How to make concrete countertops

How to make concrete countertops

Make a template of the counter using 1/4″ sheets of luan.

Once you get the right shape, you can trim the luan with a utility knife and a straight edge. Once they’re cut, carefully glue the pieces together with hot glue, and write notes on the template to indicate the walls and finished edges.

Step 2

How to make concrete countertops

cut pieces of melamine

Cut Pieces of Melamine

Cut the forms out of a piece of 3/4″ Melamine and screw them together. Lay steel mesh into the form to add strength to the concrete.

Note: Melamine is made from plastic resin, which gets heated to form a tough, impervious surface similar to laminate. This smooth surface will release the concrete easily.

Step 3

How to make concrete countertops

How to make concrete countertops

add color mix to dry powder

prepare and pour concrete mix

Prepare and Pour the Concrete Mix

Pour a bag of the concrete mix into a wheelbarrow. To mix the color, pour a half gallon of water into a bucket along with a pint of the color, then add one gallon of water and stir.

Add the color mix (Image 1 — ash was used for this particular project) to the dry powder a little at a time. When the mix is ready, add it into the form.

Smooth it out with your hands and be sure to work out any large air bubbles.

Clip the wires off the form and then begin “screeding” (a smoothing process) the mixture, by sawing a board back and forth over the top (Image 2). Take a palm sander and vibrate the sides of the mold to get rid of air bubbles.

Take a magnesium float and go across the top of the mold to seal it and get rid of any bumps. Let the mold sit for 45 minutes to an hour for it to harden.

Note: It takes a full 28 days for concrete countertops to cure.

This is hands down the best (and cheapest) way to update your laminate countertops.

How to make concrete countertops

Thanks to Joanna Gaines, there’s a short list of interior design elements that have become wildly popular: Fixer Upper fans know the designer loves to use subway tile, sliding barn doors, shiplap, and concrete countertops in her renovations. But, if you want to replicate Joanna’s style in your own kitchen, the latter will definitely cost you.

Concrete countertops can cost anywhere from $70 to $90 (or more) per square foot, according to HGTV. Plus, concrete can be very difficult to work with, making it a rather tricky look to DIY—but not if you use this clever hack, featured on Hometalk and created by homeowner Libbie Burling from Wyoming, Michigan.

Libbie wanted to update her kitchen and modernize her laminate countertops. After scouring Pinterest for ideas, she was inspired to try to create “faux” concrete countertops using FeatherFinish Patch and Skimcoat, a cement-based product used to repair floors.

How to make concrete countertops

While this trick doesn’t create thick and pure concrete countertops in your kitchen, it does use light layers of painted on cement, which is an element of concrete, to create the beautiful and high-end look of a concrete.

How to make concrete countertops

How to make concrete countertops

If you want to try this on your own kitchen counters, use a small handheld vacuum to pick up the concrete dust as you sand it, recommends Libbie. She lightly smoothed the surface with sandpaper in between each coat of FeatherFinish (heads up: she says it gets very messy).

Libbie cautions that patience is a must for this DIY project. “I tend to jump in and want instant gratification,” she says. “Well, this was one of those projects where I had to slow down, take my time, and breathe. The FeatherFinish quickset is a product that builds upon itself so putting it on in very thin layers and allowing them to dry thoroughly between each layer is key.”

See the complete concrete countertop tutorial, and more of Libbie’s tips, on Hometalk.

There is no one right way! The only requirements for concrete countertop forms are that they be dimensionally correct and made out of materials that will not warp (unless you are using dynamic fabric forming, but that’s another topic).

That said, there are two basic methods to forming, depending on whether you want an as-cast finish (“pop a perfect slab”) or you plan to grind to expose aggregate or create a polished finish (“grind and grout”).

The “Pop a Perfect Slab” Forming Method for Concrete Countertops

If you want to pop a perfect slab, the casting surface must be absolutely perfect, because every little bump, scratch or spot will show up in the cast concrete. Very fluid mixes that can be vibrated to reduce surface pinholes need to be used with this method. These mixes are highly liquid and require watertight forms. You cannot use form release agents in your forms.

I long ago gave up on the pop a perfect slab method. It is simply too difficult to get a perfect, blemish-free, pinhole-free surface on a consistent basis. And, creating perfect, watertight forms is a lot of work. You end up forming and casting multiple times trying to get a perfect finish. I would rather spend time at the end grinding and grouting.

I also feel that this is a more true to concrete look. Why hide the sand grains? Plus, the fine cement skin left on in the pop a perfect slab method is extremely fragile. If that skin is damaged, it is impossible to repair. It also hides tiny pinholes just below the surface.

