My Concrete Counter Top project

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My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby matt walker » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:50 am

So, my house came with fake marble laminate countertops. Turrible. I've been wanting to replace 'em forever, but I've been trying to do as much renovating as I can without going and buying more stuff. I had this idea a while ago, that I could make a mold of my laminate counter tops and get a concrete counter top that had more shape than your usual squared off look. So, I took a 24" chunk and did just that. Made a fiberglass mold.

This one..........

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Then I poured a bunch of "tiles" using the mold. This process took a while. Pour one, let it set for four days, let it out of the mold, and pour another. So, I had to take a break because I got injured, but yesterday I got back to it and got a few more of them installed. I'm stoked, each one of these is just about $10 in materials. Not including the mold, I've got less than $50 into this side of the kitchen. I'm thinking I'll grout the seams, and let it be big tiles. I could also fill with a mix of the same concrete, but I think I'd prefer the contrast. It's pretty rustic, but for now, I'm liking it. I've been getting closer to finishing this kitchen. Fence board trim, mini fridge cabinet(more fence boards) and boat rail shelves are all new in this round of projects, pretty much as of November.

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I've been playing with colors and swirls, and more or less vibrating. I figure I can swap 'em out as I figure out what I like best.

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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:58 pm

They look great Matt. The earth tone blends nicely with the wood in the kitchen. What did you use to tint the cement? The mold is a great idea and seems to be making a very good finished produce. When you vibrate the mold to get the air bubbles out does it leave you with that smooth of a finish, or do you have to work with it a bit after you remove the tile from the mold? Are you planning on sealing the tiles with something to make them easier to clean? Maybe boiled linseed oil would help to seal them as well as make them shine a bit. There are alot of other finishes that can be used on cement, but linseed oil seems to be what they use alot around here. It may be cheaper to use than some of the other finishes.
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby matt walker » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:47 pm

Thanks for the compliment! Yeah, they come out really smooth from vibrating, no finishing needed. I wanted a quick process, as I usually fall apart in the finishing stage of things like this. I use a great product I found from British Columbia for sealing. It's a sealer for wooden salad bowls, and consists of mineral oil and beeswax only. It's really great, smells nice, and leaves a great finish without much work at all. I got those last two tiles in night before last and did one coat that night, and one last night. That should be it for a few more months.

The color is a commercial concrete pigment. I'm messing around with different techniques, mixing it in, spreading it on the mold first, etc. I've got some other colors as well, I might branch out a bit on the other side of the kitchen.
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby matt walker » Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:45 am

Well, got some caulk around the range, which looks great, and did a test joint in grout. I only had white, and it looks atrocious, so I stopped there. I ordered some dark grey grout, hopefully that will look better. Overall I'm pleased with the feel of these, after a few more days with 'em. I wasn't real excited about concrete as a counter top material, preferring softer type surfaces like butcher block or the like. However, it's pretty nice. I did knead some bread on one, and that was wonderful. You can feel the heft and the coolness is kinda nice. I haven't broken a dish on 'em yet. Probably shouldn't have said that...

*knocks on wood*
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby Lollykoko » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:47 am

Matt, I've been talking about making some of the counter tops concrete when we get the house started. I thought the process was that you built the form on top of the counter, poured the concrete, let it cure, then remove the form and finish.

You said that you created your mold from the original counter, which allowed you those nice rolled edges. It is probably easier to vibrate a 2X2 form than a 2X8 section. You didn't mention how much each section weighed, and I'm sure that moving them was a chore.

My question is, if starting from scratch, which method do you think would be preferable?
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby matt walker » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:39 am

Well, there's a few ways people go about it. I've never heard of anyone doing it the way I'm doing it. I'm different! Lol. Mine weigh around 60lbs each, so they're pretty easy to handle by myself. I also opted not to do any finish work, other than the wax/oil sealer. Most methods involve a finishing stage that typically includes wet sanding, grinding, and polishing to create a smooth, blemish free surface. I am able to get it pretty good with the gel coat mold surface and vibration.

But, to back up, most people do it one of two ways;

- Pour in place, which has the advantage of not having to move 'em, but the disadvantage of needing lots of finishing to make a smooth surface.

-inverted mold. I basically did a modified version of this with my composite mold. Most folks use melamine and rigid foam board to make molds for each section of counter top. Pour off site, finish, and install. Most people will use the MDF or melamine for the face of the mold, which leaves a fairly smooth surface, but still typically people will spend time grinding and polishing these to final finish as well. One downside is you will probably need help to install these, and may have to have seams when the area is too great for a monolithic pour.

As you noted, my method does allow for the shape to be a bit more complex. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to explore the idea of composite molds for concrete counter tops. I originally built the mold with the intention of building a small "set" of them. The design has side flanges of composite to which I fastened the side boards of the mold. I intended the molds to be able to be fastened together with the flanges so one could conceivably build any size counter top with only a small set of molds, say three 24" sections and a 12" and a 6". I thought it would be a great business to offer the sets to contractors, since a large part of the cost of concrete counter tops is in the set up, labor, and materials in the molds, which are typically custom for every job. Not only that, but one could offer many profiles not available in concrete currently.

Then, in typical me fashion, I got into other things and haven't built any more molds. Then I just decided to do 'em piece by piece, so I ended up with this "tile" system. I dunno, it's not conventional, but I'm kinda liking it. It feels finished, yet flexible in layout if I keep changing my kitchen the way I seem to be doing every couple years.

What was the question? Lol. Well, my method is cool, but did require a bit of composite experience. The biggest advantage is the profile. If you don't mind flat counter tops, there's easier methods. For flat tops, I'd pour off site. This guy has a really easy mold technique, and made some amazing counter tops.




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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby Lollykoko » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:05 pm

Thanks for the reply and videos,Matt. I just sent the thread link to Sis for her to check it out too.

I don't think I want to try moving a 60# counter top section by myself this year. My back isn't as young as it used to be a few decades ago. ;)
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby dave brenneman » Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:35 pm

matt walker wrote:Well, got some caulk around the range, which looks great, and did a test joint in grout. I only had white, and it looks atrocious, so I stopped there. I ordered some dark grey grout, hopefully that will look better.


I used dark grey grout when retiling the kitchen - I'm happy with how it turned out, I don't think I'd ever use light-colored grout again. Concrete counters look nice - as much as I dig the recycled bottleglass look, it was just a better choice to go with engineered stone in our last kitchen.
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby matt walker » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:41 am

That's good info Dave, thank you. I'm waiting to grout until I get the rest of the tiles done for the other side of the kitchen, so I can move them around if need be once I finalize the layout. Glad to hear that dark grey worked for you.
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Re: My Concrete Counter Top project

Postby lonv166 » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:59 pm

I really like the concrete counter tops. One of my builders (2 young fellas) is extremely artistic. I will be showing him these videos, as well as drinking lots of beer and other beverages.
One question though, it was my understanding that concrete tops needed to be cleaned and resurfaced on a very regular basis, like once a month. Anyone have any feedback?
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