DIY Concrete Counters: Prep and Planning

Tutorial time begins!  Since this project involves a lot of steps, I am going to break it up into three posts so it’s not overwhelming. But, before we start, let’s just look how pretty it is one more time:)

Ahhh.  Ok, let’s get started.

Today I am going to focus on the prep and planning for this project.  This all happened over the course of a week or two so don’t feel like you need to do it all in a day.  We started with a lot of research:

  • Cheng Concrete Exchange.  This website was our number 1 resource.  Cheng has videos, tips, and even products you could use to make your own.  We watched the videos multiple times and referred back to this link over and over and over again.  We just starting saying things like, “Cheng said to do this” or “Cheng’s looked like this,” ya know, like he’s our friend and walked us through it all.
  • DIY Network.  This was our main inspiration for this project.  After seeing it done a bunch on tv, my completely rational and normal comment to Mike was, “Wanna make that?”  They also have some videos and steps to take.
  • Home Depot.  We found an expert at our local Home Depot who makes these often.  He lead us to some of the products out there that we used in our own counters.  Thanks for all  your help, Eric!
  • Google.  Just search “DIY concrete countertops” and I’m sure tons of tutorials will come up.  I’m sure we looked at other sites for tips as well, but the two listed above were our main go-to’s.

After completing all our research, we made some lists of things we needed to buy to get started.  There were two main purchases made to get us on our feet:  melamine board and concrete.  We bought the concrete right away because it took a little time to come in.

We used Quikrete’s countertop mix.  Most stores do not carry it in stock so we special ordered it through Home Depot.  It cost $13.99 a bag. This may seem a little hefty compared to regular concrete {which typically runs $3-5 a bag}, but it was worth every penny.  Typical concrete can crack and shrink over time but this countertop mix has additives to make it stronger and more durable so cracking and shrinking don’t happen.  If you use regular concrete, you can buy non-shrink and non-crack additives and add them yourself, but why go through all that when it can be done for you?  For our 45 sq. ft. counters, Home Depot recommended we order 12 bags so we did, but really only needed 8 to cover our kitchen.  It’s best to buy more and return if it you don’t use it.  Otherwise, you may end up having to wait for another order to come in and who has the patience for that?

Next: melamine board.  This is a smooth, white board that we used to create our forms.  It is a little pricey {around $27 for an 8 foot sheet} but you need it.  We bought three pieces and had a little leftover {maybe to make some shelves with?} so we spent around $90 on the forms.  Once we bought the wood, we measured our counters.  And measured again.  And measured again.  Double and triple check to make sure your measurements are correct.  You don’t want a counter that is a few inches shy of perfect:)  We made our counters 1 1/2″ thick {the same as our current counters} but you can make them up to 3″ thick if you like em’ chunky.  *Tip:  we also installed a white tile backsplash.  We did this before the counters {starting from the top down} so that we could make our concrete backsplash align with the bottom of our tiles.  Otherwise, we would have had to cut a bunch of tiles to make up for that space.  Make sense?

Anywho, once you have bought your boards you will need to cut them to the correct size.

Lucky for us, we know people in high places with big tools.  You will need a table saw to rip the boards to size.  You have to cut the bottom boards, sides, and all the smaller pieces for the backsplash forms.  Your sides will need to be up to the thickness of your counters so measure correctly.  Here are all of our boards ready to go.

The next step is to assemble the forms.

Mike pre-drilled all the boards before screwing them together so they wouldn’t split.  He did a great job, that handy guy.

Next up is creating a pouring space.  You’ll need an area that can be occupied for awhile.  We used the third part of our three car garage since we don’t park there.  We started by buying 2 sheets of plywood to create a pouring area.  This step is optional.  Our garage floor is not level {it has a slight slant to it} so we thought the best way to level it out would be by laying out plywood and leveling that.  It worked great.

After everything was level, we covered the plywood in plastic and laid our forms on top.  This way we could keep the garage somewhat clean and the plastic also served as a help in the curing process later on.

