Emil Gera’s decorative concrete business has grown primarily through word-of-mouth referrals, which is a strong testament for the quality and design elements he’s capable of delivering throughout the surrounding Weatherly, Pa. market.
Emil’s dad (Emil Sr.) started Emil J. Gera Concrete Contractor in the late ’70s, focusing on both residential and commercial slab finishing. Emil began working with his dad in the late ’80s and eventually helped expand the block portion of the business his dad added earlier. As that part of the business grew, it became difficult to find the workers needed to complete the projects.
“So, in 2005 I decided I wanted to pursue decorative concrete as a way to grow the business,” Gera says. “For the first couple of years I was just experimenting with stamped concrete. It was a lot of trial and error that led me to seek out some training classes in 2008-2009.”
Throughout the years, Gera has continued to attend education seminars at World of Concrete, as well as training sessions held at Concrete Texturing Tool & Supply, the Throop, Pa. vendor who provides extensive training in all aspects of decorative installation, tools used, concrete mix designs, choice of sealers, troubleshooting and estimating, as well as the tools and products Gera needs for his decorative projects.
Working with a crew of two to three concrete finishers, Gera focuses on building and completing one project at a time within a one-hour drive of “my door.”
Not your basic concrete stamping
While Gera’s early work was limited to stamping small patios and sidewalk, the interest and demand for more elaborate outdoor living spaces has propelled his business forward. That is apparent in the elaborate work required in the recent slate-stamped pool surround patio project complete with a carved concrete fireplace with weathered-looking concrete timbers, and an intricate hand-painted dream catcher design.Emil J. Gera Concrete Contractor
Gera used a design software to come up with Western-themed outdoor living space for the space surrounding an inground pool. “Customers want more in their outdoor living spaces,” Gera says. “We designed and produced a look with the carved concrete fireplace that would tie in with the (existing) stone exterior of the home. We also had to design the project to accommodate a 20 ft. by 20 ft. timber-framed pavilion that would be constructed in front of the fireplace when we finished our work.”
Gera’s crew started by removing the original flagstone patio, demolishing and removing the base material, and repairing some rotted wooden structure of the adjoining house. Other challenges included dealing with electrical conduit that was embedded in some of the old concrete that was removed, and a raining start to the project in August of 2018, which extended the completion date from four to six weeks.
Creating a beautiful big slab
Seventy-four yards of mix was required to create the new concrete flatwork, consisting of 6-inch-thick 4,000 psi fiber reinforced slab with a ½-inch rebar mat two feet on center. The Canvas integral colored concrete was then stamped using Proline Concrete’s Field Roman Slate Texture with Kingdom Products’ Mystique liquid antiquing.
Wood borders were created using Walttools Centennial Plank stamps, colored with Kingdom Products’ Olde World Stain. The pool edge border was created using Concrete Countertops Solutions’ Z Pool forms and Walttools wood liners custom fitted to the pool forms. The forms were held in place with plastic straps that snapped into the pool liner.
All the flatwork was sealed with Kingdom Products Kingdom Guard Sealer.
Emil J. Gera Concrete ConstructionGera’s crew began building the conventional masonry, wood-burning fireplace feature by first pouring a substantial footing. After building the concrete block fireplace and chimney structure, with fire box and wood storage box, and then placing an Isokern 42-inch standard fireplace insert, a Spiderlath fiberglass reinforcing mesh was then embedded into the initial base coat of concrete applied over the block-wall structure. The vertical surface to be carved required two pallets of Kingdom Products’ Vertical Wall Mix. Quikrete Q-max was used to construct the fireplace caps and hearth.
“We started at the top with enough of the mix for two-inch-thick application four feet down,” Gera states. “We would then use a small trowel to mark off the stone pattern we wanted to create, and then use various tools to carve out the pattern.”
After the stone and timber designs of the fireplace were created, Kingdom Products’ Olde World Stains and Regal Seal WB were applied to create the realistic natural look of the structure. Achieving color variation of the carved stones was essential to create the real look of stone and complement the real exterior stone of the home. Gera used a water-based sealer on the fireplace because it does not darken the color of the stain, whereas the chemical-based sealer used on the walking surface provides more durable protection.
Emil J. Gera Concrete ContractorOne the unique features of the project is the dream catcher design created in section of the pool deck underneath the timber-framed pavilion. Gera used an Oracle vinyl stencil to establish the 7-foot by 7-foot design. He then used his experience with automotive air brush painting to create the level of detailing for the final look with Kingdom Products’ Flash-Dye Acetone Stains.
The results of all the details require hours to appreciate, and that’s what the homeowners will undoubtedly be doing this summer as they enjoy their new outdoor living oasis.