Concrete Countertops | Mistakes to Avoid
(I feel the need, mainly due to the title, to let you know that I LOVE MY CONCRETE COUNTERS. Yes I will be doing them again. Yes I think the avid DIYer could DIY their own concrete countertops. And yes this post was sponsored!)
It’s 4:45pm in the afternoon. Half my body is sitting on the floor in a puddle of watery concrete. And the other half is inside the base cabinets screaming “I need buckets and rags to catch all these leaks!”
But rewind exactly one week before that and my boyfriend and I were high fiving each other for a job well done on the concrete countertop in the apartment bathroom remodel! It seriously came out amazing and we couldn’t have been happier with the results in there. SO WHAT HAPPENED!?!
Needless to say, something went wrong – very wrong with our second concrete countertop project.
Actually, this post was originally intended to be a tutorial on how to make concrete countertops. But because I know how easy is it to find tutorials (and because of the mistakes we made the second go around) I’ve decided to talk about the mistakes you should avoid when doing concrete countertops!
I’m not listing these mistakes to scare you off from doing concrete countertops, it’s the opposite in fact. I want to prepare you. I want you to feel like you’re ready for anything when it comes time to do those babies.
Truthfully, had I known beforehand that these mistakes can happen and how to deal with them, I don’t think I would have been freaking out as much in the moment. (While I wasn’t reduced to tears I was on the verge.)
So while I still plan to one day make a tutorial for you fine folks… I’ve decided to first tell you about the mistakes to avoid. Combine this information with your other research and you’ll be totally set to get started on that concrete countertop you’ve been dying to try!
Products & Supplies I Used
While doing research for my concrete countertop project, I came across a company, Concrete Countertop Solutions through one of my favorite blogs Chris Loves Julia. Now that I’ve stepped up my blogging game, I decided to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring a post by providing me with the materials needed to do our small bathroom vanity and one side of our small galley kitchen. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking because I would have bought the stuff anyway! Don’t tell them that though.
So even though Concrete Countertop Solutions provided me with the material (and some handy tools) to complete my concrete counters, it in no way affects what I have to say in this post, believe me.
I used their Z counterform system and went with their all in one white concrete mix. All you have to do is add water and pour! I also used their square edge form with a rock form liner for a realistic rock effect. We don’t have many concrete tools so they also sent us a screed, a magnesium float and a steel trowel so we could get the perfect finish. Concrete countertops need to be sealed so they sent over their SiAcryl 14 sealer and Counter-Shine polish for a glossy finish.
My overall thoughts on the whole concrete countertop craze? I’m in love. I love the finished look, I loved working with the concrete, I loved staining the concrete, I really loved the whole process and can even say I’m grateful for the disaster that happened in the kitchen.
Now, as for the disaster in the kitchen, this is what we learned from it.
4 Mistakes to Avoid When DIYing Concrete Countertops
Even though I was almost reduced to tears at one point, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole make your own concrete countertops experience. No, my kitchen countertop didn’t come out perfect but I think it adds character. And besides, the bathroom counter came out great, so at least I proved to myself that I can do it!
I’m thinking overconfidence played a major part in the kitchen countertop disaster. The bathroom vanity came out so good and it was so easy we took for granted that we’re newbies to concrete. But all the mistakes we made are to your benefit because below I list the 4 biggest mistakes we made while DIYing our own concrete countertops. (I also put some tips and tricks at the bottom to make the whole process easier!)
1. Get the Right Consistency (Not Too Thick and Definitely Not Too Thin)
Our first countertop pour came out perfect (except one drip on the back wall where I forgot to tape). However, we got a little over confident when it came to pouring the water for the concrete in the kitchen so we wound up having to add more (and more and more) concrete to the bucket as we were mixing.
This led to two problems. First, the mixture was incredibly runny – because well that’s what happens when you add too much water.
And second, the water, sand and cement kind of separated after we poured it into the forms. When you looked at the concrete after it was poured you could see pockets with only sand, pockets of completely smooth cement and areas where water was sitting on the top of everything else.
I’m attributing this to the fact that we didn’t mix for three full minutes (like the bag says) after adding the last bit of concrete to the bucket. This would have incorporated everything and probably wouldn’t have separated. When I told Dario, from Concrete Countertop Solutions about our little problem he added “As I am sure you know now, the sand, cement and water ratio are very critical and once you reach that ratio, going over with water (even just a bit) will mean a ton of extra bleed water that starts coming out of the concrete.” – Yes, yes I do know.
I’m sure that the wonderful people from Concrete Countertop Solutions are going to cringe when they read this next part.
So in order to incorporate all three things I dove my hands into the countertop and began mixing it around as if I were kneading dough. But I’m telling you, this is what saved the counter. There are some areas that didn’t get as mixed so you can see bunches of sand and then a smooth spot but I can’t imagine what the whole counter would have looked like had I not mixed it up! And besides, in order to notice the spots someone would really have to be inspecting the counters – and to them I say get outta here.
However, what I didn’t noticed was that some of the separated water had made it’s way to all the corners of the counter top forms. I knew that I had taped and caulked the forms enough to be concrete tight, but not water tight. So I checked the back right corner and to my utter horror I saw not one but two steady leaks of watery concrete coming from where the back wall form met the front.
