April 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Anyone talking with Jackson Kardell ends up excited by the possibilities of concrete. No kidding.

The 34-year-old owner of Modern Concrete can discuss how this ancient building substance (the Greeks and Romans used concrete) can be flexibly and attractively used inside and outside a home. Concrete, Kardell explains, can be poured in a vast array of colors, stamped with intricate designs, and made to emulate marble, granite, or other stone. He enjoys the challenges homeowners and designers bring to him.

“I was just a concrete guy, and I was fine with that,” Kardell says of his early years in the business. His family has been involved with concrete work since 1947, and Kardell started in the family business at age 15. “And then we started pushing the artistic aspect.”

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Modern Concrete doesn’t compete with companies that pour hundreds of yards of concrete driveways. The economic downturn of 2007 and 2008 pushed Jackson and his father, John Kardell, toward not only outdoor work, focused on patios and pool decks, but also indoor work—countertops, custom sinks and showers, 3-D fireplaces, and other objects. The work involves physics, chemistry, and artistry. The bathroom and kitchen sink designs the company creates show the range of possibilities—from traditional and rounded to contemporary, flat, and angular. The diversity involved with the jobs the four-person company tackles makes for interesting, ongoing work, says John, who started his career in the trade in 1974. 

“It all comes down to the basics of concrete pouring,” John says. “If you’ve got a good base then you can much easier expand out into some of these things that we are doing.”

The company uses Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete, a compound similar to chopped fiberglass that is made of fine sand, cement, acrylic polymer, water, and alkali-resistant glass fibers. Using GFRC means objects like countertops and sinks can be made lighter and stronger. Techniques have evolved over time, as well, Jackson says, and he enjoys the challenge of creating fabric forms to make more rounded shapes possible, and blowing, instead of pouring, concrete into forms for flawless finishes.

“Myself, personally,” Jackson says, “I’m drawn more toward modern, crisp.”

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Like an artist, he talks about “pieces” when he speaks about jobs and projects. Jackson is a Central High School graduate who enjoyed pottery classes the most, and he says he now sees the connection to that kind of physical art. He thinks in terms of hard and soft shapes, shadings and colorings, and finishes and textures in precise, measured ways. Most general concrete work—flat and often outside—is measured in half-inches and inches. For Modern Concrete, it’s sixteenths of an inch. And when concocting special concrete mixes, components are measured by ounces or grams.

Kardell-made projects have become especially popular in high-end houses and condominiums where unique designs are valued. Many times, Jasckson says, he breaks the molds he creates once a contract is completed.

The company is on the cutting edge of what concrete can do, but the kind of advertising Modern Concrete finds most successful is very traditional. Word of mouth most often brings customers in, Jackson says.

“I’m not trying to sell you concrete, if that makes sense. I’m hoping you have gravitated towards me, and this is the product that I have to offer. These are the specs that it can fulfill,” he says.  “And if this sounds like something you want…cool.”  OmahaHome

Visit modernconcreteomaha.com for more information

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