Once your forms are laid out, it’s time to get them ready for the pour.

We used tape in a couple different ways.  First, I taped off all the top edges of the forms {can you tell they look shiny in places?} where the raw wood edges show.  We had seen in one of the Cheng videos that the concrete could seep into any exposed wood and that could make the mold expand so we taped it off to avoid that.  Once again, you may or may not choose to do this.  We were just trying to avoid any huge mistakes.  Then we taped off around all the cracks in the wood to be siliconed in.

After you apply the silicone, you’ll need to smooth it out.  Keep a cup of water, some napkins or a towel on hand {to clean off your finger frequently} and spread it smooth.

Then you can remove the tape.  The last bit of prep work involves reinforcing the counters.  You’ll want to buy something to keep your counters strong.  There were different ideas out there on the best thing to use, but we decided on mesh lath.  It’s a thick metal mesh that is stronger than chicken wire but not quite rebar.  This decision was made by the advice of our Home Depot expert but you can obviously use whatever you are most comfortable with.  You will need to cut this ahead of time.  An inch on each side will leave enough room so that it doesn’t poke through your finished counter so measure each piece an inch less than what your form is.

I will admit this can be a bloody job.  Mike and I both had some small cuts from the mesh so be careful.  He wore a glove while cutting and it ripped through his glove!

Now you are ready to pour!  I’ll go over all the lessons we learned while pouring {and trust me, we made some mistakes that cost us} so come back tomorrow for part 2!

Side note:  The kitchen makeover has been featured on a couple fabulous sites today which makes me super happy:)  Go check out the features at The Handmade Home and Apartment Therapy!!!


Comments

  1. this is fantastic, i am seriously considering doing this now! looking forward to the next steps.

    • Yay! It makes me happy to hear someone is inspired by all this:) Part 2 is coming tomorrow and the final steps will be posted on Friday!

      • Did you use any pigment/powder/color? or just the color of the bagged concrete?

        bob

        • Just the color of the concrete. They sell stains and color additives that you can put in the mix, but we preferred the light gray, natural color.

      • Wondering how the countertop is holding up thus far? We built our own home and are quite handy. Seriously considering the concrete countertop vs granite. You def did your homework and prep work! Nice job.

        • Hi Donna! They are holding up very well. We haven’t had any stains, chips, cracks, etc. and it’s been about a year and a half. We still love them and would definitely make them again!

  2. I came across our kitchen on Apartment Therapy and love it. You did such a great job! I am planning a DIY kitchen makeover and considered concrete counters but thought it would be too difficult. Now, I think I can do it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Wow! These are so pretty! Thank you for the inspiration! I have been wanting to do concrete counters and have been looking around for step by step how-to’s. I kept looking for the next posts and didn’t realize you had just posted this today!!! Now I’m anxiously awaiting the next two steps!!

  4. Saying hi from Apartment Therapy! Great job on the kitchen re-do. If I ever own a home some day, I think we’ll have to give it a try!

    Thanks for posting all of the during photos.

    Great job!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I, too, am here from AT. Your kitchen looks great! I had looked at doing DIY concrete counters a couple years ago, and totally thought I couldn’t do it. But your tutorial is inspiring. Also, I love the look of the bead board with the concrete. Thank you!

  6. I so excieted I found your tutorials, I’m starting to research diying my own concrete counter tops and am a little overwhelmed. Thanks for all the info.

  7. Great tutorial! I want to do that for my kitchen.. but I have no real choice put to cast in place. Trying to figure out how to build a form for that including an overhang… hmm… still in the planning phase.

  8. Really, really love this idea! Now to convince my guy! Thank you!

  9. Hi again!

    Did you make the braces that Cheng makes against the outside of the molds?

    Thanks,
    Kate

    • Hi Kate!
      We didn’t put any braces on. We just screwed the melamine pieces together to make the mold and then put silicone in the creases to keep the concrete from slipping out.

