” he says. While Dick also uses Facebook, he says that platform has been less useful to his business than his own website. Dick plans on adding facilities and, possibly, more people to his business in the future.

“That’s always what I have in my head. If I can prospect enough and get enough contracts, I’d like to expand,” he says.

Concrete BusinessDick always keeps an eye out for interesting jobs and has already had more than a few. One of his contractor connections suggested a job making a concrete ping pong table for a client.

“It never occurred to me,” Dick says. “Apparently he’s got a fair amount of demand for concrete ping pong tables. Go figure.”

Despite the novelty of the project, Dick decided to take it on and brought his imagination to bear on the work. When the piece is finished, it will have elements of arched bridges and Roman aqueducts incorporated into the design.

“That kind of archway look,” he explains. “It’s ambitious, but I’m eager to do it. This is the part of the job that appeals to me the most; design, problem-solving.

“I need to be learning something new,” he says. “That’s part of the reason I resigned from the government. You learn a fleet of aircraft from nose to tail. Once you’ve learned them, the fleet doesn’t change that quickly, so what do you do now?”

Dick also said he felt lucky to have Jeff Girard available when he decides to go out on a limb.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge and he doesn’t keep anything hidden,” Dick says of Girard

Dick sometimes persuades his customers to take risks with what GFRC can do, rather than the other way around. One of his pieces, installed in a house built in 1853, has a unique look that Dick actually persuaded the customer to let him try, even though it was, at the time, the biggest job Dick had taken on for a non-family client.

“They had an exposed limestone wall in their kitchen and they wanted a concrete island top made. I wanted to give it a rough look, and make it look like it was broken with a hammer and chisel,” he says. “At the end of the conversation, [the client] said to go ahead and do it.”

Making the island top wasn’t easy. Among other challenges, it was a hand-picked piece, and quite large, at that.

“It was a bit of an experience, but it turned out well; beginner’s luck,” Dick says.

Of course, taking risks doesn’t always turn out well, but Dick manages to have fun, even with mistakes.

Successful Concrete

“I take them down to my brother to destroy with a bulldozer. He has some trouble because GFRC is so bloody hard. I should take some videos of him trying to destroy it and post it on the website to show off just how strong this stuff is.,” he jokes.

Getting Started

For those starting out in their GFRC career, Dick highly recommends taking time to research the various tools required for GFRC work.

“You’re going to have to invest in the tools that you need; you’re going to have to spend to get yourself set up,” he said.

Dick recommended looking at the list of tools listed in Jeff Girard’s materials for CCI. He also recommended taking a careful look around the shop when attending CCI, no matter where students take the course.

“Whether Jeff teaches it in his shop or someone else’s,” Dick says,” take a look around the shop you’re in and see what they’ve got as far as tools are concerned. You can pick up a lot of information from what tools people have on the shelf. Look at what they’ve got and what they’re using. You can learn a lot from that.”

Dick’s advice comes from experience. He noted the tools in the shop where he studied, and it served him well.

“I took just as many pictures of the stuff on the shelves as I did of the process I was engaged in with Jeff,” he said.

The Artistry of GFRC: Fine Concrete Art and Custom Concrete Countertops by Thomas Lancaster in Texas

Thomas R. Lancaster of Alpine, Texas, has two web pages, one for each side of his GFRC work. One of his sites is for what he describes as his “day job,” Lancaster Concrete Designs, which produces custom concrete countertops for residential and commercial clients. His other site, Thomas R Lancaster, features his other GFRC creations: fine art pieces.

Concrete Success Story

Successful Concrete Starts Somewhere

Lancaster, a 2011 graduate of The Concrete Countertop Institute, got his first GFRC job in 2012, creating a bench outside an art gallery in Marta, Texas.

“It was one of my largest GFRC jobs,” Lancaster says. “They were remodeling the building and the architects, they were out of Oklahoma, hired me. They gave me the design of the tables and benches and I built it. It was a pretty big project for my first one.”

The piece is quite large. The tabletop measures 11 feet by 3 feet. The benches, which are divided into two sections, are 6 feet and 4 feet long, respectively.

“It took close to a month and a half of work,” Lancaster says. “It seems like it took longer, of course; waiting on people, coordinating things, lots of logistics.”

Logistics, however, is something that Lancaster enjoys. Completing the bench and table in Marta involved coordinating with other professionals, and quite a bit of preparation.

Concrete Table, Concrete Success

The finished design incorporates a steel I-beam, which runs down the middle of the piece. This was installed by metalworkers. Lancaster then poured the concrete pads into which the benches were seated and installed the rest of the piece. The end result, as seen in the image, has a peculiar visual effect when viewed in person.

“It kind of gives the appearance that it’s floating. That was the architect’s design,” Lancaster says.

Lancaster was able to take on such a complex GFRC project for his first outing, despite not having extensive experience with concrete countertops before attending CCI.

“I did concrete countertops in my house,” Lancaster says. “I bought a DIY book. Once we got those in, I decided I wanted to pursue GFRC seriously. That’s when I found CCI and got the proper education.”

When Lancaster finished his education at CCI and went into business in Alpine, he didn’t even have a space set up.

“I had to go back and build a studio before I could even start. I had no place to even make concrete,” he says.

Lancaster lives in the Big Bend area of Texas, near the US/Mexico border. The area is noted for its natural beauty, but Lancaster points out that the remoteness of the region can make it challenging for businesspeople. Nonetheless, his portfolio at Lancaster Concrete Designs features several impressive countertops and other features, and he continues to expand upon his artistic work.

GFRC as an Artistic Medium | Making concrete art

Concrete Artistry | Concrete Chair

In addition to building a concrete countertop business, Lancaster launched a career in the fine arts.

“Of course, I use concrete as my medium, mainly,” Lancaster says. “I’ve separated them into where I can have my concrete countertop business and my artist website.”
Lancaster is currently being shown on curated art sites, having his works displayed in galleries, and he recently won third place in a competition in Toronto with one of his sculptures.

“My goal is to get where I can do artwork all the time,’ Lancaster says. “Furnishings and other pieces. I’m looking to take it in an artistic direction.”

Lancaster’s pieces already show off a distinctive style. Some of his designs incorporate wood and metal into the concrete, feature complex geometrical and numerical patterns, and utilize the versatility of GFRC to lend to the pieces engaging lines and shapes. Some of his pieces incorporate LED lighting into the work. Many of his pieces have a very modern feel to them. He says that describing his style, however, is challenging.
“That’s a difficult kind of question there,” he says. “I think it has a futuristic appeal to it, for sure. It almost has somewhat of an extraterrestrial look to it, but I wouldn’t say that’s my ‘style.’”

A piece entitled Sacred Geometry Concrete Throne, featured on his site showcases how Lancaster’s use of mixed media, including concrete, wood, and metal, combined with very intricate decoration, imbues his pieces with a unique look. He finds that GFRC is entirely flexible enough for his creative endeavors.

While Lancaster would like to eventually work entirely in the fine art world, the countertop side of his business provides a sort of “day job” at present, and some of his artistic tendencies certainly find expression in his countertop work, as is visible in his portfolio.

Lancaster’s work, from both his countertop and artistic endeavors, can be found on his websites, which also feature a list of his current and past exhibitions.

How to Repair Scratches in Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

In the last article, I discussed the debate between staining and scratching of concrete countertop sealers, and I mentioned the importance of repairing any scratches that do occur.

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer

The Repairing Process

Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM is easily repairable by either a professional re-application of Omega or by a homeowner process using readily available materials (automotive clearcoat paint touchup pen). The homeowner process is fully explained in a document available after purchase of Omega. The document is designed for you to print out and give to clients upon installation. There is also a Care & Maintenance document provided.

This article focuses on the professional scratch repair process for Omega. The process is straightforward: first clean the countertops, then sand out the scratches, then reapply at least 2 finish coats to restore the surface.

Step One – Clean the countertops

The process is to use a poultice made of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and acetone.

Evaluate the extent of the damage. The easiest repair is one where the cuts or scratches don’t penetrate the sealer and expose the underlying concrete. These scratches can be handled with minimal effort: simply proceed to Step 2.

If the scratches were touched up by the client using the CCI Scratch Repair Instructions, then the touchup pen clearcoat should be first removed before resealing. Use a paper towel and straight acetone to scrub away the touchup clearcoat, ensuring all of it has been removed prior to resealing. Proceed to Step 2.

If the cuts or scratches penetrate into the concrete, more work may be needed to restore the countertops. All stains and damage must be eliminated before resealing, otherwise, they will be permanently locked into the concrete.

First, remove any stains that may have occurred. Stains (mustard, wine, etc.) can be bleached out using household bleach. Soak a folded paper towel or cotton ball with straight bleach and set it on the stain. Cover with a plate, cup, or glass to keep the bleach from drying out. Check the stain every 15 minutes until it’s disappeared. Clean up with water and a mild cleaner like Windex. Allow the area to completely dry out.

If the scratches are dark but dry, then oil has penetrated into the concrete. This can be challenging to eliminate, as oil is difficult to get out of the concrete. The process is to use a poultice made of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and acetone. Make a paste, thickly smear it over the oil stain, and cover and tape down plastic wrap to prevent the acetone from evaporating. Allow the poultice to sit overnight and draw the oil out. The process may need to be repeated to eliminate as much oil as possible. Bear in mind you may not be able to get all of the oil out of the concrete.

fix concrete countertop sealer

Step 2 – Sand out scratches

Evenly sand to achieve a smooth, well-scuffed surface over the entire surface of the slab.

Once all stains are eliminated, clean the surface that is to be resealed to remove any traces of dirt, oil or other contaminants (like wax). Surface dirt, debris, and oil can be removed by first using household cleaners (Windex, Simple Green, etc.), and then made very clean using a lint-free cloth wetted with a mixture of 50% acetone and 50% water.

Lightly dry sand the surface to be resealed with regular 320 grit sandpaper to remove any ridges in the sealer. Do not sand down to bare concrete. Scratches in the surface will gradually be filled during the resealing process. Evenly sand to achieve a smooth, well-scuffed surface over the entire surface of the slab.

Step 3 – Apply 2 finish coats

Apply 2 finish coats over the sanded areas.

Spot repairs can be done, but there may be a sheen difference between the existing surrounding sealer and the new repair. Ideally, you reseal the whole countertop, seam to seam, in order to maintain an even sheen across the whole slab. No priming is necessary. Apply 2 finish coats over the sanded areas.

If you’ve never tried Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM , the time is now! Purchase either the sealer or the full starter kit today and experience a new kind of sealer for your concrete projects. Click here.

Scratching versus Staining: The debate between coating and penetrating concrete countertop sealers

Concrete countertop sealers can be separated into two basic groups: penetrating treatments and coating sealers. The debate between coatings and treatments has been raging in the concrete countertop industry for decades. Proponents of treatments cite scratching and adhesion issues as reasons not to use coatings.

They are also gun-shy about coatings because about 10 years ago, an unscrupulous company flooded the market with a defective coating that caused disastrous delamination failures on many concrete countertop professionals’ client projects, costing them a lot of money and even putting some of them out of business.

Since then, the several currently popular high-performance urethanes on the market have shown that technology has advanced, and concrete countertop professionals no longer have anything to fear from coatings. Many very successful concrete countertop professionals use coatings exclusively and have done so for years. I have always used coatings, even when they required a full suit respirator, HVLP sprayer and several days to apply properly. The popular urethanes today are applied with a roller.

