Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
Can you tell me the pros/cons of concrete countertops?
Concrete makes terrific countertops for kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. This option is inexpensive, DIY-friendly and yields a beautiful finished product as long as you understand a few tricks.
The first thing to realize when making concrete countertops is that you won’t be using traditional concrete to do it. ‘Concrete’ refers to a mixture of sand, crushed stone and Portland cement, with the stone being added as low-cost filler. But bits of stone can mar the finish of a countertop if they remain visible along the edges of the wooden forms that impart the countertop's shape. And because you can’t see formed surfaces until the wood has been removed, crushed stone creates unnecessary risk with no reward, at least as far as countertops go. Also, since the cost of a stone-free mortar mix for a bathroom vanity is a whopping $10, why bother with stone? The results are just as strong without it, and visual success is more reliable.
A good general-purpose mortar mix for basic countertop applications is one part Portland cement with three parts sand packed into a form built on top of a cabinet. Just remember to make your mixture dry enough to hold together in a pile, without being sloppy. If it’s even slightly wetter than this your countertop will be hard to finish correctly and won’t cure to full strength.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the concrete countertop equation is appearance. After all, who wants a countertop that looks like a sidewalk? Avoiding this fate requires two things: the addition of color to the surface; and the sealing of that surface to add depth to the color and protect against stains. The best looking concrete countertops are stunningly beautiful—a result that comes only after being smoothed and polished with power tools before the final sealing steps.
For more information on concrete countertops, visit www.stevemaxwell.ca.
Photo By Douglas Hill
Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.