As stated in the February 17, 2010 issue of the Tribune Review, The Environmental Protection Agency will require that "every contractor dealing with lead paint [must] be certified by the agency". Also the method in which the paint is removed must be done according to these new rules. "U.S. Census figures show [that] across Allegheny County, 88% of the homes were built predating 1978 [which is] when lead paint was used."-The article goes on to say. This will call for a higher painting estimate, as well as, more painting equipment purchases in order to get the job done according to the stricter rules.

Nicole is active in Chatham University's USGBC student chapter

As I'm working hard to maintain a strong connection to what's happening at the USGBC, I know first hand that it can be difficult to reference certain sections of  the LEED handbook for quick reference to points category and value. When I came across this useful quick reference to some category tables, I though I'd pass it along to those of you needing to make LEED certification decisions.http://www.stocorp.com/allweb.nsf/leed -

We are busy at the workshop

Today I helped Brian and Caleb prep and patch the floor at workshop. Since finalizing the agreement last week to take over the whole second floor,the crew has been busy clearing things and moving equipment around our new space. I'm so excited to be getting things going! -Nikki

We produce decorative countertop options for residential or commercial settings

I helped make these two similar countertops. The light one for Todd Rosenfeld, the darker gray one for Met Plas. I think it's interesting to reflect back and see the commonality, even though they were designed and produced at totally different times. Each was designed by the client, and custom color was done to fit their surroundings. I really enjoy being able to offer clients, residential or commercial, the ability to be creative! -Nikki

Concrete countertop for Todd's daughter's bathroom Concrete countertop for Todd's daughter's bathroom

Rich making Met Plas countertop

Prep'd, primed, and Ready for Action!

Rust conversion over heavy oxidation
Rust conversion over heavy oxidation
When a piece of celotex was removed from our shop's ceiling during clean up, a badly rusted corrigated metal  ceiling was revealed. Heavy oxidation had occured because water had crept in at an earlier time. So, the first thing we needed to do was grind off all the rust! Brian, Caleb, and I worked to grind the rust away using metal stripping wheels. After grinding and a  thorough dust down, we used a conversion technique to neutralize the surface.  The picture to left shows Brian applying "Sur- Prep"rust converter by Coronado.This is a water based film forming primer that stops rust from continuing by chemically converting it into a stable iron complex. To finish the ceiling ,we top coated with an acrylic direct to metal paint in a dark brown.

Concrete Overlays Provide a Unique Solution to Harmful Asbestos

When renovating or remodeling a space, contractors, homeowners, and trades people sometimes run into a very unforgiving obstacle -- Asbestos.  Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that has a very high tensile strength and is heat and chemical resistant.  Because of its strength and durability, asbestos is used in many building materials such as roofing material, insulation, acoustical material, and flooring tiles.  However, the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has banned many asbestos materials because of its harmful effects on those who may handle or be exposed to it.  Asbestos is mainly considered hazardous because it increases the risk of lung disease.  Individuals who breathe in asbestos during renovation, remodeling, or during the  production of asbestos materials may develop over the course of several years after exposure, Asbestosis, lung cancer, or Mesothelioma.

When an encounter with asbestos occurs on the job site, proper care should be taken in order to ensure that the health of contractors, workers, and anyone who may be in the affected area is not at risk.  Asbestos abatement, or removal, should be performed by a contractor certified to perform abatement, and involves several days of keeping the area sealed off, closing it to any residents, employees, or individuals who may occupy the space, and the use of special techniques and procedures by the certified contractor to rid the area of any harmful contaminates.

The other option is to leave the asbestos alone entirely, since asbestos becomes hazardous only when it is disturbed from demolition.  You can, however, cover old asbestos materials such as floor tile.  In Concrete Zen's recent renovation of the workshop, asbestos floor tile was found in a few areas.  An affective solution to these unsightly and harmful tiles was a concrete floor overlay that was poured over the entire shop floor, including the asbestos tile, to create one cohesive, flat surface.  The concrete overlay was performed using the same procedures as in any overlay, however, a stronger sealant was used over the asbestos tile to ensure a proper seal and installation.  As you can see in the pictures below, the overlay went over the existing tiles just as it would in any non-asbestos tile.  If you aren't interested in spending what may be several thousands of dollars and lost time spent on the closure of a space during asbestos abatement, concrete overlay may be a cost effective and aesthetically pleasing way to go.

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Concrete Overlays Provide a Unique Solution for Wall and Floor Treatments

One of Concrete Zen's most popular and versatile concrete applications is concrete overlay, a thin layer of concrete over virtually any surface.  This unique treatment is commonly used on the floor, but has been used on walls, fireplace hearths, and other vertical surfaces.  Concrete Zen has also ventured into the bathroom with concrete overlay, using it on the walls, floors, shower pans, and shower stalls.  Overlays are unique, in that you can cover up imperfections such as cracks in an existing concrete slab, or simply go directly over existing tile, instead of causing all of the dust and debris that would come from the traditional process of tile demolition.  A leveler is applied to the surface first, to level out any uneven areas.  Then, a very thin layer of concrete, only about an 1/8" or 1/4" thick, is applied to the surface and then stained to practically any color or color combination a client may desire.  Check out the gallery below to see the process at a job we just completed in the Upper Saint Clair area, in addition to other previously completed projects.


