Window sills, post caps, column caps by Parkcrest Masonry
Window sills, post caps, column caps by Parkcrest Masonry
Stairs, curved stairs, treads, pavers, accents, wall coping, curved wall coping, bullnose stair treads, post caps, pool coping, hot tub coping
Window sills, window lintels
Window sills, window lintels, window surrounds, post caps, trim, accents, door surrounds, curved sills
Outdoor living seems to be the catchphrase on all the home and garden tv shows these days – that, and “Staycation” – but this isn’t such a new concept – Family BBQ’s, a new pool, or a couple of loungers on the unmowed grass have been part of most people’s summer plans for a lot longer than HGTV producers would have us believe.
Fire, however, has made some strides in the last couple of years. We had a chiminea – that wonderful Mexican clay fireplace – 25 years ago on our first apartment’s deck (wood framed building, trees overhanging the deck, lots of young people and too much wine; what could go wrong?) We’ve also had wood burning fire rings and propane fire bowls. But an actual fireplace in the yard always seemed like something only the wealthy had.
That’s changing, though, with the popularity of home improvement and landscaping shows on TV. It seems everyone wants to get in on the backyard fireplace craze. 20 years ago, the only way to do this was to build it yourself, or hire a mason.
If you were handy enough, this was simply a few days work, but if you weren’t, you had to hire a masonry contractor. These days, a mason will build you a fireplace for somewhere around $8,000.00 to $10,000.00. If you have a high-end home, that’s not an issue, but what if you’re looking to significantly upgrade your suburban backyard, and don’t want to blow your entire budget on just one part of the project?
Fortunately, there are now a number of options when it comes to fire in the back yard. Unfortunately, plenty of these options are being banned in many BC areas – in fact, throughout most of North America, burning wood in an open container is rapidly becoming illegal. Gone are the days in most cities – and in many rural areas – that the old steel drum can be used for burning leaves and branches after a good yard clean up. A spot on the gravel in the backyard, open fire pits, my old friend, the chiminea – burning any kind of wood without a grate over top of the fire is slowly disappearing. Even provincial and state parks have, to some degree, severely limited open fires.
But, back to the “fortunately” part – there are a number of good options open to those of us who still want a fire in our back yards. Fire pits, fire rings and the like – whether they burn natural gas or propane, or you can use firewood – are a great, small, and inexpensive way to bring a little firelight into your back yard.
But if you are interested in something a little bigger – a real feature for your back yard landscape – maybe you are considering a fireplace. There are quite a few ready-made fireplaces on the market these days, ranging from the simple upright steel units – reminiscent of chimineas – to the indoor style; something that looks like it was taken out of grandma’s house. Prices on these tend to be around $300.00. There are less expensive models (about $100.00) – you get what you pay for – and more elaborate models (in the $700.00+ range) that come with pilot lights (for the gas models) and remote controls.
There are also a number of precast concrete “kits” – a series of concrete pieces that either pin or mortar together, or interlock to form a finished fireplace. Solid and substantial, these fireplaces will cost between $1,500.00 and $3,000.00, and are usually quite a bit larger than some of the Big Box retail store models – more like a real fireplace, as opposed to a firepit with a cover or doors.
Four years ago, I wanted to make an outdoor fireplace for my family’s cabin down in Birch Bay, Washington. As a precaster, I thought that by making my own, I could get exactly what I wanted, and we would then have a new product line. I spent a fair amount of time online, researching designs, so that I could make some moulds and precast a fireplace in sections that we could assemble onsite.
My first thought was to make a shell that could then be clad in stone. I could line the inside with fire brick, or cast the concrete using a fire-resistant mix; using refractory cement, along with lightweight aggregates which would allow the heat to dissipate without cracking the concrete when we had a decent sized fire going.
There were also a number of precast concrete fireplaces available – some were quite nice, but large, heavy, and no word on whether they used refractory cement in their mix design.