Concrete Countertops Can Scratch

Here’s the catch: Unless a coating is made of diamonds, it will scratch. There is no way around this. However, I believe that this is far preferable to staining and etching for the following reasons.

There is no countertop surface that should be cut on, ever, except wooden butcher block. Soft surfaces like laminate will scratch, and hard surfaces like granite or quartz will ruin knives.

I’ve always found that customers would rather not have to worry about staining and etching (and watermarks – that should never be an issue) than have something they can cut on.

Cutting is a deliberate act, whereas spills of lemon juice, red wine, oil, etc. are accidental, or at least could be accidentally forgotten and not wiped up.

The deliberate act of cutting can be prevented simply by setting expectations with the clients, putting in the contract and the care and maintenance guide that they can’t cut on the tops and doing so voids the warranty, and if you’re really worried about it, giving them a wooden cutting board with your logo on it as a nice gift.

Setting Expectations with Scratches

Yes, it is still possible to scratch the surface without cutting on it with a knife, for example by dragging a heavy pot with something rough on the bottom across the surface, but if the coating is easily repairable (like Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM is), and you’ve provided instructions in the care and maintenance guide, the client can easily fix a scratch. (When you purchase Omega, you receive Care and Maintenance and Scratch Repair documents to give to your clients. If you are using some other coating sealer, you should develop your own such documents.)

Setting expectations and educating your clients will prevent problems with scratches. That’s why I advocate coatings. The good ones give total protection against accidental staining and etching, are very reasonably scratch resistant, and it’s easy to prevent and repair scratches.

Clients need to know that scratches need to be fixed, because if liquids get on the scratches they will penetrate down to the bare concrete. Water is not a big deal, that will dry, but oil is very difficult to get out once it’s penetrated, and acids that get to the bare concrete will etch it. Then you essentially have a staining issue, and it can look as bad as stain-prone countertops.

Here are scratches in Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer after months of using it as a cutting board in my own kitchen (as a test to see the effects of such abuse – I would never recommend using concrete as a cutting board!):

Concrete Countertop Sealer, Coating

Note that these scratches are visible only by first wetting the surface. The scratches are nearly invisible when completely dry. However, they should be repaired to prevent oils and staining agents from penetrating and causing stains within the scratches. My next article will focus on scratch repair of Omega.

How to Reseal Concrete Countertops with Omega

Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM is designed for application to clean, previously unsealed concrete that has been sufficiently cured and has a properly prepared surface.

Applying Omega over existing concrete that has already been sealed with an unknown product and that may have been stained can be risky. In some cases, the existing concrete may have been sealed with a product that can prevent Omega from achieving a good bond with the concrete. As such, the existing concrete is likely contaminated and may cause adhesion issues.

While Omega adheres very well to clean, unsealed, and properly prepared concrete, it may not adhere to a surface that has been treated with a stone or tile repellant, a penetrating sealer/treatment, wax, a concrete hardener, or to concrete that is stained with oil or grease.

Before applying Omega over previously sealed concrete, the concrete must first be thoroughly cleaned. It must be completely free of grease, oil, dirt, wax and any other contamination. Stains in the concrete should be removed, as applying Omega over a stain in the concrete will only lock it in and potentially make it more visible. Also, physical damage to the concrete should be repaired prior to applying Omega.

Should you choose to use Omega to reseal your concrete, be aware that the outcome is highly dependent upon your effort, care and diligence, and that even with good surface preparation there are no guarantees of success.

Technique 1: Grind down to bare concrete.

Used for: Concrete that has been treated with a penetrating sealer, wax, repellants, or where an existing coating has been scratched, is peeling off, or otherwise damaged.

The best way to ensure Omega will adhere to your concrete is to remove all traces of any existing sealer and to mechanically remove all surface contamination by diamond honing/grinding the concrete to 200 grit. Physically honing away the top layer of concrete removes all traces of contamination that will affect Omega’s bond to the concrete, and it creates the optimal surface profile to ensure good adhesion.

Bear in mind that abrasive honing will change the appearance of the concrete. Polished concrete, cement-cream finishes, troweled surfaces, acid stained, dyed, or glazed concrete will no longer look the same. Honing the surface will very likely open up pinholes in your concrete, and these should be filled in with cement grout before applying Omega.

Be aware also that some penetrating treatments that react with the concrete may affect the concrete at unknown depths, so you may need to remove quite a bit of the surface in order to ensure you have eliminated all traces of the treatment.

Even then, we cannot guarantee that this technique will work. Failure to remove all traces of the previous treatment will ensure the high likelihood of any new coating peeling, Omega included.

Technique 2: Apply over an existing sealer

Used for: A few popular urethane-based concrete countertop sealers that have not been stained, damaged or scratched, nor have any existing adhesion failure.

Omega has been successfully applied on top of a few popular existing urethane-based concrete countertop sealers. Some but not all finishes may be successfully overcoated, as the surface chemistry of every sealer is different and may affect the surface bond. In the cases where Omega was successfully applied, the existing sealer had not been stained, damaged or scratched, nor did it have any existing adhesion failure.

After cleaning, the surface of the existing sealer was sanded with 320 grit sandpaper to achieve a uniform dull finish without sanding through to the base concrete. Sanding down to bare concrete would affect the appearance of the concrete, as Omega may darken the concrete differently from the existing sealer.

Only undamaged, clean and thoroughly-sanded finishes may be considered for overcoating. All other conditions will require the existing sealer first be completely removed and then the underlying bare concrete roughened to accept Omega, as explained in Technique 1.

Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer FAQs

This page contains frequently asked questions about Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM.

Q: How is Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM different?

A: Omega is a revolutionary new high performance urethane sealer that is also fast and easy to apply. Omega allows you to do in 2 hours what used to take 2 days with other urethanes. You’re done in a matter of hours, and never have to worry about callbacks again.

This is a unique two-component, water-borne aliphatic-polyurethane that is highly reactive and not dependent on humidity to cure. It rolls on quickly and easily without worrying about streaks or bubbles in the final finish. The finish is ready for light use as fast as one day after application.

Omega: Fast. Easy. Done. Your sealer woes are finally over.

Why Jeff developed Omega:

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Q: Where can I buy Omega Concrete Countertop SealerTM?

A: Click here to purchase in our online store.

Omega is available for purchase in Canada from Exclusive Concrete in London, ON. Please visit www.exclusiveconcrete.com or call 519-282-6495.

Omega is marketed in Australia as Mega Concrete Benchtop SealerTM, and sold through POP Concrete in Brisbane. Please visit www.popconcretesnt.com.au or call 0466 334 630.

Omega is available for purchase in the United Kingdom from Cheshire Concrete Designs. Please visit www.cheshireconcretedesigns.co.uk or call 07807 040783.

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Q: What is the coverage and cost per square foot?

A: A small kit of 16 oz A, 8 oz B (24 oz) covers approximately 133 sq ft using 1 primer coat and 4 finish coats, and up to 267 sq ft if using 1 primer coat and 1 finish coat.

Cost is $108 per 24 oz, or $0.40 per sq ft at maximum coverage to $0.81 per sq ft at minimum coverage.

The larger kit is 4 times this size (96 oz), so 532-1068 sq ft coverage at a cost of $0.39 to $0.77 per sq ft.

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Q: Where can I find the instructions?

A: The full instruction videos and documentation are available online after purchase. Search your inbox and spam folder for an email with subject line “Important instructions for Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer”. It is essential to watch and read the full documentation before applying the sealer.

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Q: What test data do you have?

A: Extensive testing for stain and acid resistance has been performed following the procedure explained here. Field testing and lab testing for UV stability, wet use, and freeze/thaw have been performed. Additional standardized tests for abrasion, impact resistance, adhesion and flexibility have also been performed. Here are the results.

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Q: How many total coats and how long did you wait for it to cure before the testing?

A: Testing was done on 4 finish coats, when the finish was 2 weeks old. This represents typical long-term performance. Early performance was very good too, but hard to characterize, as the finish is still curing when it’s only a couple days old.

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Q: Will Omega work on all concrete?

A: Yes and no. While Omega’s performance is not related to the kind of concrete it’s applied to, the appearance can be. Omega is primarily used by professional concrete countertop makers, who generally use concrete that is dense and relatively non-porous (like GFRC). Different concrete mix designs, casting techniques, curing regimens, surface processing techniques, environmental conditions, etc. will influence how well Omega is applied and how it looks.

In particular, very porous concrete can present challenges, showing dark lines that are sometimes interpreted as roller marks. Please see below for details on dealing with porous concrete.

Keep in mind also that Omega was developed specifically for professional concrete countertops and elements. It has not been tested on floors, which could range from conventional ready-mix concrete to highly polymer modified overlays to epoxy systems.

It’s strongly recommended to test Omega on a trial sample before sealing a real project for the first time. Practice in timing and application method is essential, because the outcome is often directly related to the skill and care of the one applying the sealer.

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Q: Does it stand up to mustard?

A: Mustard is an extreme staining agent due to the coloring (often turmeric) and acidity. Mustard and Tabasco Sauce (a brand of hot pepper sauce) are the only substances that made a slight stain (a little color, not etching) after 24 hours, but that stain bleached out. Only the surface of the sealer stained – the concrete did not stain – and again, it was fixed easily with bleach. Please see the test results report above, and about halfway through the stain test performance video.

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Q: Is it grease/oil resistant?

A: Yes, completely.

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Q. Will it prevent water marks?

A: Definitely, absolutely no problems with water marks. Omega can be used in wet areas including sinks, tubs and showers.

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Q: Is it food safe?

A: Yes. Once Omega is cured it is completely food safe and inert.

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Q: What is the shelf life?

A: Omega is highly reactive, which is what makes it so fast to apply. The shelf life is 3-6 months in unopened containers, and 1 month or 3 applications (whichever comes first) in opened containers, stored properly and dry gas blanket (Smooth-On XTEND-IT) applied.

Here is how to tell whether Omega has expired:

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Q: How do I know whether Omega has expired?

A: As Omega nears the end of its shelf life, Part A will become gel-like in consistency. If you can mix Part A to liquefy it, you can still use it.

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Q: How long does it take for Omega to cure completely and gain its full performance?

A: Just like concrete, sealers need to cure. You wouldn’t expect your concrete to have full strength after only 24 hours – although it may be strong enough to handle, it will gain strength over time. Typically you should expect full cure of Omega within 4-7 days, depending on temperature. (Omega is not dependent on moisture to cure.) Most urethane coatings require similar timeframes.

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Q: It’s been 24 hours, but my sealer still feels tacky/gummy.

A: While Omega does not depend on humidity to cure, it is affected by temperature, just like your concrete, or any chemical reaction. In order for Omega to cure quickly, it needs to cure under warm conditions continuously, so ideally leave the heat on in your shop. At recommended temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius),

When brand new Omega feels oily, then it feels tacky, then it’s a bit soft and rubbery, then it continues to harden. If you lightly sand with 320 sandpaper and the paper doesn’t gum up and you get white dust, Omega is hard enough to sand out any dust spots.

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Q: What sheens are available?

A: Matte only. Please note also that Omega is color enhancing, meaning that it “wets out” the color of the concrete. Color enhancing versus non color enhancing is a different property than the sheen of the finish.

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Q: Is there going to be a gloss version of Omega?