CZ Celebrates Mother's Day weekend at the Lawrenceville Blossom Tour


This weekend Concrete Zen will be a part of the annual tradition of the Blossom Tour in Lawrenceville.  The Blossom Tour is a celebration of spring, and an appreciation of local shops, craftsmen, artisans, bakers, and businesses.  The tour has a dedication to supporting sustainability, as participating businesses hand out free seed packets at each tour stop.  There are a variety of businesses in Lawrenceville participating in the festivities this year, including Artemis Environmental, where Concrete Zen's products are carried.  Concrete Zen will also have a table set up outside of Artemis, with some cash and carry items, along with special pricing for the event.  The Blossom Tour is not just shopping and supporting local businesses, but a series of several events, starting with a happy hour to kick off the tour on Thursday, May 5th at Eclipse Lounge, to benefit Grow Pittsburgh, an organization that supports urban gardening.  To learn more about the Blossom Tour, click here.  Come out and support Artemis Environmental and Concrete Zen this Saturday, May 7th from 10 am - 5 pm.

GA/GI Festival 2011: Eco-Friendly Fun

The 2nd annual Geek Artists/Green Innovators Festival was held on April 1st and 2nd.  The festival included several events that spanned over the two days including multiple art gallery exhibitions, shows, activities for children,  and more.  The events were kicked off with the start of Penn Avenue's "Unblurred", an event that happens the first Friday of each month, with the opening of multiple gallery exhibits, shows, live performances, and demos, and an Eco-friendly fashion show.  The GA/GI Fashion "Fuzeion" Eco-Tech Fashion Show, held at the Pittsburgh Glass Center,  featured several designers from local teenagers, to some who have shown in Paris.  All clothing shown was considered "eco-friendly" fashion, with pieces made from salvaged materials such as tea bags and newspapers, and sustainable fibers used in vintage-inspired looks.  The show was sponsored by Fuze, 0 calorie beverages.  Concrete Zen's own, Nicole Santella, walked in the show amongst several other models.  This is her second time in the show, as she also walked at last year's GA/GI Festival fashion show.  Click here to see pictures from the show!

2011 Circle of Distinction Design Challenge Winners have been Announced: Concrete Zen Places in Two Categories!


Cheng Concrete have announced the winners of the 2011 Circle of Distinction Design Challenge at the Concrete Decor Show & spring training in Nashville, TN.  Concrete Zen is pleased to announce that we have placed in two categories!  We took Best in Category: Integral Sink and Honorable Mention: Decorative Finish.  Cheng Concrete Exchange started  The Circle of Distinction Awards in 2005 to award members for extraordinary craftsmanship, creativity, and innovation.  Ninety-seven entries were evaluated by three judges, Cheng, Dan Gregory, editor-in-chief of Houseplans.com, and designer Robert Brunner, former Director of  Industrial Design at Apple Computer. Concrete Zen's projects that won top accolades were an incline sink installation in Shadyside, and a custom countertop staining.  We are extremely honored and excited to be recognized at one of the industry's premier events!  Check out photos of the winning projects!


Concrete Zen gets Creative with Modello Stencils


Concrete Zen recently completed a unique project in the Upper Saint Clair area.  A concrete overlay was laid over a 900 square foot area of glazed ceramic tile that included the foyer, hallway, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas.  The floor had to be prepared by profiling and applying specialty primers before the leveler could be installed.  The floor was stained with a semi-transparent water stain that transitioned organically from a deep brown the foyer area into a golden brown hue in the kitchen.  Nicole and Toni then completed the stenciling of the Modello carpet shown above in the foyer area, and the Fleur de Lis in the kitchen. Check out the Fleur de Lis and a few other photos from the project below!


Custom Concrete Incline Sink in Shadyside


Concrete Zen created this one-of-a-kind concrete sink for a client in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh, PA  as a part of a complete renovation in the summer of 2010.  The sink's faucet is placed on the right wall shown above, allowing water to cascade down the sloped surface to the drain shown to the left at the base of the sink for a truly exceptional design.   This custom incline sink is paired with a stunning glass faucet designed by a small company specializing in custom faucets.  The combination of this custom sink and faucet create the complete unique and luxurious statement that the client was looking for.  These striking photographs were taken by Barry Simpson of Simpson Studios in Pittsburgh, PA.