The problem with heat and concrete, is that when you heat concrete up and let it cool, small pieces of the concrete tend to spall off the surface. Spalling is when small pieces of a larger material split off the surface. Sometimes, with concrete, explosive spalling can happen – that’s when the pieces violently spit off the surface. Usually, this is a small spitting or popping, however, it can actually be in much larger sections and can be quite dangerous. Not something that typically happens with a concrete firepit or fireplace, but, much like salt damage – which is a whole other story – over time, concrete + heat + cooling = rubble.
In some cases – such as a firebowl or firepit, where extreme heat is not up against the surface of the concrete, using polypropylene fibres (a common concrete reinforcement) can help. The plastic fibres melt in the concrete, creating small vents for the heat to dissipate, much like lightweight aggregates such as expanded shale and pumice do in a refractory cement mix design.
While scouring the net for images of concrete outdoor fireplaces, Mirage Stone came up more than once. I visited their website, and the design – simple, linear, easy to put together – made me think that I could probably make something very similar here.
I then started researching refractory cement and mix designs. Simple enough, but there was a learning curve. It was clear that after I came up with a design, I would still have to make a couple of units, let them properly cure, and then heat them up to see if they would crack. At best, I was in for some experimentation and a couple of thousand dollars – but then I’d have a new product line, plus my own fireplace.
Then I started looking at how I was going to put this whole thing together. If I used fasteners, they had to be stainless steel or they would rust. If I used mortar, it would have to be refractory mortar. I spoke with some masons and discovered that there was a steep learning curved here as well – at least for a layman who knows concrete, not masonry. If I was going to get it right, there would be some luck involved, but if I was going to sell this to customers, there couldn’t be any luck involved, it had to work. There were some heat resistant epoxies available, but they weren’t perfect, they were messy, and if I ever wanted to take the thing apart and move it, it would be as easy as moving the chimney on my house.
So I figured, “Why reinvent the wheel?” – and I decided to buy a Mirage Stone fireplace. I called Mirage Stone, and talked for quite a while with the owner, Jim. The more I spoke with him, the more I realized that he had really done his homework. Precast concrete fireplace kits were gaining ground in the United States, but Jim had figured out how to make one that solved a number of problems:
Mirage Stone makes one product – an outdoor fireplace – and they do it well. I was so impressed with what Jim had told me during our conversation that I flew to Arizona and visited the plant – I saw an entire production run, minus the adding of a “secret ingredient” – not really secret – it was Portland Type 10 cement – but the exact amount and time it was added is what makes Jim’s incredible mix kick off really quick; they can pour a form twice a day without accelerators or steam, and the resulting concrete is not only refractory – heat resistant – but it is incredibly strong, allowing for thinner walls that do not crack as easily as regular concrete. He won’t share this mix design, and I don’t blame him. It’s some kind of voodoo magic.
I left Arizona as a new Mirage stone dealer. I bought my first semi-trailer load of fireplaces – one was for me – and I have never regretted becoming Western Canada’s sole distributor of Mirage stone outdoor fireplaces. I now have two of them, one at the cabin, one at home, and we use them a lot.
I have sold quite a few truckloads since that day. I’ve got more if you want one – and I keep bringing them up from Arizona – but even if you don’t, good luck with your fireplace. Ours have really added to our enjoyment of our outdoor living spaces.
Shameless plug: see our Mirage Stone Outdoor Fireplace Website (www.outdoorfireplacesbc.com) for more details, including our FAQ page for sizes and weights.
About 20 years ago, for some reason, decorative concrete spheres became very popular in the Vancouver area. For a couple of years, we cast spheres into post caps, for public art works in local parks and as bollards to stop vehicular traffic from entering into pedestrian areas.
The largest sphere we made was installed at the old Oakalla prison site, which was turned into a townhouse complex after the prison was shut down. At 71″ in diameter, this large concrete ball weighed in at a whopping 16,800 lbs.
