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.


Concrete Zen Adds Drama to the City Theater


Concrete Zen recently completed a project for the City Theater in Pittsburgh, PA.  The new PPG Courtyard at the theater will be used as a gathering area for theater-goers for cocktails, intermissions, and a general hang out space during theater hours.  The burgundy and gold colors kept with the scheme of the theater, adding a bunch of color to the courtyard.  The ground was engraved to create control joints with a tool from Engrave A Crete, and the cone tables, benches, and planters were all made using the Buddy Rhodes pressed technique which ensures their strength and durability for whatever weather may ensue.   The project was a success, and we hope that patrons of the theater will enjoy the space for years to come!


GFRC Counter with Integrated Sink

GFRC Counter with Drainboard and Ammonite GFRC Counter with Drainboard and Ammonite

img_1062 Integrated Concrete Sink with Petrified wood as erosion point.

GFRC - Alkaline Resistant Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete is the most common method we use at the Concrete Zen Workshop. This counter was designed by a local artist in the Pittsburgh area. This is one part of the entire counter which includes: Custom made extra deep sink mold with petrified wood as erosion point, integrated drain board with trivet rails that will have copper placed in them, integrated cutting board adjacent the sink that seams with other section, integrated fruit bowl, recycled black glass (set by the client at the shop), and Mr. Ammonite front and center. This section piece is a little over 9' at 1-1/2". We are able to make custom molds that may suit all of our creative clients' needs.

Floor Overlay Coating treatments

Ice Crystal Coffee Concrete Overlay Ice Crystal Coffee Concrete Overlay

Although Concrete Overlays may be common and a popular solution in various parts of the Nation. Pittsburgh is getting a glimpse of this innovative floor system. The application is for old concrete either for slab on grade buildings, previously coated floors , failed/tired ceramic, driveways, walkways, patios. This product can be used in an interior or exterior application. The different brands of overlays in the Pittsburgh area are similar in which they are mixed and applied. The surface is prepared by grinding all of the foreign materials: (old paint, mastic(glue), thinset, vinyl, old sealer ...) The cracks (if any ) are ground out to a "V" groove and filled with either epoxy or acrylic modified patch. The surface is then treated with a bonding agent. The concrete overlay is then put on using one of these methods (Concrete Network). The options are endless: reactive staining, stencils, spray grout pattens, stamps, dyes, or other faux finish designs can apply. This can be an inexpensive way to restore or rehab any floor treatments for a project. Commercial, Institutional and Industrial uses can save ten's of thousands. The coating creates a "clean slate" that is resilient for high traffic. The coating are permenent and need only to be sealed over time. At Concrete Zenwe have been trained in these methods and strive to apply them in an original organic format. Our costs for the overlays range from $3.00- $7.00 per square foot. The stampable overlays may be a bit more depending on the size of the project.  Contact us www.

USGBC "Concrete:Top Pic for Countertops in a Green Home"

via-white-concrete-countertopConcrete is a very resilient material for countertops. It is not by nature a green product - cement production and transportation are extremely energy-intensive—but if the aggregate is recycled and locally sourced, and load additives such as VCAS can be added, the energy intensity falls.

Concrete can be molded into custom shapes and dyed almost any color or given distinctive blended looks, though you should inquire about the toxicity of dyes. Once cast into countertops, concrete can withstand heat very well. However, concrete counters should be sealed periodically to limit stains, water damage and bacterial growth, and heat can damage the seal. Certain sealers with nanotechnology can resist 99% of the staining and withstand heat of boiling pots set directly onto them

Treated well, concrete can last a lifetime. At the end of its useful life in your kitchen, it can be reused whole or cut for other projects. Unwanted concrete can be crushed into aggregate for producing new concrete, saving energy used in mining resources to produce new concrete and keeping old concrete out of landfills. - Source USGBC Green Home Guide - B

Green Methods for Making Concrete Countertops

terra-sink GFRC (Concrete) Sink

Here at the Concrete Zen workshop we manufacture countertops by following green practices. All of our materials for molds are re-used, therefore we cut down on the amount of waste produced. We use recycled glass for aggregate within the countertops. We ad up to 50 % Reclaimed VCAS to the cement content of the admixes. All of the parts for the concrete mix are obtained locally around the greater Pittsburgh area. We use water based sealants and stains that do not have VOCs. --Elizabeth E.

Parging Solution for High Design

Working with Modified Parging Materials Working with Modified Parging Materials

We are working on the new space at the workshop and would like to experiement with our GFRC Face Mix and Vertical Surfaces. We added 3mm glass fibers and adjusted the other admixtures. We used pure white sand and VCAS to get a "whiter" appearence. The cost savings to other bagged goods is tremendous. Now we have to design something to make the walls look good. I was thinking about gallery style white and hanging our sample boards and sample pieces on the wall to resemble art. Another part on us wants to get wild with the walls and see what we can do on the vertical surfaces. Pros: No mesh, Scratch coat may be the finish coat, stronger adhesion, fibers help with cracking, fast cure, staining and design creativity unlimited. Cons: Need to work fast -(3 people per sack mix), need a good trial person, gets messy when spraying, and clean up- Boo. - Brian

VCAS -the Pozzolan of Concrete Zen's Mixture

Pont du Gard, France - Roman Aqueduct 19 BC Pont du Gard, France - Roman Aqueduct 19 BC

 A pozzolan is a generic term for additives found in white cement, mortar and concrete products. Concrete stands the test of time due to pozzolans used in ancient Rome obtained from "burned limestone and Santorum earth from volcanic eruptions."-. VCAS is used to fortify the cementitious mixture to improve its durability and strength. It also " [serves] to densify  and reduce the permeability of concrete, which helps to make it more resistant to deterioration and swelling associated with various exposureconditions." VCAS is a silicate and is a by-product of the fiberglass industry. Using VCAS conserves energy and emissions during the manufacturing of concrete.--Elizabeth E.

