Presenting a decorative concrete seminar at a central Wisconsin home show in the spring of 2011 was the catalyst that brought together Judah Haas, president of Alchemy Concrete, Inc., Nelsonville, Wis., and an enthusiastic couple that wanted to turn their backyard into a multifunctional outdoor living space.
One of the homeowners is an engineer by trade and worked with Haas and Alchemy’s in-house architect on the design for roughly two years. Construction on the project commenced this past summer, and Alchemy’s four-person crew completed the project in about two months.
The homeowners wanted an outdoor living space that would offer both separation and continuity for the various activities they would enjoy in the new extension of their home. The result is a design that offers three distinct patio sectors. The west end of the patio is designed for entertaining, complete with built-in seating walls and a standing fire table. The homeowners also plan to install an outdoor TV in this 750-square-foot area. The middle patio is smaller, separated from the other areas by bench walls and designed to offer an intimate setting for one or two people. Around the corner on the east end of the patio is a space designated for formal entertaining and will include an outdoor dining set.
The construction process
Haas started Alchemy Concrete in 2004 as a full-service concrete contractor, offering poured walls, flatwork, decorative concrete, manufactured concrete countertops and pervious concrete. Haas says offering a full array of services helps the company stay competitive and has a positive impact on quality. “We can complete a project from concept through installation,” he says. “Providing all those services allows us to control the variables of construction and produce a better product in the end.”
Phase one of the backyard patio project included earthwork and construction of the footings and walls. Instead of building a frost footing, the Alchemy crew dug down 3 feet and filled the area with about 2 feet of crushed gravel. The crew then poured a footing on top of the gravel and formed and poured the walls and pillars.
“We stripped pillar forms when the concrete was still pliable then chiseled each pillar to create the shape of a tumbled stone look,” Haas explains. This prepared the pillars for a later ½-inch coat of vertical mix that the Alchemy crew textured with various stone textures.
Phase two consisted of the flatwork placement and design. The concrete was integrally colored and the Alchemy crew textured the patio slabs with an Oxford Slate pattern. The crew used a liquid stamp release and highlighting product to achieve the color effect the homeowners desired.
Phase three consisted of detail work. The exposed walls got a coat of vertical concrete mix, which the Alchemy crew carved to mimic stone. The Alchemy team members also created several precast detail features in the company’s precast lab. Using white cement and an Italian Slate form liner for edge accent, they built matching bench seating and pillar caps. Precast pavers were placed in areas where the homeowners will need access to utilities and a sprinkler system. And the concrete fire table includes a precast concrete top, inlayed with polished stones the homeowners gathered from the shores of Lake Superior.
A wide range of decorative applications came together to create a congruent design and multifunctional outdoor space, incorporating many of the ideas the homeowners first learned about in the seminar that sparked their interest in decorative concrete in the first place. “The homeowners have already sent me photos of parties they’ve hosted on the patio,” Haas says. “They are having fun in their new space.”