A Midwestern fabricator is bringing the finest natural surfaces to the counter.
In the new Cambria Design Gallery in Kentwood, Michigan, the art of movement and beauty of natural minerals are evident within the surface of exquisitely designed quartz slabs.
Behind the different palette collections containing nearly 133 designs inspired by rocky coastlines off of Wales, marble tones, regal shades of deep purple and gold, or Her Majesty’s Royal Navy; is a team of more than 100 artisans in the West Michigan region who are dedicated to fabricating the finest countertops and surfacing products in the Midwest.
While West Michigan-based Lakeside Surfaces Inc. was established in 1992 by current President Rob Riegler fabricating countertops and surfaces from other materials, such as glass, porcelain, and other natural stones; the company evolved over the years to become a Cambria Lexus Partner and to work solely with quartz surfacing materials.
“We found customers who have ended with quartz have been more satisfied than with any other product,” said Ray Schelhas, director of marketing at Lakeside Surfaces. “We started to look at that and work through our relationships with different quartz manufacturers to find the same trends within that quartz product: that is what ultimately led us to Cambria.”
Design and beauty aside, one of the reasons quartz has become a popular and highly satisfactory product is due to its performance as a durable, maintenance-free, NSF 51 certified, and scratch-resistant material.
Pete Kuipers, sales representative at Lakeside Surfaces, said not only is quartz nonporous by nature, but also Cambria does a great job with polishing and finishing the surface.
“It is almost impossible to permanently stain a quartz countertop. There is also a lot more durability from a scratch perspective and heat perspective,” said Kuipers. “The other nice thing we like about it is since it is technically a man-made product; every slab that ends up in our facility in Lakeside is basically perfect.”
To manufacture a countertop, the natural quartz is mined in particles rather than full slabs and then reassembled into up to nearly 60 square-foot slabs.
“A lot of people describe it as a 93 percent natural product that is put back together by man,” said Kuipers. “The remaining seven percent is some different resins and adhesives that help them create the patterns, the colors, and help hold it together.”
Although the company is considered a wholesale provider of Cambria’s design collections, Lakeside Surfaces’ role as a fabricator comes to bear when a dealer within their network has a client or homeowner interested in installing a quartz countertop or surface in a designated space.
“We stock a tremendous amount of quartz,” said Shelhas. “With Lakeside, you are going to purchase the square-footage you need and are not going to be charged any premiums for moving into extra slabs or partials. We give [our designers] access to our entire library and we are going to pick and choose the best pieces that create the nicest aesthetic for their project.”
From there, a Lakeside technician completes a laser template of the specified area in a residential or commercial project and electronically forwards the data to the engineering department at the company’s facility.
Once the project has an accurate digital template, the team can show clients and homeowners a digital version of the project using a software program known as Slabsmith. From programming, the quartz is then cut by the industry-leading equipment on the shop floor, such as the double-table Park Fusion combination bridge saw/waterjet and the single-bed Titan CNC machines.
“There is a ton of water used in the fabrication process of quartz. If you are trying to fabricate quartz without water, you will start burning it actually. So there is a lot of water involved with both cutting it with the saws and profiling it with the CNC machines and polishing,” said Kuipers. “There is water all over the place throughout our facility and it goes down in into these grates and into a water reclamation process.”
Schelhas added the sustainability initiative to reclaim nearly 100 percent of the water used in the fabrication process was quite the project to put into place due to the size and scope of the manufacturing done at the shop.
“We are really proud to have gotten to a point where we are reclaiming all of that,” said Schelhas. “Sustainability is big with both Cambria and Lakeside.”
While the natural quartz is often used for kitchen countertops or installed in bathrooms, the Cambria products can also be custom designed and cut for flooring, backsplash, stairwells, and stacked chisel edges around fireplaces.
“We have invested in the best, most cutting-edge technology which allows us to do [mitered edges] a lot easier than some other fabricators,” said Schelhas.
The mitered edge and specialty fabrication has risen in popularity in recent years to the point where a separate space has been designated in Lakeside’s shop, according to Kuipers. While specialty fabrication is considerably high in commercial installation projects, it has increased to nearly 10 to 15 percent of jobs for residential projects as well.
“What a lot of homeowners want today, especially in some higher-end homes, is the thick, chunky look,” said Kuipers. “Even though the countertops may only be your standard three centimeter in thickness, if you put a three-inch, four-inch mitered edge profile on it, you have the appearance of a huge thick slab of stone on your countertop.”
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