When major financial institutions are advised by a consultant ways to add value to a home....Concrete countertops!
Youtube has saved me more time and money over the years! I have repaired a clothes dryer that began to emit the smell of burning rubber, opened a stuck glove box on an expensive car, waterproofed a basement floor, taught myself to repair fibreglass and solved too many other problems to mention here. Youtube is awesome when you need to learn and are willing to dig around a bit and make sure the person in the video knows what they are up to. I have to say that I have not had any bad experiences with this resource, other than the time wasted in the rabbit hole I end up in once and a while....
In the over decade long experience of creating countertops and tables from concrete I have had at least two calls/emails per year that I can recall from someone and it usually goes like this:-
"I watched a Youtube video of some guy that built a cement (it's concrete)
(insert countertop/table/bbq surround) and it looked pretty easy.
(Insert Over the winter, last week, when my kid sat on it) it (insert cracked, broke into pieces)
or (insert its so rough we can't write on it, can't clean it)."
At this point I am asked either...
Can you fix it?
No. Even if we knew exactly what was used and how it was made, trying to repair concrete by others is almost impossible. We measure ingredients sometimes to a tenth of a gram and use specialty chemicals that make our concrete ultra dense and ultra hard. The equipment we use to polish our concrete would grind into conventional concrete like it was softwood.
How much to replace it?
Our concrete is made in a studio fitted with the raw materials, tools and machines to make a high end product. We have everything on hand to make just about any shape, texture or colour. We attend classes and peer groups to keep up with this evolving craft. Which is all to say - it isn't inexpensive, and sounds like you have already paid for raw materials to make a mold and the concrete that broke.
In this case I notice that several of the youtube videos where a table or countertop is made end with the maker saying something like "If I had it to do again - I wouldn't". Fine concrete is hard to make - even when you know what you are doing. If you want to attempt a DIY concrete project - call us, we will gladly sign you up for our next training class.
We have made a lot of tables over the years. Dining and kitchen tables, picnic tables, outdoor and indoor tables, ping-pong tables,coffee tables, boardroom tables, occasional tables, side tables and night tables. Even at that, I am sure I have missed some. People love concrete tables because they are durable, beautiful, they don't mind Ontario winters and summers, and we can make any size and colour. The table I made for my backyard is 10 years old and has survived a mid winter move. Although not close to the age of some of the concrete furniture we have seen in Europe, I think it looks better than the day it came home. Like wood, concrete ages gracefully, and gains character every year.
14 years ago my wife and I decided that this designer concrete would be a great next step for me, after selling my previous company. Concrete countertops were becoming popular, and the product was gaining attention for improvements in stain resistance and cracking. Stereotypes die hard, and I still get questioned about concrete versus every other work surface. Although I have said it before, it bears repeating. "Concrete is not for everyone". Although it is one of the prettiest, it requires the same care as any other natural stone. If some simple disciplines are followed it will look the same for years from purchase. Care such as wiping up acidic spills as soon as is practical and using cutting boards are literally all it takes to keep this luxury product looking great. It is frustrating to see tropes from 20 years ago when concrete countertops were made not unlike sidewalks! Thing is - there are still amateurs doing that and getting the same old results! Two youtube video views and a garage build does not come close to decades of collective experience, a purpose built studio with thousands of dollars of use specific equipment, honed mix designs and specialized delivery equipment. You wouldn't compare a modern vehicle to a home built go cart, but I am asked weekly if my concrete will crack. It doesn't. Period.
Fri, Aug 7, 2015
He ain't heavy - he's my concrete
I write this on April Fools day because it seems as though I am in the middle of an elaborate prank. I field a lot of calls in this newly evolving business where I create all sorts of useful and decorative items from concrete. People want to know if Liquid Quarry can colour it, if it resists staining, can it be repaired if someone chips it - to which the answer is yes to all. For the past week I am getting calls from people needing to know how heavy Liquid Quarry GFRC concrete is. At about 9 pounds per square foot it is similar to granite and thin marble. Although I get this question often, and I get it that people think "sidewalk" when they hear the word concrete, it is that almost every call I have had recently begins with "How much does it weigh?" and "Will I need to reinforce under it?" There will not be a cement truck in your driveway with a chute coming through your kitchen window.
Liquid Quarry has no bad reviews. Why? Long before a customer would ever give us anything but an entirely positive review, we would stop at nothing to make them happy. We have replaced entire concrete pieces which weren't perfect, resealed concrete that showed premature wear, and delivered concrete countertops days ahead of schedule to help the project. If there is an unhappy Liquid Quarry customer - we simply have not heard about it, and if we do we will change that fast! It's the way we roll.
Recently I did some research on other countertop fabricators in Greater Toronto, for both natural stone and concrete countertops. It was easy to see that not everyone has the same dedication to service. The reason I did that research was a call I received from a company that wished to promote my business on the internet. That company, Rogers Outrank Engage, is building a website for consumers to use to find companies like mine. I was interested until the representative promised that " we will filter out any bad reviews while you are a paying customer". Be sure the reviews you see have not been filtered. I believe that Google and Homestars make that promise.
I urge you, before you buy anything which will be with you as long as your countertops, make sure the company you are dealing with is in it for the long haul!
When people find out that we make concrete furniture when they have never seen it it takes me a while to explain what we do and just as long for them to get it.
We make a lot of concrete furniture because we don't have to make building materials conform to a shape or location. We can make a mold from a template or drawing and then cast concrete into any shape we wish. We can wrap around corners, conform to body shapes, match colours, perform curves and match wall contours all with this organic material that begins as a liquid!
Chicken or the Egg?
99% of what we make at Liquid Quarry is one of a kind. We create things like Countertops, Fireplaces, Outdoor Fire Pits, Furniture, Picture Frames, and Tiles. Usually we make one object and then re-use the parts of the mold made for it for our next thing, until the parts we have left are too small. Rarely do we make the same thing twice. We then usually deliver what we made, take a few pictures if our client doesn't mind, and then do it all over again.
Potential customers ask - can we come to your shop and see examples of your work? We have a few samples of pieces we have made, and lots of colour samples, but if we had examples of everything we do, we would need twice the space, and our prices would have to increase! When we make your concrete, even though we have cast hundreds of things, we still marvel every time we take a new piece out of its mold. Every piece is unique, with all kinds of unpredictable but incredibly welcome subtle differences, even with a piece cast from the same mix on the same day. Chemistry? Time? Temperature? These are only three of the variables of many that make this the most unpredictable in appearance but predictable in quality - material to work with. When new customers ask - show me what you have, we are often forced to say - tell us what you want, and then our creative forces and the will of this material make smiles.
During the last horrific snowstorm in Toronto, the radio reporter asked a policeman if he had any advice for the city's drivers. He replied "Drive as though you are really early for a dentist appointment".
Good advice unless you have a dentist like mine. Don't get me wrong, I don't exactly look forward to a visit to Dr. Cathy Brabant's office, but it is generally a very pleasant experience. What I like best is being kept informed of what they are up to in my mouth.
You thinking types may ask, what has this to do with making concrete? It occurred to me that we do many things the same. Obviously Cathy and her staff work at tolerances which we don't have to consider, but many of the procedures are the same. We make templates, build molds and we use dams to contain material. We grind, polish and sometimes cure with an ultraviolet light. The ability to match colours is critical. The fit and feel of our pieces may not be judged by the sensors in a tongue (not yet anyway), but if it doesn't feel right, we keep working.
Although we both end up with a great smile on our customer's face, I suspect she is better paid :) At least I get a free workout every day!
Lorne Woods is founder of Liquid Quarry and has designed and fabricated concrete pieces for years