A: We do not have a gloss version planned at this time, however Omega can be buffed to increase the sheen without affecting its performance. Simply use standard automotive clearcoat buffing equipment and techniques. See this article for more information.

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Q: How often does it need to be reapplied or resealed?

A: Never, unless you subject it to extreme abuse (like using your countertop as a cutting board).

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Q: Do you recommend it for outdoor projects?

A: Absolutely. It is UV stable and fine for outdoors in all wet/dry and freeze/thaw conditions. It has been extensively tested on both lab samples and installed client projects for several months in challenging wet and freezing outdoor conditions. An alumnus in British Columbia, Canada, reports: “I use it for all my outdoor kitchens. It’s been raining, snowing, and freeze/thawing since and they are all perfect.” Lab tests over 6 months have shown zero effects from soaking, then freezing, then thawing many dozens of times.

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Q: Can I put hot pots on it?

A: Yes, up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius). It’s still a good idea to use trivets, because the underlying concrete may be affected by the heat even if the sealer is not.

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Q: Can I cut on it?

A: No. There is no coating you should cut on, because unless a coating is made of diamonds, it will scratch.

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Q: How do I clean surfaces sealed with Omega?

Maintenance and cleaning couldn’t be easier. Damp cloths, mild detergents and other water-based cleansers with neutral pH are all that are needed. Examples are 409, Fantastik, Windex, and Simple Green. Vinegar, bleach and bleach-based cleansers are acceptable.

Avoid harsh, acidic cleaners and solvents. Abrasive cleansers or scrubbers should be never be used. These include Ajax, Comet, Brillo pads and 3M scrubbing pads, and all similar products. Abrasive cleaning products will scratch and damage the surface, compromising the sealer’s ability to protect the concrete.

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Q: How does it perform with respect to scratches?

A: Omega has good scratch resistance. It will not scratch under normal use of simply placing objects on the counter. It will scratch if cut on with a knife, but unlike brittle finishes that fracture when scratched (that’s why scratches look white), Omega doesn’t show light cuts and scratches as a spiderweb of white lines.

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Q: Can scratches be repaired?

A: Yes, Omega is easy for the homeowner to repair if scratches do occur. This means that you won’t have callbacks due to scratches.

For any sealer, you should provide your clients with a care and maintenance guide that specifies that they should not cut on the countertops, as well as what to do if scratches do occur, and your contract should include this information. This is part of setting expectations, which is important no matter what sealer you use.

Detailed instructions for scratch repair, as well as a care and maintenance guide, are available for download after purchasing Omega. You can provide these documents to your client. There is also an article about the basic process here.

Note that with any coating, it is important to repair scratches before they become a problem. If scratches occur and are left unrepaired, staining agents, acids or oil could get through to the underlying concrete and discolor or damage it.

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Q: How does it compare to [other popular high performance urethane sealer] when it comes to abrasion resistance?

A: The abrasion resistance of Omega is very good, with a low Taber abrasor score (lower is better) – see the test results above. We don’t have comparable data for other sealers, and therefore cannot comment on which is better.

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Q: Why would I want to use a coating that might scratch if there are penetrating treatments out there that claim to provide stain and acid resistance?

A: In our experience over the past 2 decades, no penetrating treatment has ever provided consistently satisfactory performance with respect to stain resistance, acid resistance and even water resistance. Only coatings completely prevent substances from ever touching the concrete, giving total protection.

It is important to test any sealer yourself (including Omega) to verify the manufacturer’s claims as well as to familiarize yourself with the details of its performance. We strongly recommend that you follow the rigorous stain and acid testing procedure specified here before you put any new (to you) sealer on a client project – especially any treatment, because treatments allow substances to touch the concrete.

The debate between coatings and treatments has been raging in the concrete countertop industry for decades. Click here for a detailed article about this topic.

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Q: I’m considering priming the concrete with [popular reactive treatment] followed by Omega top coats. The reasoning is that the [popular reactive treatment] will make the concrete itself stain/acid resistant, and Omega will provide an additional physical barrier that is also stain/acid resistant.

A: Be careful about applying treatments to concrete followed by any coating. Most coatings require clean, dry, bare concrete with enough microtexture (max 200 or 400 grit depending on the coating) to bond to. Omega, and likely most urethanes, almost certainly should not go over [popular reactive treatment] or any other penetrating treatment (densifier) with a lithium/potassium/sodium silicate or silicanate or siloxane chemistry. We have not tested Omega in these circumstances.

What you are trying to achieve is a completely impervious system that even if it scratches and staining agent/acid/oil gets through the scratches, the concrete underneath will not stain. But what you’re creating is a bonding problem.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no perfect sealer. You can choose stain/acid resistance, or you can choose scratch resistance. You can’t have both. As stated above, “In our experience over the past 2 decades, no penetrating treatment has ever provided consistently satisfactory performance with respect to stain resistance, acid resistance and even water resistance.”

We believe that stain/acid resistance is far more important. Click here for a detailed article about this topic.

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Q: Can Omega be applied over a densifier?

A: Not without a lot of work, and even then it’s risky. See the answer to the previous question, and then read this article about resealing with Omega.

If you’re not resealing but making a new countertop, think about what you are trying to achieve by using a densifier, and whether it’s really necessary. Densifiers are typically used to decrease permeability and to make concrete harder for polishing. You don’t need to decrease permeability when you’re going to apply a completely impermeable coating. And you’re not going to polish concrete before applying Omega, because you’re going to stop at 200 or 400 grit. So densifiers make no sense with Omega or with any other coating.

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Q: Can Omega be applied over acid stains?

A: Yes, if you’re talking about actual acid stains that work by penetrating the surface and reacting chemically with the calcium hydroxide in the concrete. In that case, Omega should adhere fine with very thorough surface prep, as is the case for all coating sealers. The acid stain must first be completely neutralized, and all residue scrubbed off. A “white towel” test will determine whether all of the residue has been removed or not. The concrete must then be well rinsed with water. The concrete should then dry for 24 hours, since all the cleaning pumps a lot of moisture into the concrete.

Other “stains”, may actually be pigmented coatings (e.g. Smith Paints), and Omega may or may not adhere to them.

Excessive application of Buddy Rhodes Glazes can create adhesion issues (glaze to concrete and Omega to glaze).

Using pigmented coatings and glazes under Omega should be tested by the end user, because application can vary so widely.

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Q: Will Omega adhere to glass and metal?

A: Glass and metal are popular decorative embedments in concrete countertops. Omega will adhere to properly prepared glass and metal. Glass should be diamond-honed to a grit no finer than 200 to ensure good adhesion. Metal needs to be thoroughly cleaned and scuffed to ensure good adhesion. I recommend hand-sanding bare metal with a non-diamond abrasive such as silicon-carbide sandpaper to a grit no finer than 220. The metal should then be cleaned with acetone to remove residue, grease or other contaminants.

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Q: Can Omega be used on fire features?

A: Yes, if the fire feature is properly designed (as ours are) to keep direct flame off the concrete, then neither the concrete nor the sealer are going to heat up too much, so this is a non-issue. Like most coating sealers, Omega does not stand up to open flame. Nor does concrete!

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Q: How does it compare to [other popular high performance urethane sealer]?

A: That, as well as other company’s brands, are popular urethane based concrete countertop sealers with excellent performance. The advantage of Omega over the current urethanes is that it’s faster and easier to apply and get it to look good, and it still has the excellent performance. With concrete countertop sealers, both performance and appearance are essential – and it’s really nice if achieving both is quick and easy.

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Q: I am not happy with the performance of [other sealer], and would like to reseal. Can Omega be applied right over our current sealer?

A: If the other sealer is a coating, likely yes. Most coatings just need to be scuff sanded (not sanded completely off), and then Omega applied. It has excellent adherence over a few other popular coatings we’ve tested. Please see this article for details.

Please note that Omega should NOT be applied over penetrating or reactive treatments.

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Q: I moved away from [other popular high performance urethane sealer] because of the excess rolling to get the finish to layout nicely in the lower to no dilution application steps. Does Omega have the same issue?

A: The main issue with all the other urethanes that Omega solves is exactly the excess rolling. Omega lays out on its own without streaks or bubbles. The key is not to *over* back roll it.

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Q: How’s the flash dry time compared to other similar sealers? With [other popular high performance urethane sealer], I find it hard to get it to lay out flawless on the less diluted coats on larger pieces without a third hand.

A: Feedback from folks who have used that, and similar finishes, report that Omega lays out better and is less fussy. One main reason is that it requires less backrolling, so you’re not spending a lot of time trying to make a fast-drying finish look perfect. Omega lays out very nicely on its own, so you don’t need (or ever want to) over back roll it. In fact, it is best to leave any little bubbles because they pop on their own and become invisible.

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Q: What is the preparation protocol for surface to seal? I’m not a big fan of muratic acid washing the surface – I wet polish 100/200 then dry 200 and Spinflex with a 200.

A: Surface prep is important with any sealer. The wet polishing you do is fine. With Omega we recommend *not* dry polishing or Spinflexing it because it burnishes the surface and makes it too smooth. Not having to do that saves time. You would need to use muriatic acid if you did not wet polish 100/200 because you had a cream finish you wanted to preserve. The acid gives the surface a little bit of tooth, just like polishing at 200 grit does. Of course the surface needs to be clean, dry, and as dust free as possible, for any coating.

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Q: Can I dry grind to prepare the surface for Omega? I usually do dry grinding instead of wet, or I’m doing a reseal in someone’s kitchen.

A: No. 

Please see this article for why, as well as 2 informative videos.

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Q: I applied the primer, and there are dark lines/blotches everywhere. I thought this sealer was supposed to lay out easily with no roller marks. What should I do?

A: Your concrete is likely porous and absorbing a lot of moisture that is taking time to dry. It’s important to differentiate these marks left by moisture in the concrete from those created from primer that has prematurely dried before backrolling.

  • Areas that are absorbing more moisture will appear darker, and this appearance is temporary and will disappear when the concrete dries.
  • In contrast, areas in which primer dried prematurely before backrolling will appear lighter than areas that stayed wet before being backrolled, and those differences are usually permanent.

Here’s what’s going on if you have the former (absorbing more moisture) situation:

It is not uncommon for the concrete to appear blotchy and uneven during and even soon after the sealing process has been completed. Dark marks in the concrete (roller lines, puddle marks, drips, etc.) are due to excess moisture in the concrete enhancing those areas that are moister. And concrete that has very recently been wet before sealing can also exhibit uneven dark areas during and after sealing.

Dark roller lines and dark spots can remain in the concrete even after the sealing process is finished, and it usually takes at least 12 hours or more for them to fade and for the appearance to even out after the last coat of sealer is applied. (This of course assumes that the primer and finish coats were applied according to the directions, and didn’t dry before being backrolled.)

The process of priming involves soaking the concrete with primer until the concrete can no longer absorb any more. During priming, large amounts of moisture are pumped into the concrete, and how much moisture gets into the concrete depends upon its age, composition and porosity, as well as how long the primer is left on the concrete before backrolling. Areas where more moisture sat for longer times will appear darker, as water is an excellent but temporary color enhancer. The darker moisture spots/marks/lines usually don’t disappear during the 10 to 30 minutes needed for the surface moisture to flash off between coats.

The fresh primer coat (or coats, if more than one is used) holds the moisture in the concrete, and subsequent primer/finish coats help retain that moisture, resulting in a blotchy or streaky appearance. This is almost always temporary, as the moisture in the concrete evaporates over time.

