Saturday, September 17, 2011

Concrete Counters Part 1

Many months ago when Matt and I were trying to get cost estimates on the large items for our house, I got an estimate for our kitchen counters. We were going to go with laminate. Laminate, which goes by the name brand Formica, and it is a composite plastic countertop. If you don't have a fancy solid surface counter like granite, you probably have laminate. It's the cheap, affordable option and as far as design, has really made a lot of growth over recent years. They offer lots of faux granite patterns.

Our kitchen counter will be roughly 50 sq ft (which is pretty large for a kitchen/house our size). That's mostly due to the large peninsula counter and bar we have planned for. The guy at Lowes did some quick math (not based on actual figures, because I didn't have them), and came back with the estimate of $1,200. Granite would be around $3,000 unless we used one of our connections who promised to get us granite install for about the same as laminate.

So you are probably thinking that's a no brainer, right? Go with the cheap granite guy! Except that's still a lot of money. That we don't have. I can't remember where I originally saw this idea, but it was perfect timing. The third option was pouring our own concrete countertops. Concrete counters are the "new thang" and can get really fancy. Professional fabricators can charge up to $5,000 for a kitchen our size. Definitely NOT our price range! But...BUT!...to DIY them only cost a few hundred.

I started researching online for people who have done this (because I still wasn't sure concrete was the way to go and that it would be functional). Not getting the answers and quality of photos I wanted with a regular google search, I started searching blogs on google. Searching blogs is where it's at. You get a more personal and detailed guide that includes loads of photos and also shares their mistakes and what they WOULDN'T do again. And gives you a their real life budget.

To search just blogs, you type your search into the google bar and then click where it says "more" on the left-hand side.



Then click on "blogs".



One of the first blogs I found that I really liked was Kelly Moore Photography (also, I really really love the camera bags she makes. Christmas list? I think so! Heads up, mom.)

While this blog wasn't the MOST detail oriented when it came to the tutorial, the photos really inspired me. Especially the last line of her narrative which says, "This project cost us around $300"





There are tons of things you can do to concrete during the mixing/pouring or after, but they left theirs plain, which I love. They were going for the rustic industrial look. Perfect for me (also cheaper and less work).

Another blog, called Imperfectly Polished, I found was very informative. You can read about their experience here: part 1, part 2, part 3. We did not follow their tutorial exclusively though. Matt used other references (that were not blogs). I guess that's more "guy friendly", but I like the pretty pictures. I read as many sources as I can and take little bits from each one. You don't have to do something exactly like someone else to get it to work. We found that with this next blog that they were trying to do it "by the book" exactly and it really increased their cost.





This couple also kept the concrete au naturale, and just added a gloss sealer and wax. It's the raw color of concrete, no pigment added (I'll show you some examples of "fancy" concrete later on).

I was torn between keeping the concrete au naturale, or tinting it a darker charcoal to match the color of the laminate or granite I would have chosen. I really love the contrast between white cabinets(which ours will be after I paint them) and the dark counter. Here are some more stunning examples of the raw concrete:










Of course, most of these were done professionally so don't expect perfection from us. While some people might think air pockets in the concrete are a mistake, I LOVE them! They add so much character. Pockets on the top surface...well, those you have to fix so food doesn't get stuck.

This might be too rustic for you, but professional installers can get really fancy with pigments and by adding glass chips, fossils or rocks, or forming the sink out of the same solid piece. If you want to explore a professional gallery virtually, click here. They do some amazing work, but it's too modern for my tastes.

Continue reading:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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