  10. Did you mean Lowes about where you bought the quickcrete? I have looked into home depot and lowes and home depot carries sakrete and lowes carries quickcrete?

    • No, we purchased it at Home Depot. Ours carries Quickrete. They had to special order the countertop mix because they don’t typically have that kind in store.

  11. Hi Jessie –

    You guys are an inspiration, we are going to buy the materials to make our forms tomorrow! I’m a little confused on how and where you used the tape and when you took the tape off? Can you explain that a little more? Thanks!!

    • Hi Scott!
      That’s awesome! And very exciting. If you look about 3/4 of the way down, I detailed what kind of tape we used and where. The clear box tape was used to tape off the edges of the melamine. This helps so the concrete doesn’t seep down into the cracks and pores of the wood of your forms and make them expand. The painters tape was used for the seams, where the sides and bottom of the forms meet. It helps give you a straight line for your silicone and keeps your silicone seam small and even. You tape off either side of the seam, apply the silicone, and then remove the tape. Let me know if you have any further questions or if I can clarify anymore!

      Good luck!!!
      Jessie

  12. Going to remodel my RV and love the idea for my kitchen and bath countertops.

  13. What would you recommend for creating a not smooth (kinda like broken concrete ) look? We are pouring for an outdoor kitchen, want a kind if jagged look. We were thinking about using styrofoam in the form.

    • Terre Tulsiak says:

      If you haven’t done your countertops, I suggest you find something besides styrofoam to create that edge- like raw wood or stone. Styro actually has tiny round beads that show clearly in concrete.- (trust me) Another trick I have used to avoid polishing so much is glass when casting upside down. You need no releasing agent if every surface is ‘smooth as glass’.

      • There was no styrofoam used when creating these forms. It was all melamine wood which is very smooth and created a great finish.

        • Terre Tulsiak says:

          Oh I know- I was responding to the person who wanted a rough edge and proposed styrofoam. Yours are beautiful- I just suggested glass in case someone had some and didn’t want to buy melamine.
          You guys are more professional and attentive to detail than most professionals I have had experience with. Have you considered doing classes on skillshare or something?

  14. To cut the mesh you can use a hand held grinder, just lay the excess mesh over the edge of a table. If you have a woodworking table you can also screw down a long piece of scrap wood to hold mesh in place while you cut it off with the grinder.

  15. I love the idea of the concrete counters and started pricing out the materials. Where I live (Ontario, Canada)the price of the quikrete is almost $50/bag…a little too pricey for me. Is there another kind of concrete that can be used that’s not quite so expensive?

    • As far as I know, any concrete will do the job as long as it has the countertop additives in there for strength. You could also get any regular concrete and order countertop additives to it if that will make it cheaper.

  16. I AM MAKING A COUNTERTOP FOR A TABLE MY AFRICAN GRAY PARROT PLAYS ON HE HAS CHEWED THE LAMINATE IN PLACES. THE COUNTERTOP WILL MADE WITH QUIKCRETE COMERICAL GRADE COUNTERTOPMIX AND MEASURE 2ft x 4ft x 1INCH THICK DO I REALLY NEED TO PUT WIRE OR REBARB IN TO STRENGHTENING IT?

    • I haven’t used that specific type of concrete before so I would suggest to go by the recommendations made by Quikrete.

  17. hi.! ooooh so excited to try this! Question…….How do you account for the sides if doing it on top of an existing counter. Thanks

    • Eek I’m not sure! We made ours from scratch so you may want to search around for a tutorial on how to cover existing counters. I’m sure someone out there has figured it out:)

  18. $13.99 a bag for countertop mix!! Must be nice, my local supplier is $50 a bag.

  19. Katie Shelnutt says:

    Hey I am thinking about doing concrete countertops in my new house and I was wondering, When you do the silicone in the edges of the molds do you also put it in the corners of the molds? Will the concrete seep into the corners? Thank you! :)

    • Yes, we also put silicone in the edges. It may have been overkill but we would rather be safe than sorry!

Trackbacks

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