BForm takes a new look at concrete

MADE IN WHATCOM COUNTY: Mike Bechkowiak's specialized concrete mix is three times stronger than normal concrete.

By Isaac Bonnell

When most people think of concrete, they think of a driveway or a sidewalk. Not Mike Bechkowiak.

As the owner of BForm, Bechkowiak has designed his own unique concrete mix that is three times stronger than standard concrete. Most concrete floors are four inches thick and capable of holding about 4,000 pounds per square inch. Bechkowiak’s concrete can hold 12,000 pounds per square inch, allowing him to make pieces as thin as one-quarter inch.

“It’s a highly specialized mix that allows me to get high strengths and low profiles, all without steel reinforcements,” he said. “I can do things you don’t expect to see out of concrete.”

For example, this mix allows him to create lightweight countertops that he can mold into any shape a customer wants. It also allows Bechkowiak, who is a trained sculptor, to be more creative. So far he has crafted concrete coffee tables, fireplaces, sinks and tiles.

“As long as I can make a mold, I can make it out of concrete,” he said.

One of the many ingredients that Bechkowviak puts in his concrete mix to give it extra strength is fly ash, a recycled material that is scrubbed from the chimneys of coal-burning power plants. In fact, recycled material makes up 40 percent of Bechkowiak’s concrete mix.

Bechkowiak first started experimenting with new concrete mixes about 10 years ago, when concrete countertops became popular, he said. At that time, though, he was busy with regular concrete jobs and didn’t know if there was much work to be done with concrete countertops.

But once the recession hit, Bechkowiak decided to fine tune his new concrete mix and take his business in a new direction.

“I can count on two hands how many times my phone has rung for ordinary concrete work in the last two years,” he said. “Timing-wise, it was awkward for me to launch a new business strategy in a down economy. But it was do or die for me.”

So far, the move is paying off. The new mix has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for concrete. The hard part, however, is changing the public’s perception of concrete.

“It’s still difficult to get people to envision concrete that is not a slab surface,” he said. “I’m trying to get people away from thinking of this as just a surface. It can be a very nice decorative feature.”

And since concrete can be dyed, Bechkowiak can make it any color the customer desires. He can also adjust the mixture to give it either a uniform look or a speckled look.

“People often say, ‘I want this to look like stone.’ I’m not trying to make this look like stone or like anything other than what it is,” he said. “Concrete, when polished, will have a look all its own. I think concrete has a certain warmth and beauty that no other material has.”

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