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Concast StudiosFrom Mars-like Looks to Glass Terrazzo, Company Delivers It All
Michael Wellman had always gravitated toward anything artistic, both personally and professionally. Five years ago when he helped a friend with some decorative concrete projects, he never imagined he'd be running a concrete company. But it's proven to be a perfect fit as an outlet for his creative energy, coming up with myriad looks all created with concrete — whether it's graced with glass terrazzo, polished to perfection, or combining a trio of colors to look like travertine from Mars.
Today Wellman is at the helm of Concast Studios, located in Oceano, California. The company designs and manufactures custom precast concrete products, including countertops, sinks, fireplaces, tile, signs, and other architectural details. The company caters to clients from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
"I started doing it with a friend, who started a business," Wellman, who bought the business about a year ago, says. "I kind of helped to bring the company to fruition."
The primary goal of the company is to provide concrete products that bring character and individuality to a home or business environment.
"We are artists at our trade, and over the last several years we have honed our products to a level that is referred to as some of the most refined polished concrete ever seen," he tells web site visitors.
One of the company's greatest strengths is its use of glass fiber reinforced concrete, often referred to as GFRC, which is typically used for larger applications, like concrete columns and tilt-up walls. In using GFRC for countertops, Concast Studios can pour countertops just ¾ of an inch thick — most companies pour at a minimum of one and a half inches thick. And GFRC allows for a seamless countertop up to 16 feet long; countertops are normally made in 8-foot pieces.
"The GFRC is stronger and more durable," Wellman says.
Wellman says another benefit of the GFRC production method is its resistance to cracking. Hairline cracking may still occur around fragile areas like kitchen sinks where the countertop is generally only 3 to 5 inches wide, but with thousands of glass fibers interwoven into the concrete, the crack will not open and will remain hairline.
"Our secret production method also enables us to produce up to 175 square feet of concrete all from one batch of material," the company's web site says. "The result is that we can make countertops, floor tiles, and a fireplace without any color variance between pieces."
When it comes to design, finishes and colors, Concast Studios understands that customers want variety.
"People are looking for fresh ideas," Wellman said in describing concrete's lure. "With natural stone you have limits."
Concast Studios offers myriad finishes, including:
- The Portland finish - This finish showcases the mottling — blotches of different colors — that results from the company's unique production method (the company doesn't do staining, only integral colors are used). When pieces are pulled from the forms, mottling occurs. No two pieces are alike and the mottling varies with each cast. For the most part, no aggregate is visible except on the eased edge and possibly at a few small spots.
- Roccioso - The Italian word for rocky, the Roccioso finish is beautiful with exposed aggregate. Concast Studios uses a mixture of four different sizes of aggregate to achieve a rich texture that complements any color.
- 70/30 - Wellman's favorite. The beautiful mottling of the Portland finish (70 percent) with natural flowing highlights of aggregate (30 percent Roccioso finish). They let the creative juices flow in the sanding and polishing room to bring a little extra character to the mottling of the Portland finish.
- Terrazzo - Glass terrazzos are the most popular with a rainbow of color options. They also create traditional terrazzos with granite or marble aggregate. A favorite with customers who love the ocean is the mother-of-pearl finish. Crushed oyster shell straight from Italy is added and then polished to reveal the gorgeous iridescence of the natural element.
- Conterra - Any three colors can be combined to create a travertine look. They can also match an existing stone to create pieces that would be too expensive to create out of natural stone, like integral sinks or complex curves.
"We can do any finish, even make it look like stone from Mars — or a combination that is more natural," Wellman says. "Or we can mimic natural stone and do intricate 3-D shapes that the stone guys wouldn't be able to do."
When it comes to color, Concast Studios offers more than 60. They use iron oxide pigments that are integrated into the concrete mix and are fade resistant. They can also custom-produce colors to match specific color swatches.
Concast Studios has done a wide range of both residential and commercial projects. One of Wellman's favorite projects is the lobby — including the fireplace, columns and handrails —Concast Studios did for the Morgan Stanley building in San Luis Obispo.
Concast also specializes in creating attractive concrete signs and recently created one for Rabbit Ridge Winery, complete with a bunny graphic.
Once you purchase a concrete product from Concast Studios, the company will continue to give you technical advice and assistance even after installation. Their products are designed for a lifetime; surfaces will withstand normal kitchen and household usage. They offer a five-year limited structural warranty.
While its commitment to the integrity of its products is a big draw, the versatility of concrete is the greatest inducement.
"What separates concrete from natural stone is its creative flexibility," Wellman says. "Concrete can be formed into shapes and designs that would be impossible or outrageously expensive to produce in other materials."
Michele Dawson writes each week on one of the contractor members of The Concrete Network (www.concretenetwork.com). She has written about the home building industry for several years and was on the public affairs staff of the California Building Industry Association.