DIY

DIY Concrete Countertops

January 28, 2016

In our new home, a big thing that needed a modern touch was the countertops. Pink laminate. Not in my house!

Inspired by a couple bloggers and sticking with the “imperfect” theme, Mandy and I decided to try our hand at concrete countertops.

Sounds Heavy…

If you pour concrete countertops, they’d weight as much as granite or marble. Too much for our RV. What we did was skim coat our existing countertops with thin layers of fine concrete. We used the old counters as a base and the biggest investment for this project was our time. All told, it was less than $100 to do this on every surface in Keystone.

We followed Young House Love’s tutorial how-to post, so give that a read through and commit to memory. I’ll go through the basic steps and add some tips of my own.

The Old Surface

Our pink laminate counters

All we did to prepare the old countertops was scratch it up with 60 grit sand paper. It was satisfying to take a decent looking countertop and scratch it to bits.

This is coming from the guy who kept his first iPod in a velvet case to protect the precious metal back from scratches.

The Star of the Show

Our arsenal of tools for applying our concrete countertops

Ardex Feather Finish. One 10-pound bag gave us 5 thin coats, which was plenty for our entire RV.

When we mixed the concrete, we used one of those little plastic buckets from the paint section of Home Depot. We also made the mix a little wetter than Ardex recommended. This helped spread the concrete a little thinner.

To skim coat our counters, we used the biggest drywall trowel we had, which was a 10 incher. We also used a smaller 4 inch putty knife for the vertical sides of the countertops.

We mixed small batches and worked quickly. From the time you mix the water in, you have about 20 minutes to work. After you mix, pour the mixture onto the surface you’re coating. Even if it will take you a while to get to it, pour it all out. We found that just having the material on the counter, massaging and squishing it every few minutes, kept it supple and ready for action. If you let it sit in the bucket, it will start to dry out and become crumbly within just a couple minutes.

Don’t worry about the concrete bits that stick up; you can easily scrape them off after they dry. Be more careful not to leave any divots or holes in the top coat. Those are impossible to sand out unless you remove lots of material.

About 5 minutes after you finish applying the coat, go back with your damp fingers and work on smoothing out the corners and the vertical sides. The concrete is almost clay-like at that time and you can make your sanding work much easier with some finger work.

Sanding

In between each coat, we roughed up the dry coat with 60 grit and a sanding block. Scrape off any ridges with a putty knife.

Be careful with the corners. I was a bit aggressive in a few areas and exposed some of the old counter. Not to worry too much. The next coat will cover that hideous counter up again.

On the final coat, do not touch the counter with anything coarser than 220. I hit the last coast with 60 and regretted it. The counters were the perfect shape, but I couldn’t sand those 60 scratches out at all. I had to put another skim coat of concrete on to cover those scratches, and ruin my perfect shape in the process.

The sanding is by far the most time consuming part. I sanded the final coat for over 3 hours. My biceps were numb by the end of it, but I felt like Popeye when I flexed. Hello buff Kevin!

Sealing

Concrete is a porous material that makes a terrible countertop without being sealed first. If you splashed water on the unfinished surface, your new countertops would soak it up like a sponge.

To seal our counters, we used TK6 Nanocoat. It was the priciest of the options I considered, but it’s completely food-safe, which was important for our countertops. You can make do without a food-safe sealer, but you have to be careful to keep your food away from the surface of your counters. All told, we bought a quart for $40 and it was plenty.

We applied 10 super thin coats of the skim-milk-looking liquid with a microfiber pad.

Final Product

Final texture

Overall, we’re pleased with how everything turned out. It’s not a super smoother surface like a professionally polished granite countertop, but it’s close enough for us. The color is perfect, a bit lighter than the wet concrete and a bit darker than the dry, unsealed concrete.

There’s still one unsolved problem though.

We are having an issue with water getting to the concrete, seemingly through scratches or dings in the sealant. It's only in a couple high traffic areas.

We are having an issue with water getting to the concrete, seemingly through scratches or dings in the sealant. It’s only in a couple high traffic areas.

I’m going to try resealing those areas with more TK6 Nanocoat.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Kaya Kismet January 29, 2016 at 7:12 am

    They look great! Congrats on your inspiring adventure! I’ve been trying to sell my guy on the same thing for a while now. 😉

    • Reply Kevin January 29, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Aw shucks. Thanks Kaya!

      We’ll see you on the road 🙂

  • Reply Dustin Kreitner February 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    This looks great! Now that it has been a year, how are the counter tops holding up? My husband is very concerned with weight, cracking, and any other excuse he can think of… I’ve done some research and think it is a great idea! But it would be good to know how it’s holding up??

    • Reply Kevin February 10, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks! They’ve been so great. We’ve resealed them once and they’re probably due for another coat. Normal stuff if you’ve had granite before. The concrete itself has held up great. No cracks and only a few dents from me dropping a metal object onto them. The sealant is a bit softer than I would’ve liked, but it’s food grade. You can get away with a harder sealant if you sacrifice food safety.

      As far as weight, don’t even worry about it. To do all of our countertops, we used 2/3s of one bag of the Ardex, which weighed 10lbs. With the sealant, we probably added less than 15lbs of weight.

  • Reply Alice Quick April 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Looks good. I am 74, just lost my husband and live full time in a 28ft, 1 slide tag-along and everyone tells me that I can’t paint the walls and cabinets. I hate the way it looks. I know without my husband to help it will be hard but I would love to try it.

    • Reply Kevin April 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks Alice! I’m sorry to hear about your husband. I think you certainly can paint your cabinets and walls. Maybe start with a smaller set of cabinets like the ones under your kitchen sink. That’d be easier than reaching the ceiling. Good luck with making your RV feel more homey!

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