White Concrete Countertops: Part 1
What I've learned about white concrete countertops in our kitchen! Should you DIY or hire a professional? Learn all about cement kitchen countertops…let’s go!
Where to buy concrete for cement countertops:
We purchased a special cement mix from Concrete Countertop Solutions. The cement is roughly $50/bag, but costs about as much per bag to ship.
Can you DIY concrete kitchen countertops?
You absolutely can, that is part of the draw of white concrete countertops. But...make sure you have some DIY experience, specifically when it comes to pouring concrete.
Once poured, these countertops are permanent, so I would invest in hiring some professional help, even if that means you are also helping during the process.
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 would highly suggest having someone on hand that is very experienced in concrete pouring.
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.
Steps to concrete countertops:
You will need to purchase all supplies including: the concrete mix, countertop forms, mesh, mesh clips, concrete board, sealant, buckets, concrete mixer, gem pads, magnesium float, caulk, a roller for applying sealant, and trowel.
You’ll start by adding concrete board to the base of the countertop. Then screw the countertop forms into place. Use caulk to fill all holes and seams (spend a lot of time doing this!). Then, you’ll add in the mesh and secure it into place using the “z clips”.
Then you’re ready to mix the concrete. You should have a few hands on deck for this. Someone can mix while someone else pours, and a third person levels the concrete into place. We used the edge of a 2x4 as our level!
Once the concrete cures, you can apply your sealant. Make sure to follow the curing time periods specified on the sealant you select.
Of course there are a lot more details involved, so I suggest watching some videos and reading multiple blog posts before diving into this project!
Pouring Concrete Countertops
Putting the forms on & Installing the Mesh:
The concrete countertop system we purchased came with molds, mesh, and little “z-clips” to hold the mesh in place. We installed a base of concrete board on top of the cabinets, then screwed the forms into place. Afterwards we installed the mesh which is used like rebar.
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. Take your time doing this step caulking every single hole/gap!
After the clips and mesh were installed, Jeff (our contractor) glued a small 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 (see pic below)!
What should you use as a base for the cement?
Z Counterforms recommends concrete board, and that is what we went with. Happy to have learned from Chris Loves Julia and prevent any liquid damage had we used plywood.
What texture is the cement when poured?
The guys watched many many many videos all about concrete countertops. They also spoke with lots of different companies over the phone, yet they were surprised to see how thick the concrete looked while being poured, almost playdough like, but when we spoke with a pro over the phone we were advised: don't add more water!
We installed the sink first, and then used foam to create a mold of the sink and wrapped the mold with the countertop forms.
Should you test pour concrete countertops?
Test pour No 1:
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 the cement 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.
Test Pour no. 2
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 a 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!
Read Part Two!
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 | approx. $200
Total cost: $3,338.29 w/o labor
Labor: roughly 4 days w/2 men minimum