After Hurricane Sandy- One CCI Student’s Story

You never know when disaster is going to strike. But, with a great attitude and a lot of hard work sometimes our biggest trials can yield amazing opportunities. One of our students Joseph Jackson from New Jersey is a prime example of persevering through the difficult times. When Hurricane Sandy destroyed his shop, home and community he dug deep and found new opportunities in the midst of chaos.

The public beach in Monmouth Beach was used as a staging area for trash and debris. The landfills all closed because there was too much for them to hold.

The public beach in Monmouth Beach was used as a staging area for trash and debris. The landfills all closed because there was too much for them to hold.

“I Wasn’t Prepared”

Like many others in the area Joe wasn’t nearly as prepared for Hurricane Sandy as he thought he was. In the wake of the hurricane he was left with over 4 feet of water in his shop and home office and more than 6 feet of water in his storage areas. Everything with a gasoline engine no longer worked (generators, air compressors, dump truck, cement mixers, plate compactors, etc.) and his power tools and supplies were also ruined. All of his concrete supplies (mixes, pigments, fibers, pozzolans, etc.) were soaked and unusable. In his offices the devastation continued with lost files, records, backup devices, computers, etc.

This is the back of Joe's home the morning after the storm. Everything was under water and things were in his yard that he has no idea where they came from.

This is the back of Joe’s home the morning after the storm. Everything was under water and things were in his yard that he has no idea where they came from.

It was an experience that left a mark, both good and bad, that he won’t ever forget.

The Aftermath

It’s been over a year since the hurricane struck and for the rest of us it seems long forgotten, but for those living in New York and New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy is still part of the everyday reality. Recovery is going well, but it takes time. Many people are still out of their homes in Joe’s area. The rebuilding effort has transitioned from mostly clean-up work to reconstruction and is now moving in to lifting homes. Joe specializes in custom building and remodeling, of which concrete is only a small part, so he’s been busy, busy, busy every step of the recovery process.

On a positive note business has been incredible. Joe and his company are incredibly busy helping people rebuild their lives. They’ve learned a few key lessons along the way as well: how to make do with less and a deep understanding of those impacted by the flood. Joe and his crew have been there and they have a whole new appreciation for what people are going through.

Casting concrete outside in a makeshift tent.

Casting concrete outside in a makeshift tent.

It will be a while before things get back to normal. As his shop was destroyed Joe and his crew now do their concrete casting outdoors and in makeshift tents, which can be very cold during the NJ winters. (I was able to give Joe some tips for how to best make this cold casting happen.) Joe now has a new office space complete with a desk he put together using concrete he cast before Sandy and rescued from the flooding.

A new desk Joe created using concrete work salvaged from the destruction.

A new desk Joe created using concrete work salvaged from the destruction.

The Value of Training

Through it all Joe remains grateful for all he has and doesn’t complain about the hardships he has faced. His advice to others facing challenges is simple, “Just keep doing what you know is right and it will all work out.” He encourages others to get training and learn new things as learning will “improve yourself and automatically your business.”

Joe’s training at The Concrete Countertop Institute is a critical help to him during both good and difficult times. When he signed up for his first course he had no idea how many times he would turn to CCI for advice and help on various projects. He’s also had the chance to meet new friends and even establish professional relationships. Speaking of CCI Joe says, “The price of a class represents a fraction of what it would cost to learn it on your own, a very small fraction… CCI is the best of the best.”

We’ve had the opportunity to work with Joe in three of our courses and it is always a delight. His positive attitude radiates through all he does and his can-do spirit make all who meet him want to dig in and try a little harder.

Wherever your concrete journey takes you, through good times and bad, we love supporting our students and watching them rise to the challenges they encounter. Thank you Joe for sharing your work and your journey with us.

Is There an “Ideal Sealer” for Concrete Countertops?

Let me introduce you to a concrete myth: Concrete countertops are stain prone and high maintenance. While in the past this may have been have been true, sealers have come a long way from the simple wax and acrylic sealers once used. With the right sealer you can create a countertop that fulfills many of the essential functions one wants in a kitchen: stain-resistant, heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, food safe, easy to clean, easy to maintain and perfectly smooth.

Floor Sealers and Countertop Sealers Are Not the Same

With the increased demand for concrete products, both in flooring and countertops, manufacturers are starting to recognize the demand and create more concrete sealer products. A problem arises however when manufacturers mistakenly recommend a sealer designed for concrete flooring for countertop use. Although both flooring and countertops can be made from concrete, the performance requirements are vastly different. Floor sealers are optimized for walking on, not necessarily cooking on.

The Ideal Sealer for Concrete Countertops

Bare concrete is porous and vulnerable to staining and chemical attack. Liquids will tend to soak into the surface, carrying stains into the concrete itself. Acidic substances like vinegar and lemon juice will dissolve the cement paste, etching the surface. For concrete to be a practical countertop material, it must be sealed to protect it from stains and etching.

The Ideal Sealer for concrete countertops must satisfy the basic criteria that are important both to consumers and those making the countertops.

Criteria that are important to clients (end users of the countertop):

  • Enhance the appearance of the concrete without degrading the look or feel
  • Non-porous
  • Completely resist stains from food, oil and other common household substances
  • Resist any etching from acidic substances like lemon juice and vinegar
  • Resist heat from hot pots and pans take directly from the oven or stove top at a wide range of temperatures
  • Resist UV degradation and yellowing from sunlight
  • Scratch-proof
  • Food safe (non-toxic)
  • Easily cleaned using common household cleaning products
  • Provide long term protection without the need for frequent maintenance or reapplication
  • Not peel, flake, chip or bubble
  • Easy to repair

Criteria that are important to the concrete countertop maker:

  • Inexpensive
  • Quick and easy to apply
  • Strong client appeal

Unfortunately the Ideal Sealer does not exist. However, one comes close: Omega Concrete Countertop Sealer. I developed this sealer in 2017 after many, many years of frustration and compromises with other commercially available sealers.

Omega is much faster and easier to apply than the recently popular professional-grade high-performance sealers, but it is still requires practice and attention to the instructions. It is also fairly expensive, given the advanced chemistry. That’s why I say it is not the Ideal Sealer. But it is the best concrete countertop sealer on the market. Click here to learn more.

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