My DIY Concrete Counter Tops
STEP 1: CONVINCE THE OTHER HALF
STEP 3: SHOPPING
This was actually no small task. There is entirely too much information online about concrete and it's difficult to sift through what is actually needed and what is just for sale from money making websites. There are also 5 different acceptable lists of supplies. The list of materials I decided were important for my project and my budget came to this:
- 3/4" Melamine fiberboard (Home Depot)
- 2" wood screws
- Quikrete 5000 (Home Depot)
- Portland cement (without any rocks or sand)
- 2" high density insulation foam (Home Depot).
- High Zirconia Alkali-Resistant Concrete Fibers (http://www.directcolors.com/). This is basically chopped fiberglass that is added to the cement mixture to add extra strength. I read that it should be 3/4" long to be the most effective. I love this source. They do not charge shipping and they offer good prices and good descriptions.
- GFRC Riteks Super Plasticizer Water Reducer (http://store.expressions-ltd.com/servlet/-strse-842/gfrc-concrete-water-reducer/Detail)
- Faucet Hole Knockout forms (http://store.expressions-ltd.com/)
- Concrete form tape (http://store.expressions-ltd.com/).
- Steel mesh/diamond lathe (Lowes).
- 1/2" rebar (Lowes).
- Wet Sander with diamond sanding pads. (http://www.amazon.com/Hardin-Variable-Polisher-Concrete-Polishing/dp/B003B1QEB4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1313004494&sr=8-4). I decided to buy one instead of renting for 3 reasons. Mainly, because I couldn't find one in town to rent. I also looked at rental rates for other masonry equipment and it seemed that if I rented one for more than 2 days, I could buy a cheap sander for the same price. The third reason is that I didn't want to feel rushed to get the perfectionist part of the job done in a day or two. We found this cheap one that came with the sanding disks, and it did OK. I may sell it on Craigslist or hold on to it if I decide to do a bathroom counter top later. I would say if one intends to do a lot of wet sanding, you might want to invest in a better quality one.
- DCI Lithium based sealer/hardener (http://www.directcolors.com/). I chose to use this as a primary sealer because it seals out stains and scents better than the others on the market. I had a bit of a problem getting a nice smooth finish with this sealer. It may have been the humidity level or lack of humidity in the house when I applied it, but it worked nicely on a couple and not so great on others.
- Krystal Kote sealer (http://www.directcolors.com/). I used this on top of the lithium based sealer to create a glossy surface. Loved this product. It took about a week to fully cure, so I'd recommend doing it before you install.
- 1/2" plywood (Home Depot). This is to put under the counter tops to support them from underneath, but mostly to allow for a smooth surface to push the counter tops in place.
In addition to all this, I also had to make sure i purchased my kitchen sink and faucets before I poured and planned the counters so I made sure I had the right form.
STEP 4: BUILDING THE MELAMINE FORMS
You may wonder why one can't just use basic plywood to build forms to pour counter tops. Well, it's because the melamine offers a nice smooth plastic coating that doesn't soak up any moisture and doesn't stick to the cement when it's done. Building the forms requires patience and precision, but it's fairly straight forward work. I had my side pieces cut at Home Depot, because I don't have the greatest table saw and I wanted to make sure they were the same width. The final width measurements were 2 3/4" wide. 2" for the counter top width and 3/4" for the width of the melamine.
Basically, I pre-drilled the holes where I wanted my screws, and then screwed in the sides to make a form to hold the cement. It took me about 6 hours to do all of them, mostly because I was working alone. When I finally solicited my husband's work, it went a lot faster. There was no science to this. I estimated about every 6-8" along the edges and put 2 screws in the ends to hold it all together.
After the foam was cut to measure, I wrapped the whole thing with the form tape I purchased from http://store.expressions-ltd.com/. This website was where I found the best price. It was still $19, but it was significantly cheaper than nearly $60 at Chengs Concrete. This is necessary to wrap around the foam sink knockout so you have a very smooth edge and so the foam doesn't soak up the moisture of the cement as it's curing. Unfortunately, for most projects, you'll use about 1/20th of the roll, so if you can, you may want to try to sell the remainder on Craigslist or eBay once your projects are complete.
I also taped and caulked around the form like I did the corners of the forms to ensure a nice rounded final edge.
Here was the final recipe per bag of cement:
1 80# bag Quikrete 5000
4.2 oz. GFRC Riteks Super Plasticizer Water Reducer
1 oz. chopped fiberglass (not for top and sides)
The websites and books said to add enough water to make a peanut butter consistency. Thicker than you would normally make for pouring cement for a sidewalk or other project, so that's what I insisted upon, despite some minor disagreement from my free labor for the day...my husband and my dad. Of course it makes it harder to work with, but it makes for a stronger finished product.
Our friend Kurt cutting out the sink hole for me