How to Make Your Own Do-it-yourself Concrete Counter Tops
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How to Make Your Own Do-it-yourself Concrete Counter Tops

In this Factoid the reader will learn how to build their own concrete counter tops. They will learn what tools and material they will need to complete the project as well as a few sources where they can buy the tools and materials.
Concrete counter tops have come a long ways. The once drab, utilitarian concrete counter tops now make a decorative addition to any homes kitchen and with today’s materials; they are a very doable DIY project. Professional concrete counter top designers and installers charge between $75 and $150 per linear foot of counter top installed but you can build and install your own for a fraction of that cost, you can do it yourself for around $25 a linear foot. On the other hand, once you discover how labor intensive building your own concrete counter top is, that $75 to $150 a linear foot charged by the pros will seem like a bargain. Also concrete counter tops are extremely heavy, weighing in at around 20 pounds per square foot so have a few heavy lifters on hand when it comes time to install the counter top sections. As Christian Lincoln, owner of Counter Culture Concrete in Saugerties, New York, says, "A lot of people associate concrete countertops with a dull, industrial look. But half of my clients these days are putting them in older houses." Just about any pigment can be added to the concrete mix so the finishes available to the designer are almost endless. Most concrete counter top companies offer endless choices of pigments. Direct Color incorporated, for example, offers over 80 choices. Besides a pigment selection chart, their online site offers several other helpful tools for the DIYer. Here are the links Pigment color charts Acid stain and concrete pigment mix project calculators For kitchen counter tops the mixture usually consists of between 1 and 10 percent pigmentation, any more than that will weaken the countertop.

Tools and materials

  • 3 ½ cubic foot Cement mixer Harbor Freight
  • 5 piece mason’s tool set Harbor Freight
  • 2" X 18" Metal concrete screed
  • Heavy duty straight-cut Aviation snips Harbor freight
  • Diamond lath
  • No 3, 3/8" Reinforcing rod
  • Iron mechanics wire
  • Hacksaw
  • wire cutters
  • Slip-joint pliers
  • Random orbital sander
  • Jig saw
  • Assorted grit paper
  • Polypropylene fibers
  • White Portland cement
  • Concrete in 60 pound bags
  • Pigment
  • Latex accelerator
  • Concrete sealer
  • Muriatic acid
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Measuring cup
  • Construction adhesive
Most pros dump the required amount of pigment into the concrete mix somewhere between 8 and 15 minutes into the 18-minute cycle. This is one of those times when the old expression the sooner the better really does apply because the earlier in the cycle that the pigment is added the more even the color of the pour will be. If you desired a splotchy appearance, some people think that a blotchy appearance adds character to the counter top add the pigment late in the cycle, say at the 15 minute time. If you don’t already own a power cement mixer, you will have either to buy one or rent one because hand mixing just doesn’t cut the mustard when adding color pigments to a cement mixture. You can rent one at most home centers and at any tool rental outlet but every serious DIYer should have one of their own. Okay, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started. The first thing that you will want to do is make a template of what the final counter top will look like.

Preparing the form and reinforcements

  • Start by making a template of the counter top. I like making these templates out of ¼" plywood. Make sure that the template that you make is accurate because you will use this template to construct a Melamine form using ¾" melamine for the pour. Double check the form to make sure that the location and size of all cutouts (sink, drop in cook top, deck mounted faucets, etc) are accurate in size and placement because you won’t be able to easily cut or drill the concrete counter top once it sets up.
  • Set the plywood template and Melamine form on 2X4 so it will be easier to pick up the finished sections. Here’s a tutorial on building the forms.
  • Once the Melamine for is completed cut the diamond mesh so that it ends 1" from the inner edges of the form and from the inner edges of all the cutouts.
  • Cut and attach the #3 rebar to all edges of the diamond mesh using the iron mechanics wire.

Getting the mixture right

  • Success or failure lies with how you mix the cement. Begin by mixing the dry ingredients thoroughly with a mason’s hoe.
  • The concrete will be poured in layers with the edges, bottom layer and top layer poured from fiber free concrete because the fiber reinforced concrete would give the finished counter top a fuzzy appearance.
  • For extra strength, mix two quarts of White Portland cement with each 60-pound bag of concrete.
  • Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding the liquid ingredients (latex additive, pigment and water). All liquid ingredients should be measured carefully so
  • consistency can be maintained throughout the pour. Mix per manufacturers instructions.
  • Be careful with the amount of water that you use in mixing the concrete. It should be just damp enough to hold together when you form it into a ball
  • Pour the first layer of non-fibrous reinforced cement and pack the edges with 1" of the non-fiber reinforced cement. More soupy concrete would practically level itself in the forms but it wouldn’t have the strength of the drier mixture.
  • Tamp each layer down with a magnesium float. This is where the real sweat equity comes in. Work each layer with the float until its smooth. Remove any large particles that work their way to the surface and fill in the pits.
  • After pouring the first layer and packing the edges, switch to fiber reinforced concrete mixtures
  • When the layers reaches to half the height of the form, lay the diamond mesh and rebar in place.
  • When you get to within ½" of the top of the mold switch back to non-fiber reinforced cement to finish the pour
  • With the help of a helper use the screed to create a level even surface
  • Let the pour stand for two hours and then hand trowel the surface. If water starts to pool on the surface, let it stand for 30 minutes and then start again.
  • After troweling the surface, cover with plastic or wet burlap and let stand for 48 hours.

Finishing the counter top

  • Using a small pry bar separate, the joints and remove the melamine form.
  • Unscrew the blocking but don’t remove the blocking unless you are going to install an under mount sink and need to finish the edges. If you are installing a drop in sink leave the block out in place until you are ready to install the sink
  • Ease the sharp edges by sanding them with a random orbital sander and 100-grit paper
  • Etch the surface with a solution of Muriatic acid and water. Dilute the acid solution by mixing 1 ounce of acid to 1 gallon of water.
  • When finished etching, rinse the top copiously with water to remove all traces of the water-acid solution and then let air dry
  • Mix a top coat using Portland cement, Latex Additive and liquid pigment to a consistency of peanut butter and apply with a rubber-faced grout float. Once the top is completely covered, raise the leading edge of the grout float and plow the surface leaving the finish coat in any indentations but clearing it from the flat even surface.
  • Let the filler dry for at least an hour and then sand with the random orbital sander and 180 grit paper.

Installing the counter top.

  • Apply a generous bead co construction adhesive to the cabinets before setting the top in place.
  • With the help of a few muscular helpers set the top in place
  • Using the jig saw cut the blocking in sections and remove
  • Finish the counter top by applying a sealer of your choice.
  • Sources

    Direct color Incorporated

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    Comments (3)

    You're awesome man! I know you like it when I add a little something of value to your factoids, in the comments. I just can't do it with this one. You didn't leave a stone unturned! Great job! You didn't bs anyone about the difficulty level, but because the materials are very inexpensive and your instructions are so complete, it shouldn't scare anyone away from giving it a try. Some minor imperfections actually give a concrete counter top character, as you indicated concerning the pigment mix.

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    [...] How to make your own do-it-yourself concrete counter tops – view page – cached In this Factoid the reader will learn how to build their own concrete counter tops. They will learn what tools and material they will need to complete the project as well as a few sources where they can buy the tools and materials.. . — From the page [...]

    Direct Colors Inc.

    Thanks for the gracious mention in your article! We'll be sure to share your helpful information with our customers. We will be adding more calculators and countertop products to our website, Thanks again!