When he started the company, which is based in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, Baldoni had no idea if the product would sell as well as hoped. You dont know how busy youre going to be, he said. You dont even know for sure people are going to buy it. We did very well with it.
Braxton-Bragg Product Manager Steve Bussell said Z-Counterforms have been a great addition to his companys offerings. They are so easy to use, Bussell said. By the time a person even made a form, they still wouldnt make all the intricate shapes that his do. It would be impossible to manufacture yourself.
Z-Counterforms complement Braxton-Braggs growing emphasis on the decorative concrete market and have been well-received by customers, Bussell said. Its been really good. Demand continues to grow. Every day, were shipping his product. Theyre a perfect marriage between the Buddy Rhodes decorative concrete line and this product.
Buddy Rhodes Concrete countertop products lead the market as the preferred materials for making concrete countertops. Braxton-Bragg offers the complete line of Buddy Rhodes products as well as training in their use at its Knoxville, Tennessee, facility.
Baldoni has not been content to let the money come in and continue pumping out the same product. Profits have been invested in purchasing new tooling and continuing to develop options for customers. His company is currently adding two new forms to the line. One is a pour-in-place form called a quarter bull nose, which describes the decorative edge that it produces. They are also readying the new Z-Counterforms pre-cast product to launch into the market. The pre-cast form will be strictly used for poured-in-place applications, he said. It is a re-useable form. It can either be screwed down to the surface that is being poured on, or held in place with our polyester mounting tape. If the mounting tape is used, the pouring surface wont be damaged with screw holes, allowing it to be used multiple times. It has a 2-inch leg and a 1-1/2-inch one, which will allow you to form either 1-1/2 inch or 2-inch tops.
The DIY Concrete Coutertop Market
Working in a new and fast-changing market is what Baldoni has enjoyed most about the experience. The concrete countertop business is becoming more popular by the day, he said. It is great to be part of a business that is virtually in its infancy. New coloring techniques and sealers are becoming so easy to use that it is opening up a huge DIY market.
They say its about fifty percent of the market. The DIY market is probably outgrowing the professional industry segment of the countertop market.
Decorative concrete has become rightfully popular in recent years, Baldoni said. Concrete is really such a great product to use. Its fairly inexpensive to buy. Its the perfect DIY product. A lot of people get great results. (Using a Z-Counterform), they do a great job, and theyve never poured concrete before.
A builder by trade, Baldoni discovered the popularity of decorative concrete while on the job. We were putting concrete countertops in our homes for about ten years. They are very popular. When you go to builder shows ... there would always be somebody there with concrete countertops, and it was always one of the busiest booths at the show.
The Z-Counterforms were created out of necessity. I did not have a shop that I was able to pour a countertop in, wait for it to dry, and then have the equipment to transport that concrete to the job site, Baldoni said.
Concrete countertops are heavier than granite countertops. Trying to move a 600 to 800 pound countertop into a house without breaking it, and then hoping it would fit, provided too much uncertainty, Baldoni said. We came up with Lets just pour them in place. (Until that point), there was no good or easy way to do it.
The existing products available at the time would only produce countertops with square ends. We wanted something a little more decorative, he said.
When Baldoni had the initial idea, it took a while to proceed. Getting the patent was a three-year ordeal. They almost make it impossible to get a patent any more.
Once we got the patent, I looked for people to produce it, and then we finally got it into production, he said. You hope you will be able to sell a new product, but it has really been received well by the DIY and professional markets. We sell all over the United States and Canada. We have shipped them to up to 30 countries including Australia and South Africa.
Its amazing ... when youre on the internet. All of the sudden, the world becomes small. Its just a matter of putting a UPS label on the box and shipping it out the door. Its been an interesting business, I must say. Its a fun business, too.
The development process was a lengthy one, Baldoni said. I started developing them about seven years ago. It took three years just to get the patent and then another year to find someone who would produce the forms. Once we had the tooling made, (the hard part) was trying to find a company that could produce them at an affordable price. It took a while to find somebody who would work with us. I didnt want to spend a half a million dollars on forms and then hope to sell them. In the end, it worked out well for us.
Z-Counterforms are made of a proprietary mix of PVC. The 3-mm thick forms will not warp. They are designed to maintain a stable form even after the concrete is poured.
The design of the Z-Counterforms creates smooth edges on the resulting countertops. Concrete will not adhere to the inside of the form, which has been polished to a glossy finish. Corners can be simply mitered with an ordinary miter box. It is easy to achieve any angle that is desired.
Once the concrete has cured, the Z-Counterform can be easily removed because of its patented design. Simply pull the form forward, and it will snap off. This does mean that the pour-in-place counterforms are not reusable because the tab under the concrete top stays in place when the form is removed.