Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Concrete Countertops - DO IT YOURSELF!

Pretty sick of hearing about the upstairs renovation? I'm pretty sick/done working on it (slow claps for jenn). So in an effort to finish a few more projects, let's get back to the bathroom! SO! Let's recap...we took out the carpet/vanity, demo'd the concrete base, put down the underlayment, and set the tile. Then we re-installed the toilet and stopped. I wish in this past month I could have cloned myself (and my parents/boy who have helped along the way!). One person to work on the 2nd floor renovation, and the other to finish up the bathroom. Instead, I lived with a half-functioning bathroom (better than no bathroom!!). So, post 2ndfloorisfinished happy dance, I got my bathroom game face on. The vanity was re-installed (thanks dad!) and the counters were inching closer to being finished...so let's talk about that huh?

Sometimes being frugal has it's upside, a happy little surprise which also saved you loads of money. I love those times. In the case of my bathroom counters, I think i've succeed with the frugal happy little surprise. If you recall, the quotes on getting new counters came back wayyy above my countertop budget (5$...jk, but close to that). The reason was the shape of my counter. Most counter cutting machines can only do straight cuts. I had 2 angles at $150 a cut, plus the cost of the material. Down the road, this might be a good idea. But for now I wanted to try a little sumptin sumptin to rid me of that expense. Perhaps this is a phase one of the countertop and phase 2 are new counters. Maybe this will be phase 2, i'll keep ya posted, k?

K, so i'll give a brief tutorial on this technique, but here's where I got the idea/inspiration/tutorials: Little Green Notebook and Kara Paslay Designs. Props to them.

Materials needed:
Ardex Feather Finish (will need to order online)
Trowels of various sizes

The first step was to remove the countertop and rough up the top a bit. I thought for a moment to remove the laminate top for an extra rough surface, but I didn't want to compromise the thickness of the counter as I was re-installing it in place. I used a 60 grit sandpaper, a few knives (sometimes, you need to get creative) and sharp trowels to get scratches all over the laminate.

I spent about an hour roughing it up, the concrete will stick fine to a smooth surface, but making sure there is something to grip is added insurance. Once that's done, mix up some of the Ardex in a bucket..follow the directions on the bag.

 I used a few difference sizes in trowels and spread it all over. The first coat won't cover the counters completely. After an hour of the concrete setting I went back in with a sander to smooth it out a bit, then I let it sit over night and fully dry.

The next day I went in with a 60 grit sander to smooth it out even more. I repeated this process 6 times...coat, sand, dry, sand, repeat. After my 2nd to last coat I used a hand sander and 100 grit sandpaper to buff/smooth everything out. The final coat was a very LIGHT coat, and I used a rubber float (If I do this again, i'll just use a rubber float the whole time. Much easier to work with) so that the lines weren't as harsh as with the metal trowel. Once that dried I sanded with 120 grit and let it sit for a few days to cure.

Here is what it looked like with the metal trowel. In the beginning I didn't care what direction I spread the concrete, just that it covered the area. This technique gives it a bit more textured look. By the final few coats I started to trowel on straighter lines to give it a cleaner look.

 Once I was happy with the look, and the entire counter was covered, I got out the sealer. NOTE: if this stuff freezes it becomes useless as the chemicals separate! Damn you Minnesota Winter!! I ordered the Cheng sealer, wax and cleaner. Sealing the counters is pretty easy, but very messy.

There are a few youtube videos on how to apply this stuff that I watched prior, the instructions don't give you as much details and you will need.

Step 1: saturate the counters with cold water. Throughout this whole process, don't let water pool anywhere, it can make weird marks.

Step 2: Mix 1/2 water to 1/2 sealer in a bucket and set a timer for 5 minutes. splash around the mixture for about a minute, after that continue to add more sealer to the water mixture. At 5 minutes you should be using only sealer. Coat the counters thoroughly. After the 5 minutes is up, lightly wipe the liquid from the counters, you want to keep a little sealer on there so don't scrub it dry.

Step 3: Come back in 30 minutes and repeat.

Step 4: This isn't mentioned anywhere to do, but it worked for me. I repeated step 2/3 twice. After that I just coated the counters a few times with the sealer and a rag (not letting it sit, just a light coat). This gave it a little extra protection.

The sealer defiantly darkened the counters a bit, but they made them nice and shiny.  

I let the sealer sit for a few days then scrubbed on the wax. The sealer makes sure water doesn't penetrate the concrete (concrete is a porous material and will make bad water marks!) and the wax protects the sealer from scratches - something I wasn't overly concerned about but whatevs. I also bought the cleaner for some added juju with the counters. 

Let's look back quick where we came from, the not horrible but not awesome blue laminate gems below. Oh, and obvi that faucet had to go.

Woo! Now I just need to magically gain plumbing knowledge and get water in that faucet! It's 2014, why can't we upload information to our brains like in the Matrix yet?!


  1. How is this holding up? I've never even thought about doing something like this. Did you ever get your plumbing hooked back up? If not I'd be happy to help out.

    -Josh Mozingo

    1. Hey Josh! Yes, father to the rescue to hook up the plumbing - thanks though! The countertop is holding up well - oil will seep in and leave marks, but it's relativly unnoticed through the general texture of the finish. It's a great inexpensive fix :)