These pinholes are a reason that some people eschew “grind and grout” and pursue “pop a perfect slab”. However, dealing with pinholes is not that difficult. This article explains exactly to grout to fill pinholes in a concrete countertop. And, pinholes are less of a problem with GFRC, since the surface coat (the mist coat) is generally sprayed onto the surface.

The “Grind and Grout” Forming Method for Concrete Countertops

For the grind and grout method that I prefer, the forms still need to be dimensionally perfect and smooth. But, there is a much wider variety of forming materials you can use and a wider variety of looks you can create.

Following is a brief overview of the forming process for the grind and grout method.

For old school, flat, precast, steel-reinforced countertop slabs, you can use strips of melamine and steel angle iron on a steel-topped casting table.

How to make concrete countertops

The melamine is glued down with Power Grab, and the angle iron is clamped onto the edge of the table. Cresset’s Crete-Lease 880 VOC is the form release agent, because it is designed for metal surfaces.

Besides the fact the GFRC is now the preferred method for professionals to create concrete countertops, this also has the big disadvantage that you need a steel-topped casting table.

For GFRC casting, you can simply create melamine boxes. Steel-topped casting tables are not necessary. Form release agent is not necessary unless you are also using fiberglass sink molds, in which case you would use Crete-Lease 20-VOC.

How to Make Sink and Faucet Holes in Concrete Countertops

For sink and faucet knockouts, use blue or pink insulation foam. This foam is the right thickness, easy to work with, and there is no need to tape the edges.

Use a router to cut the foam using a Masonite template as a guide.
How to make concrete countertops

How to make concrete countertops

Smooth the edges using a disk sander. This will make the edges smooth enough that there is no need to apply tape to them.

Adhere the foam to the form with double-sided carpet tape, and caulk around the edges. See this video for details about caulking.

Integral sinks are typically formed with pre-purchased fiberglass molds. The attachment method is also different and depends on the manufacturer of the mold. Generally these molds are screwed onto melamine form boxes, then caulking is applied.

How to make concrete countertops

Whatever sink style, it is extremely important to take great care in placing the sink and faucet holes.

These are the very basic steps of forming. For extensive, detailed step by step instructions for building forms for concrete countertops, undermount sinks, integral sinks, curves and more, consider the online training How to Build Forms for Concrete Countertops.

Making your own concrete countertop mix will allow you to customize the color of the mixture to complement the theme of your kitchen. Mixing the concrete is a labor intensive job which requires constant vigilance. Several variables in the process can affect the result which can compromise the strength of the concrete and thus the countertop. Follow the below steps to easily and effectively make your own concrete countertop mix.

Step 1: Analyze your need

Plan your countertop by choosing a suitable location in your kitchen to place it. Take measurements to determine the amount of concrete required. Determine the required thickness of your countertop. Simultaneously, decide the color you would want your countertop to be. Black is the ideal color to suit kitchen countertops since it complements other colors and appliances.

Step 2: Prepare for the Concrete mix

Choose a location outside, preferably in your yard where you would like to mix the concrete. Judging from the measurements, get the appropriate amount of materials required. For an average 1-1/2” of thickness, you will require approximately 15lbs of concrete per square foot. To determine the proportion of cement, rock and sand use a simple 1-2-3 recipe. For every 1 part of cement, use 2 parts of pea gravel and 3 parts of sand. In addition, use approximately 6 percent of pigment in proportion to the total amount of cement used.

Step 3: Mix the Concrete

Use a concrete mixer to mix the ingredients after you have acquired their appropriate proportion. Ample supply of water is necessary for a good concrete mix therefore ensure that your mixer is placed near a garden hose which you can access easily. Pour some water into the mixer and then add cement followed by sand and gravel. Add the ingredients slowly and in portions. Do not add all the proportion of an ingredient immediately because it will hamper proper mixing. Once all the three ingredients have been added, add the required proportion of the pigment. Keep adding water systematically after every entry to ensure smooth mixing. Only enough water should be added to make the texture of the concrete gooey. The resultant concrete should stick to the spatula in a semi-solid form. If you poke a finger in your mix, the finger should smoothly slide into the mixture rather than being unable to penetrate or going in too quickly. Stop the mixture occasionally to analyze the texture of your concrete. Once you are satisfied with the result, run the mixer for a minute after adding the pigment. Cement can dry quickly therefore wear gloves during all times of your labor.

Step 4: Pour the Mixture on your Countertop

Use a bucket to travel the concrete mix to the location of your countertop. Pour the mixture into the frame and use spatula to even out the surface. Make sure that your frame is the same size as your measurements earlier to suit the amount of mix prepared complementing those measurements.

