Using a trowel finish on precast to achieve a unique look
By Bill Palmer, Concrete Network Columnist
Dave Grech of Trueform Concrete may be a relative newcomer to the concrete countertop industry, but he is a true believer. Producing countertops only for the past year--but with his partner who has been making precast countertops for about four years--Grech is developing new methods and designs to give his custom-made work a unique character.
"Our main thing is hand troweled precast countertops, vanities, and fireplace surrounds," he says. "Most people do upside-down pours in the shop, so what we do is kind of rare because most people do hand troweled on site. Our hand-troweled precast has sort of an old-world look to it. Our work doesn't look like concrete, it looks like natural stone. And it has visual texture and actual texture."
Trueform has developed its own mix design which may have high strength (as high as 10,000 psi) but that's not the bottom line for Grech. "How strong does it really need to be?" he asks, "I've been more focused on the finish than how strong the concrete is. I'm going for the look-period." He notes that assuming you start with properly designed cabinetry that will support the concrete, the spans are relatively short and the concrete is easily able to support normal loads. "These are inch and a half thick slabs of concrete-you would have to hit them with a sledge hammer several times to break them."
Trueform doesn't use much reinforcement in its countertops, except some fiber-grid reinforcement in cantilevers. "I don't believe rebar is necessary if the pieces are installed properly and cured properly," he says.
Curing is a big advantage of precasting the slabs in the shop. "We wet cure everything for several days, which increases strength and virtuallyeliminates cracking," Grech says. "The guys who are casting in place don't always have that option."
Trueform uses an epoxy sealer on their countertops. Grech notes that they have tried penetrating sealers, some of the sealer systems, and even wax, but they like the value of the epoxy and have developed their own proprietary process to apply it that maintains the natural look they are after. "You almost don't know it's finished," he says, "except that it doesn't absorb water at all."
Trueform has a wide variety of approaches, depending on what the customer wants-everything is custom made. They can craft just about any edge detail, and endless color palette, and can inlay special touches, like natural stones, tiles, and iron designs. They can polish but normally keep it to a lower grit finish to maintain the unique appearance.
To market their product, Trueform Concrete has been working with lots of different people and methods. "The Internet is the most successful tool wehave and the Concrete Network is one of the most successful tools I've found. Concrete Network provides us with lots of our leads-it's a really goodlead source. We're also in showrooms with designers and architects--A lot of different people in different trades all working together to push thisproduct."
Grech's preoccupation with concrete countertops started when he walked into a precast shop and saw one and asked the typical question: "Is that concrete?" "All I had seen were the upside down pours which come off as very contemporary," says Grech. "This stuff is old world-it looks 2000 years old but it's smooth s a baby's butt. I couldn't understand why Lowe's and Home Depot weren't selling it but since then I've learned why-they can't. We can't even do it sometimes. It's still concrete and sometimes it does what it wants."
What project is he most proud of? "I've got a countertop in the shop right now that's absolutely beautiful: it's a light gray with amazing color variations," Grech says. "Each project becomes my favorite before it leaves the shop--I fall in love with each one. They are all beautiful."
35 Old Ledgewood Rd
Flanders, NJ 07836
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