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Q: What happens if I accidentally spill water on the sealer in the middle of the sealing process, for example after I’ve just finished the second of four finish coats?

A: No worries, in the case of water spilled during the sealer process simply proceed with the next coat. However, if you spill water on the surface just after you have completed the sealing process, before the sealer has cured, you should blot up the water, because it will leave a dull or dark mark on the sealer. After the sealer has cured completely (usually after 4 days depending on temperature), it is completely impervious to water.

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Q: What if I get dust in the sealer? And if I don’t notice dust in the finish until the next day, and the surface is bumpy?

A: Dust is an issue in any shop, but Omega is very forgiving. If you notice dust, particles, hair, or fibers in the surface while sealing, they can simply be brushed off with your finger or a paper towel. The mark left by doing this will disappear on its own.

If you feel any roughness the next day after sealing, say if dust settled in there, simply go over it with 320 or 400 or 600 grit sandpaper very lightly and quickly by hand. There’s no machine sanding or buffing.

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Q: There are chunks in Part A, and they’re getting stuck in the roller and on the surface. What should I do?

 

A: Because of the highly reactive nature of Omega’s chemistry, sometimes small amounts of material can cure with the tiny amount of air in the container and dry on the lid, causing bits of dried material to fall into the liquid. This is similar to what happens with paint cans when using ordinary household paint. It does not indicate any problem with the sealer and simply requires straining. Straining is recommended as a standard procedure, just like automotive finishes are always strained before applying.

Simply proceed with mixing Part A, Part B and water according to the instructions, then strain the mixture with a paint strainer before using it. The instructional videos contain detailed information about this procedure. [I’ll add red text to the instruction page now, and then we can post the video when you’re done with it.]

If you don’t notice the chunks before mixing and applying, no worries, pick them out and keep going, just like if you got dust or fibers in the sealer.

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Q: When I opened Part A, there was a thick film on top. What should I do?

A: This is the same issue that can cause chunks. Simply remove and discard the thick film and proceed. The Part A container has a little extra material in excess of the 2:1 ratio to account for possible losses due to a film or chunks.

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Q: What happens if Omega freezes?

A: You will know it! Part B shows no signs, but Part A becomes a hard, rubbery puck when frozen. When fully re-thawed, it has the consistency of gummy yogurt. During the winter, we ship Omega only next-day or two-day, and we put heating packs in the boxes.

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How to Effectively Sell Concrete Countertops to Homeowners

Selling concrete countertops to a homeowner is a very different experience than working with a general contractor or architect or designer. For one thing, the homeowner will often not know exactly what to expect, or will have biased ideas of what the process is going to entail, so it’s very important to communicate well and effectively. Even if you’ve been selling countertops for years, you still might have some kinks in your processes to work out.

The sales process for each client will generally go through the same steps:

  • Initial inquiry/info seeking
  • Meeting for sample viewing or measuring
  • Estimate
  • Buying decision/closing
  • Project execution
  • Follow-up

Navigating the initial inquiry

“Show interest in and be excited about their project. Engage them in conversation.”

The potential client may have found your website via a web search or heard about you from a friend. They may call or email to get more information. Always respond to inquiries the same business day if at all humanly possible.

Spend most of your time asking and answering questions, not spewing information. Answer the client’s questions succinctly and in a way that is consistent with your messaging, and then encourage them to tell you more about what they’re looking for or to ask you more questions. Engage them in conversation.

Show interest in and be excited about their project. You don’t want to come across like you’re grilling them, but your goal is to learn as much about them as possible so that what you teach them about your company and your product fits what they are looking for.

As you talk to more and more people, you will develop your own style and wording for your answers. And you should always tailor your answers to that particular client’s concerns or needs. However, you will hear the same questions about concrete countertops over and over again.

Some Common Questions You Should Know How to Answer

“The more confident you can answer these common questions, the more your customer will trust you.”

Question: How does concrete compare to granite?

Answer: Concrete is very similar to granite in terms of physical properties. It’s a hard, durable countertop surface, and it weighs about the same as granite. It is templated and installed just like granite. It’s very practical in the kitchen. The main difference is the look. Concrete has a more natural, matte look, and it is completely customizable. It really fills a void in countertop looks.

Question: I’ve heard that concrete countertops stain and require a lot of maintenance. Is this true?

Answer: Concrete countertops actually behave similarly to granite in this regard. Granite countertops are also porous and have to be sealed and maintained. Most people don’t realize this because granite is usually too dark and patterned to show stains. Food, acids, and oil will not stain your concrete countertop because we use a high performance sealer.

Question: How much do your countertops cost?

Answer: The cost depends on the square footage, what type of sink you have, backsplashes, edging. Do you have a sketch of your kitchen yet? I’d be happy to give you an estimate on the whole project.

Question: Why are concrete countertops so expensive? It’s just concrete.

Answer: The materials are cheap – just sand and cement. It’s the craftsmanship and work that go into it. It’s like the reason a violin costs more than a wooden pallet – they use the same material, but different levels of craftsmanship. Concrete countertops are really the highest-end possible countertops because they’re made completely from scratch custom and personalized for you.

The Bottom Line

If you’re going to have a successful business relationship with a client, you need to be absolutely crystal clear on what their desires are, and how you plan to meet those desires. You need to be honest: if they have unrealistic expectations, do NOT assure them that you can make it work, but rather educate them as to what exactly you will be able to do and what you CAN’T do.

A Quick Guide to Preventing Efflorescence in Your Concrete Countertops

efflorescence

Severe efflorescence in concrete

Efflorescence. It’s the whitish powdery material that forms on the surfaces of masonry or concrete construction, and also it’s the white blush that can form on sealed concrete floors or concrete countertops. While it poses no threat structurally, efflorescence is an aesthetic nuisance that affects both interior and exterior concrete. This article discusses why efflorescence occurs, how it can be prevented and how to deal with it if it does happen.

There are two kinds of efflorescence: primary and secondary. Primary efflorescence occurs when concrete bleedwater dries on the surface. Secondary efflorescence occurs when soluble mineral salts are leached out of cured concrete.

Efflorescence “growing” on the inside of a concrete block wall.

Primary Efflorescence

Eliminating primary efflorescence begins before the concrete is cast, simply by using basic good concreting practices: Start with a concrete mix that uses well-graded aggregates, a low water-to-cement (w/c) ratio, and fly ash or other pozzolan as a partial cement replacement; use a water reducer to increase workability without adding extra water to the mix.

Extra water in the concrete makes it more porous, weaker, and more susceptible to shrinkage cracking. The extra water is an unwanted internal reservoir that can leach the salts out of the concrete. Concrete made with a w/c of 0.45 or less will produce a relatively strong, dense mix that’s unlikely to have excessive bleedwater.

Making good concrete is just the first step. It does no good to have a well-designed, low w/c ratio concrete if it’s not cured properly. Wet curing under burlap, plastic sheeting or curing blankets allows the concrete to gain strength and density during the critical early days after casting. Well-cured concrete inhibits water movement, and this is one important step to controlling primary and secondary efflorescence. If the concrete doesn’t allow moisture movement, the salts deep within the concrete can’t be leached out.

efflorescence on a polished concrete big-box store floor.

Secondary Efflorescence

All masonry and concrete materials are susceptible to secondary efflorescence, including concrete countertops. Secondary efflorescence is most often caused by moisture or water vapor migrating through a concrete slab, bringing soluble salts to the surface of the concrete. The amount and character of the deposits vary according to the nature of the soluble materials and the atmospheric conditions.

Concrete contains a variety of soluble mineral salts, both from the cement and from admixtures like calcium chloride, and even from chemicals applied to the concrete after it has hardened. It’s those salts that are the “seeds” of efflorescence.

While all concrete has some soluble salts in it, not all concrete will effloresce. Efflorescence will occur only if all of the following conditions exist within the concrete:

  • The concrete must have soluble mineral salts within it.
  • There must be moisture to dissolve the soluble salts.
  • Evaporation or hydrostatic pressure must cause the mineral salt solution to move towards the concrete surface.

If any one of these conditions is eliminated, efflorescence will not occur.

Controlling secondary efflorescence is a more common problem for contractors who have “inherited” pre-existing concrete. The mix itself can’t be changed, so factors that affect water movement into and out of the concrete are where steps can be taken. Identifying and minimizing the sources of moisture are the first step. Reducing the porosity of the concrete to prevent the soluble salts from being leached out is the second step.

This second step to controlling efflorescence is to apply chemical hardeners, also known as densifiers, to existing concrete. These make the matrix less porous by generating calcium silicate hydrates that plug the pores and clog the capillaries.

Curious how repairing efflorescence plays out in a real-world scenario? Read this blog from our backlog that details an example of how to repair a concrete floor with efflorescence that was progressively worsening.

6 Problems with Concrete Countertop Mix Designs and How to Prevent Them

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” This doesn’t have to be the case with concrete countertops. With some basic knowledge, you can prevent these basic problems with concrete countertop mix designs.

1. Air Bubbles (Pinholes)

Underside of a wet cast ramp sink. The large holes are where air bubbles got trapped under the top cap of the mold.

All concrete will have air trapped in the mix due to the mixing process. Fine aggregates and sand tend to trap air bubbles, and a stiff cement paste won’t allow the air to rise and escape.

The only way to cast traditional concrete so there are no air bubbles (large or small) on the surface is to design the mix so that the fresh concrete is very fluid or can be made very fluid by vibration. Air cannot be made to disappear, dissolve or not get entrapped by adding an admixture. Only a very fluid concrete will allow the air bubbles to push their way through the concrete and rise to the surface.

Often the cast surface will be hole-free but any significant grinding will reveal tiny pinholes just below the surface. Large air bubbles have enough buoyant force to push aside the aggregate and escape, while the smallest bubbles get left behind because they are too small and not buoyant enough to push their way through the concrete.

Defoamers work by preventing stable air bubbles from forming during mixing. Defoamers don’t make air disappear, rather they reduce the cement paste’s surface tension characteristics so bubbles are harder to form. The concrete still needs to be fluid enough to allow the bubbles to escape.

It is often nearly impossible to completely eliminate pinholes. In this case, you can fill them in with a fine cement paste called grout. (This is sometimes called slurry, incorrectly. Slurry is the dirty water produced by wet grinding concrete.)

For a detailed grouting procedure, see this article.

Pinholes in GFRC

When working with GFRC, the energy of spraying the mist coat lays down a thin veneer with no air bubbles. It is still important to use defoamer with liquid GFRC polymers because denser GFRC is stronger GFRC.

It is also possible to direct cast GFRC. This is essentially casting a fluid backer without mist coat. With this technique, it’s possible for fibers to show and for trapped air to cause pinholes to show. The shape of the piece dictates whether you can get a good casting – air rises, so horizontal surfaces may be fine, but vertical surfaces probably will have some exposed air voids. This is also true for traditional wet cast concrete.

2. Curling

Thin concrete beams that have curled (the middle is higher than the ends)

“Concrete mixes that are shrinkage prone will curl more than mixes that are shrinkage resistant.”

Curling is caused by poor curing and storage conditions. When one side of a concrete slab is allowed to dry out while the other side remains moist (or is moister), the concrete will tend to shrink towards the dry side. Prolonged moist curing, and storing the slabs so both sides get even airflow, can control curling.