I don’t know if that sphere is still there, but I imagine that if they ever had to remove it, there would have been some nervous crane operators wondering what would happen if it got away from them. With the site being on a hill in Burnaby, I remember our truck driver, Dan Whalley, commenting that if the thing got away from him going up the hill, he would “Take the tags off the truck and head for the border!” We had a good laugh – and I then nervously checked his straps for the third time, hoping that he was just kidding. We did make it to site with the big ball – and many others of varying sizes, but this one made me nervous.
We actually did have a sphere come off a truck once. Fortunately, it was a lot smaller, though. However, at 18″ in diameter, it still weighed in at 275 lbs, and the homeowner whose garage it went into wasn’t too happy.
We had made one too many spheres for Andy Livingstone Park in Vancouver – adjacent to Rogers Arena – and so the extra ball went into our waste pile. One of the local excavating contractors was looking for some free fill and we happily obliged by giving him our waste concrete, and sand from our sandblasting pit. It was fairly clean fill, but with the odd broken chunk of concrete in it, we couldn’t normally hand it off as fill. In this case, it wouldn’t matter – why? I’m not sure; maybe 20 years ago junk fill was okay?
Any way, our intrepid excavating contractor picked up a few loads of the free fill and off he went up the hill in West Vancouver (we still had our plant in North Van at the time)
Bumping along his way into the British Properties, the nearly 300 lb concrete ball with a nine inch piece of rebar sticking out of it, rolled off the truck and downhill into someone’s garage. It made quite a mess.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt, however, this served a very good lesson to us. We no longer give away our waste as one big pile – sand here, and concrete over there!
We also try to make sure that our balls are secured when they leave the yard.
Shameless plug of the day: About Custom Precast Concrete at Sanderson Concrete
Container gardening in concrete planters is a wonderful way to add texture and colour to your garden. Whether used for pedestrian and vehicular control on a busy street in downtown Vancouver or a small deck or garden in the suburbs, concrete planters from Sanderson Concrete come in enough shapes, sizes, finishes and colours to satisfy any gardener’s needs.
We are often asked by our customers for recommendations for properly planting their new precast concrete planters, so today, I thought I’d share some time tested tips for getting the most out of your concrete pots.
Like their plastic and clay cousins, concrete planters require a little prep before planting. Both the plants and the planters like good drainage – the plants, because they are not too fond of having their roots sit in mud for days on end. The planters because of ice.
With improper drainage, your root balls may rot, and your plants will die. This gets a bit expensive. I know this, because the one and only time I was allowed by my wife – the gardener in the family – to take care of her plants for a summer, they did not fare so well. As punishment, I was treated to a day at the garden center, picking out new – and expensive – replacement plants for the overwatered perennials I had massacred. This took all day, and while she was enjoying all the new plants and their Latin names, along with their ability to withstand certain amounts of easterly and westerly exposures and time in the sun without sunscreen, I was wistfully wishing I was in the dentist chair – a much less painful way of spending the day. Is it just me, or shouldn’t garden centers have a beer garden?
Your planters also like proper drainage. This is more important in southern British Columbia, where we live, than areas with freezing winters – but not a lot of moisture. It’s not such a bad thing if you don’t over water or it doesn’t rain a lot, but not great if you have any chance of pooling water.
You see, concrete, ceramic, clay – and even plastic – pots that fill with too much water (my rule of thumb is anything more than about an inch and a half) and then freeze, are likely to crack. Ice expands with an incredible force, and if it has nowhere to go, much like a two year old chasing a puppy, it’ll go there anyway. Unlike harder materials, such as concrete and clay, some plastic pots have a bit of give – but when they are cold, they become brittle and will crack as well. Clay pots can really be a problem, as some clay absorbs the water more readily, making it weaker – ceramic and concrete pots less so, but they still require proper drainage if they are going to withstand winter’s ravages.
