Are you starting to feel a little bored or complacent in your kitchen? Getting tired of the same old, and ready for a refresh? There are many ways to change up the look and feel of your kitchen.
Some of them are very simple, like getting new tea towels or new plates.
Other things take a little more effort, for instance if you were to re-paint or add a new tile backsplash.
Then you’ve got the major stuff like big renovations, new cabinets, and new appliances.
And finally, something that can make a huge impact on not just the look of your kitchen, but the functionality as well.
Of course, that’s the countertops. But more specifically, we’re going to be talking about concrete countertops and covering everything you need to know so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not this style is right for you and your home.
We’ll address the critiques and criticisms you’ll see about these types of countertops. We’ll talk about how practical of a DIY project this is, and we’ll look at some amazing examples of how beautiful they can turn out thanks to people who have shared their own processes. We’ll cover some of the things you’ll want to look for and to avoid, how to care for your new counter, how much concrete countertops cost, and plenty more. Ready to go? Good, let’s get right into it!
Why Are People Choosing Concrete for Countertops?
Whether you’ve been searching for rustic design options for your kitchen, or just happened to scroll past something that caught your eye on Pinterest, there’s no doubt that concrete counter tops are making big waves lately. It’s kind of a “love it or hate it” type of thing, so you’re wise for doing this research.
You’ll also see mentions of cement countertops, which is a bit of a misnomer, since cement is an ingredient of concrete, but we won’t split hairs over that.
If you think they’re going to make your countertop look like a sidewalk, think again!
With the acid staining process and polishing, they end up looking a lot more like they’re made from something like slate or granite, especially with some of the different polish and color options out there now.
There are countless other styles you can achieve, which we’ll be highlighting before the end of this page.
It’s possible to affix little pieces of tile or stone, typically on the sides, for some added intricacy to your kitchen designs.
This style of counter gives you an opportunity for something that’s very unique, since every single one turns out at least slightly differently. It opens the door to full personalization since they’re all custom made, so you can make it any size or shape that you’re able to build or buy a mold for.
You also have control over the finish, the details on the edge, and every other aspect of your new counter. This amount of freedom is a big draw for people that are considering a poured concrete countertop.
This one can go both ways, because there are certain types of damage they are more susceptible to, but they’re also stronger than some of the other choices out there in other ways.
For starters, it’s literally hard as a rock, and can last for many, many, years (even decades) with proper maintenance.
You don’t have to worry about concrete being melted by a hot pan or anything else, since it’s resistant to heat. Having said that, if you use a sealer, you’ll want to avoid putting hot pots and pans on your countertop just like you would with other materials. The sealer is susceptible to heat damage. It’s not the end of the world though, you can fix the sealer much easier than fixing a laminate countertop, for example.
Also, the concrete won’t scratch like other materials. While the sealer itself can become scratched, once again, it’s an easy fix compared to other types of countertops. That’s the nice thing. They can still take damage, but it’s not going to ruin them permanently.
On the other hand, some of the other options are less prone to cracking, so there’s always going to be a give and take depending on what you prioritize. Allowing it time to properly dry and cure, using the correct reinforcements, and having it on a stable base can more or less eliminate the risk of cracking.
They’re not the lowest maintenance out of all the different types of counters you can get, but when you take their durability into consideration and how easy they are to clean, and not having to worry about any seams that soak up moisture and gradually warp and ruin your tops, all of a sudden having to reseal them every now and then doesn’t feel like much of a chore at all.
But It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses: 3 Common Myths… Busted!
We’ve gone over the pros, but there are some very notable downsides as well. These may be deal breakers for you, or you might not care at all, but here are some things that not every contractor or DIY article is necessarily going to mention upfront.
As with anything, there’s a lot of great info out there but there’s also a lot of it that can be a bit misleading.
It’s important to understand the nuances so you can make an informed decision. This isn’t meant to scare anyone away, but rather to avoid any potential headaches down the road.
