R&D Workshop LLC
R&D Workshop plans to revolutionize how builders and homeowners
maintain the structural integrity of expansion joints in concrete.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Knighthouse Media
Four years after moving into a new home in League City, Texas, Bob Wilkes discovered the expansion joints in his driveway needed repair and looked for anything in the market other than caulk to solve his problem. Coming up short, Wilkes leveraged his background in mechanical engineering design to create an alternative to the expensive and tedious caulking process.
“I had used caulk before and I knew it was not a fun thing to do,” Wilkes remembers. “You had to be really neat to make it look nice and it was expensive; I needed 100 feet, so how many tubes is that? I started cutting pieces of foam rubber on a bandsaw to press in the crack to give me a nice rounded top. I played around with a bunch of different configurations and found a profile that worked.”
Wilkes engineered a drawing and sent it to a company that extrudes rubber products who sent him 800 feet. “I used 100 feet in my driveway, 100 feet on both my neighbors’ driveways and a guy came by on a bike who asked where he could get some of that and bought the rest of it,” he remembers. “I knew it was a winner then.”
Wilkes founded R&D Workshop LLC in 2010 as a family owned and operated product development business, and the first product launched was Trim-A-Slab, a repair or replacement for concrete expansion joints and a DIY-friendly alternative to caulks and other liquid fillers. Trim-A-Slab is a press-in-place, rubber-like strip made of exterior-grade PVC. The product is intended for residential and commercial driveways and sidewalks for light vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
“I am going on 10 years with Trim-A-Slab on my driveway and a little soap and water removed the surface dirt, making it look like a brand-new piece,” Wilkes notes. “The color is guaranteed for five years and the structural integrity is guaranteed for 10 years, which I expect it will well surpass.”
Over five years, R&D Workshop expanded its product line to include three different colors and four sizes to fill expansion joints from 3/8 of an inch to 1 5/8 of an inch. Additional profiles are in development to fill smaller size joints as small as 1/8 of an inch wide, and to provide a series for pool decks and patios. Trim-A-Slab is geared towards the DIY homeowner and can be found in an expanding number of retail hardware stores across the United States, including Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Home Depot.
R&D Workshop’s second product offering is geared towards new construction projects and it is an expansion joint cover. XJ Shield was developed to fit over typical expansion joint materials and is cast-in-place. It provides protection for the joint material, adds a decorative finish and blocks water intrusion to preserve slab integrity. The XJ Shield line of products debuted at the World of Concrete 2017 and are available in one-half inch or three-quarters inch, with 3/8 inch to appear later in 2019.
The XJ Shield U.S. patent issued in November 2018 and is a revolutionary new concept for anchoring and sealing an expansion joint to concrete without inducing any stress risers in the concrete. “Prior expansion joint covers have a tendency to weaken the concrete at the water-sealing element called a water-stop,” Wilkes explains. “These older style water-stops actually cause the concrete to fail, crack and break apart along the expansion joint. XJ Shield has specific geometry designed to keep the concrete as strong as it would be if there were no water-stop at all.”
As R&D Workshop continues to grow its marketshare, the company plans to donate material for builders’ model homes to introduce them to XJ Shield. “It’s very inexpensive for the look and structural integrity you gain,” Wilkes says. “We feel it’s going to be a very popular item once the industry understands how it works and the benefits.”