As a general rule, traditional concrete should moist cure for a minimum of 5-7 days before being allowed to slowly and evenly dry out. However, most concrete countertop artisans use high-performance mixes that allow for a cure time of 1-2 days before proceeding with processing and sealing.

GFRC does not need to be moist cured. GFRC uses a polymer that acts as an internal barrier to keep moisture inside, and that is what achieves “moist curing” over 5-7 days. GFRC should still be kept evenly moist/dry on both sides.

Concrete mixes that are shrinkage prone will curl more than mixes that are shrinkage resistant. Good aggregate gradation, lower cement contents, and low water-cement ratios are the key to making shrinkage resistant concrete. In addition, shrinkage reducing admixtures (SRA) can manage or reduce shrinkage and curling. Some shrinkage reducing admixtures increase the mix water demand and may reduce the strength of the concrete.

For GFRC, the base mix design is extremely shrinkage prone because it is so cement rich. Furthermore, GFRC tends to be used for large, thin slabs which exacerbates the tendency to curl. Make sure that GFRC slabs are well supported so they don’t sag, and ensure there is good airflow under the slab so that moisture doesn’t build up and create differential shrinkage.

3. Hairline Cracks

Hairline cracks (and all cracks for that matter) form when tension forces in the concrete exceed the tensile strength of the concrete. Tension forces in the concrete can be generated from shrinkage, heat or deflection.

Generally, hairline cracks are very narrow and represent a stress-relief response to the excessive tension force. Larger cracks tend to be caused by bending forces that generate large deflections that open up the cracks.

Most hairline cracks form over time as the concrete dries out and shrinkage stresses build up. Keys to managing shrinkage involve good curing, good mix design and possibly the use of SRA’s; see Curling, above.

Heat can cause micro-cracking where the concrete develops micro-hairline spider web or map cracks. Often these can only be seen if water or other liquid is applied to the affected concrete. The use of PVA or AR glass fibers, good curing, and good aggregate gradations can minimize the effects of intense heat. Limiting the temperature and/or duration of heating will greatly reduce the likelihood of thermal cracking.

Bending, due to uneven supports or excessive loading, can cause hairline cracks. If the concrete just cracks but does not open up, and if the load that caused the crack is removed, then the resulting crack is often called a hairline crack. If the load is high enough or sustained, and movement is allowed, then the crack can open up. This is what is called a structural crack.

4. Harsh or Stiff Mix

A very harsh and dry concrete mix

Harsh mixes usually have too much large aggregate or very rough, angular aggregate. This is an issue only with traditional aggregate-based concrete mixes.

Simply adding more cement to the concrete mix can help, but too much cement can cause excessive shrinkage. The better solution is to regrade the aggregates to allow for more fine aggregate. Often blending coarse and rounded aggregate will help with a harsh mix.

Sometimes concrete has low workability or is very stiff because it has a very low water/cement ratio. The common solution to stiff concrete is to add extra water to make it more flowable. This is a very poor solution to a common problem. Cracking, shrinkage, low strength and high porosity often result. This describes common sidewalk concrete.

The better solution is to add water reducer. Concrete countertop mixes typically use high range water reducers that are polycarboxylate based, called “superplasticizers”. Here is a video of how well superplasticizers work:

 

The equivalent superplasticizer to the one used in the video is WR310. I generally prefer working with a liquid superplasticizer such as WR420.

5. Segregation

“Sometimes a good concrete mix can segregate when too much superplasticizer is used.”

Ideally, all ingredients in your mix are evenly distributed. Segregation is when gravity causes the heavy ingredients such as aggregate/sand to settle, and fluid cement paste and water rise to the top.

Highly fluid concrete mixes tend to segregate if the cement paste viscosity is not stabilized. Segregation occurs when the cement paste is too fluid and not viscous enough to support and suspend the larger aggregate. What happens is that the large aggregate sinks to the bottom of the forms and the pure cement paste forms a runny, scummy layer on top of the concrete. The fluid is not water; rather it is the highly fluid cement paste that has separated from the aggregates due to gravity.

Two common solutions can solve segregation. One is to use a viscosity-modifying admixture (VMA). It’s a stabilizer and thickener.

Another solution is to increase the very fine aggregate content of the concrete. Typically fly ash, microspheres or powdered stone is added, or during the mix design, some of the coarse aggregates are replaced with equal amounts of very fine material. Typically the fine material accounts for about 5% by volume of concrete.

Sometimes a good concrete mix can segregate when too much superplasticizer is used, or, the wrong superplasticizer is used in the attempt to create a highly fluid mix. Polycarboxylate superplasticizers have paste stabilization characteristics that other superplasticizers don’t, and the use of either VMA’s or extra fines can augment the stabilization.

6. Long Set Time/Low Early Strength

Several factors influence the set time for concrete. These include temperature, admixtures, and water content.

Temperature: Colder temperatures slow the hydration rate, increasing set time and strength development. In contrast, high temperatures sometimes speed the set time so much that you can’t work with the concrete fast enough. In this case I use ice as a substitute for some of the mix water. Both are measured by weight.

Admixtures: Chemical retarders, some synthetic pigments, some liquid pigments, low reactivity pozzolans used as cement replacements, and some water reducers can all slow or retard the setting rate of concrete.

Water content: High w/c ratios also slow the setting time somewhat.

These are a few of the issues that could occur with concrete countertop mixes. To understand more about precast concrete countertop mix design, please see the article “The best mix design for concrete countertops”. There is also a huge amount of information about GFRC and its mix design available here.

Crafting Unique and Custom Concrete Projects | Curtis and Jamie McCharles of Timmins, Ontario

Concrete Bar crafted by CMGC

Getting into the Concrete Business

“It’s not just about learning concrete. You have to get good at everything that goes along with being a business owner if you want to make this work.”

Curtis and Jamie McCharles, of CMGC in Timmins, Ontario, got into the custom concrete business in a rather unexpected way. After taking in a football game while traveling around Ontario, they stopped off at a bar. That bar had a counter that was made of concrete, and it caught their attention.

Both Curtis and Jamie had plenty of experience working in the construction business and had launched CMGC in 2013. The business name stands for “Curtis McCharles General Carpenter,” and the couple handles all manner of home renovations. Nonetheless, Jamie describes being captivated by the beauty and versatility of concrete and its potential applications.

“We drove around looking for artisans who did it, and we couldn’t really find anyone,” Jamie McCharles said.

While they eventually found a weekend course in concrete, and plenty of information online, that didn’t provide the sort of in-depth education the pair were in search of. They decided to explore CCI as an option. A conversation with Jeff and Lane of CCI persuaded Jamie and Curtis that CCI’s program was what they were looking for.

“Speaking to Jeff and Lane: from their interview process, it was clear they didn’t want people in the class who weren’t ready to take that step. Just the professionalism that we saw in their website, in their content, that’s what spoke to us. We’ve always felt that way about the standard of work in our carpentry business.”

A unique fireplace concrete project by CMGC

The CCI intake interview convinced Jamie and Curtis that CCI could give them the level of training they sought. “I’ll always remember that interview. Curtis and I were sitting in a pickup truck and, when we got off the phone, we said ‘Yeah, this is going to be worth it.’”

Curtis and Jamie flew down to Raleigh to attend CCI, along with their son, who was less than a year old at the time. “We’re a team,” Jamie explains. “So he couldn’t leave me behind.”

Jamie said the class lived up to the expectations they’d developed from speaking with Lane and from CCI’s marketing. “There were no distractions or time wasting,” she said. “They want people who are serious about this and who want to learn. When we told Lane what our background was, she felt that it would really be an asset for us.”

Jamie and Curtis work as a team in every aspect of their business, which has proven an asset, as well. As involved as working in custom concrete can be, there’s a lot more to being successful in the business than being knowledgeable about GFRC.

“We didn’t just have to learn this industry,” Jamie says. “We had to become entrepreneurs, marketing experts, smart business people. We had to build a network. It’s not just about learning concrete. You have to get good at everything that goes along with being a business owner if you want to make this work.

The artisans behind CMGC

How CMGC Approaches Their Work and Clients

“That’s what special about concrete: good concrete is made by people who care.”

While CMGC sets high standards for their work, they also put a strong emphasis on building connections with their clients.

“We’ve been very lucky,” Jamie says. “After each of our projects, we walk away with a new set of friends. Our close group of friends are our past clients.”

According to Jamie, building those relationships isn’t just about skill. Authenticity also plays a big part in establishing a reputation. “People can tell if you’re only in this for a buck or if you’re in it because you love what you do,” she says.

The quality and creativity of CMGC’s work reflects that artisanal love of their craft, with great attention being given to the details of each piece they produce. They strive to create concrete pieces that are truly made to suit the client.

“That’s our edge, our marketing tool,” Jamie explains. “We’ve committed ourselves to never making the same piece twice. Every piece is made to fit the space that we’ve seen, for the people that we’ve met. I have a harvester that sources timber and trees that we’ve described to him. We have steel suppliers that bring in the pieces we need. Everything’s thought out it in a way that makes each piece special to the client.”

In the end, Jamie says, it’s the attention to craft and creativity that prevents a piece from being generic. “You need a person who cares to do that,” she says. “That’s what special about concrete: good concrete is made by people who care.”

There was plenty of practice required for Curtis and Jamie to achieve their current level of skill. As many new concrete artisans have likely experienced themselves, the first piece CMGC produced, a laundry top for their own house, wasn’t their best work, but they found nostalgic value in it.

A beautiful sink made by CMGC

”We made every mistake we could have made,” Jamie laughs. “We installed it anyway. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.”

Reaching Out to a New Market and a Community of Professionals

“For the money a client spends to work with an artisan, they need to be one-hundred-percent confident.”

While CMGC has established a good reputation in their market and plans on expanding their reach through further marketing and their growing reputation, there have been challenges.

“No one really knew about concrete here,” Jamie says. “We’re eight hours north of large urban centers like Toronto which tend to set the trends and have the largest variety of products. Being so far away leaves places like Timmins a little behind when it comes to innovative or trending design. It was a challenge to bring this new product that no one had experienced before and develop our own skills and style with it and make that appealing to our market.”

The environment itself and the business’s location sometimes pose challenges, as well. “We’re dealing with different humidity, temperatures, finding products that can be delivered to Canada,” Jamie said. “There’s a huge learning curve.”

While CMGC has embraced those local challenges, they also feel that what they do reflects on the entire industry and they take that quite seriously.

“You have to go into it willing to make this product the best it can be,” she says. “If you don’t, then you’re hurting the entire industry. For the money a client spends to work with an artisan, they need to be one-hundred-percent confident.”

Gorgeous concrete countertop from CMGC

McCharles says that, in addition to feeling like they can reach out to other professionals for help when they need it, they also try to help other people in the industry, and Jamie stresses that such a spirit is beneficial across trades.

“When you’re a successful tradesperson and your priorities are based on doing a good job and being honest and providing people with the best that you can do, when you care about what you do and what you put out there, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” she says. “There are carpenters and associated tradespeople we get along with wonderfully. It all depends upon what standards you put yourself on. When you’re communicating with people working to that same standard, it’s very easy to let information come and go.”

Still, for CMGC, it’s the end product, and all the work and creativity invested in it, that forges a connection between the client and the final product that CMGC delivers. According to Jamie, that’s not something that can be mass-produced, and there’s a genuine artistic spirit to how the couple approaches their work.

“If you go buy a print of a painting off of eBay,” she says, “yeah, it’ll look good, but it’s not going to speak to you in the same way as seeing the original painting in a gallery.”

