Concrete, as a material to make countertops in kitchens, as shown in Figure 1 and bathrooms has become quite popular. As well, concrete is being used to create room dividers, fireplace mantels and other architectural features and objects within the home.
Figure 1 - Concrete counter top in kitchen
Picture courtesy of Stone Passion
New techniques have been developed that make the construction of concrete countertops by competent home handymen possible. However, creating a concrete countertop is not the same as pouring a concrete slab for a patio, driveway or sidewalk. In fact making a concrete countertop requires many skills, it is a craft rather than a trade.
Before you undertake a concrete countertop project you should understand that this is not a project that can be completed in one afternoon. In fact completing a concrete countertop in less than a couple of weeks is almost impossible.
We highly recommend that you read through all the instructions before you start. You may find that although you feel comfortable in performing the skills that are necessary to create your concrete countertop that the logistics and mess that it will create are more than you are willing to entertain.
Space and mess are the two biggest negatives in building your own concrete countertop. A simple concrete countertop to sit on a bathroom vanity, approximately 2 feet by 4 feet requires free workspace that is at least 8 feet by 10 feet and this small concrete countertop will weigh approximately 240 lbs.
Besides the logistics of dealing with a heavy object, you have the mess that comes with mixing, pouring, grinding and polishing concrete. While some professionals will actually pour concrete countertops in place we highly recommend that you start by building the concrete countertop in a mold. By building the countertop in a mold you will control where the mess occurs. Having wheelbarrows of wet concrete roll through your house can create untold disasters. As well, because of the curing time of concrete, the countertop must remain undisturbed for at least 10 days after it is poured. While this may be easy if you have more than one bathroom, it is almost impossible if you are pouring the countertop in a kitchen in a home that is occupied.
Warning: Concrete countertops are very heavy and because of this it may be necessary to reinforce kitchen base cabinets and/or floor joists, especially in older homes.
If you have any doubts about the integrity of the floors underneath your cabinets, and especially if you live in a seismically prone area, consult a professional structural engineer.
Safety: For most handymen, safety seems to be the last thing considered when it should always be the first. To be safe while constructing your concrete countertop you need the following safety equipment:
- Goggles with polycarbonate lenses. We also like to have a polycarbonate face shield available as a substitute for the goggles at certain times, such as when we are dumping the portland cement into the concrete mixer or pouring the concrete into the mold as the face shield prevents concrete from splattering over our faces.
- Respirator mask
- Ear plugs
- GFCI circuit for all electrical tools. You will be using your electrically powered tools while there is water flowing a GFCI circuit is not a luxury it is a must. You can purchase extension cords with built-in GFCI protection.
- Work boots with steel toe protection
- Rubber gloves
- Dust masks
- Work gloves
- We recommend that you wear the latex gloves while constructing the mold, they are very inexpensive. The latex gloves will prevent normal body chemicals that are on your hands, from leaving marks on the surface of the mold and hence affecting the finished concrete countertop.
How to Make Concrete Countertops - Index