Thursday, September 29, 2011

Concrete Counters Part 2

After doing extensive research, which I shared some of here, it was time to start buying supplies. We needed to buy melamine boards and get them cut to size. Melamine boards are plastic coated to give a smooth finish to the underside of the concrete (the underside becomes the top of the counter once it's flipped over). Normally, Lowes would be our go to place. But they didn't have full sized melamine boards. They only carry skinny boards for closet shelving. That's not nearly wide enough for a countertop.

So over to Home Depot we went and sure enough, they had what we needed. Matt made all his calculations and took them to the cutting station and told the guy where to cut so that we'd have the least amount of waste. These boards might seem expensive (around half our counter budget), but you can't really make due without them. And keep in mind, the finished product is still WAY cheaper than any other countertop material.

Matt and I spend one evening assembling the forms with screws and caulking the seams with silicone caulk so that the water in the concrete mix wouldn't seep out.

*Side note: Lucy gets really freaked out by our reflections in the windows at night time and kept barking at them. At home, we have curtains and blinds covering all the windows so she never sees reflections. Poor thing was just trying to protect us. I tried to teach her what it was, but no luck.*

Here are the basic form assembled.

And Matt assembling the sink hole.

Making sure the sink hole is in the correct location.

All done! Now for caulk.

Tedious but easy.

Then, the next day, I mixed up some samples of concrete with different amounts of pigment in it. I wasn't sure how dark the charcoal pigment would make it, or if I would like the natural color by itself.

We bought Sakrete High Strength Concrete Mix from Home Depot, which sells for cheaper than at Lowes.

We calculated that we would need between 8 and 10 bags of concrete at around $5/bag. So we also needed 8-10 boxes of pigment (if we use it full strength) at $6.20/box.

Adding color doubled the cost of the concrete mixture, but it's still relatively cheap.

I mixed up a small sample of full strength pigmented concrete....and totally forgot to take a picture of it wet on the board. It was a beautiful shiny black pile of wet concrete. Having worked with concrete before (on our foundation) I knew that when it's dry, it much much lighter, so I couldn't judge it yet.

I also mixed up a small batch at half strength pigment and one with NO pigment at all.

And I do have pictures of the no pigment one.

I spread this mixture out on a scrap piece of melamine board. This was also the only sample where I remembered to bang on the board to shake out the air bubbles(more on that later). I left the 3 samples to dry over night.

And here they are dry. Clearly, the darker one is no longer black (even though you didn't see it wet). In fact, it's not very dark at all, in my opinion. Clearly, vibrating the board (aka banging on it) is a very important step. I forgot to do that to the medium and dark sample and as a result, they are full of air holes. Also important to note, I already applied a sealer to half of each piece to see how it looks. That's why the surface color is inconsistent.

I compared each color to our flooring(more on that later) and used a piece of baseboard to represent the white cabinets.

After getting lots of opinions (not that more is better. more can actually be worse and confusing) we decided to go middle of the road and go with the medium gray color. And that folks, is where we end it today. Next up: pouring the concrete.

Continue reading:
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


  1. Can't wait to see how this turns out! I bet it's gonna be so cool.

  2. Thanks! It's a bit frustrating at the moment, but I hope it comes out ok.



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