CMGC’s web presence can be found on Facebook and at CMGC.works.

Fibers in Precast, GFRC, and ECC Concrete Countertops

In the last article, I discussed how PVA fibers are used in engineered cementitious composite concrete (ECC). Today I’d like to review some of the many types of fibers that you can use when making concrete countertops and some of their purposes, as well as explain which types of fibers are appropriate for which method/mix:

  • Traditional precast
  • GFRC
  • ECC

3D Fibers

What Fibers Can Help With

Fibers are used in concrete for a variety of reasons, but not all fibers do the same thing or have the same effect. They can be used for reinforcing or can be used to prevent shrinkage and cracking.

  • When fibers are used for improving the flexural/tensile properties of the concrete, this is known as primary reinforcing.
  • When fibers are used for plastic shrinkage control, and to prevent crack creation and propagation in the cement matrix by bridging the microcracks, it is known as secondary reinforcing.

The choice of what fiber to use depends upon a variety of factors. In commercial construction, cost is often the primary factor, as most fibers are used for secondary reinforcement reasons. For concrete countertops and other creative concrete applications, the cost of the fiber is often less important than the effect of the fiber on the concrete’s performance and on its appearance.

Additionally, different mixes are best suited for different fibers. GFRC fibers must be used in high volumes, so the mix is built around a specific fiber used in a specific dose. ECC is the same way, but with different mix proportions and very different fibers.

The takeaway here is that fibers are not generic ingredients that can be plugged into any mix without considering the benefits those fibers can bring and their effect on the concrete’s workability.

Fibers as Primary Reinforcing

Most fibers used in most types of concrete don’t provide any benefit to boosting the tensile strength of the concrete. These tend to include cellulose, polypropylene, nylon, and other common types of “stealthy” fibers. Only certain types of fibers can, and these must be carefully matched with a tailored mix design built around the type and amount of fiber used in the mix. GFRC and ECC are two examples of specialized mixes that use specialized fibers.

Fibers as Secondary Reinforcing

As the concrete sets and transforms from a workable paste into a hard solid, plastic shrinkage can occur. This is especially true in concrete slabs exposed to heat or wind. The matrix of fibers helps to stabilize the wet concrete and distribute the shrinkage stresses so that large cracks are minimized or eliminated.

Fibers can help reduce shrinkage and cracking.

Fibers can also help combat shrinkage by spreading the tensile loads across the concrete. The fibers act as a net, in this case holding small cracks together and transferring stresses across cracks into adjacent concrete. This helps keep any cracks that appear small, often too small to even see. Rather than having one or two large, highly visible cracks, you’re left with a series of small, hard to see cracks spread across the slab.

The Different Types of Fibers used for Traditional Precast

Fibers in precast concrete countertops can play a valuable role in both boosting primary reinforcing and providing secondary reinforcing. However, the type of fibers and the methods used will vary depending on which type of reinforcing you’re after.

Most commonly used fibers are synthetic, either polypropylene or nylon, but some are natural, like cellulose fibers. Let’s dive into a few of your fiber options. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list!

PVA Fiber for Concrete Countertops

Polypropylene or Nylon Fibers – Polypropylene and nylon fibers are used for shrinkage control; they add no structural tensile strength to the concrete. These fibers play a valuable role during the curing process but provide no benefit after. They simply stretch too much to provide any resistance to tensile stresses.

Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) Fibers – PVA fibers have some structural strength and can also be used for shrinkage control. While they cannot replace reinforcing steel, they improve the mechanical properties of cured concrete, boosting its strength. These are the best choice when the fibers cannot show at all. However, caution must be used because these fibers are so fine, very small volumes can choke the mix. They are an important component of ECC (see below).

Alkali Resistant Glass Fibers – AR glass fibers are the type of fiber primarily used with GFRC (see below). They can also be used to provide primary and secondary reinforcing in traditional steel reinforced concrete countertops. These fibers are special glass fibers that won’t break down, even when in contact with alkaline concrete. They will show in traditional precast, however, and are not commonly used.

Other Fiber Choices for Precast

Some fibers are strong and can provide adequate structural strength, but the material they’re made of doesn’t make them a good choice for concrete countertops. They are primarily in large industrial concrete projects.

hooked steel fibers

Hooked Steel Fibers

Hooked Steel Fibers – Hooked steel fibers possess structural strength. They can help to distribute tensile stresses across the countertop. However, they are large, ugly and will show.

Chopped Carbon Fibers – Chopped carbon fibers have stiffness and strengths equal to or greater than steel. Reinforcing is still needed, but the fibers provide a helpful boost of strength and minimize shrinkage during the curing process. But because they are black, carbon fibers will show definitely show in most concrete that’s not black or very dark.

Fibers used for GFRC

Properly Aligned Fibers in GFRC, Resulting from Thin Layer and Rolling

GFRC utilizes both specialized concrete and strong AR glass fibers. Both possess benefits on their own, but when combined they become something amazing. The tensile strength helps GFRC to resist pulling apart forces while the flexural strength helps it to resist bending. The glass fibers and the high polymer content of GFRC provide these unique properties that are essential to a long lasting concrete countertop.

Rather than using steel for reinforcement, GFRC relies on these glass fibers to prevent cracking and breakage. Making GFRC isn’t as simple as just adding some fibers to your concrete mix design. The size, shape, material, and amount of fibers used has a significant effect on the concrete. Using the wrong type of fiber, or not using enough, can lead to disappointment and a failed concrete countertop.

Because AR glass fibers are used in such high volumes in GFRC in order to provide the necessary strength, they would be extremely visible if a veneer coat without fibers were not used. This fiber-free veneer coat is called a mist coat or face coat. It has no strength and is solely for aesthetic purposes.

For more information about GFRC, please see this index of GFRC articles and videos.

Fibers Used in ECC

As explained in the last article, PVA fibers are used in ECC to provide both structural strength and shrinkage control. The combination of well-dispersed, micro PVA fibers and the strong, fine-grained homogeneous matrix is what results in the amazing ability of ECC to bend and crack without losing strength. Because of the highly dispersed microfibers, cracks tend to be small, and sometimes even invisible.

Recommendations

There are many different types of fibers used for different reasons in the various methods of creating concrete countertops. My recommended usage is:

  • Precast: For the type of precast concrete we make, you may optionally use acrylic, nylon and PVA fibers, at a dose of 0% to 0.5% of total mix weight. This is only for secondary reinforcement and plastic shrinkage cracking. It does not replace primary steel reinforcing. Higher doses can choke the mix – essentially turning it into a big hairball!
  • GFRC: Use AR glass fibers, 3% of total mix weight, properly compacted. GFRC is not GFRC without AR glass fibers as a replacement for primary steel reinforcing. (See this article.) To purchase AR glass fibers, click here.
  • ECC: ECC is a complex composite of PVA fibers, 1% to 2% of total mix weight, in a properly engineered mix utilizing very fine aggregates. It is impractical to prescribe a DIY recipe for ECC due to the complexity of the mix design.

The Versatility of ECC Concrete

Conventional concrete versus bendable concrete made with ECC

ECC (Engineered Cementitious Composite) is a specialized form of concrete developed in the early 1990’s by Dr. Victor Li, a professor of Structural and Materials Engineering at the University of Michigan. Dr. Li wanted to produce a form of concrete that wasn’t brittle, and that retained its strength even after it cracked.

ECC has properties and characteristics not shared by other forms of fiber reinforced concrete (FRC). These include:

  1. Tensile properties greater than conventional FRC
  2. Easy mixing and casting
  3. Low fiber volume (compared to GFRC)
  4. No weak planes in the cast concrete

Not Your Average Concrete

ECC is a mix that provides flexibility and high bending (flexural) strength.

ECC is not just ordinary concrete with fibers in it. It is a carefully tailored marriage of:

  • cementitious binder
  • very fine aggregates
  • PVA fibers

The types and amount of fiber play an important role, but so too does the formulation of the concrete itself.

ECC depends upon the micromechanical interaction between a strong, fine-grained homogeneous matrix, and well-dispersed structural microfibers. This engineered composite is carefully tailored to create a form of concrete that can bend and crack without losing strength. And because of the highly dispersed microfibers, cracks tend to be small, and sometimes even invisible.

ECC bends without developing large cracks, but it can have visible cracks.

The basic ingredients, composition, and proportions of ECC are similar to, but not the same as, the base mix used for GFRC. ECC mixes have less sand than GFRC, and the sand gradation itself is more important in ECC. The greatest difference between the two is in the fibers.

ECC is a mix that provides flexibility and high bending (flexural) strength, similar to what GFRC provides. While GFRC uses high volumes of large AR glass fibers, ECC uses comparatively low volumes of small synthetic PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) fibers.

Like AR glass fibers, PVA fibers have excellent structural properties that are ideal for ECC and set them apart from the ordinary fibers used in flatwork.

Ordinary fibers like nylon, polypropylene, and cellulose are either too stretchy, weak, or both, and these ordinary fibers function as stabilizing agents and are there only to help control plastic shrinkage. None of these add any strength after the concrete hardens.

In contrast, PVA fibers have some structural strength and can also be used for shrinkage control. They improve the mechanical properties of cured concrete, boosting its strength.

Comparing ECC with GFRC

Casting is faster and more efficient.

GFRC uses bundled alkali-resistant (AR) glass fibers in high doses (typically 3% for premix GFRC, and 5% and higher for spray-up applications). AR glass fibers are typically 19mm long, and the large, 200 filament bundles can be very visible if the fibers become exposed. This aesthetic drawback is why GFRC usually has a face coat, which is a decorative veneer layer that often is fiber-free.

GFRC is a material originally designed and optimized for the efficient casting of single-sided pieces, where one face of the casting is decorative, and the opposite side remains unseen.

While wet casting GFRC with only a flowable backer is possible (it’s called direct casting, and foregoes a face coat), the large AR glass fibers just below the surface are sometimes noticeable, and, the presence of the highly visible fibers in the concrete preclude grinding and polishing. Thus, direct casting is limited to pieces where an as-cast surface is desired, and the visible presence of large fibers is acceptable.

PVA Fiber for Concrete Countertops

PVA Fiber for Concrete Countertops

What makes ECC different from GFRC is that the PVA fibers are mixed into the whole mass of the concrete, instead of just in the backer layer. PVA fibers are nearly invisible when properly dispersed during mixing, unlike GFRC fibers which need to stay in large, very visible bundles.

Since PVA fibers are transparent, short (only 6-8mm long), and their diameter is a fraction of the diameter of a human hair, they disappear in the mix. This greatly simplifies mixing and casting, as there is no need for a separate face coat.

ECC can be made stiff and hand-packable, or, it can be made fluid and vibrated. Casting is faster and more efficient, as molds can be filled in one continuous pour, rather than in individual layers. This versatility makes ECC a smart choice for both precast and cast-in-place applications.

However, the complexity of ECC makes it impractical to prescribe a from-scratch mix formula. (In contrast, GFRC is a very simple mix easily made from scratch.) For this reason, The Concrete Countertop Institute does not have a from-scratch mix calculator for ECC and recommends that you buy a preblended ECC mix such as the Buddy Rhodes ECC Blended Mix product.

Sponge for Knowledge: How to ensure that training benefits your business

Getting Equipped in Class

“If I had known how to do it [CCI’s] way, it would have been a lot easier.”