WARNING: Your countertop will take 4 days to cure inside the frame, and then 3-4 days more (so 7-8 days total) before you can seal it. For the best results, avoid putting anything on the countertop during this period.

How to make concrete countertops

Learn how to make concrete countertops with the popular casting method known as “Precast”. Precasting is ideal for casting in a workshop or garage where you can control the work environment, ensure optimal curing temperatures, and minimize the risk of damage to finished cabinets or appliances. Precast concrete countertops are usually cast upside down in the mold to maximize custom options and details while minimizing the need for concrete finishing skills.

Precasting a concrete countertop requires fine carpentry skills and elementary knowledge of concrete. This guide walks you through building a form out of 3/4″ melamine and using Sakrete 5000 Plus bagged concrete along with CX Precast Concrete Countertop Pro-Formula to create professional grade concrete countertops.

One: Make a Template

How to make concrete countertops

Every countertop project begins with an accurate template. Detailed notations, measurements, and planning will help your project flow as smoothly as possible.

Two: Build the Mold

How to make concrete countertops

Projects destined for the polishing process are typically cast on melamine-coated particle board, an inexpensive, and readily available choice.

Three: Mix the Concrete

How to make concrete countertops

Keep your costs low with Sakrete 5000 Plus concrete from your local home improvement center and CX Precast Concrete Countertop Pro-Formula.

Four: Pour the Concrete

How to make concrete countertops

The concrete mix used in this pour was low-slump and required heavy-duty vibration. Add more water to your mix if you don’t have table vibrators like these.

Five: Demold Countertop

How to make concrete countertops

After 5 days in the mold it’s time to remove the countertop but since the concrete is still young extra care must be taken to avoid problems.

Six: Polish the Countertop

How to make concrete countertops

Wet-polish with coarse diamond polishing pads that expose aggregate by cutting deep into the concrete, or use a finer pad for a more uniform finish.

Seven: Seal the Countertop

How to make concrete countertops

A good sealer is the best way to protect your countertop from unwanted signs of use and wear. Acidic foods like citrus and mustard will even etch concrete.

Eight: Wax the Countertop

How to make concrete countertops

Waxing a concrete countertop protects the sealer from the wear and abrasion of daily use. Pots and pans can take a toll, so wax regularly.

If you are thinking of building diy concrete countertops for the first time, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will walk you through each step from planning to sealing your diy concrete countertop.

If this is your first attempt at making a diy concrete countertop, I would suggest you keep it simple and make a small table top or a bathroom vanity. Working with concrete isn’t as easy as it looks.

If you try a full sized kitchen concrete countertop without any experience at mixing, placing, and finishing concrete, you may be very disappointed with the outcome.

By keeping your first concrete countertop simple you will gain valuable experience as to how concrete feels when it is mixed and placed into the form, how fast or slow it dries, and how it feels if you are troweling or polishing the surface.

Click on the links below for more in depth information on each subject.

PLANNING YOUR DIY CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS

Should you do a poured in place concrete countertop or a precast concrete countertop?

If you have a large countertop area and you don’t want any seams, then a diy poured in place concrete countertop is the way to go. Pouring a concrete countertop in your kitchen or bathroom requires extensive preparation.

Protecting the floor, cabinets, and walls is a must because concrete can be messy when it is poured. The kitchen or bathroom area will also be out of use for up to a week before it is done.

Concrete is very heavy so pouring it in place means you don’t have to lift it, transport it, and install it after making it somewhere else. A 2 inch thick concrete countertop weighs 25 pounds a square foot, so a 6 foot by 2 foot countertop weighs 300 pounds, too heavy for one person to lift.

Check with the manufacturer of the cabinets to make sure they will support the weight. PRECAST CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS

Making a precast concrete countertop in your shop or garage does have some benefits. Having a controlled environment where no other people are working means less chance of having an accident. Mixing and pouring the concrete is easier with no cabinets to work around and no finished flooring to spill concrete on. If you want a polished surface, doing this off site is also much easier.

Transporting the countertop and installing it are usually the biggest obstacles to precasting diy concrete countertops. Having a good size crew will make this task go smoothly. FORMING CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS

Making a template and the form for your diy concrete countertop are two very important steps for success. The template will ensure you have the exact dimensions if you are making a precast countertop and using the right forming materials will give you a smooth surface to apply the finish.

There are many concrete countertop ready to mix bags on the market. If this is your first time making a concrete countertop, I would recommend buying one of these bag mixes that you just add water to.

Follow the instructions carefully, don’t add too much water or you will weaken the mix and increase you chance of getting a crack. POURING CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS

Pouring diy concrete countertops can be really fun. After all the planning and forming, now it seems like you are getting somewhere.