GFRC Featured at the Green Show at Chatham University

Nicole explaining the GFRC Admix design to University students
Nicole explains the GFRC Admix design to University students
Concrete Zen participated in Chatham University Annual Green Show for the 2nd year in a row last week. The idea was to raise awareness to the emerging professionals and students of the concrete workshop and the products that can be created locally for design and finish schedules. Our primary focus was on the application of the GFRC- Glass Fiber reinforced concrete. This product is made from our workshop stonger and thinner than traditional concrete mixes. We load VCAS to the cement load that helps with color retention, strength, reduction of salts, surface cracking and pinholes. This product is the industrial by-product of the fiberglass industry. The use of glass fibers helps the strength of the mix and limits the need for re-bar and metal screen. At the workshop mixing the GFRC is a precise undertaking (more like a lab with digital scales , small containers and various scooping accessories). With these methods of production we reduse the waste of extra product, water and aggregate. Extra product is used in a variey of molds we have on standby at the shop. We use all of the surplus product during batch runs.  Concrete Zen is open for suggestions on the use of extra batches for charity, art experiments or any creative use!

Creative Flowing Flooring Finish

Overlay captures unique finish Overlay captures unique finish

In our recent installation of a concrete overlay floor, we captured this flowing effect during the staining process. The result is a modeled, free flowing effect with contrasting hues. The stain's reaction surpassed our wildest expectations! To our surprise it was featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette!

Home Theater Floor Home Theater Floor During

Concrete Zen makes the papers

Integrated Backsplash " Spectrum" Concrete Counter featured in Pittsburgh Post Gazette Integrated Backsplash " Spectrum" Concrete Counter featured in Pittsburgh Post Gazette

In the Feb.6th 2010 we were recognized by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for our involvement with a local residential project. In the  "2009 Renovation Inspiration Contest/Large Project Runner-Up" Mark Homnyak gives credit to Nicole Santella for her Take Pride Construction/Concrete Zen contributions. I helped create the custom decorative concrete countertop in the Kitchen that featured a unique integrated backsplash at only 5/8" thick. The piece is also highlighted by special staining technique formulated specifically for this client. The custom color is reminiscent of black coffee spilling on mahogany.

Concrete Zen embarks on artistic adventure!

We are excited to use our special admixture as a vertical design medium. This picture is of our current experiment with color blending. These panels can be created specifically to reflect or complement the design of a commercial or residential project. I personally enjoy the soft waves of cooling colors. This is one of the many combinations that promote calm, relaxing feelings in me!

Abstract Concrete Art Piece

Experimental Concrete Composition

We will be experimenting with a variety of color and designs. This type of treatment has unique characteristics of being strong enough to adhere to the vertical surface without peeling off, as well as being resilient to abrasions.-Nicole Santella

Local frame shop supports Concrete Zen

Stone Frame Created by Concrete Zen Stone Frame Created by Concrete Zen

Lisa, an open minded buisness owner, works with us to get the first concrete frame! Frameworks is located on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. I have just presented this frame as the first of several projects treated with our special concrete matrix and staining treatment.
We have many designs in mind to suit each client.  This idea was inspired at the Priory ASID function in the  fall of 2009 where Phil Martino and Brian Sieffert first met Lisa. - Nikki Santella

Great Design Solutions are Formed from Concrete!

Concrete Bathroom Panels from JM LifestylesWhy not construct an entire house's outer skin from concrete? Why not have a fully cast concrete bathroom that has an integrated sink set into the counter, or a concrete floor and walls - all custom designed to fit the client's needs and style? Is it possible to even have concrete furniture? Yes, we can see the progress of concrete's matrix and widening applications more and more within the building industry. Concrete can be made to have more tensile strength than older mixes; it can be made to be aesthetically pleasing with various stains; it can be formed to become functional sculpture!

Approved Concrete Sample

Nicole displays concrete counter sample Color Blending and Sheen difference between sealers as shown on this sample

Nicole displays the concrete countertop sample approved for production. The Kitchen Design includes Rich making a custom island cabinet. The countertop will include and integral sink and drainboard, recycled black glass and some ammonites as well! Great job Nikki on the infusion of colors in this sample! - B

Create Your Signature Style in Concrete!

94107-ca-buddy-rhodes-concrete-products-retro-large_683 Buddy Rhodes Style...

Concrete can be molded into limitless shapes which makes it a choice material for furniture and fireplace surrounds. Concrete Network explains that it is " versatile and can be molded to have soft, graceful curves and warm soothing color tones." It can also be formed in a traditional style like an Italian Renaissance fountain. Concrete can create many of your creative design ideas.

Finite element analysis of thin GFRC panels reinforced with FRP

gfrc used in lightweight "Benecia Bridge" sectionsIn this article by G.B.Kim, K. Pilakoutas, and P.Waldron, use of FRP in GFRC for flexural strength is investigated. Results of the study show that GFRC re-enforced with FRP increases in flexural strength tremendously, creating spans of up to 3 meters! Check out this article at :

 At our workshop we are working to improve the use of our GFRC as a matrix to hold elements of energy. We can use our admixture to hold LED lighting, solar panels or energy dyes.