Like many of the students who come to The Concrete Countertop Institute, Matt Shields of Owasso, OK already had experience working with concrete. He ran his own business, Ramcrete Concrete Designs, for more than ten years. CCI’s classes, as Shields hoped, helped him develop very advanced skills in GFRC. In addition to those GFRC skills, Shields learned a great deal about business, and has applied those lessons in ways that have helped his to business grow.

Right before attending CCI’s Ultimate class in 2016, Shields had taken on a precasting job that motivated him to update his skills.

“I went there [to CCI] because of the process that they were teaching,” Shields says. “I wanted to know how to do the GFRC style and to get better at precasting. I had precasted a job before that and we made solid, and heavy, multiple pieces. If I had known how to do it [CCI’s] way, it would have been a lot easier. We were carrying pieces that were basically twice as heavy as we were making in class. I said, ‘There has to be a better way to do this.’”

A self-described sponge for knowledge, Shields said he went into class with the right attitude, determined to get as much as he could out of the GFRC training. The benefits of the training turned out to be multifaceted. Since the training, Shields has gotten more attention for his work, has been able to handle customer questions in a way that gives them confidence in his abilities and, importantly, he has been able to charge a fair price for the intricate, knowledge-intensive work that GFRC involves. Those benefits did not take long to manifest after Shields finished his training.

“My Facebook has gone from twenty people liking it to almost three hundred within a couple of months, just because we’re promoting concrete countertops,” Shields says. “People are searching for that and finding it. Last week, I had forty new views on my website from Facebook.”

Shields is able to handle quite a bit of his advertising himself. While a website company handles his web page, Shields takes portfolio pictures himself, posts them on Facebook and sends them off to the website designers to be included in his site.

The increased interest in his work is not solely due to the venues he uses for publicity. Shields credits his improved outreach largely to the quality of the work he’s been able to produce since attending CCI.

The Business Side

‘”This is a high end product, you should not give your training away.”

Quality work, however, requires time and money. In addition to teaching state-of-the-art GFRC skills, Shields noted that Lane Mangum of CCI emphasized the need to run a business in a legitimate way, which means charging appropriate prices for one’s work.

“Lane’s very nice about it,” Shields explains, “but she says, ‘This is a high end product, you should not give your training away.’ Lane’s been out there and has done it and can explain it in a real way,” Shields says. “I liked that part of it. I didn’t expect the business side of it as much as I got.”

Shields said the knowledge and skills he acquired also translated to him being able to outdo his competition in terms of customer service.

“You get the skills to explain things to the client without giving away your secrets,” he says. “When customers call you, they want you to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, the customer will know that. With the education, you can transfer that to working with the client and that’s why people will pay more.”

Shields has only had one client who turned him down over price. Shields didn’t offer a discount and the customer was not receptive to the idea of paying a bit more for a quality product. “He wanted something cheap and that’s probably what he got. He was just interested in one thing: price.”

Shields has stuck to his guns about prices and, because of that, he was able to pay the entire cost of his CCI training with the income from his first job after he graduated, a strong argument for not lowballing work.

Simply because Shields has acquired a range of updated skills and has been able to demand a better price for his work doesn’t mean that Ramcrete now only takes on the priciest jobs. Shields wants to work with customers at all price ranges and is also coming up with new ways to translate his skills into more business. He’s currently in the process of launching a new product that makes outdoor kitchens, a big seller in Shields’s market, more flexible and customizable. The old process Shields used to create outdoor kitchens required hiring a mason and was overly complex. His new product will incorporate all the flexibility and quality of GFRC, along with multiple purchasing options, to make outdoor kitchens more accessible, no matter what the customer might want. Shields is ambitious when it comes to getting his idea to market.

“I want to sell two hundred of these next year,” he says. “That’s less than one per day. I can make that work.”

Advice for New Graduates

Shields has some simple advice for newly-graduated alumni of CCI, and his advice speaks to having skill and integrity as a business person.

“Start making samples,” Shields says when asked what graduates should do first. “Get your hands dirty making this stuff and tell everyone about it. You need to get your mistakes out of the way.”

Shields is not offering armchair advice. Making samples is exactly what he started doing as soon as he returned home from class. Shields compares it to writing out one’s homework after getting home from school. The process of using the knowledge fosters memorization of what was learned and allows the development of better skills. Shields has even gotten sales from pictures of samples he worked on while at CCI.

Shields says there’s another real advantage that comes with being able to show customers samples of your own work. “I do not believe in showing someone else’s work if you didn’t do it,” Shields says. “You’ll set yourself up for failure really fast.” By creating samples and only showing customers projects he’s worked on, Shields can assure customers that he can deliver on what he promises.

In fact, Shields has already gone through several pallets of material since graduating CCI. He strongly advises new graduates to do the same; to not just think about how they want to apply their skills, but to actively do so, right away.

“If you go to class and don’t buy any product and don’t make anything right away, you’ll never do it,” he says.

Click here for more information about CCI training.

Why You Should Be Using GFRC For Your Concrete Projects

What is GFRC?

“GFRC is a great option for concrete countertops, three-dimensional elements and more.”

If you aren’t yet familiar with glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) you should be. It’s made by combining a mixture of fine sand, cement, polymer (usually an acrylic polymer), water, other admixtures and alkali-resistant (AR) glass fibers. Many mix designs are available online, but you’ll find that all share similarities in the ingredients and proportions used.

Just like regular concrete, GFRC can accommodate a variety of artistic embellishments including acid staining, dying, integral pigmentation, decorative aggregates, veining and more. It can also be etched, polished, sandblasted and stenciled. If you can imagine it, you can do it, making GFRC a great option for creating concrete countertops and especially three-dimensional concrete elements.

Some Reasons to Love GFRC

1. It’s lighter than precast.

This beautiful outdoor table by DecoBton in Haiti is made from foam cored GFRC.

Because GFRC can be made 1/2 the thickness of traditional precast, it is automatically 1/2 the weight. And, because GFRC does not use stone or as much sand, which are denser and heavier than cement, the weight savings is even greater.

Precast is typically made 1.5″ thick and weighs 18 pounds. 3/4″ thick GFRC weighs 8 pounds per square foot.

2. It’s really thin.

The effective minimum thickness for precast is 1.5″ because of the strength and the steel reinforcing required. GFRC’s practical limit is only about 1/4″.

3. You can work fast with it.

Because GFRC has high early strength, in part provided by the fibers, it can be demolded quickly. Most GFRC projects can be demolded in 24 hours. In general, traditional precast projects should stay in the molds at least a couple of days. Faster turnaround means you can do more projects and bring in more revenue.

4. There’s less likelihood of cracking compared to precast.

Because of GFRC’s strength and toughness, it can take a lot more abuse before it cracks. GFRC can even bend!

5. Complex 3-dimensional shapes are easy.

If you can build the mold for it, you can make it out of GFRC. Even shapes that seem difficult because of the spraying angle can be created by clever assembly of the mold.


GFRC In Action

“GFRC provides many advantages to creative concrete professionals.”

Here’s a student project from CCI alumnus Jake Creighton of Countryside Concrete in Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

 

GFRC makes one great concrete countertop, but that isn’t all it can do. Unique concrete projects like this one are usually born from some kind of need. The homeowner had a preexisting cast iron tub with tiled walls. They were tired of cleaning grout and dealing with broken tiles and cracked grout. They wanted an easy, low maintenance solution. Jake suggested using concrete panels as a surround. The homeowner loved the idea and Jake got to work.

GFRC was a great choice for this project, because it can be made lighter than conventional concrete, and therefore allows for larger panels.

GFRC provides many advantages to creative concrete professionals, allowing them to be more creative and ultimately be more successful in their businesses.

Take the Next Step

You can learn GFRC! We offer a variety of video GFRC training as well as GFRC Equipment and GFRC Materials, also available in convenient kits. For the ultimate in hands-on training that includes GFRC techniques, check out our Ultimate Concrete Countertop Training class.

Advice for New Concrete Countertop Professionals

By Jason Gillis of OASIS Custom Concrete Designs

Get started on your creative concrete journey by hearing from three alumni of the Concrete Countertop Institute. Hear advice directly from concrete professionals on how to start, improve and thrive in this industry.

Drew Teaman

“High standards pay off.”

In only three years, Concrete Countertop Institute graduate Drew Teaman has built a successful custom concrete business—ConcreteCommander.com—in Jacksonville, Florida, with 6 employees and a company-owned building.

“[At first] I did a lot of DIY stuff, helping people out, and then I got into concrete very, very slowly,” he says. “One day, I decided I was going to go for it and started this thing on my own.”

Where the aspects of customer service are concerned, Drew sets high standards and it pays off in boosting the company’s reputation and customer relations.

Good salespeople know that managing expectations is a significant part of customer service, something that, from his many years in sales, Teaman brought to his business. Sometimes, that means educating customers about what custom concrete work really entails.

Teaman makes an effort to reach out to the customers so that they understand the work involved with GFRC. “We just walk them through. They’re like ‘Okay, I get it,” he explains. “For most people, they understand that it’s an expensive product because it’s hand-made.”

He credits Jeff and Lane of CCI with offering a lot of insight into customer relationships. “Jeff and Lane did a good job of making sure you know how to set those expectations with customers, “he says. “There’s room for variation. This is a custom, hand-made product. As long as the customer understands that, it’s good.”

He credits some of his success to tenacity but, in the end, he still comes back to the people he works with, and that doesn’t mean hiring “yes” men. “You need a support network of people to check you; checks and balances,” he says.

Brent Indenbosch

“Make sure you’re prepared to invest in the right tools.”

 

Brent Indenbosch, an alumnus of The Concrete Countertop Institute, has a creative streak. Ability is one thing, but one must have the means to manifest their best ideas into something real, and something salable, of course. To that end, Indenbosch offers some excellent advice to those who might be considering starting up their own businesses, or even applying the skills they’ve learned just for themselves.

Fiber optic bathroom concrete countertop by Brent Indenbosch

“Make sure you’re prepared to invest in the right tools,” Indenbosch replied when asked about what he’d advise people before starting out. “You need a decently sized shop,” he added, emphasizing that space is an important consideration when creating pieces. Indenbosch also recommended being aware of the time involved in creating a given project, as they can sometimes be surprisingly demanding in that regard.

“I’m really looking forward to going back [to CCI] again,” he said. Indenbosch believes that the real world experience he’s acquired since attending The Concrete Countertop Institute will help him to get more out of further education. He noted that having experience certainly gives one an edge in knowing which questions to ask.

 

Jason Gillis

“CCI is the basic institution for learning this trade.”

Jason Gillis of OASIS Custom Concrete Designs in Leominster, MA has a business that’s been steadily building steam since he attended The Concrete Countertop Institute. Formerly a flatwork concrete contractor, Gillis has been working on artisan concrete projects for major designers in the area he services.

Gillis has put a lot of effort, and creativity, into building OASIS Custom Concrete Designs. He went to work right away after getting his education at CCI. Asked what advice he’d give people just starting out as concrete countertop artisans, Gillis said “You’ve got to be confident, because it works. All these other businesses prove it works.”

By Jason Gillis of OASIS Custom Concrete Designs

By Jason Gillis of OASIS Custom Concrete Designs

“Getting paid education is key,” he said. “Like going to CCI with Jeff and Lane. I don’t think I could have learned it any better than what they taught. The technique you learn at CCI; that’s where the highest end of this trade comes from,” Gillis said. “Jeff’s amazing,” he added, “as is Lane.”

