With the new social distancing protocol in full swing and people choosing to stay home rather than going out, backyard living areas are all the rage in New Orleans and beyond.
“Outdoor living is really hot,” says Dan Lynch, owner of Dan Lynch Concrete Floors and Ashley Concrete Products, a supply store he opened about three years ago in Louisiana. “Everyone wants an outside kitchen.”
Besides the drove of DIYers who have invaded his store these last three months as a means to combat the coronavirus doldrums, contractors who previously kept busy doing floors are adding countertops for outdoor kitchens to their resumes.
“And we are killing it with the Z Counterforms,” Lynch says of the system made and marketed by Concrete Countertop Solutions of Scott Township in Northeastern Pennsylvania. “It’s the best system we sell.”
Z Counterforms are made with extruded PVC designed to create cast-in-place concrete countertops. Simply place ½-inch cement backer board on top of the cabinetry, fasten the form to the back wall and edges, cutting as necessary to form corners, and place the concrete. After the concrete has cured, pull the forms down to snap them off.
A lot of floor installers struggle with carpentry, Lynch says, “But if you can cut a 45-dgree angle, you can make these countertops. The ease of use is incredible because of the way the forms are made.”
Concrete Countertop Solutions currently offers 10 countertop edge styles in varying widths and profiles including the best-selling Square Edge; a Quarter, Half and Full Bullnose; and even a Fancy and Double Fancy Radius.
To add texture to the edge profiles, CCS offers six liner inserts that fit inside the Z Counterforms to create the look of things like textured stone or split rock face without the hassle of chiseling. The line’s newest addition replicates woodgrain, which handily complements the company’s Woodgrain texture mat.
“Stamped woodgrain countertops are the most popular finish for outdoor kitchens in our area,” Lynch says, because they’ve never been offered here before. “The countertop is exposed to the elements and homeowners don’t have to worry about splinters or wood warping.”
For the wooden replicas, Lynch says he likes to use the Z Counter-Pack conversion kit, an admixture that converts a standard bag of concrete mix into a high-performance countertop mix. “Once you float it out, you can stamp it, then stain it and seal. And — viola — you’ve got a beautiful woodgrain countertop. The more people see it, the more they want it.”
Home safe home
In McAdoo, Pennsylvania, Christian Montanero, owner of Montanero Construction, says customers in his corner of the world are investing in outdoor living spaces with inground pools and extended patios where friends and family can hang out, entertain and enjoy each other’s company.
“Homeowners are no longer doing renovations to their home for the sole purpose of resale value,” Montanero says. “Instead, they’re hiring us to design and build outdoor living spaces where they can vacation.”
Business is so good, he adds, that his company is booked solid this whole summer and he’s already starting to book for next year.
He credits a lot of his success to Concrete Countertop Solutions’ products, in particular Z Poolforms, which he’s been using for the past five years or so. “The projects come together so easily. I use the whole system because it saves me so much time and money. The setup is very simple, fast and efficient.” The same goes for takedown and cleanup, he adds. “Stripping forms is really easy.”
Z Poolforms, made from a hard PVC plastic, create a cantilevered concrete coping. Instead of tie wires, the reusable pool forms lock into the liner track of vinyl liner pools or into a special receiver track on gunite or fiberglass pools.
Similar to Z Counterforms, Z Poolforms can be paired with reusable rubber inserts available in nine different profiles and textures. These include Chiseled Stone, Woodgrain, a variety of bullnose and CCS’s newest offering, a seashell-studded pattern called Seascape.
“Chiseled Stone is our biggest seller because it goes so well with the Ashlar and Italian slate” pattern that a lot of people have on their patios, Montanero says.
He’s also installing a fair share of countertops, benches and firepits to accessorize outdoor kitchens and using Z Counterforms for the jobs. In most of those projects, smooth edges are more popular. “The Square Edge makes for a real clean, modern look,” he says.
He prefers to use Z Liqui-Crete, a special blend made with ultra-fine acrylic fibers, and mix it with CCS’s White Countertop Mix. He says sometimes the counters remain white with a troweled finish, while other times he stamps the countertops and uses acid stains to give them more of a natural look. “Either way, you get a very hard surface that’s crack resistant.”
In addition to top-performing, reliable products, Montanero adds, Concrete Countertop Solutions’ customer service and product delivery couldn’t be better. “They are very knowledgeable and answer right away if you have questions,” he says, and they are quick to fulfill orders.
Montanero says the company not only makes good products but it also makes it easy for him to train his crew how to install them. Training is free at their facility and he says he’s learned a few tips from other pool installers over the years. “The food is good, you gain knowledge and it’s just a good all-around environment.”