I had every intention of creating a post all about the kitchen renovation plans, but #life.
Spoiler alert: the kitchen renovation is very much underway. Brett and I are in love. I will say, kitchen renovations are at the bottom of the ‘fun’ list. Since we lost our cooktop at the end of December, we’ve been living off pizza and instapot recipes. I think it’s safe to say I’m ready for the appliances to be delivered – mainly the cooktop so we can get back to regularly scheduled cooking. [[added after-the-fact: you can read a full update on the renovation here.]]
If you aren’t subscribed to our weekly newsletter (in which case, you’re dead to us… but seriously, get on the list so you are up-to-date on all this stuff!) I’ll share a quick recap and get you up to speed on the kitchen renovation.
The kitchen made its way onto the 2019 project list when we secured our home equity loan way back in June 2019. After finishing up the fireplace in November, we had full intentions to begin the kitchen after the New Year. Well, Christmas Eve rolled around and Brett asked if we could move up demo day to the end of the week. Clearly patience isn’t in our vocabulary.
So, December 27, 2019 was kitchen island demo day. We also ripped up a majority of the vinyl flooring and were lucky enough to uncover some beautiful linoleum.
After countless hours of research by Brett, we started the tedious process of building a kitchen island. Don’t worry, there will be a how-to post when we finally finish it up.
Once we built the base of the island, we prepped it for the concrete counters (the subject of today’s post). We poured the counter mid-January and our new kitchen cabinets arrived a little more than a week later. We installed everything the week of January 27th, poured the counters that weekend and installed the backsplash February 1. Phew!
Okay, circling back around to today’s main topic: how we DIY’d the kitchen counters.
Disclaimer: we’re not experts. This is how we did it. There were some hiccups (of course) but we’re pretty excited about how it turned out. And, for what its worth – this DIY is wonderfully budget friendly.
DIY Concrete Counter Top Supplies
- 3/4″ plywood
- Quickcrete 5000 concrete
- Square edge counter Z-forms
- Sink Z-forms
- Faucet knockout
- Slate form liner (textured edging)
- Concrete reinforcement wire
- One piece of 2×4, depth of counter
- Concrete sealer
- Paint roller, Purdy 1/4″ woven
- 5 gallon bucket
- 120 grit Diamond Discs
- 200 grit Diamond Discs
- Painter’s plastic
- Duct tape
How to DIY a Concrete Counter
First, install plywood on top of the cabinets (or whatever surface you’re workin’ with) and don’t forget to include your counter overhang in the plywood. We wanted only a 1″ overhang (with the exception of the bar top), so our plywood is flush to the edge of island base, because the z-forms have a built-in overhang of one inch.
Once the plywood is on, screw in the z-forms around the edges. These forms hold together your counters.
We went the classy route and used duct tape on the corners of the forms to hold them together.
Because we loved the edging of our guest bathroom counter so much, we decided to go that route again. So, if you want a textured edging this step is for you: place the slate form liner along the sides of the z-forms.
On the island, we secured the slate form to the z-form with silicone. Unfortunately, some of the concrete rocks and pebbles got in between the form and edging. For the other two counters, we didn’t secure the slate form to the z-form. It worked okay except during the ‘tapping and sanding’ phase, the edging worked its way up, so we had to hold it down with one hand and sand/tap with the other.
If you’re needing to rough in a faucet, this step is for you: We bought these faucet knockouts and cut the exact size in the plywood. Then, we stuck them in the hole and secured them in place with… toothpicks. The level was to make sure the top of the knockout was level with the z-forms.
If you’re installing your counters around a sink, this step is for you: Z-forms has smaller forms built specifically for sinks – yay! They are self-adhering to the sink, which made the whole process really easy. Make sure they’re level with the top of the exterior z-forms. After those were secured, Brett went around the outside with, you guessed it, silicone, to make sure the cement couldn’t leak through. We also siliconed the corners and secured the z-forms to the outside of the sink with duct tape.
To help with post-project cleanup, we installed painter’s plastic around the entire island/counter and secured it with duct tape.
The last item of prep-work is to install the reinforcement wire. We cut each piece to size of the counter with wire cutters. As you pour the concrete, you’ll want this piece of wire to be in the middle of the counter.
And just to give you an idea of what it looks like without the knockouts or sink.
Now that the prep work is all complete, it’s time to actually pour your concrete! We filled up five gallon pails and mixed the concrete right there in our kitchen, in a wheelbarrow. The guys then poured the entire bag onto the counter and used trowels to spread it all out.
The 2×4 is used to make sure everything is level – they ‘sawed’ the board back and forth and used the trowels to fill in where needed.
Not sure how much concrete to buy? Here’s what we went through:
- For the island, which is roughly 9.5 x 3.75, we used about nine, 80 lb bags.
- For the peninsula, which is roughly 2.25 x 7.25, we used three and a half, 80 lb bags.
- Fir the ‘L-shaped’ counter, which is roughly 10.5 x 2.25, we used five, 60lb bags.
Once the concrete is poured and leveled, it’s time to sand and tap, in an effort to remove any air bubbles. We used our palm sander without any sand paper and went around the edges, watching for bubbles.
We also used a hand tool and tapped the bottom and then popped any bubbles with a toothpick.
Friends, it is a tedious and boring process. But, the more vigilant you can be up front, the better it’ll turn out.
That being said, there will still be bubbles. Which is why you slurry.
Slurry is a 1:1 concrete and water mixture/paste that you apply after the concrete has dried.
When we removed the forms (after about 32 hours of impatient waiting) we were disappointed to see bubbles along the edges and very rough spots up top.
A friend of a friend suggested we slurry the entire slab and my goodness, what a difference it makes!
Basically, you mix up your slurry (again, 1:1 water and cement) and rub it on the entire slab in a circular-ish motion. Then, go back over with a flat trowel and scrape it off.
Fair warning: it’s messy. Real, real messy.
Here’s what it looks like post-slurry, pre-sanding.
Once the slurry is dry (about another 24-48 hours), it’s time to sand everything down. And if you thought the slurry part was messy, wait until you have cement dust flying everywhere!
We started off with 120 grit sandpaper and went over the entire counter twice. Then, we finished with the 200 grit sandpaper to give it a real nice and smooth look!
Now that the messiest part is over, you’re nearly done, my friends!
Make sure you give everything a nice wipe-down before you move on to the last step of applying the sealer.
We went with the Z Aqua-Thane G40.
A total of two coats gets applied – and you wait about six or seven hours in between in each coat.
We timed the application so that the last coat went on right before bed and by the time we woke up the next morning, the counters were ready to use!
While there’s definitely imperfections when you go the DIY-route, we are both so unbelievably happy with how all three counters turned out.
With that being said, there’s a few things we’d do differently…
Because it’s so messy (especially the sanding part!) try and pick a time when you can open the windows. January in Minnesota may not be the most ideal. 🙂
And, be patient (ha, funny coming from us, I know). Of course you’re so excited to peel off those z-forms, but make sure you wait at least a FULL 24 hours. The island cracked a bit because we were too anxious and the cement hadn’t fully dried.
Overall, these DIY concrete counter tops are a great option if you’re wanting to try something homemade, love the rustic/industrial look and aren’t afraid of something that isn’t perfect!
All our best,
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