Pouring the bag mix is usually done in two layers. The first layer is carefully pressed into place by hand, filling about one-half of the form. The concrete countertop reinforcement is now set into place, then the remaining half of the concrete is poured to fill in the rest of the form. FINISHING CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS

If you are pouring a concrete countertop in place, then troweling the surface smooth by hand is the easiest way to finish the surface. This does require some skill troweling concrete for a flawless finish.

If you are precasting your diy concrete countertop, then troweling the top of the concrete or polishing the bottom of the concrete in the mold is the best way to finish the countertop.

Learning how to Polish will also be best done on a small piece of concrete to get the feel of the polishing process.

This is probably the most difficult step for a do it yourself concrete countertop. There are many types of sealers out there, each with their pros and cons.

Some will give you a matte finish, others will give you a gloss finish. Some resist heat and chemicals better than others. Some are easier to apply than others. I would suggest to keep it simple for your first one. Buy a sealer from one of the pros like Cheng and use a food grade wax to help protect it.

Another good water based polyurethane countertop sealer is Surecrete Design Products XS-327 WB high solids hybrid urethane sealer. This sealer can be colored, thinned and applied with varying solids content to achieve different degrees of finish.

How to make concrete countertops

This 36-foot long bar countertop was created without seams and to appear extra thick. Global Surface Solutions in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Countertops made of concrete really have no limitations in size, depending on the materials and casting techniques used. Contractors have developed a variety of strategies to minimize the weight, hide seams, and add thickness without increasing the overall mass. “The only restrictions to dimension are access to the room where the counter is being placed and the number of people who can help lift it,” says Sean Jaegli of Global Surface Solutions, a concrete design and fabrication studio in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Thickness

The standard concrete countertop slab thickness is 1 ½ to 2 inches, similar to countertops made of marble or granite. However, contractors can create the illusion of a thicker countertop by casting a drop-front edge. On this kitchen island, for example, the top is 1 ½ inches thick overall, but appears to be much thicker because it was cast with a 6-inch drop-front apron.

Weight

A 1 ½ inch thick countertop made of standard concrete has an approximate weight of 18.75 pounds per square foot. (Granite is approximately 18 pounds per square foot.) Standard cabinetry will typically support this weight because it’s distributed over a large area.

For larger countertops, however, where weight can be a problem in terms of both handling and installation, contractors can use glass-fiber-reinforced concrete, lightweight cores, or special reinforcement methods to keep the weight down. With GFRC, the slabs can be cast in thinner sections than similar pieces made with traditional concrete, reducing the weight by as much as 75% while still maintaining tensile strength. “Depending on the application, we will employ different systems to reduce countertop weight. We incorporate lightweight cores and then use layers of metal/fiberglass mesh and specialty concretes,” says Jaegli.

Concrete countertops can be cast in nearly any size or shape. Depending on the overall dimensions, joints or seams are often incorporated to accommodate handling. These seams can often be concealed with color-matched grout or a veined finish, or they can even be used as an attractive design element (see this massive concrete dining table made of three slab sections joined by decorative stainless steel bands).

Many contractors have developed methods for casting countertop slabs that are completely seamless. “Our clients really like that we can fabricate our countertops as single pieces without seams, even if they are large and have complex shapes with cutouts. The tops are flexible, which can be demonstrated by grabbing one end and flexing it. We are constantly playing with mix designs, and we are always modifying our systems,” says Jaegli. See these other tricks for making super-sized countertops.

Oversized Countertop Examples

Click through to see more images and read about how each of these projects were created.

How to make concrete countertops

9-Foot Free Span Concrete Kitchen Countertop DC Custom Concrete in San Diego, CA

Creative Curves Are Outcome of Countertop’s Challenging Size Surfacing Solutions in Temecula, CA

How to make concrete countertops

A Concrete Countertop Captain Ahab Would Love Stone Soup Concrete in Florence, MA

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Homeowners setting out on a home improvement project are always looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck while upgrading the home to accommodate lasting trends. Concrete countertops can be a stylish and durable option for your kitchen remodel or home office that can be created with little or no experience at a relatively low cost, making concrete a wonderful countertop choice.

Learn how to make concrete countertops for your next DIY project, including all the necessary tools, in six steps.

Necessary tools and materials

There are several tools required for this project. If you don’t already have these tools and materials, you’ll want to purchase them before you begin.

