Washington Acres

Kitchen Island and Concrete Counters

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We decided a few months ago to make a concrete counter for our kitchen island. But before the concrete-mixing fun could begin, there was a lot of other work to do first. The island had a tiled counter with a cooktop in it. But because we bought a free-standing range, we didn’t need it. And we were looking forward to gaining some prep space (especially since we are far from installing the base cabinets and counters in the rest of the kitchen). Nick busted out the cooktop and tile while I ripped off the plywood face and trim.

Next we put up some new luan for a nice smooth finish. I added some lattice, corner, and baseboard trim. After filling in the nail holes and caulking everything, I gave it a few coats of paint and the island was ready for a new counter.

island_progress

We have never made concrete counters before, and used trusty Google to find plenty of tutorials. My favorite DIY concrete counter tutorial was DIY Projects with Pete – How to Build a Concrete Table. Take a look if you want to give concrete tables/counters a try!

Since this was our first go at this, I thought making a “test counter” first was best. That way I could make sure it was what I wanted before going for the big one and potentially wasting supplies and money on something I didn’t like.

I bought rocks to inlay from Ebay and Etsy. Yes, I kind of feel stupid for pay for some rocks, but they needed to be perfectly flat on one side to work. I bought a couple sheets of sliced charcoal/black pebble tile for $18. The rocks were easily ripped off the mesh so that I could use them individually. I also ordered an agate sampler from an etsy seller for $33.25 to use on the big counter. For the tester, I used a couple pieces of agate I already had that my brother gave me years ago.

The process was really quite simple:

  1. Cut a sheet of melamine to the counter top size, and screw melamine trim to the side (available at Home Depot).
  2. Apply silicone caulk on the inside corners so that the edges will be smooth.
  3. Use the same silicone to “glue” the stones to the inside of the form. This will keep them from moving around while concrete is poured in.
  4. Cut some reinforcement that will fit inside the form, leaving about an extra inch of play from each side
  5. Mix some concrete (we used high strength Sakrete) and fill halfway. Place the reinforcement inside and top off with concrete
  6. Bang out bubbles and screed the top.
  7. Remove the form after a few days.

Making the tester

I gave the tester a quick cleaning with some water and a rag, making sure to get the silicone off the rocks. After it was dry, I spent a lot of time filling in air bubbles galore with a paste made from Portland cement and water. We really didn’t give much effort to try to release the air bubbles after the pour. I kind of like the look with Portland-filled-holes. It’s more rough and rustic and not trying to be perfect. Once that was dry, I gave it three coats of concrete sealer. Voila!

tester_done

I wasn’t expecting the edges to be so rough, but I like the way it turned out. This is clearly not going to be the taste of most, but I love it and I don’t have to worry about the kids destroying something like fancy granite. So on to the BIG one!

bigcounter

After the few days waiting period was over, it was time to take the counter out of the form and flip it over. Unfortunately, hubby was on his own because I’m such a weakling. That thing has to be well over 500 lbs! After more air bubble filling and concrete sealing, we finally have some counter space in the kitchen!
big_done1

I’m pretty sure the edges don’t have to be so thick, so if we decide to do concrete for the rest of the kitchen we’ll have to do some more research on required thickness (and find out if our cheap-o cabinets could even support them). But Spring is here and we’re going to pause the kitchen reno and move on to some outdoor projects.

big_done2

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