So I pulled back my perfectly attached rosin paper protection and to my even more utter shock I saw that the watery concrete had made its way underneath everything! It was under the rosin paper, under the cabinets, under the toe kick and under the cardboard floor protectors. CONCRETE. WAS. EVERYWHERE.
It was even running across my beautiful vinyl plank flooring that I painstakingly installed by myself. (I actually don’t have many pictures of the whole mess because believe it or not, my mind was on other things at the time.)
Then I opened the cabinets and CONCRETE. WAS. LITERALLY. EVERYWHERE.
It was running in from the very same spots that I suggested we caulk (or at least duct tape) prior to pouring. But men can be stubborn and antsy and I was advised that there was “no way” concrete could get through. Well yeah, concrete couldn’t but concrete-y water DID.
So to sum this now very long section up, you want the consistency of your mixed concrete to resemble thick pancake batter (or brownie batter yumm).
2. Mix In a Bucket Bigger Than 5 Gallons
All the blog posts and tutorials I read said to mix in a 5 gallon bucket. We did that for the first pour and luckily everything came out fine. However, I noticed quite a bit of splashing while we were whipping up the water and concrete and actually wound up crawling around the floor with a wet microfiber to clean it up.
So for the second pour I recommended that the boyfriend use a 10 gallon bucket. I AM SO GLAD WE DID. Like I mentioned above, we poured too much water in the bucket to begin with so we had to keep adding concrete to thicken it up. With all the extra concrete we had to pour in we would have definitely overflowed a 5 gallon bucket.
Hopefully you don’t have the same issue as us but just for the sake of splashing, use a bigger mixing bucket.
3. Tape & Caulk Everywhere
This might seem obvious but still. TAPE and CAULK EVERYWHERE. Even the spots where “concrete couldn’t possibly come out!” Because even on the first countertop pour (which was the perfect consistency) I had a three very small drips on the wall where I didn’t tape.
And the second, more disastrous, concrete pour proved that it would have paid to take the extra time to button everything up. So just do it.
Where to Tape
I used duct tape to tape the plastic forms together but anywhere I had to tape the cabinet or wall I used painters tape (I’m fairly certain duct tape would have taken the paint off the wall.) The painters tape held up just as good as the duct tape and didn’t let any concrete sneak out.
The most important thing to tape are any mitered corners! I didn’t have any leaks but I noticed after I tore the duct tape off that a little bit of concrete had definitely tried to come out.
What to Caulk
As far as caulk goes, I went overboard with bathroom vanity and ‘under-board’ with the kitchen.
For the kitchen concrete countertops I caulked anywhere the edge form met the durock. This is important so the concrete doesn’t flow under the form and out and down the cabinet or wall. I should have caulked or taped where the two pieces of wood met for the forms we used on the ends next to the fridge and stove.
I also caulked around the sink form. I had to watch the video that concrete countertops solutions has 100 times to figure out HOW we would remove the caulk later. It just wasn’t clicking in my mind. But it worked out great even though we put a huge bead of caulk on!
For the bathroom vanity I wound up caulking everywhere the durock touched the wall, something I didn’t do in the kitchen and wasn’t necessary in there. I had a feeling the back wall form wouldn’t sit perfectly flush against the wall because they are soooo wavy (and I was right so I’m glad I did.)
I also wound up caulking between the wall and the back wall form just as an added precaution (most people won’t need to, but like I said, our walls were wavy so this caused a big gap.)
My advice on caulking would be to use your common sense. Make sure you don’t caulk anywhere it will be seen after the forms are removed – except around the sink form because you remove it later.
4. Trim the Forms
There might be a few times you need to trim the form. The first time I had to do so was when the back wall form met the edge form on the bathroom vanity.
In the kitchen we made the mistake of not cutting the form away from the edge and wound up with this.
The funny thing is, even though we forgot to do it we actually discussed the fact that we needed to trim back the form before we attached it! So the above picture is what we were left with but we wound up fixing it by mixing up a little concrete and “skimming” over it.
Other tips & tricks I learned:
- If using the sink form, put the seam closest to you (so you have to look in and down at the sink to see the seam.)
- Wear gloves (like they suggest) when handling the fiberglass mesh. I didn’t and I wound up with glass splinters that really bothered me for a day or two.
- Where the counter dies into a fridge or stove, cut the durock back about 1/4″ from the edge of the cabinet so you can attach a form that will allow concrete to finish off the edge.
- Use rosin paper to cover the cabinets and flooring.
- Watch this video 100 times.
So are you ready to go do your own concrete countertops? I promise it’s actually not that hard (especially if you’re able to do basic math and measure out water and concrete properly.) If you are ready, unforuntately you missed the period when Concrete Countertop Solutions was offering my readers a 15% discount off all products! Bust use TSH015 at checkout and it’s valid through April 30th, 2017!or anything they offer.
If you’re an amazon lover like me… I’ve found a few things on there that might help in DIYing your own concrete countertops. (Some links are affiliate links.)
- This link is to a form that makes that faux rock edge I show in the pictures.
- This link is to a concrete sealer I plan on trying on my next concrete project
- This link is to faucet knockouts I wish I had found before I did my concrete countertops project (we wound up making our own crappy DIY knockouts that required a lot of unnecessary extra work.)
I’d love to see your concrete countertop projects!! Tag me on Facebook or Instagram @thestoneheaddiy and I’d love it if you’d follow me! And if you enjoyed this post at all… share share share! Have a happy day!
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