Concrete Countertop Solutions Helps Builders Leverage Backyard Renaissance

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Over the past year, Christian Montanero has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of customers seeking to reimagine their backyards.

“Since the pandemic, a lot more homeowners are investing in their properties and taking staycations,” says the owner of Montanero Construction Co. LLC, a McAdoo, Pa.-based design-build company specializing in outdoor living projects. “That’s the approach we’re trying to incorporate into our work, giving clients a resort-type feel in their own backyards.”

At the same time, Montanero has managed to streamline his work by utilizing products that save time and reduce labor costs.

Enter Concrete Countertop Solutions, the Scott Township, Pa.-based maker of the Z Counterform and Z Poolform systems. Engineered to create, respectively, elegant cast-in-place concrete countertop edges and eye-popping cantilevered concrete pool coping, the forms anchor the company’s suite of concrete products that includes mixes, stains and sealers. They also help Montanero’s crews complete edging jobs in about half the time as conventional methods.

“I try to incorporate at least one of their products on every job, whether it be for countertops, firepits, pool coping, benches, retaining wall caps, you name it,” he says. “It allows me the flexibility to get creative. This year, we started doing outdoor fireplace caps, as well as hearths and mantles. It’s been working out great.”

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 Z Counterforms and Z Poolforms Work in Tandem 

Using Z Counterforms to create natural-looking concrete edges involves placing a half-inch cement backerboard on top of the cabinets and then fastening the Z Counterform — made of a proprietary PVC mix — to the edges. After the concrete has been poured and cured (which is typically the next day), the Z Counterform snaps off to reveal a pristine edge. Special forms for use around sinks also are available.

For pool coping, the process of using Z Poolforms — made of rigid PVC pieces and engineered for compatibility with gunite, fiberglass and vinyl liner pools — is similar and eliminates the need to set concrete forms with messy, one-time-use Styrofoam pieces. There also are no tie wires, forms stay in place while setting without the risk of falling off or blowing away, and they can easily be stripped the following day and used again on the next project.

Montanero was using Z Counterforms prior to the introduction of Z Poolforms. Now he incorporates both products, which work in tandem to lend his projects a cohesive appearance.

“We give clients a design questionnaire, to get a feel for what type of look they want,” he says. “If they’re going for something contemporary, we’ll go with a square-edge form, and if they want something more rustic, we’ll go with a rock face or granite. We’ll show them photos from previous jobs and even take them to properties we’ve worked on.”

Montanero then sends two-dimensional concept drawings of the entire project, including the desired edge styles, to a third-party designer who renders three-dimensional models displaying how the completed project will look.

“That’s how I present it to clients, because it allows them to actually see how everything is going to turn out,” Montanero says. “And it also helps me with budgeting and staying on task. Also, if the clients wants to do a change order, we can do that with the program versus doing it onsite.”  

‘You Can Get Really Creative with Concrete’

Montanero Construction’s niche is bringing multiple elements and elevations to a project. That usually involves the introduction of concrete design features made possible by the use of Z Counterforms and Z Poolforms, and it’s resulted in a powerful referral business.

“We use the Counterforms on interior projects, too,” Montanero says. “I recently did three kitchens and a basement bar top. A lot of times, we’ll complete an indoor project, and then the client decides to do something outdoors later. So I’ll just utilize the same materials to transition the look from inside to outside.”

The combination of using Z Counterforms and Z Poolforms on as many projects as possible and leveraging the visual impact of 3D modeling has elevated Montanero’s business “tenfold,” he says. “The key is not just thinking in terms of countertops or pools,” he adds. “Figure out how to utilize the forms for any aspect of a project you want. You can get really creative with concrete.”

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