First, there was Formica, then tile, granite, and quarts. Every day, there seems to be a new “it” material to use for a stylish kitchen countertop. While most of these require a contractor and workers to create and install, there is one type of countertop that can be made by someone (you) with little to no experience. Concrete countertops are a DIYers dream.
What Are Concrete Countertops?
Concrete countertops are just what they sound like–countertops make from a solid block of concrete.
Part of the lure of concrete countertops is how customizable they are. While concrete is typically gray, it can be dyed to match any décor.
Some even choose to embed tiles or mosaics into the concrete to enhance it even more. The sky’s the limit when designing concrete countertops. Users are able to select the finish and texture, the degree of polish and the edge design.
Concrete countertops are more environmentally friendly than their quarried stone or petroleum-based alternatives. Concrete is made of only three ingredients: water, aggregate (rock, sand or gravel) and cement. When mixed with water, the cement acts as a binding agent to stick everything together.
While other countertops may be just as beautiful as concrete ones, they are typically less durable and require more maintenance. While the concrete may succumb to cracks over time, some think it simply adds more character to the countertops.
While concrete countertops are traditionally neem in a kitchen, they can be used in other rooms of the house, such as the bathroom or outside. Commercial workspaces could also benefit from this design choice.
Tips on How to Make Them?
While you can certainly hire someone to make your countertops for you, they are actually a pretty simple project as long as you have the right tools. To build a countertop, you will need a mold, concrete and a finish.
- Melamine boards to build the mold with
- Sawhorses to build the board on
- 3/8 rebar for inner support
- Remesh for inner support
- Wire for attaching the rebar and remesh
- Screws for building the mold
- Silicone caulk
- Concrete tools (floats and trowels)
- Long screed board
- Hacksaw/bolt cutter/wire cutters
- Rubbing alcohol
- Pigment of choice
- Concrete mixer
Before you jump right into building your dream concrete countertops, you should build a test form. Build a small 1 by 2-foot mold, place the rebar and remesh inside and do a test pour. Make sure to include the pigments and any other design elements you want to include in the finished product. Once this dries and is to your liking, you can begin on the countertop.
First, Make a Mold
You can make a mold out of just about anything but cheap melamine coated particle board works best. It is also readily available. You will need one large board for the bottom and smaller ones for the sides.
Measure out how large you want your countertop. The easiest shape is going to be a rectangle, but if you always wanted a triangle island, this is the time to go for it.
Next, Build the Mold
Next, you will need to build the mold. Mark out how large you want your countertop to be on the large piece of melamine. Make sure you got a piece that is larger than the size you want your countertop. The sides to the mold should be cut to be the height you want your countertop.
Once cut, clamp the sides down and screw them to the base with 3-inch drywall screws. You have to pre-drill the holes here, as the board will split without them.
Once the walls are screwed together, you will then have to clean and seal the mold with silicone caulk. A helpful tip here is to pick a color of caulk that will stand out against your melamine board. Apply the caulk down the seams and run your finger down to smooth it out.
Start Reinforcement Grid
With the mold done, you are ready to get started on the reinforcement grid. This is an important step as without it your concrete tabletop would not last. If your countertop shape is a rectangle, you don't have to worry about trying to bend the rebar. Cut out 4 pieces that will be placed about 2 inches in from the edge.
Lay the pieces of rebar out and attach them together with sturdy wire. To add even more support, and to hold the rebar in place, remesh is added on top. Cut the remesh to size and secure to the rebar. You should have a large grid when you are done.
Place the rebar into the mold and clean everything with alcohol one final time. This helps to remove any dirt or debris that could potentially ruin your final product.
Mix & Pour Concrete
Now is finally time to mix up and pour the concrete!
When making smaller concrete projects, you can get away with mixing it by hand in a bucket. For this large of a project, you will need a concrete mixer. They can be rented from most hardware stores.
Mix the concrete to the consistency of oatmeal, so it is dry enough to minimize cracking but wet enough to work with.
While there are a number of ways to color concrete, a tried-and-true method is to add the pigment during the mixing process.
You will need two people to help with the pouring. One person will shovel the concrete from the mixer to the mold, and the other will use their hands to push it into place. Don’t push too hard as it can damage the support grid you just made.
You should fill the mold until it looks like there is slightly too much in there.
Next comes the leveling out.
Run a long, straight board across the concrete with a sawing motion. This helps push more concrete into the mold and helps to level out the top.
A concrete float should be used to begin the finishing process. Draw the float across the surface with the leading edge raised just enough as to not cut into the concrete. If there is water coming out of the concrete during this stage that is fine. You want it more wet than dry.
Before the concrete begins to dry, you need to remove any air pockets. Tap a rubber mallet on the sides and bottom of the mold to bring any bubbles to the surface. The bubble will pop and you can re-float that area to smooth it over.
After the concrete has begun to set up, you can remove any lines left on the top after the leveling process. An aluminum rectangular trowel is a tool for the job.
The sides of the mold can be removed after a few days of curing. This will help the concrete dry. Make sure to take out all the screws before pulling the boards apart. Do not use any sort of prying tool to get the boards apart as it will ruin the concrete.
After seven days of curing, you will need to turn the countertop upside down to finish the top. The countertop is going to be heavy so getting a few people to help you turn it is necessary. Remove the bottom part of the mold to reveal the top of your new countertop!
While we hope yours turned out perfect, chances are there will be some imperfections. That is ok!
Go over the entire surface with a wire brush. This will open up any small air pockets just beneath the surface. You can then fill in the holes. Mix up a small batch of concrete (remember the color ratio you used so your patches will match) and use a trowel or putty knife to fill the holes. Once dry, sand it down smooth.
Final Step Seal It
The final step before you are ready to install the concrete countertop is to seal it. There are a number of options for sealant, but a food-safe polyurethane works best.
To install, attach a sheet of plywood on top of the cabinets by screwing it into the corner braces from the inside. Apply construction adhesive to the plywood and place the concrete countertop on top of it. Once the adhesive has dried, you can wax the top for a final finish.
And there you go! While this project takes a long time because of the drying process, the actual work time is pretty minimal.
Maintaining Concrete Countertops
After you spend so much time creating your very own countertop, you will want to find out as much as you can about how to maintain it.
Most commercial sealants are both water and stain resistant. Some offer additional benefits such as impervious surfaces.
Standard dish soap can be used to clean the countertop. Stay away from anything too aggressive or bleach based. Try to clean spills as soon as they happen. If they are allowed to dry and harden, you will need to scrub the stain to remove it. This can remove some of the sealants.
Long-term maintenance of your countertop requires adding additional top coats. Through typical cleaning and use, areas may become thin.
Some things you should never do:
- Put a hot pot or pan directly on the countertop
- Cut directly on the countertop
Creating your very own concrete countertop is well within your reach. Follow our simple directions, and you too can have the kitchen island of your dream.