  1. Tape measure.
  2. Sawhorses.
  3. Lumber.
  4. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
  5. Saw.
  6. Power drill and drill bits.
  7. Wood screws.
  8. Caulk guns and caulk.
  9. Rebar and re-mesh.
  10. Bolt cutters.
  11. Cement.
  12. Colorants (optional).
  13. Concrete mixer.
  14. Mixing tub.
  15. Gloves.
  16. Power sander and sandpaper.
  17. Plastic sheet.
  18. Putty knife.
  19. Shims.
  20. Respirator mask and eye protection.
  21. Microfiber cloths.
  22. Sealer.

Step 1: Create a mold

The first step to making concrete countertops is creating a mold of the countertops. Measure your base cabinets, adding an additional ¾ inch for an overhang, or measure your existing countertop. Take a piece of MDF that is larger than your intended slab and lay it on top of the sawhorses. Trace, then cut the exact dimensions of your measurements for the base. Then cut side pieces to the depth of your countertop, plus enough additional height to account for the MDF depth.

Next, attach the side pieces to the mold base using screws every 6 inches. Concrete is heavy; if the mold is weak or flimsy, you will end up with warping, so don't skimp on screws. Don't forget any cutouts for a sink or stovetop. It's a good idea to double check the interior measurements of the mold and make sure that it is level and square before moving on.

Step 2: Finish the frame and prepare reinforcement

Due to the weight of concrete, sometimes the sides can warp or the middle can bow, especially with larger slabs. Combat this by placing several sturdy lumber boards running lengthwise underneath the mold for additional support. Vacuum out any sawdust or debris from inside the mold, then run a bead of caulk along all the seams, smoothing it with a wet finger.

Any imperfections in the mold or caulk will show up in the concrete, so take your time with this step. Cut your rebar and re-mesh to size for the mold, giving 2 inches of space between the rebar and the edge, then set it aside for later. Allow the caulk to dry for 24 hours before proceeding.

Step 3: Mix and pour the concrete

Following the package instructions, mix the cement with water in a tub or container. If you’re using a colorant, now is the time to add it.

Concrete cures quickly, so it’s important to work efficiently and in small batches. It can be very helpful to have one person mixing and another person pouring to prevent curing before the project is complete. Wearing gloves, fill the mold and press the concrete into the corners. When it's halfway full, add the rebar and re-mesh, making sure they don't touch the edges of the mold. Continue filling the mold until the concrete is slightly higher than the top edge. Try not to apply too much pressure at this point or you may unintentionally press the rebar down, which could expose it to the countertop surface.

Step 4: Remove bubbles and wait

Smooth the surface using a float or a 2×4 to draw out any aggregates. Next, run a sander, with no sandpaper, along the outside edges of the mold. This will help release any air bubbles that are trapped in the concrete. Smooth the surface again, then repeat sanding and smoothing until no more bubbles appear on the surface.

Not only can bubbles cause imperfections in the final product, but they can also weaken the countertop, so be thorough here. Once satisfied, loosely cover the slab with a plastic sheet to keep debris from falling in it while the form cures. This can take four to seven days, depending on the size of the slab, the level of humidity, and the temperature of the room.

Step 5: Remove the form

Next, you’ll need to remove the form. Unscrew the mold sideboards. It’s fairly common for the boards to stick to the form, and if that's the case, gently insert a putty knife between the board and the form and, if needed, tap the putty knife with a hammer. Just be careful, as this process can cause cracks to form.

At this point, you'll want to bring in someone, or several people, to assist you in flipping the slab over and placing it back on the sawhorses. To remove the base of the mold, use the same method of inserting the putty knife and tapping, but as you work, insert shims between the slab and the MDF to help lift the MDF off the concrete.

Step 6: Finish the countertop

The final step is finishing your countertops. Put on your respirator and eye protection, as this step gets very dusty. Start sanding the concrete to remove imperfections, starting with 80 grit sandpaper and gradually working your way to 220 grit paper for a smooth finish. Unless working on a very small countertop, you will likely run through a lot of sandpaper, so make sure to have extra on hand so you don't have to stop and run to the store.

Vacuum up any dust or debris, then wipe the surface with a wet microfiber cloth and allow it to dry. Finally, the countertops should be sealed just like granite, since concrete is a porous surface. If your countertops are in a kitchen, make sure to use a food-grade sealer.

While this may seem like a complicated project at first, creating concrete countertops is an achievable task for a dedicated or experienced DIY homeowner. To help get the hang of the process, it can be a good idea to try a few small practice forms before starting in on your main project so that you can figure out the best cement consistency, how to remove the air bubbles, and how to remove the slab from the form without cracking it. While just about anyone can accomplish this project, it will take some time to complete, especially if it's your first time. Thorough preparation and allowing ample work time — which can stretch over several weekends, depending on the time you have available — will all help this project go that much smoother.

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