Ultimate Guide to Concrete Countertops

Decorative Concrete Countertops

A concrete countertop
A concrete countertop
Photo courtesy redzonelabels/iStockPhoto

In the areas of form and function, laminates, solid-surface and granite don't measure up to concrete. It's hard, durable and heat-resistant, and it's impressively solid. Furthermore, it's not the same, tired upgrade granite. No other kitchen will have a countertop that's anything like yours.

If you've always dreamed of prepping dinner on a field of ocean blue, you can achieve that with a concrete countertop. Ditto if you want your countertop to match an antique pitcher, a fleck of color in your flooring or the shade of your first love's eyes. Think of the color selection in a paint store; the range of colors for concrete countertops is just as wide.

Adding pigments to concrete during the mixing phase produces a solid color countertop. Mixing in the pigment unevenly or using a trowel to add it in after the concrete is in the mold can achieve a variegated effect.

For more translucent color, substitute acid stains or dyes for pigments. These colorants are applied topically to the concrete after it has cured. The penetration into the concrete is extremely shallow, but acid stains and dyes distribute color shades and hues across the countertop surface in a manner that mimics nature.

The aggregates you choose, combined with a grind-and-polish finish method, are a great way to influence the final appearance of a concrete countertop. Aggregates are materials that bond with the sand and cement to add strength to concrete. For heavy-duty applications, like roads and building foundations, the aggregate is usually coarse gravel. Finer materials supply both strength and beauty in countertops, where appearance is as important as function. Grinding the countertop surface allows aggregates to peek through, revealing earthy river pebbles, luminescent marble chips or colored glass confetti. Polishing afterward gives the countertop a smooth, sleek finish.

For a truly personal touch, many people select meaningful artifacts or objects to imbed in the concrete. These items run the gamut from fossils and geodes to CDs and transmission parts.

­­Imbedded items aren't just decorative; they can be functional, too. A permanent trivet next to the stove is always ready to receive a hot pot. A pastry slab of marble beckons bakers and protects the concrete from oils and acids in dough. A removable cutting board stays firmly in place while you work.

Because concrete starts as a fluid mixture, it takes the shape of its mold. Through the structure of the mold, you can integrate other functionalities into a concrete countertop, like a drain board that slopes to the sink, a trough to hold eggs and convenient storage for knives.

Concrete's plasticity also allows you to think beyond the typical rectangle countertop with a bull nose edge. Cast in concrete, your countertop can take on curves, angles and a vertical sink face. The edges can show a Florentine relief, geometric pattern or spell out a favorite saying. If you can craft it into the mold, you can replicate it in your countertop.

Concrete countertops deliver beauty, individuality and high-function. So what should you think about before pouring concrete? Read on to find out.