Is It Really a Good Idea to DIY Concrete Countertops?
The Experts Tell All
You poured your backyard fire pit so concrete countertops shouldn’t be that big of a jump, right? Wrong. Decorative concrete like countertops, sinks, and tables are a totally different scenario.
Day in and day out, our craftsmen take concrete and turn it into functional art. But this isn’t the concrete you can pick up from your local home improvement store. Nor are these simple molds you can build from whatever wood scraps you have in the shed.
Our craftsmen recently shared just what goes into the production of our finished product and why you might want to reconsider DIY concrete countertops or DIY concrete for your home’s interior.
DIY Concrete Dilemma
Concrete is pretty durable. It can make up your driveway, back patio, and even part of the construction of your home. Concrete inside your home can also be an excellent choice, but it’s very different from the conditions outside your home.
It may come as a surprise, but conditions inside your home can be just as tough as outside, albeit in different ways. Think for a moment about the hazards of the kitchen. Hot items, sharp objects, acidic spills . . .
Concrete countertops have the ability to stand up to all of that but, as our experts told us, they can only perform optimally if they are made under the right conditions. You’ll want nothing short of a highly-durable, perfectly-molded, concrete piece with a sealed surface for your kitchen countertops and other concrete objects.
DIY concrete countertops may be more than you bargained for. You will probably want to consider some professional help. Here are some things you should be on the lookout for when it comes to decorative concrete.
The concrete used for interior pieces like sinks, countertops, etc. is made with an artisanal blend of ingredients that are quite different from the concrete you used for your patio.
It all starts with GFRC, or glass-fiber-reinforced concrete. It contains glass fibers, which makes the concrete stronger and better able to hold a shape. It is most often used for architectural concrete and decorative concrete products, including countertops.
GFRC also contains acrylic polymers, shrinkage reducers, plasticizers, and other protective additives that facilitate the fabrication process and yield stronger, more uniform end products that will stand the test of time.
Concrete is notoriously difficult to keep consistent. Since it is a dry mix blended with water, unless you are very careful, your mix will turn out a bit different with each batch. Batches mixed with varying levels of water can look different once they are cured. The impacts of too much or too little moisture in a concrete mix can cause problems for years.
Since decorative concrete pieces need to live up to the fit and finish of a high-end interior space, a reliable concrete mix is essential. Our experts tell us there’s just one way to ensure a concrete mix is the same from batch to batch: get a pro to do it.
Just as important as getting the right moisture in the mix, consistent color from batch to batch (and even within a batch) should be a top priority. Unevenly mixed color will lead to uneven coloring in the countertop, sink , or other surfaces.
Yes, you can buy pre-colored concrete mix and this will help toward achieving consistent color. However, this is not a fail-safe measure as the amount of water added to the mix can influence the color. One of the perks of pre-cast concrete is that it’s made in a controlled environment by professional concrete craftspeople. While there will always be some inherent variation in the color, you won’t run nearly the same risk of inconsistency as you would with a DIY concrete countertop.
Just like a stone countertop or sink, a concrete countertop needs to be sealed every few years. The sealer protects the concrete from foods, beverages, and other liquids and chemicals that can lead to staining.
These sealers come in different finishes (matte, satin, etc.) giving your concrete that perfect amount of sheen. The more trusted sealers are food safe, low-VOC, and UV stable to ensure the product is not only safe to its users but protected from anything the environment throws its way.
Sealers can be a bit tricky, so our experts recommend that you get a pro to do at least your initial application. Their dry time and effectiveness can be influenced by temperature and how many coats you’ve already applied. It’s important to understand these specifications so you get full benefit from the sealer.
Molds and Forms
Building a mold or form seems simple, but even the most experienced craftsmen find it a challenge at times. Countertops are especially labor intensive because they are built to fit into a fixed space. For this reason, you have to account for all the kitchens quirks—such as uneven cabinetry, wavy walls, or floors that aren't level (all of which affect how the countertop mold is made).
Sinks are also tricky because the basin needs to have a certain level of pitch to the drain. It’s not impossible for an experienced DIYer, but you should pause to consider whether it’s something you want to take on.
At the Trueform facility, building forms and molds is the most labor-intensive part of the custom concrete process. Each product is made with pinpoint precision and artistry. Concrete is a very versatile material, but it also requires an experienced, guiding hand to turn it into a design element you can treasure.
Custom Textures & Effects
One of the most alluring features of concrete is the ability to apply textures and special finishes. It’s an excellent way to turn your sink, countertop, or table into something uniquely yours. A rough countertop edge, ribs on a wall panel, or a vanity apron with an unfinished look combines the smoothness of concrete with original flair that makes it really stand out.
Specialty finishes are an excellent choice for commercial settings. Have a brand logo etched on the surface or a custom color to match your specific color scheme. The experts suggest that you go to a professional for any complex finishes you’re interested in.
Now that you know a bit more about what’s involved in custom concrete, you will better be able to decide if DIY concrete countertops are the right choice for you. If you want to chat more about a custom project, contact us.
Or explore more about custom concrete orders at our website.