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Oversized Concrete Kitchen IslandMinimal Direction Leads to an Innovative yet Functional Centerpiece
The shape of the island resembles a Chinese food takeout box with subtle angles that pitch out from the bottom to the top.
A two-section form was devised using HDO with reinforcing that ensured multiple finished surfaces.
The end cap was cast first, using powdered pigments for the green color, then used to create a template for the rest of the counter.
This small Japanese bowl was the client’s color inspiration.
Here fluted drains allow water to run back into the undermount sink. Black pigments were used for this portion of the island.
Because of its size and weight, it took about 8 guys to lift the countertop into place.
How can you please a homeowner who wants a massive piece of concrete in their kitchen, but who doesn't really know what it should look like? You can involve the talent and creativity of the team at Alpha Stone Concrete, a leading concrete elements company located in Turners Falls, MA. When owner and founder Dan Gobillot was approached by a designer to build a large concrete kitchen island, he knew the job would involve some creative thinking.
"There was really no design on this job," he recalls. In fact, there were only a few instructions from the designer and homeowner describing what they wanted. The instructions included a rough sketch of the island piece that resembled a Chinese food takeout box, a small, green Japanese bowl illustrating the color they wanted, and a few lines scrawled on the floor of the kitchen where the bottom of the piece should line up. "When I went out to the jobsite to template it, they just kind of pointed at the cabinet base, and there was a line in the floor where they wanted the outside of the piece to start. They said the piece needed to be functional, have a surface top to put things on it, and hide things underneath it. We had a bottom start point and that was about all, and we designed it from there," he says.
Gobillot took the ideas back to his team and started designing. Because he didn't want to create just a big block of concrete, he included subtle angles in the form. "It's pitched out away from the bottom to the top," he says. Bobby Turk, an employee of Alpha Stone Concrete says, "There's very few right angles. Most things are at a 7-degree angle. We started playing around with some CAD drawings, making changes to it." They emailed the CAD video to the homeowner and designer who could then scroll the video and see every angle of the piece. "We were pretty much right on the money after CAD," says Turk.
A full-size mock-up out of cardboard was created, and the piece was 23 x 49 x 33 inches high and weighed about 1500 pounds. There was also a request from the builder to have conduit inside the piece. "Because of code, they needed to have a strip of outlets in there," says Turk. "It was hard for us to wrap our heads around the piece, but once we had the mockup we could see and could make changes as needed."
After the basic design had been agreed upon, the project was handed over to shop foreman Al Zraunig. Together with Lou Ruvolo, he devised a form using HDO with reinforcing. The form was pre-made in two sections that ensured multiple finished surfaces.
Gobillot was given the green Japanese-like ceramic bowl to match the color of the concrete. Using powder pigments from Davis Colors, the mixing was done by sight with Davis Green and Café Yellow and a bit of red to tone it down. "We made three 2'x2' samples," says Gobillot. "All were within acceptable range, but one was the exact color of the bowl. The homeowner chose the one exactly like the bowl."
In addition to the large island end cap, Gobillot was also responsible for building a concrete countertop for the rest of the kitchen island. The countertop was 10 ½-feet long, 2 ½-inches thick and had pitched, fluted drains back to an oversized undermount sink. "We used a 6% high-strength Davis black pigment with gray Portland cement, and we matched a swatch from the customer," says Gobillot.
According to Turk, "We had to pour the green piece first, then template it to get a tight fit with the countertop because of the angles. Where it mated up was at a 7-degree angle. What resulted was an 1/8-inch gap all the way around there for our epoxy seam. It was a very snug fit, like a hand-in-a-glove," he says. "Everything has to fit that way," furthers Gobillot. "You can't make it fit. It all has to do with your forming. Your forms have to be perfect."
"We use a combination of materials to seal our concrete objects," says Gobillot. "First we apply a highly modified catalyzed potassium hybrid siliconate as a densifier. After that, we use a polycarbon polycarbonate, hydrocarbon resistant film sealer. These types of materials are designed to work and breathe with concrete and change as concrete changes."
Transporting and installing a finished piece of concrete is never an easy task. "The home didn't have a finished driveway yet, so we had to go up the side of this mountain with our truck, and then try to back into a jobsite area with loose dirt," recalls Gobillot. The two island pieces were rolled in on a ramp through a side door. "We were going into a totally finished atmosphere which always makes installation a bit tougher. There was a finished floor and the cabinets were finished. We had a whole lot of weight and difficult things to move," he says.
"When you're moving a big piece like this, you have to make sure you have enough manpower when you need it," explains Gobillot. "We use chain hoists and staging to create a lift point for the piece to get it close enough into place. But your final push together is usually done with precision manpower. So we had about 8 guys lifting the countertop into place."
Gobillot says the good part about the job was that the homeowner and designer didn't have a clear idea in their mind for exactly what they wanted. "There can sometimes be roadblocks in design, but not knowing what they wanted left it open for us to show them a picture of what they wanted. It worked out well that way," he says.
"When the designer came to the shop and saw the piece, she said, 'That's it,'" says Turk. They had successfully created a striking yet functional centerpiece, which was just what was envisioned for this contemporary home.
About Alpha Stone Concrete
Gobillot first poured concrete in 1977, and has been doing concrete countertops since 2000. "I got involved with concrete because I was putting concrete in my home. I couldn't find anyone to do it, so I started experimenting." Gobillot formed a concrete company seven years ago with two partners, and recently started Alpha Stone Concrete in 2006. Alpha Stone Concrete creates all kinds of formed concrete elements including fireplace surrounds, stanchion walls, sinks, and tubs. They specialize in acid-etching on counters and floors.
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