“They’re super cheap”
There’s a misconception that they’re a cheaper option, but in reality, the total price falls somewhere in the middle of the road compared to other countertop materials. The reason for this is not because the material itself is more expensive like granite or marble, but because of the labor involved. It’s not an easy task to install countertops made from concrete, but we’ll cover the specifics in the DIY section of this page.
Many people think “Hey, concrete, that stuff is super tough, my countertops are going to be invincible!”
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, and there are a few unexpected ways that these types of counters can crack, become stained, or otherwise suffer from damage. They’re VERY tough, and that’s one of the main selling points, but they aren’t indestructible.
“It’s easy to make concrete countertops”
If you’ve seen some of the simplified guides out there about how to make concrete countertops DIY-style, it might seem like the kind of project that you can bang out in a day, but there’s a bit more to it – especially if you aren’t super handy, so just be aware of that because it’s easy to get in over your head, in a torn-apart kitchen, with no functional counter surfaces.
Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. Now, let’s go over a few reasons that people are absolutely falling in love with this style of countertop.
DIY Concrete Countertops: Worth it or Worthless?
There are different ways to go about getting your new countertops installed, and you can even take a do-it-yourself approach if you’re feeling up to the challenge.
That’s not to say this is the toughest renovation job out there, but it’s a lot more advanced than a new coat of paint or putting up new cabinet doors.
Precast vs Pour in Place
There’s the precast method, where the concrete is formed elsewhere and then installed in your kitchen once it has had time to cure and set. The advantage to this is that you won’t have to wait upwards of a month for it to cure in place, which makes this a bit more convenient if you’re replacing an old counter.
The other option is called “pour in place” or “cast in place”, where you construct a mold on your counter, pour in the concrete, and then remove the mold. The downside is that you can’t use it until it has cured. This is good for new developments that aren’t currently being lived in, or people who don’t mind setting up a folding table to use for a month while their countertop cures.
Now, we’re over-simplifying the process here because this isn’t a complete guide on how to make concrete countertops, but here are some useful resources if you’re thinking of going down that route:
How to build Concrete Countertops in 13 Steps from Instructables
This guide from Instructables breaks it down into 13 steps and has images of the actual build from start to finish. They’re upfront about the mistakes they made along the way, and what to do if you run into the same issues.
Keep in mind this guide was made to document the process by two people who haven’t done this before, so it’s not perfect, but it sure gives you that feeling of “Hey, I could do this…” and there’s value to that. Not to mention that the finished product turned out looking great!
DIY Cast in Place White Concrete Countertops from DIYFunIdeas
Here’s another in-depth guide showing the whole process, except this time it’s from the point of view of someone who has done this type of work before, so you get a more professional perspective to fill in some of the gaps that were missing from the aforementioned article.
Concrete Over Top of Laminate from Lovely Imperfection
The blog Lovely Imperfection has taken a different approach. Instead of tearing out their old laminate countertop, they used it as a foundation and put concrete for countertops right on top of their existing counter!
Which Concrete to Use for Countertops & Other Considerations
There are different approaches you can take, and even commercial products available so you can create more intricate trims as opposed to just square. These edging tools are often made from plastic, so you can cast the concrete mix into them, and simply snap them away once it has cured.
Also, there are different types of concrete mixes available for countertops, and some faster-curing products as well.
You don’t want to just grab any old bag of Quikrete or other concrete mixes. If you’re going the Quikrete route, they make a special Countertop Mix specifically for this task, and it’s suitable for both precast and cast-in-place applications.
You want something with a high PSI which will help prevent cracking down the road. Quikrete’s Commercial Grade Countertop Mix is a popular choice. It exceeds 5000 psi after the first month, 3500 psi after the first week, and 2500 psi after the first couple of days.
Hiring a Contractor & How Much Should You Expect to Pay?
If the DIY approach isn’t up your alley, there’s likely no shortage of contractors in your city that can help you out with this project.
