What I've learned about white concrete countertops in our kitchen! Should you DIY or hire a professional?
We hired a contracting crew to help us with our renovations, and I am SO grateful for their combined knowledge - lots of brains are better than one! While I don't doubt this would be a great DIY project, there is a LOT to consider. I have been here everyday, hands on, but it's too big of a project for myself or my dad to tackle without a crew. With something 'set in stone' as Domestic Imperfection said while doing her concrete countertops, I wanted to make sure I loved the result, and because I felt like it was a risk, we asked for help.
I knew I didn't want the countertops to turn out gray - I wanted white, similar to how Chris Loves Julia's turned out. Before I ordered the counters I spoke with Allison at Z Counterforms about the color and the texture of the concrete once sealed. She explained that the more you sand, the less white the counters will be.
The guys watched many many many videos all about concrete countertops. They also spoke with lots of different companies over the phone. They were surprised to see how thick the concrete looked while being poured, almost playdough like, but when they spoke with a pro over the phone he said don't add more water!
Since Z Counterforms recommends concrete board, that is what we went with. Happy to have learned from Chris Loves Julia and prevent any liquid damage had we used plywood.
Putting the forms on:
The forms are really quite simple to install, you just screw them in. It's important to cut precise 45 angles for the corners. The guys used caulk to fill the cracks where the concrete boards met, as well as the screw holes, corners, and anywhere else that concrete might seep out. After the clips and mesh were installed, Jeff glued a piece of plastic to the exterior of the corners and form seams. I saw that Domestic Imperfection had slight seam lines from where the concrete shifted the forms. Glueing plastic to the outside of the form will support them so that you don't get a seam line. Jeff is the man!
We installed the sink and then placed down the concrete board. Caulking the concrete to the sink. Then we used the sink form to create a place for the foam insert to rest against. Jeff measured the length / width of the sink and used a roll of duct tape to create the round edge on the foam insert. Like I said, he's the man!
We started the process with test pours. And I am so glad we did. Honestly, just so that I knew what to expect before we did the entire countertop. We created a small rectangular mold to test - I didn't look at it very much until 24 hours later when we pulled the forms off.
So here's the thing: I definitely wouldn't call it white.
I really liked Chris Loves Julia's counters, and wanted that crisp white look. So I was initially disappointed by the look of our test pour. I guess this could be because of photo editing / translation over the internet? Or perhaps they will lighten up over the next couple of days. However, in the videos, the concrete looks like a pure white - ours, even though the same exact kind/brand, poured out very gray (similar to a sidewalk).
Another surprising thing about the test pours: you can see the sand speckles - aggregate.
I was hoping for a very creamy white look, and our test pour showed quite a bit of speckles peeking through the surface. Again, I referenced back to Chris Loves Julia, and hadn't noticed until then, that theirs are the same way.
I sanded a tiny bit just to see what would happen, and instantly, more aggregate showed through (see below). So heads up, don't sand!! Put in as much work as possible while pouring so that you don't have to sand at all.
Because I wasn't happy with the initial look of the first pour, we decided to mix a second test bag. The first test pour required 3 quarts of water and was slightly thicker than pancake batter. The second test required 3.25 quarts of water and was thick like peanut butter. When I talked to Concrete Countertop Solutions they said that the concrete will mix better if you don't turn the mixer off at all during the mix process (so have two-three people handy).
This time we decided to use the magnesium float to try and bring up some of the 'cream' - this did not work. We think we overworked the concrete, and the results were much more 'peppery' than our first test. We decided we would pour, level, and work as minimal as possible. Once set (30-45 min) you can work more, filling 'pin holes'.
Getting ready to pour:
I spoke with a few different people at Concrete Countertop Solutions and they were all so so so helpful. Taking time to watch videos of our test pours, providing tips, etc... Ultimately, if I had the choice, I probably would have canned the whole idea, and went with a stone. But, I already paid for shipping it here, which was as much as the product, so... we will make it work.
Since our test pours weren't what I had in mind, it took me awhile to get used to the look, and understanding that we'll never be able to hide the 'pepper'. However, after looking at them more and more, and taking in the small imperfections of the concrete, I decided that it would be the perfect organic element to the kitchen. I am writing this as honestly as possible so that if you plan on adding concrete countertops to your kitchen, you will know exactly what to expect.
...So the guys removed our cabinet drawers and began taping and masking off the area; today we will begin pouring in the pantry, wish us luck!
cost breakdown | 120 SF
- White Concrete | 50 bags @ $29 = $1450
- Wire Mesh | 2 rolls @ $49.99 = $99.98
- Square Edging | $398.00
- Z Clips | 79.96
- 2 Gem pads | 119.98
- Magnesium Float | $26.99
- 2 Trowels | $76.00
- Shipping | $1,475.02
- 15% bulk discount | (@455.64)
- Cement Board |
- Total cost: $3,338.29 w/o labor
- Labor: TBD