If you’re a hardy DIYer looking for a cheaper alternative to stone or other solid surface countertops, you might want to consider this unique alternative – concrete.
Concrete has almost unlimited creative potential for design ideas, colours and shapes.
I worked on a kitchen project a couple of years ago that featured a concrete island top with a sloping, curved shelf that rose out of the top at one end and rested on 6″ high chrome supports like a turnpike ramp.
You can’t do THAT with Granite!
Not for Everyone
While this is an intriguing idea, it’s obviously not for everyone. Here are a few things to consider before jumping in with both feet.
- Tops of typical sizes need to be about 2″ thick (vs 1 1/4″ for typical stone tops and 1 1/2″ for Corian)
- Concrete tops are heavier than regular stone tops, so floors and cabinets need to be able handle the weight without sagging
- You need about 10 days to two weeks for proper curing and finishing
- You’ll need 3 or 4 hefty helpers at various stages of the process to help with the pour, flip the cast tops for polishing, and to install them
How it’s Done
Just like any other pre-cast concrete job, you need to start with a form.
Concrete tops are poured upside-down in a custom form – melamine works well because of it’s very smooth surface. Any imperfections in the form will translate directly to the finished surface, so it needs to be precise to minimize polishing.
Instructables has a very detailed step-by-step how-to article with lots of pictures on building a concrete island top.
Professionals Do This Too
If you want to explore the concept of concrete counter tops without all the mess and heavy lifting, there are professionals who can work with you to design your tops and then take care of the rest. I’m not sure how the cost would compare with installed stone tops, but I guess it’s really an apples and oranges thing anyway.
If you’re interested in taking on this level of DIY project, Fu-Tung Cheng at Concrete Exchange has an extensive resource of videos and books that detail exactly how to do it. You’ll also find examples submitted by DIY homeowners and award-winning projects by professional designers.
It’s definitely worth a look.