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Title: Concrete countertops: Pros and cons for using them

Concrete countertops?

Concrete is not the material you think of first when it comes to countertops.

However, concrete countertops are becoming more and more popular across the country.

More homeowners and home designers are requesting concrete kitchen countertops when they remodel older homes or build new ones.

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What’s so appealing about concrete countertops then? It might seem like installing a concrete countertop in your kitchen is installing a piece of sidewalk, but that’s not true! Take a look at our guide to concrete countertops.

Concrete Countertops Pros and Cons

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The Pros

  • Heat Resistance

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Concrete handles heat very well. You can easily set hot pots and pans on it. It’s a boon to anyone who loves to cook since you won’t have to worry that putting down your hot pans will damage your counter.

  • Easy to Maintain

The most you’ll have to do to keep your polished concrete countertops looking nice is reseal them every few years. This is easy and quick to do. It will keep your counters from staining or collecting bacteria. Beyond that, concrete countertops are easy to clean up with warm water and mild soap.

  • Color and Texture Options

Concrete offers a lot of different color and design options thanks to various pigments, stains, and texturing techniques. A concrete countertop is not going to be a flat gray slab. You can get it in almost any color you want. Certain stains can make the concrete countertop look like granite and other kinds of natural stone. There are various texturing techniques you can use to make it into something completely unique and beautiful. Some installers will embed glass, tile, stone, shells, or other materials into the concrete. Concrete countertops are easy to personalize to fit into your kitchen. The result is going to look upscale and classy.

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  • Durability

Concrete can take a lot of abuse. It’s one of the toughest common materials around. It can take normal kitchen wear and tear easily. It will never scratch. Don’t worry about it getting dented. A concrete countertop will look good for years even in the busiest of kitchens.

  • Customizable Sizes and Shapes

Many countertop materials are only available in standard sized slabs. Concrete, however, can be poured into any size or shape you want. This means that concrete is a great choice if you want a wavy countertop or any other kind of unique shape. This is much harder and more costly if you use different materials.

The Cons

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  • Cost of Concrete Countertops

Concrete countertops are not the cheapest out there. The cost of any kind of countertop can vary quite a bit depending on what you select and where you live. Tile countertops are typically less expensive than concrete countertops, while solid materials all cost around the same. Marble and granite tend to cost more.

The price of a concrete countertop ranges from $75 to $150 per square foot. More elaborate and specialized designs cost more. Including materials like shell or tile is simply going to cost more, as well patterns.

  • Stain Risks

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Concrete can take a lot of abuse. It will not scratch, but it can be stained. It is a fairly porous material, and staining is a technique used to alter its color, but unwanted stains can be avoided by sealing the concrete yearly. Without the use of this sealer, spills of wine, coffee, and juice can easily leave permanent marks on your concrete countertop. This process is pretty quick and easy to do on your own, but it is a hassle that you won’t go through with many other materials.

  • Hairline Cracking

Concrete can crack under certain stresses. In certain styles of kitchens and for some homeowners, this can be a charming rustic effect, but it may not work so well for others. These cracks are purely aesthetic and don’t affect the structure or functionality of the countertop. Cracks can show up immediately after installation or long after.

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  • Recommended Professional Installation

While you can install concrete patios on your own with just some equipment and elbow grease, this is not as easy for concrete countertops. You need to make sure the concrete has the proper support it has underneath. If you’re not careful, you can end up damaging your lower cabinets.  If you want to prevent cracking, a pro installer will be much better at trying to minimize cracks during installation. They will also usually do a better job at making sure the concrete countertop is smooth. If the concrete has additional materials added in or requires a stain, they may have a better understanding of how to take care of it without damaging anything else in the kitchen. Hiring a professional installer will cost you more. Custom shapes and sizes will usually add to the time and cost, as well. Along with the price of concrete countertops themselves, this can be a lot of money.

  • No Way to Repair Gouges

Gouged concrete countertops can’t be repaired. It is very hard to damage concrete, but anyone who has children know ‘hard’ does not mean ‘impossible’. Corners and edges are the most likely areas to be damaged and you can’t hide them very easily. If your kitchen has a rustic or industrial style, this may actually work well and be a bit charming, but it will stand out badly in a sleeker kind of décor.

What about Concrete Countertop Weight?

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Concrete countertops weight about as much as stone. Granite countertops typically weigh about 22 pounds per square foot. 1.5-inch thick concrete weighs around 18.5 pounds per square foot.

At 2 inches thick, it weighs around 25 pounds per square foot.  It’s not the lightest countertop by a long shot, but it isn’t going to make your lower cabinets buckle any more than getting a stone countertop would.

How to Make Concrete Countertops

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Professional installation of concrete countertops is always a good idea, but it is costly. Some DIYers can handle it themselves and it is certainly going to be easier on your budget. If you want your hand at making concrete countertops, here are some important rules to follow.

Be Safe!