According to HomeAdvisor, you’re looking at around $5,000 to $10,000 by the time it’s all said and done with a cost per square foot of anywhere from $65-$135, and hourly installation rates ranging from around $30-$90. Keep in mind this is just a (very) rough outline, and the more expensive contractors aren’t always necessarily the best.
The prices will vary depending on your local market and other factors, and it’s always a good idea to get several quotes before moving forward and to have contracts in place before any money changes hands.
Stained concrete countertops cost slightly more per square foot, and the same goes for white and black concrete countertops.
Here are a few rapid-fire tips for hiring a countertop contractor:
- Make sure they’re experienced, and they can show you examples of their previous work.
- Make sure they can provide you with samples of the finishes they’ll be using.
- Check out their website, look at testimonials, and ask for references (And follow up with the references to make sure they’re happy with the outcome!)
- Don’t necessarily hire the first person you talk to. Get estimates, and make sure everything is in writing. If you agree to any changes after that, make sure the contract is updated accordingly.
Caring for Your Countertop
Once all the hard work is done, and your new countertop has cured, all you’ve really got to think about (besides admiring it and putting it to good use) is some very simply maintenance.
Seal the Deal
Sealers are a key aspect, and there are plenty to choose from. Since concrete is such a porous material, even after you’ve smoothed it out and polished it, you’ll need to seal it. This part is very important because a correctly-sealed countertop is much easier to maintain.
It may still develop somewhat of a patina over time, but that’s also part of the appeal for a lot of people, especially in a farmhouse kitchen that’s going for a more rustic look. Furthermore, unsealed is also an option that some people choose.
Here are some traits to look for in a sealer:
- Safe to use inside the house
- UV Stable
- Heat resistant
- Scratch resistant
Also, keep in mind that it can take days for the sealer to fully cure, which can be a drag when you’ve already been waiting weeks for the concrete itself to cure, but c’est la vie.
Finally, you’ll want to test the sealer on a separate piece just in case you don’t like how it looks or it doesn’t end up working great. It’s a good idea to make yourself a little “tester” piece of countertop separate from the rest; this smaller piece should also cure more quickly and gives you an opportunity to make sure your sealer is on point.
Keeping it Clean
You’ll want to look for a pH-neutral cleaner, like a mild dish soap. Using anything too strong can cause issues with the sealer, especially over time, and means you’ll have to re-seal it sooner than normal and creates the possibility of staining.
Avoid using any types of cleaning products that are too abrasive. A bit of dish soap mixed with water goes a long way for cutting grease and getting the job done. Use a cloth instead of steel wool, for instance.
Here are a few questions that are often asked when discussing countertops made from concrete, so we’ve compiled them for your convenience.
Q: When can you remove it from the mold or snap off the forms?
A: It may be settled enough after just a day, but it’s a good idea to wait closer to 48 hours just to be sure.
Q: How long do I have to wait before applying sealer?
A: Certain sealers will allow you to start applying coats within just under a week, whereas an epoxy sealer requires you to wait until the cement is completely cured.
Q: How well does concrete work for outdoor countertops?
A: It’s one of the best options if it’s sealed thoroughly. It can handle the heat and it can handle freezing weather a lot better than wood, laminate, etc.
Q: What are some of the options to customize it and make it unique?
A: There’s a lot you can do, from the color, to creating a unique shape, and even embedding small personal trinkets or objects. Some people like to use seashells, and we’ve even heard of people re-purposing old broken family heirloom China by adding pieces to their counter.
Q: How long will this type of countertop last for?
A: Your new countertop will last for decades. When you think about it, what other parts of your home are going to be able to outlive it?
Concrete countertops are an excellent way to add a rustic feel to your kitchen. They’re not for everyone, but now you know the pros and cons, what to look out for, and exactly what’s possible. Whether you decide to tackle this yourself or hire a contractor, you’re in for years or even decades of usage, so make sure you love the look of it!
Updated: September 18, 2018