Published on Thu, Sep 7, 2006 by Jack Kintner

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Home Improvement

By Jack Kintner

This is the first of a four part series on Home Improvement.

Geologist David Lobdell opened his rock yard for business last October, and said that it’s been a busy place ever since. The former mining geologist turned consultant has been in the business of wholesaling decorative and landscaping rock since 2000 before moving to Whatcom County last fall.

Lobdell likes to walk customers around the yard and talk rocks. It’s like a visit to an outdoor geology museum. “That’s all from Texas,” he said recently, pointing out some elongated squarish stone that’s a light sandy color. “We call those French Fries,” he joked, “and all that over there is from Idaho,” and so on. You can take the boy out of Montana but you’ll never take Montana out of this boy.

Montana Rainbow is from what’s known as the Belt Formation that underlies Montana northwest of Helena along with most of the Idaho panhandle, including Lobdell’s native Missoula. It’s some of the oldest sedimentary rock known, a billion years give or take, and combines its great age (and hence durability in landscaping applications) with some very delicate features. Razor-blade thin parallel lines and even places where you can still see little drops of mud frozen in time and tiny, almost microscopic little dents made from the faces and corners of salt crystals that left their impression in what was once soft mud. The stone is known to have ripples from stream flow and even impressions of raindrops. They’re so old the only fossils in them are primitive plants such as algae. “They’re a billion or so years old, give or take. Not much around then,” Lobdell said.

His specialty is a colorful variety of what’s essentially petrified mud called Montana Rainbow, and it looks best when it’s wet. A great place to see this is inside the new fountain in Peace Arch Park built last summer by park ranger Wayne Eden. When Lobdell saw the fountain he donated a few yards of Montana Rainbow to finish it off, and it’s striking when the water fountain’s recirculating water is soaring and splattering on the rocks and the sun’s out.
“Most of these are brought in on the train,” Lobdell said, indicating some of the pallets with boulders and slabs of varying sizes wired on, “and then I either wholesale them out or sell them myself.” When asked if there’s a price advantage in going directly to him, he only grinned and said, “well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?” For Blaine and Birch Bay, one advantage is Lobdell’s flat $35 delivery fee, a third of what that costs at other yards farther down I-5. With pieces in his yard ranging from river gravel to chunks weighing two and a half tons, delivery is a must.

Montana native Lobdell holds degrees from the University of Idaho College of Mines and the University of Montana. He moved to Blaine for his consulting business since “Vancouver, along with Toronto and Denver, is a center of the mining industry, at least in terms of raising the capital for it.”

Lobdell also has a fairly large supply of the popular light blue Pennsylvania Bluestone, most of it in large flat chunks that can be used for patios or as steps. He also has some saw scraps, pieces that broke off while being sawn that are then tumbled to remove the jagged edges and sold again as small pavers and flag stones.

The stone can be used in a variety of ways. One way to see possibilities is to stop by and walk around the yard at 8072 Peace Portal Way, just north of VanWindergren Gardens. Lobdell is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and can be reached at 366-7305.

Right next door is Lark Ticen’s Granite Depot at 8282 Portal Way, and though the raw material is the same the end product is completely different. Lobdell’s yard is filled with virtually all North American rock, while Ticen’s yard is filled with huge slabs of highly polished and exotically colored granite slabs from all over the world.

Ticen’s office is in a house that also serves as working display, with granite tile flooring, an elaborate and massive sink in the kitchen and even furniture decorated with solid rock. The countertops in the kitchen are heavily figured as granite always is, no two the same, of course, and durable as well. Though not a totally impervious surface, granite comes close to being fool-proof. Some varieties require an annual sealing, but other than that it’s a clean and long-lasting surface. Commonly, damage is usually nothing more than a scratch in the highly machine polished surface, something that’s easily polished out.

Possibly because it’s really just a big rock, rumors persist that granite can harbor bacteria, emit radon gas or be difficult to clean thoroughly, none of which are true. Its advantages are a depth, pattern and color that are always unique, and that can really set off what’s usually a family workspace – the kitchen - without compromising safety, hygiene or practicality; should they occur, stains are easily removed, as are scratches; it won’t burn when hot pots are set on it.
Granite Depot, at 8282 Portal Way, can be reached at 366-3901.

Local contractor has driveway solutions

?Have you ever looked at the expanse of concrete on your driveway and wondered if you could ever do something besides paint it? How about a finish that makes it look like slate?

Ken Statema of K & S Concrete is one local craftsman who does that in new driveway installations.

Statema also provides designs that allow for a larger driveway by covering part of the area in a permeable surface such as cobblestones, satisfying restrictions against covering over too much of a building lot with surfaces that do not allow water to pass through.

Driveways that Statema works on are essentially molded in place on what they hope will be a warm and not too windy day. “The concrete dries too fast if the wind blows,” said Statema at a recent site.

He and two apprentices carefully worked their way around the center section of what will become a fairly large driveway leading into a double garage, one standing on the hard rubber mold and the other sprinkling a coloring agent onto the wet concrete.

The mold is shaped in such a way that by moving the mold the worker can continue to build the design, which is a series of channels that represent the joints between the “pieces” and a surface mold between them that give the concrete the wavy and slightly uneven surface characteristic of slate.

The workers have to move quickly but carefully, and the surface needs to cure for at least a day before they move on to the next section.

The result is a pleasant look to a surface that when broken up with a design like this seems to be visually less dominant compared to some houses where the expanse of light gray concrete seems to go on forever.

By the nature of the work each job is custom, and Statema says he’s busy at this time of year, given the dry hot weather which is ideal for his trade.
K & S Concrete can be reached by calling 360/410-8302.