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Everyone who is working on the concrete countertop should wear dust masks, gloves, and eye protection. One person should be designated as the Pour Master. He or she will be responsible for checking the area around the mixer before turning it on to make sure that everyone’s hands and limbs are clear.

Once everyone’s clear, the Pur Master will yell “Clear!” and make sure everyone responds. This is a way of double checking and making sure everyone is aware of what’s going on. The Pour Master will also check off the batch report and quality checklist.

Double-check the Concrete Ingredients

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Before you even start, create a batch report that lists every ingredient and the precise amount of it in every batch. When you’re measuring out the ingredient for every batch of concrete, check off the list as you measure it. Check it off again on the list when it’s added to the mixer.

Do this for bagged mixes and from-scratch mixes alike. This will help make sure the batches are correct every time. You won’t get interrupted and wonder if you added in the ingredient or measured out the right amount when you get back to your work.

Keep Everything Close At Hand

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Pre-measure ingredients in containers or buckets. This includes water and admixtures (like set retarder and superplasticizer). Do this for bagged mixes, too, even if they were sold as “just add water” mixtures.

If you’re going to be mixing multiple batches, use a different set of containers or buckets for each batch. Make sure your tools are kept close, too, including scoops, trowels, and gloves. This will make everything much easier to get right.

A Good Order for Ingredients

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Add ingredients in this order if you’re mixing concrete from scratch:

1. Sand, rocks, and pigments (dry or liquid)

2. Water and all admixtures

3. Fibers

4. Pozzolans

5. Add cement gradually

This order will help prevent clumping. If you start out with concrete first, it’s much more likely to occur. Mixing everything else except the cement with water first makes sure that everything is properly wetted and evenly dispersed. The cement will combine properly with everything once it goes into the mix, resulting in high-quality concrete.

Water before Cement

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For bagged concrete mixes, make sure you measure your water precisely, then add cement.  Always follow the manufacturer instructions precisely for the best results. Make sure you look at them before you buy the concrete mix to be sure you don’t need anything special.

Create a Quality Checklist

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If you decide to hand-pack a stiff concrete mix, make sure you pack the concrete into every edge and corner of the concrete countertop.

If you’re using a fluid mix and hand-vibrating, make sure you apply the vibration easily to all edges and surfaces. Be sure the reinforcing is at the correct level in the form. Screed the back of a stiff mix to keep it level with the forms you’re using.

This might seem obvious, but when you’re hurrying to get concrete into the forms, it’s all too easy to miss important details. Create a quality checklist. Have your Pour Master double-check it as you work. Even simple mistakes will result in more work later on.

Maintaining a Concrete Countertop

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Everyday Cleaning

Treat your concrete countertop just like any other for everyday cleaning. Wipe it down regularly when you clean your kitchen. Regular cleaner is perfectly usable. You can also create mix of mild soap and warm water to be extra sure that no layers of sealer or materials mixed into the concrete will be damaged.

Look for PH balanced cleaners when you can. There are some cleaners and cleaning wipes designed specially for concrete that are great for keeping your concrete countertops look great.

Removing Stains

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There are a couple ways to remove stains. Catching them quickly is always going to provide better results.

Dishwashing detergent and water are an effective—and cost-effective—way to remove stains from concrete. Just mix a few tablespoons of dish detergent with warm water. Use a cloth to scrub at the stain with this solution.

Laundry stain removers, like Oxi-Clean, also work well. You can typically spray these cleaners directly onto the stain. Let it stand for a few minutes, then rinse it off with soap and water.

More stubborn stains require tougher measures. Create hydrogen peroxide paste from peroxide, flour, and water. Remember to be safe when using this mix and clean it up thoroughly. Hydrogen peroxide is not safe for ingestion, so keep pets and small children away while you’re cleaning the stain.

Sealing

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Sealing concrete is a do-it-yourself process you should do yearly. At the least, do it every 3 years. This will help prevent stains, make the concrete countertop easier to clean and help it look better.

You can purchase concrete sealers from home improvement stores. There are a lot of variations available, from deep penetrating sealer to ones that provide a wet look to the countertop.

Make sure you clean away all dirt, dust, grease, and oil before you apply the sealer. Try to remove stains if you can. These obstructions can prevent the sealer from adhering properly.

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Sealers are usually applied either using a roller or a prayer. Follow the sealer manufacturer’s guidelines. You want to try to get maximum coverage and consistency. Less is typically more. You don’t; want sealer puddling or form uneven thick areas. Two thin coats usually yield the best results. Wait to apply your second coat for the time recommended by the sealer manufacturer.

Make sure you allow the sealer time to dry completely before starting to use your concrete countertop. This can take as long as three days. Again, pay attention to the sealer manufacturer’s guidelines. If the sealer isn’t dry before you begin disturbing it, it might not adhere properly and could damage other objects.

Ending thoughts on concrete countertops

Concrete countertops are a great versatile and durable choice for your kitchen. Take a look at the options and see if one of them strikes you as the perfect one to create your dream kitchen.

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