Awhile ago, we caught up with the amazingly fun team at Concrete Blonde of Footscray, Melbourne. It has certainly been awhile since I promised this post, so finally, here it is! I’ll be posting this in two parts as it is quite a bit of information to take in one go! Enjoy!
Part One: An introduction to the many benefits and amazing uses of concrete in the home.
Contact: Julian Lambert
- Ph: 0425 74 22 88
- Address: Factory 42, Docklands Cotton Mills, 91 Moreland St Footscray VIC 3011
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web: www.concreteblonde.com.au
- Showroom Interview with Julian Lambert (Owner)
Could you tell us a little about Concrete Blonde?
Concrete Blonde first started when I bought this place in the Docklands Cotton Mills. A friend’s father (who is a builder) was looking to put it an order for a project he had running at the time: that was our first job on day one and we have never looked back and have never had a slow spot. The name Concrete Blonde (rock bands aside!) was created to feminise concrete products; to introduce concrete as a warmer material for the home.
We are a very small, very niche operation: concrete benchtops occupy a small percentage of the market.
In your opinion, why is concrete not used very often in the home?
There is so much work involved to get a concrete benchtop to the finished product and as a result, this pushes up the price. Concrete tends to be one of the priciest options on the market in terms of benchtops due to the amount of work involved in creating them.
In what ways does the concrete you use differ from what we would normally see on a building site?
We use a different type of concrete as most concrete providers are not able to deliver their product in the smaller quantities that we require for a benchtop, whereas a construction site requires an immensely larger amount.
The main reason our product is different is that the concrete we make is massively superior to the concrete you can get from a concrete yard. We achieve fully compacted concrete with a compressive strength of 90mpa. Most driveways would be 30mpa and house slabs would be 20mpa so we are providing three times the strength of a house slab. We do that through 3 main ways and these are key to producing great quality concrete:
- Very low water to cement ratio: There is a very little amount of water in our mix. Over-watering your concrete will leave you with a very dusty and soft concrete. We get our workability up with plasticises and other add mixtures,
- Full compaction: Concrete that has only 10% of air voids in it is not half as strong as the concrete that’s fully compacted,
- Proper wet curing: After the concrete is set, we wrap it in wet towels, black plastic and insulation and we leave it wet for about 10 days.
What is the process of creating a concrete benchtop?
For a Kitchen or a Lounge room fireplace, we first visit the home, take the dimensions and then come back to our workshop. We then make a 5 sided form with form boards, edging strips and an open back and prepare an individual mould out of melamine for each piece with details for sink and tap penetrations, etc. After mixing the concrete, it goes into the mould and is cast on a vibrating bed which is a high frequency vibrating machine that pulls all the air out.
Most concrete in the world is cast face up and finished off with a screed and trowel for smoothness. Our product however, is cast face down against melamine boards. As melamine is an engineered surface, the finished product is absolutely horizontally flat and when we are compacting the concrete it compacts completely, unlike traditional concrete used for construction purposes.
The finished surface of your concrete benchtop is made by casting it face down against the melamine (which is an engineered board) so if you cast on an engineered surface, the formed finish is an engineered surface.
How long does it usually take to create a concrete benchtop?
The process of creating a concrete benchtop generally starts from the time we take dimensions through to the time we can install it: if we are dedicated to one particular job we could put it out in about four weeks. Lead times however, are generally about six to seven weeks. Once a project is in the system then we can organise the materials and be sure it happens within those six to seven weeks.
What are the main benefits of concrete benchtops?
Concrete benchtops are really lovely to touch and to have around in such an important part of the home, as the Kitchen.
A concrete island benchtop for example, becomes the focal point of your Living and Kitchen space. These days, it is more common to combine your Kitchen with your Living space so people do tend to dig deeper in their pockets and try to find it in their budget to have something that is really quite special.
Every piece is absolutely unique whereas something like engineered type stones have become fairly common.
This originality gives a lot of our customers a really good feeling and that’s what they really enjoy: to know that they have something that’s truly unique and individual.
Another great feature of Concrete is its ability to handle high temperatures. Concrete can handle temperatures of up to 300°, which is more than enough for any domestic Kitchen. However, the weak link would be the sealer: we do recommend putting hot items onto trivets or boards without sharp feet on them.
Concrete is also scratch resistant and abrasive resistant however, you can still scratch the sealer which in turn, makes the concrete vulnerable to scratches. The main drawback with unsealed concrete is that acids like lemon juice for example, can react very violently with concrete and will chemically burn the surface.