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The Tropics Call Contractor to Build Concrete Homes

By Wendy Shannon & Libbie Hough of Shannon & Company, a marketing communications firm for the Concrete Homes Council.

K-Wall Poured Walls, Inc. is located in Traverse City, Michigan and has been in operation for the last 11 years. Kubica is the owner and president of K-Wall and is a man who loves to challenge convention. From inventing new technologies, to expanding his company’s capabilities, to escaping the harsh winters of Michigan and heading for the tropics…well, that’s exactly what Rich and Patty Kubica of K-Wall did.

Take poured concrete walls, for example. Rich started out in the poured wall business, working for his father for ten years and learning all he could. Then he headed out on his own and, using the E-MAXX Insulated Concrete Wall System (a system Kubica invented, patented and sold in the late ‘90s) created a company that has a versatile portfolio and varied clientele.

K-Wall does it all—poured walls, foundations, waterproofing, flatwork and excavation, you name it. Over the years, Kubica has diversified his clientele, from traditional below-grade commercial construction to a business that includes expanding to above-grade residential and office construction, decorative treatments and architectural walls. And what he offers to all of his clients is the expertise that comes with over 20 years of experience, the openness to try something new and the opportunity to be more involved in the building process.

For instance, let’s say you are building a concrete home with an attached garage. With standard poured wall construction and insulation methods you get an all or nothing proposition – either the entire structure is insulated or it is not. Kubica’s company, however, offers clients a choice: insulate the main house or only portions of the house. Moreover, you can choose to use concrete for interior or exterior walls, and in a variety of styles and colors.

And the E-MAXX System is fast. For the concrete homeowner this means design flexibility, luxury and enhanced energy-efficiency at a fraction of the cost. For the Kubicas and their company, the speed translates into an enhanced bottom line.

Although Kubica has been successful, it hasn’t been easy. “Homeowners are always interested in better cabinets, windows, fixtures and the bells and whistles for their new homes,” explains Kubica. “But the same doesn’t hold true when you talk about standard concrete walls. It’s the insulated concrete walls that homeowners are becoming interested in now.”

So how did the concrete contractor from Traverse City end up in the Virgin Islands? One of Kubica’s Michigan clients also had property in St. John and asked Kubica to build him a concrete home on the island. Kubica has just completed a gorgeous 4,000 sq. ft. concrete home in Traverse City, another first. Leave the cold and dreary state of Michigan to work in a tropical paradise – Kubica didn’t have to think too long.

Island construction is quite different than on the mainland. First, Kubica transported the requisite equipment to Florida and then shipped it to St. John. All the concrete came first from Colombia on concrete barges to St. Thomas and then over to St. John. No calling up the day before and ordering concrete. Think two to three weeks ahead. Kubica took three crew members with him and hired three local workers to round out the building team. This 2,800 sq. ft. home, like most others on the island, was built on the side of a cliff and consumed much of the lot. The roads leading up to the site were called “switchbacks,” which means they zigzag sharply up the side of the mountain. Every day, the crew loaded the trucks with the needed supplies and headed up the mountain.

The project was challenging, due to logistical considerations, but successful. The beautiful home with 30’ tall walls—was less expensive than using a plywood wall forming system, the system traditionally used on the island—was completed in four months, a time frame well below average.

Kubica returned to Michigan in time for the poured wall business surge that comes every summer. Next December, he’s heading back to St. John for house number two. He’s not sure what the future holds, but he’s willing to go out there and see. “Changes are coming to the poured wall business,” he states. “I need to be flexible and stay on top of the new technologies and the demands of the market. If not, I won’t be in business very long.”

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us