With a little forethought, though, you can avoid this costly problem in all of your outdoor pots. I am so confident in this method, that when asked about the possibility of cracking in our concrete planters, I offer this unconditional guarantee to our customers: If you follow these basic instructions, your pots will not crack because of freezing.
If you have a cracked pot, that you bought from us, bring it back and we’ll replace it. No proof of sale, time limit, partial credit – just bring it back and we’ll replace it. Of course, we’ll want to see it – tire marks or paint from your teenager’s car, when she smacked into it while you were foolishly teaching her how to drive, will likely void our warranty, and we’ll want to see that you did actually put proper drainage in the planter. But if the planter is cracked and it was properly drained – then it’s our fault. So we’ll replace it. Sometimes there are flaws in concrete planters. Sometimes they take a while to show up. If they do, and it affects the planter – we replace it, regardless of how old it is. Period.
So, what is this magic trick, and more importantly, how much does it cost? (very little)
You will need a little drain rock or pea gravel, some filter cloth (or any porous material that will let water flow through it, but stop the soil – I’ve used a chunk of old blue jeans that got so full of holes, I wasn’t allowed to wear them in public with my wife) and a couple of larger stones or old pot shards.
The bottom of your planter will have a drain hole. While it is highly unlikely that there is not a drain hole, if it doesn’t have one, you will need to make one in the pot. Be careful drilling if your pot does not have one – you may crack it, especially clay and ceramic pots. We put drain holes in all of our concrete planters unless they are specially ordered without. If the hole is not visible, it is because we pour them upside down and place pins in the wet concrete that are removed when the concrete is cured. Sometimes, the very bottom of the hole has a thin skin of concrete that just needs to be tapped to fall out – and we do that when finishing the planters.
Okay, back to proper planter drainage 101!
You will then drop a piece of filter cloth over the stones or shards, and then a couple of inches of drain rock or pea gravel on top of the filter and then a couple of inches of drain rock or pea gravel on top of the filter cloth. Then place a final layer of filter cloth on top of your drain rock, and fill the planter with soil. 2”-3” is recommended for larger planters, but really small pots can have as little as 1” of drain rock.
What you have done here is create a filter system and protection for your drain holes. While there will be a small bit of soil in the water that will filter though this into your drain hole, it will be extremely fine and much less likely to plug up the hole and turn your lovely container garden into the dead sea. You also get the added bonus of virtually assuring that your planter will not crack because of the miniature ice rink that forms on some poorly drained planters.
It rains a little in Vancouver. And in the winter, it gets a little cold. Sometimes, the two get together and beat the heck out of our container gardens. But if you have proper drainage in your planters, they won’t crack, and all you’ll have to worry about is whether your garden center actually has a beer garden.
Shameless plug of the day: Our precast concrete planters
My General Manager, Jamie Allen, came to me last year and explained that he had been approached by BC Woodworks, a non-profit association that helps developmentally challenged adults integrate into the workforce, by training them in woodworking. They had offered to finish our cedar slats for our Columbia Picnic Table – our most popular table.
BC Woodworks would, Jamie explained, supply slats finished to our specifications. This would include getting quality cedar planks, drying and sorting them, sanding, edge dressing and finishing with Sikkens Cetol – as had all been done here in our plant. The work would be done by people who have a hard time, because of their challenges, gaining meaningful employment. It would be done for the same or less than what we were already paying, and we would be helping out a really good cause.
When you own a business, you have the ability to multiply your charitable donations, and – I believe – an obligation. Most business people feel this way. We can give to charities at home, but our businesses have the ability to generate much more towards good causes than we could easily contribute ourselves. Our colleagues at The Langley Concrete Group donate large amounts to cancer research. Having been touched by cancer as my family has – the Omelaniec family, owners of Langley Concrete, lost their father to this insidious disease – they are strong supporters of cancer research. At Sanderson Concrete, we applaud their efforts and try to do our small bit as well. If you’re in the market for civil infrastructure precast concrete products, Langley Concrete is the place to look.