Restoring Frank Lloyd Wright's Cherokee Red


Concrete Zen was commissioned to work on an historical project in Pittsburgh, PA. The project involved some bathroom remodeling which included matching the home's Cherokee red floors. These red floors are a signature style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and those who have designed under the same school of architecture. The house we had worked in was the Lipkind House, recognized in 1989 by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.  The house was designed by Peter Berndtson, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. The floor was finished in 1954 by using a color hardener troweled in by concrete finishers. The control joints we cut had to match the pattern of the house, which was designed in segments of a circle - no square edges, and enlarging gradually from the epicenter of the house. These joints were cut in by using special tools designed by Engrave a Crete. The texture was completed with an overlay modified by polymers, and a mix of integral reds using steel trowels my great Uncle Dan may have used. The finish was a combination of water based concrete stain and pigmented sealers to match the worn appearance of years of wax maintenance. This step was completed by Nicole Santella, as she tuned out the distractions, myself included, and tuned into her iPod. The clients were happy, and so were we!


Concrete Zen goes Vertical - Concrete Fireplace in Squirrel Hill


Concrete Zen recently collaborated with Take Pride Construction and Design LLC of Pittsburgh, PA to customize this Fireplace area for a client in Squirrel Hill. The right and left flanking cabinets, in addition to the firebox, were fabricated and set by a custom cabinet maker working on the project. The clients were looking for an old world feel in a modern environment. Nicole Santella of Concrete Zen took their vision and created sample boards with an erratic texture, but still smooth to the touch, similar to a Venetian plaster finish. The concrete stains used were made from a soy base from Eco Procote - SoyCrete selections, and were purchased at Artemis Environmental in Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh,PA). The hearth was made from 3/4" GFRC Concrete to sit 3/16" above the hardwood floor.  The graining pattern on the concrete hearth was also created from soycrete stains.   This vertical treatment demonstrates yet another unique application of decorative concrete created by Concrete Zen.


Concrete Zen Collaborates with Take Pride Construction LLC on Whole House Renovation


Concrete Zen collaborated with Take Pride Construction and Design LLC to create a multi-functional recreation space for a residence in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh, PA.  The area shown above was previously an enclosed green house, but transformed to fit the client's needs of a recreation area for reading and gaming, as well as an open transitional area between kitchen, living, and dining rooms.  Concrete Zen created custom finishes on a variety of surfaces for the renovation, including countertops and floors extending from the recreation area into the kitchen.  The floor is a concrete overlay with custom staining by Nicole Santella, and countertops are a concrete "custom color blend" by Concrete Zen.  In addition, the cabinetry was fabricated at the Concrete Zen workshop and the glass table was by Emerald Art.


Concrete Zen makes the Cover of "Concrete Cartel"!


Concrete Zen is excited and honored to announce their presence on the cover of  Concrete Cartel Magazine.  Concrete Cartel is Brandon Gore's new magazine in the concrete trade world that discusses techniques, innovation, and emerging trends in decorative concrete.  Nicole is featured sitting in one of our planters, and Buddy Rhodes, one of the pioneers in the concrete industry, mentioned us in his "thanks".  We are ecstatic to be recognized by Concrete Cartel, and look forward to further issues of the exciting new magazine!

Concrete Proves its Versatility is Endless

If you've followed our blog, you've realized that there are endless possibilities when it comes to the application of concrete.  The shape, form, size, and finish are completely customizable.  Our most popular applications are countertops, overlays, and planters.  However, the versatility of decorative concrete has led Concrete Zen into other interesting ventures such as manufacturing furniture.  Concrete Zen has made benches and tables on a few different occasions.  For instance,  here is Nicole polishing slurry on a cone bistro table for the City Theater.


Not only can concrete be formed into furniture or countertops, but it can be used as an overlay on floors and walls.  Overlays can give a space a completely different look by coating an extremely thin layer of concrete over virtually any existing surface.  We have gone over top of ceramic tile and brick with ease.  Concrete Zen continues to look for new and innovative ways to use concrete in every project we complete.  Looking forward to exciting projects ahead!

SoyCrete -- Making Concrete Greener with Every Coat

In an effort to make all of our projects and ventures as green as we can, Concrete Zen has been using a product called SoyCrete on several recent projects.  SoyCrete is a green alternative to acid stains that are harmful to the environment.  SoyCrete is an architectural concrete stain that has the durability, flexibility, and control of an acid stain without all of the damaging environmental effects.  The bio-based stain is made from rapidly renewable resources such as natural plant oils, and is combined with 100% soy ester pigments that allow for maximum penetration into the substrate and creates a barrier that is water, mold, mildew, and UV resistant.  In addition, SoyCrete has the capability to be customized to any color.  The use of SoyCrete on projects can also contribute by earning points towards a LEED certification in both the Materials & Resources and Indoor Air Quality divisions.  SoyCrete has proven to be a trusted product to Concrete Zen, here are a few photos of a fireplace hearth in which we used the green product.  Concrete Zen purchases SoyCrete from Artemis Environmental in Pittsburgh, PA.