Gillis noted that the skills he learned at The Concrete Countertop Institute were foundational. “CCI is the basic institution for learning this trade,” he said.

Caleb Lawson: Alumnus Success Story

Outdoor Grill Countertops

Caleb Lawson of Price Concrete Studio in Orlando, FL spends a lot of time educating people about what concrete can bring to their building plans, whether he’s talking to homeowners, architects or designers. Aside from spreading understanding about the versatility of the material, the time he spends educating people is also good for his business. Even the architects and designers he regularly reaches out to often have no idea what types of creative challenges can be addressed with concrete.

“A lot of these architects are looking for what we do, but they’re unaware that concrete can do it,” he says. “They’re left with trying to make workarounds with other materials when, really, concrete could do it.”

Lawson met one designer he works with by chance. The designer had an office near Price Concrete Studio and took it upon himself to see what Lawson’s company had to offer. It just so happened that Lawson’s company was the ideal provider for the kind of creative work the designer prefers.

Price Concrete Studio

“He just stopped by one day and, through that conversation, we got two jobs,” Lawson says. “He likes to push the envelope. I love it.”

Price Concrete Studio has created some truly innovative pieces for that designer’s firm, including a green concrete table with brass inlays, a pink console table and more. Lawson continues to work with the designer, and several others, today.

Starting With An Advantage

For many people starting out with their own concrete countertop business, such luck might be harder to come by. Landing their first clients is a significant and, sometimes, very intimidating challenge. Lawson had something of an advantage in that regard. Price Concrete Studio had been in business for ten years before he purchased it, so the firm already had a client base.

Initially, Lawson, who says he “loves working with his hands,” approached the owner of Price Concrete Studio and proposed purchasing the company. The owner wasn’t ready to sell, but Lawson started working with the firm.

“Getting projects was a bit easier for me than it would be for someone starting from scratch,” Lawson says, “but I had to learn the trade. My challenge was to maintain the reputation that my predecessor had built over the last 10 years. After about eight months [with Price], I realized I was in over my head and needed to be trained better, so I went to CCI,” he says.

Color Treated Concrete

Six months after finishing CCI concrete countertop training in 2013, Lawson took over Price Concrete Studio as the full owner.

Maintaining the company’s reputation turned out to be no small endeavor. Price Concrete Studio routinely partners with builders who work on multi-million-dollar construction; a clientele that demands the highest-quality. “Because of CCI, I was able to provide that,” Lawson says.

Building on Existing Business

“It’s all about relationships and education”

To keep the business growing, Lawson used an educational outreach effort to architects and designers. He hosts what he calls “lunch and learn” events. At those events, Price Concrete Studio provides lunch for a group of architects and designers. In exchange, Lawson gets the hour to tell the attendees about what custom concrete work can add to their projects.

“To me, it’s all about relationships and education,” he says. “They don’t know [concrete] is there. You have to explain to people that concrete can pretty much do anything you want.”

 

Outdoor Concrete

Lawson says that his educational outreach to clients often extends to homeowners, as well. Many of them have no idea about the flexibility that concrete offers, assuming that it’s only suitable for the traditional roles concrete occupies in construction.

“A lot of my job with homeowners is telling them, ‘Don’t be limited, it doesn’t have to be just gray. It can be purple; it can be pink: you can have whatever you want. If you want grey, fine. If you want a particular shade of blue, we can do that, too.’”

Even after having learned about what concrete can do for their projects, it sometimes takes time for customers to decide to go with what Lawson has to offer.

“It’s kind of a long game. Sometimes you tell people what you can do and have to wait for six months or a year for them to tell you to go ahead,” Lawson says.

Education > Appreciation

“Get the education and then use your resources.”

Waiting for clients to come around takes patience, of course, and Lawson particularly advises against low-balling jobs just to get the work. For Lawson, part of educating clients about the work involved in creating custom concrete countertops and other features is explaining to them the long and complicated process from concept to completion.

Barstools and Countertop

Lawson also recommends using available resources as much as possible. He still calls Jeff and Lane from The Concrete Countertop Institute when he needs advice and, beyond that, he relies on the community of skilled craftspeople who work in the industry for assistance, as well. Lawson sees more potential in fostering a helpful, cooperative community than he does in undercutting prices and other forms of aggressive competition between concrete countertop companies.

“If you help the community develop a better product, then ultimately, it’s going to help you because people will see the high bar that’s been set,” Lawson says.

Lawson advises two strategies, in particular, for those just getting started out in GFRC.
“My advice to everybody is to get the education, and then use your resources,” he says.

How Concrete Commander Built a Successful Creative Concrete Business

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-fire-pits-furniture

Creative concrete and wood furniture and fire bowl

In only three years, Concrete Countertop Institute graduate Drew Teaman has managed to build a successful custom concrete business—ConcreteCommander.com—in Jacksonville, Florida. Though easy-going and laid-back in conversation, the story of how he built his business demonstrates a level of flexibility, tenacity and creativity that oftentimes separates successful business owners from those who struggle to get off the ground.

Teaman, with a degree in exercise science, experience as a personal trainer and fifteen years of experience in pharmaceutical sales, doesn’t, at least on the surface, sound like someone who’d be interested in going into GFRC. Before he took up pharmaceutical sales, however, he worked as a salesperson for a company that sold concrete repair products to the military. Eventually, Teaman graduated from both the Ultimate and Advanced Molding technique programs at The Concrete Countertop Institute and launched his own business.

“[At first] I did a lot of DIY stuff, helping people out, and then I got into concrete very, very slowly,” he says. “One day, I decided I was going to go for it and started this thing on my own. Three years later, we own a building and we have six employees.”

Teaman credits a great deal of ConcreteCommander.com’s success to “we,” as opposed to only himself.

“What we’ve done is we’ve really developed some good people,” he says. “We’ve changed some lives in our shop.” With the support of friends and family, and Jeff Girard from CCI when required, Teaman and his team have managed to build not only a sustainable business, but one that continues to grow and evolve.

That successful business didn’t come without an investment of time, effort and some serious financial planning on the part of Teaman. Eventually, he even relocated for the sake of the business. He started out in Indiana, but the climate made the business environment particularly challenging.
“When I was up there, we hit a lull in the winters,” he says. “It was like five months of nothingness.”

Teaman’s long-time friend, Brett, lived in Jacksonville. The two coordinated and Brett visited some home shows to see if the market would be friendly for Teaman. There wasn’t any competition for Teaman in Jacksonville, so the two jumped on the opportunity.

“We made some sales calls, got some jobs and I drove down and brought my equipment,” Teaman says. “I was working back and forth, back and forth, just to keep things going.”

Eventually, the investment paid off and Teaman permanently relocated to Florida. In addition to assembling a great team, Teaman credits some of ConcreteCommander.com’s success to applying the lessons he’d learned in the pharmaceutical business; customer service, in particular.

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-fireplace

Custom concrete fireplace surround by Concrete Commander

Concrete Customer Service

Good sales people know that managing expectations is a significant part of customer service, something that, from his many years in sales, Teaman brought to his new business.

“I was in pharmaceuticals for fifteen years,” he says. “We brought in the customer service at that level.”

Sometimes, that means educating customers about what custom concrete work really entails.

“When they [customers] see the website, eighty-percent of the people are going to think that they’re getting a cheap product because it’s concrete,” he says. “They’re tire kicking. They don’t realize that the cost is higher than it is for cheap granite. Sometimes they’re blown away.”

Teaman makes an effort to reach out to the customers so that they understand the work involved with GFRC. “We just walk them through. They’re like ‘Okay, I get it,” he explains. “For most people, they understand that it’s an expensive product because it’s hand made.”

He credits Jeff and Lane of CCI with offering a lot of insight into customer relationships. “Jeff and Lane did a good job of making sure you know how to set those expectations with customers, “he says. “There’s room for variation. This is a custom, hand-made product. As long as the customer understands that, it’s good.”

In addition to helping customers to understand the skill and work involved in creating custom concrete products, Teaman has developed his business so that it’s flexible and sustainable when custom work goes through its predictable spikes and lulls.

“Our goal is to have our custom side, but then we want to have a production line,” he says.

That production line includes products that are of equally high quality to custom work, but come at a more affordable—but not cheap—price. “Our production looks like custom,” he says. “If you want to soup it up, though, we can really make it a piece of art.”

The production line has a great deal of value to the business. Putting a fire bowl on a palate and shipping it to the customer’s door is not difficult for the business and, for the customer, the production line combines high quality with a great deal of convenience.

Where the other aspects of customer service are concerned, ConcreteCommander.com also sets high standards and it pays off in boosting the company’s reputation and customer relations.

“The way we work, we’re really punctual. If we’re going to be late, we’re texting. People are so appreciative of that,” he says. That also extends to website contacts, “When you can follow up within a half an hour, you’ll blow people away.”

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-fire-bowl

Production concrete fire bowl by Concrete Commander

Flexibility and Return on Investment

ConcreteCommander.com’s success did not just drop into Teaman’s lap. Before he launched the business, he had a plan.

“So many businesses fail in twelve to eighteen months,” he says. “I was able to save money to make this work. We prepared for it. That old adage that you have to spend money to make money is true. If you think you need fifty, you might as well have a hundred and then work hard so you don’t even have to spend the fifty.”

Like most of what Teaman has done with his business, the inclusion of production work is part of a broader plan. “That insulates us a bit,” he says. “If custom slows down, we have production.”

Though he graduated from CCI years ago, Teaman still relies on Jeff Girard when he runs into a particularly difficult challenge and, as is the case with his other connections, he attributes some of his success to that relationship. “You surround yourself with greatness,” he says, “and Jeff is one of those people. He’s always there if I have ‘Jeff questions.’ He is of huge value to what we do.”

Planning aside, Teaman still enjoys quite a bit of spontaneity in his business style. Many of the ideas that have helped ConcreteCommander.com to grow were written on napkins and were the results of not only coming up with good plans, but also the results of maintaining good working relationships. In fact, Teaman’s work history is based on fostering productive relationships and being flexible enough to let one opportunity become another.

“If you think about the progression,” he says, “I was a personal trainer for two years out of college. I met the owner of a [concrete] company and helped him rehab his knee. I used a PowerPoint presentation to help with the rehab and he asked if I could come and train his sales reps to use PowerPoint.”

Teaman took the time he spent travelling and training the salesforce to learn the products they sold and came into the concrete company as a salesperson. His eventual move to pharmaceuticals only required sales experience, which he had in abundance by the time he made the move, and he turned pharmaceuticals into a fifteen-year career that, eventually and through a lot of hard work and investment, led to ConcreteCommander.com.
He credits some of his success to tenacity but, in the end, he still comes back to the people he works with, and that doesn’t mean hiring “yes” men. “You need a support network of people to check you; checks and balances,” he says.

He also advises that people going into the custom concrete business anticipate that it will take time to make money. “You have to save money for it to work,” he says.

Nonetheless, he also advises sticking with what works. “We work hard and play hard,” he says. “This started with an idea written on a napkin, and we still work on napkins.”

Learn more about Concrete Commander at www.ConcreteCommander.com.

More work by Concrete Commander in Jacksonville, Florida and beyond:

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-outdoor-kitchen

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-outdoor-kitchen-2

Concrete-Commander-Florida-concrete-outdoor-kitchen-3