Most business people I know will support numerous causes, but there is usually one that is dear to their heart. Some offer donations of cash or goods to help fund raise, expecting nothing more in return than a mention at the podium or the ability to tape a business card to the donation as it sits on the prize table. Many will help Police associations, the Fallen Firefighter’s cause, cancer, heart disease or something a neighbor may be afflicted by. Then there are the larger causes that maybe hit closer to home – cancer and heart disease for me. My dad has heart disease and has had cancer and my mom has lost a large part of her family to this terrible disease.
It costs a bit of time and money, but I believe that you have to give back to the communities you earn your living in when and where you can. Sometimes, though, without looking and with very little effort or cost on your part, you are afforded an opportunity for your business to do a some good. BC Woodworks has done this for us. We are not spending any more than we would anyway, and we can steer a little work towards a really good organization that is doing something important.
Recently, BC Woodworks had an open house, showcasing their work and introducing the guests to the workers. Jamie and I were fortunate enough to be invited and we met a couple of the guys who are finishing our cedar. It was a humbling experience for me. We were thanked by Kevin, Pratap and Teri – the managers and director – for what we were doing, but we really didn’t feel like we are doing anything more than working with a new supplier. BC Woodworks is providing us a service, and they are doing a wonderful job.
We have a lot of great suppliers, many of whom we have done business with for over 25 years. And we can now proudly call BC Woodworks one of our suppliers. They finish our table slats and now our bench slats as well. I would encourage you to visit their website – especially if you are looking for a little cedar work. From gift boxes for wine to some beautiful garden furniture and custom work, these guys are really good.
Shameless plug of the day: BC Woodworks
When someone asks me what I do, and I respond that I have a precast concrete company, invariably, they ask either, “Concrete, as in driveways?” or simply, “Precast?”
Typically, when concrete is thought of at all, it is thought of as the stuff we park our cars on, or the barriers along the highway. Yet when I explain that we have a factory – or plant as we say in our industry – and that we make concrete products, I usually get a curious look. Not curious, as in odd – but actually curiosity; Concrete PRODUCTS? Like what?
As long as humans have made concrete, we have made products from this amazing material. Boxes for plants, bricks for buildings, column sections and more have been found in the ruins of ancient Rome. And in our modern world, concrete products are all around you – you simply have to look. The next time you throw out a paper coffee cup – look: it may be a precast concrete garbage can that you are tossing your trash into. Or that table you sat on at Wendy’s with the kids after soccer practice last night? Precast concrete.
Your drinking water flows through precast concrete pipes before it gets to your home – and leaves the same way.
But that is only a small part of the large group of products made from sand, stone, cement and water, known as “Precast Concrete”
Precast concrete manufacturers come in as many sizes and specialties as any manufacturing group. There are specialists and companies like ours, Sanderson Concrete, that are extremely diverse in their product lines. Whether it’s a brick and block manufacturer that specializes in paving stones and patio slabs, a pipe manufacturer with multi-million dollar machines pumping out pipe and manhole by the kilometer every day, or a small mom and pop operation with three employees – mom, pop and junior – who make a few bird baths and benches in their garage, precast concrete manufacturers take advantage of the fact that their raw material – concrete – is liquid, and can flow into just about any shaped mould they can dream up.
Sanderson Concrete fits neatly in the middle of the pack. We are a medium sized precaster with a wide range of products. With three main divisions, our diversity is our strength.
Our Utility division makes parking curbs, sumps, manholes and other drainage products.
Our landscape division produces site amenities such as planters – large and small, furniture, such as picnic tables and benches, drinking fountains, garbage cans, tree grates and bollards.
Our architectural division produces window sills and lintels, signage and wall panels, stair treads, large custom pavers for public spaces and much, much more.
