One of our favourite things at DLH Designs is when we get to go to our local arts market and talk all things concrete. There are plenty of others who get as excited about concrete as us and it is always great to hear what people love, don’t love and want to see added to our range.
Something that has become apparent to us through the conversations we get to have at the market is that there are plenty of people out there who think that our concrete is just like footpath and driveway concrete and has the same limitations. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Read on and we’ll dispel a few concrete misconceptions…
“Concrete is heavy”
Well, yes it is! But this is where people will be thinking of regular concrete, what we call wet cast concrete. Wet cast concrete is the good old-fashioned stuff that driveways and footpaths are made of. It generally needs to be cast in place and reinforced with metal rio to make it strong, so it needs to be thick. Whilst you can definitely make beautiful and functional benchtops and vanities with wet cast concrete it has quite a few drawbacks and it’s weight is just one. It often needs to be cast in place due to this weight, cabinetry needs reinforcing and it then has to be polished in place which is really messy.
Our concrete is GFRC, or Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete. The glass fibres are dispersed every which way throughout the concrete which creates a much stronger structure than wet cast. Our concrete can be much thinner and lighter than typical concrete. We can still make it look thick by giving it thick profile edges, but it is actually only ever 20mm thick. We do not need to add rio allowing us to mould our concrete into any shape, like basins, bowls, waterfall edges etc without joins. All of our concrete projects are made start to finish in our factory in Warragul, saving the mess from your home.
Another drawback of wet cast is that if it cracks it can often be structural. And wet cast concrete tends to crack. Because of the glass fibres running every which way in GFRC it is no way near as susceptible to cracking and if any cracks do happen to develop in GFRC they are generally hairline cracks and aesthetic only.
“GFRC is not real concrete”
Of course it is! It is better, stronger, more versatile concrete.
“I thought concrete would be a cheaper alternative to stone”
The cost of concrete benchtops and vanities is comparable to natural stone. Many people get really taken aback by the price, as they expect the cost to be similar to wet cast concrete like that used in driveways and footpaths.
I think the best way to explain the cost is to run people through the process that goes in to making a concrete benchtop.
- A form is made to the exact specifications of the project. These can take quite some time depending on the complexity of the job. We may have integrated sinks or basins, drain boards, voids for cooktops, waterfall edges etc.
- The concrete is mixed. This does not involve dumping shovels full of ingredients into a mixer. We measure up to twelve different ingredients to the gram multiple times to create the hard wearing, amazing looking concrete you see coming out of our factory. There is no room for error with GFRC. We only use the highest quality ingredients and this gives the best result.
- The face coat for the product is sprayed into the form/mold.
- The backing coat of concrete is packed in by hand.
- The concrete is wrapped up to stay nice and warm while it cures, sometimes this can take a couple of days and sometimes longer. It can be a real effort to keep it warm during this time, Gippsland is cold in Winter!
- The product is taken out of the form/mould.
- The concrete is finished. This can involve many processes such as acid etching, wet polishing, grouting, densifying. Concrete is a porous product naturally, these processes are ensuring the concrete is no longer porous or prone to staining.
- Up to 5 coats of sealer are applied. This is a time consuming process, sealers are not necessarily just painted on, they may need to be worked and kept wet for long periods of time to seal properly.
We often get requests for a specific shape bathroom basin which is not one that we usually produce. As we will not have a mould for this shape, the process becomes more costly. An original will need to be made, then a mould from this and then we can mould your basin. This is why the cost of a custom basin will seem high when compared to another concrete company who will already have a mould created. If you are not set on a particular shape or style it is always more cost effective to go with the shape that a particular company regularly produces.
DLH Designs endeavours to maintain certain ethical standards. The concrete community is an extremely supportive one and we are friends with many other companies. We will never create an exact copy of another Australian company’s design.
An awful lot of time and skill goes into creating our GFRC products. There is an art to everything we do and this results in bespoke products, manufactured start to finish locally that not only look amazing but will wear exceptionally well and, if cared for correctly, will outlast both you and I.
“Can I put hot pots straight on to my concrete? Can I cut directly on my concrete?”
Concrete is pretty tough but it is not indestructible! We would always recommend using trivets under anything hot on your concrete benchtop. High levels of heat may harm the effect the sealer but could also harm the concrete underneath causing discolouration, cracking or flaking. This is the same for any natural stone or manufactured stone (Caesarstone, Essastone etc).
As for cutting directly on your concrete, we certainly don’t advise it. To the best of our knowledge there are no benchtop surfaces that will not mark when cutting directly on them with sharp knives. It can compromise the sealer leaving your benchtop vulnerable to stains. It is also very bad for your knives!
Common sense should always be employed. I once had a lady ask me how strong our concrete tableware was. I answered it is really strong, because it is. She said “so I can just throw it around, drop it, jump on it and it will be fine?” The answer to that is of course not! It is really hard to break however it can still chip, crack, or even break floor tiles it is dropped on… you should definitely still care for it to keep it looking it’s best.
“Concrete is porous, won’t it stain?”
Our concrete, once sealed, is no longer porous. It is very stain resistant, and from our testing more stain resistant than lots of manufactured stone as well as natural stone which tends to stain quite easily. Once again common sense needs to be employed. Wipe up messes as soon as possible and don’t leave stain inducing substances such as beetroot or turmeric for long periods on your benches.
Concrete is an amazing, versatile product and we love working with it. We take great pride in our work and are committed to manufacturing to the highest standard possible. We love working closely with our clients to make their concrete dreams come true.
If you have any further questions about the work we do at DLH Designs or just want to chat we would love to hear from you!