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!
More than once I have been asked if Liquid Quarry could make concrete that looks like natural stone.
Concrete is often used to take the place of stone. Most people who visit an amusement park have no idea that most of what they see, no matter how natural looking, is concrete. Huge marble building faces - most often are concrete. I once lived in a home where a company built a hot tub from concrete which was as if carved from a boulder. It was more realistic than the real rock around it.
In these applications concrete is a practical way to duplicate nature - much more practical than finding, transporting and placing huge stones.
When Liquid Quarry makes a surround for a fireplace, a kitchen or bathroom counter, or a custom sink, we do not try to make it look like stone. Why? Although we disagree with the non sustainable practice of using real stone, it is much more practical than trying to imitate nature with concrete. Instead of taking advantage of the plastic ability of concrete to take on any shape, almost any colour or texture, we have been asked to make concrete appear to be marble. Why wouldn't we? Because it would be more cost effective to use marble. If our customer were looking for a green alternative first and foremost, we would likely do it!
Who is greenest of them all?
Concrete is relatively green in that it is likely locally produced and is often recycled. Liquid Quarry reuses many of the materials used in the production of our pieces, which also helps our environmental impact. Marble, granite and soapstone are cut from the earth after millions of years of formation, and they are rarely if ever recycled. Formica is not recyclable at all. Although concrete is not as green as we would prefer, it is amongst the greenest alternatives available.
Stains and marks on concrete
The most asked question I get about concrete is "does concrete stain?"
Instead of tiptoeing around the subject, my answer is "Yes". "Just like granite, marble, soapstone or any other natural substance, you can stain concrete". People who buy concrete because they fall in love with it's look, can enjoy years of stain free use with a little care, and a bit of education.
Liquid Quarry concrete produces three types of concrete surface. One is natural, another is sealed, and the last is coated. A brief lesson about each should allow you to make your informed decision.
Natural Concrete - with no steps taken to protect it, concrete is fairly porous and apt to stain. Many customers who have had concrete for many years love the look of the "patina", or natural colouring from years of spilled coffee, wine, sauces etc. Although the concrete can be wiped clean and is made safe for food preparation, the colours from liquids allowed to sit on the concrete for more than a few minutes can make the concrete better looking, in the opinion of some that have bought it.
Sealed Concrete can look very natural, and if sealing is done properly, concrete can be almost impervious to stains and etching. There is a huge difference in sealers, and if you purchase concrete you can ask for a demonstration and a written warranty. Liquid Quarry has tested no less than six sealers of the many available ones, and found that a few actually made staining potential worse! The sealer system we are currently using provides excellent protection as it is in the mix and also applied once the concrete is cured. If wiped up before the liquid evaporates, even troublesome liquids rarely stain concrete with integrated and topical sealer.
Coated Concrete can not be stained. Unfortunately, coated concrete has a "plasticky" look to it. If we found a coating that did not look like a plastic film and that was not apt to scratch, it would be all we would use. Liquid Quarry has invested in an ultraviolet curing system for our customers that don't mind the look of coatings, and that would prefer a maintenance free surface.
Liquid Quarry recommends cutting boards, saucers for oil/sauce dispensers and heat proof pads for pans. Just as you wouldn't drive your car for months on salty roads without a wash, or leave a a coffee ring on the hood on a sunny day - simple care with ordinary green cleaners will give you years of use of the most attractive kitchen surface!
Lorne Woods is founder of Liquid Quarry and has designed and fabricated concrete pieces for years