Our custom precast division spans all three of the other main divisions with a focus on custom architectural work.
We have produced custom stair treads for universities, embassies and office buildings throughout Canada and the US – including the offices of some well-know Canadian architects.
Window sills, lintels, panels and signage by the thousands on buildings from New York to Vancouver, and Florida to Alaska to Ontario. Some of our concrete picnic tables have made their way to the Grand Canyon and all throughout British Columbia and beyond. Just because concrete is heavy, doesn’t mean you can’t ship it across the country!
Sanderson Concrete’s prime focus is small and medium sized precast units with tight tolerances and architectural finishes. Although we do not manufacture extremely large products such as double-tees and larger wall panels, we have produced small bridge decks, 25’-0 panels and multi-thousand unit runs of custom pavers, sills, stair treads and panels.
Sanderson Concrete Inc. was founded in 1929 and has been owned by the Arntorp family since 1988. In the late 1980’s Sanderson Concrete’s focus began to shift towards custom and architectural precast concrete. While still maintaining a solid Landscape or site furnishings division as well as a utility products line, Sanderson Concrete has become the significant producer of architectural precast concrete elements in the Vancouver area.
Welcome to our blog! As we move forward, we’ll try and have a little bit of fun. This blog is where we can write a little about some of the things that we do. Stories about projects and events that maybe don’t fit too neatly into our website and other marketing materials. Hopefully you will find some insights into what we do and what precast concrete is. We may not be experts at all things precast, but what we do make, we make very well. Feel free to drop me a line with questions or comments. We’d be glad to help – and if we don’t know the answer, we probably know someone who does! Good questions may result in good blog posts – or maybe we’ll just answer you directly…
I invite you to visit our website to take a closer look at some of what we do – and you are always welcome to come visit the plant – we are 12665 116 Avenue in Surrey, British Columbia.
Jan Arntorp, President
Hello world! Interesting title. Not mine – it’s a sample post, provided by WordPress so you can see what your blog pages will look like. I was going to delete it and come up with something myself to introduce our new blog.
But why not run with it, I thought? This really is an introduction of sorts, isn’t it? Everything else we have ever put out has been carefully scripted and crafted to fit the marketing wisdom of the day – brochures, ads in magazines and newspapers, and, as media has evolved, websites (our first one was a couple of scanned sheets that my sister did for us – here’s our latest and greatest), email and mass marketing campaigns and the like.
But this is meant to be a bit different. Perhaps a bit less formal. We’ll try and tell our story and that of our products, relationships with our suppliers and customers. Maybe it will evolve – as these things do – into something completely different. Maybe it will be an abject failure and be relegated to the dung hill of bad ideas that seem to grab my attention then wane, dying a slow painful – and sometimes expensive – death.
Or maybe it will simply be another way for us to showcase how truly diverse we are as a precast concrete manufacturer. While it certainly is true that you can’t be all things to all people, I always enjoy showing our production facilities to people who really know what you can do with precast. Because even people in construction – engineers, architects and contractors – are surprised at how much we actually do.
It often starts with a contractor or architect coming to see us for a custom piece that they either can’t get elsewhere, or are unsure of our capabilities. We then discuss their project in detail, and take them out to the shop or the yard for a more visual description of what we are talking about.
Invariably, as we walk past planters, concrete picnic tables, window sills, signs for hotels, pipe, and parking curbs, they will exclaim something like, “Wow! I never realized you guys made so much stuff!”
Sanderson Concrete has been around for a long time – 1929 as far as we can tell – and the Arntorp family (that’s us!) have owned it since 1988 – perhaps that is a story for another time., though. We’re not the biggest precaster in town – we are friends with them, though, and if we don’t make something, we’ll steer you to the ones that do. But we are a pretty good size, and we can probably help you with your project. So just because you don’t see it on our website, don’t think that we can’t make it.
So come on by and say hello! That means, you, World! You’re all welcome!