Concrete Counters

So we’re working on three bathrooms at the same time over here, remember? Today’s post takes us back upstairs to the boys’ bathroom. Just to refresh your memory, so far we’ve tiled the floor and walls, painted the vanity, and updated the cabinet hardware. Then I pretty much stopped telling you about our progress…

We replaced the countertop a couple months ago. It was one of those countertops with the integrated sink. It wasn’t horrible, but it was that 80’s almond/cream color. Also, it was only one faucet (brass) and I wanted two. Jack and Jill bathrooms need two faucets/sinks just as much as master bathrooms do. You just can’t update a shared bathroom in 2015 without adding a second faucet. That’s my rule.

You may recall that my budget for this bathroom was practically zero dollars, so granite or quartz or even man-made acrylic (Corian) were out of the question. The smallest cultured marble vanity top that you can find with two sinks is 60″ and ours isn’t that long. That pretty much left us with laminate and drop-in sinks or we had to make our own counters.

Of course we chose to make our own. Besides, I didn’t really want two sinks as much as I just wanted two faucets. If sinks grew on trees and you could just go pick whichever one you wanted, I totally would have gotten the Kohler Brockway. But they don’t, and I’m not spending more on a sink than I do on a mortgage payment.

That meant we were going to get to try out something I’ve been wondering about for years now. Concrete counters. This space seemed like a great spot to give them a try. It’s small and unseen by most people. Plus, I wouldn’t be ruining a new vanity or cabinets if it didn’t work out either. Worst case scenario, it looks awful for a while until we buy new counters and/or a new vanity.

I did quite a bit of research a few years ago when we updated our last kitchen. (We ended up going with something else.) There are several methods, but it mostly comes down to two types: poured concrete counters or skimmed concrete counters.

With the poured counters, they’re poured into a mold and installed on your cabinet much like most countertops. Also, they’re very heavy! And more expensive because they use much more concrete. They also tend to crack easier and if you have the integrated concrete sink, leaks can be a real pain from what I’ve read.

Then there’s the skim coat concrete counters. At first mention, it sounds like they’d be less durable because you just skim over some other material with the concrete. You can go over existing laminate, cultured marble, or you can make some plywood tops to skim coat. They’re less expensive, less work, less likely to crack, and they don’t potentially require reinforcing your cabinets like might be necessary with the poured counters.

Thanks to a product called Ardex or Henry (made by the same company), you don’t have to worry about durability or cracking. This stuff is meant for skim coating (“virtually any surface,” they say) and is super smooth unlike a bag of concrete you’d buy in the “building materials” aisle of any home improvement store. It also doesn’t require any additives for bonding, like you’d need if you were pouring concrete counters with regular concrete mix.

ardex henry

I have been wanting to try this stuff for a while, but just hadn’t had the right spot for it. I was excited! The hubs wasn’t so sure, but like always, he’s thrilled in the end. Especially if I do all the work.

Apparently you can even use this stuff in sink bowls, but we didn’t. Since I wanted two faucets, we removed the old sink top, but I’ve seen Pinterest posts where they used the Ardex in the existing sink.

I had the hubs build me a countertop with whatever we had in the garage. It didn’t need to be pretty; just some plywood and 2″ scrap wood on the sides…and of course my only pic of it is super blurry.

plywood counter

(That’s just some old primer on there. No concrete yet.)

He installed it on the vanity and cut out a spot for the future sink(s).

sink hole

That’s where he bowed out and let me try out this new product all on my own.

I covered our new tile and freshly-painted vanity very well in case I had any rogue concrete slung anywhere.

protect area

Oh, look where I found the tp roll. The boys are doing so well with that super simple toilet paper holder I got them.

tp roll (2)

Do you need a reminder of the first tp roll update?

tp roll

I think they’re moving backwards. Anyway…

I read this YHL post to see if there were any tips or secrets that they might have learned along the way that would save me any time.

I followed the package instructions rather than John’s for how much water to use. I thought it was perfect.

I plopped my mixture down at multiple places instead of all in one spot (but not until my second coat). It seemed like John spent way too much time dragging his concrete to where he needed it, and I had the same issue at first. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? So glad to be able to learn from people who’ve already done this.

plop concrete spread concrete Also, I was very careful to avoid lines so I wouldn’t have to do nearly as much sanding as they did. If you have any taping and bedding drywall experience (I do), it’s the perfect way to use the knife. Hold it as flat as possible (rather than at an angle) to where it goes on smooth and you don’t get those ridges. I can’t explain that well. Surely there’s a decent video somewhere out there, but that’s the kind of thing that just takes practice. (I did this while the hubs was at work and didn’t have enough hands to get video, but I’ll show you a similar technique when I blog about the walls.)

I did the surface first and then did the sides using a 2″ putty/drywall knife. It was very difficult to get that perfect, but I just came back after it started to harden and scraped off the excess with a flathead screwdriver.

screwdriver

The concrete goes on really dark, but lightens up as it dries.

wet concrete drying concrete

I did about four coats over a couple of days, lightly sanding in between and checking to make sure that I was keeping the surface level.

level (2)

I wanted a bit of a marbled look to go with our wall tile, so I sort of buffed mine. You could skip this step if you wanted it perfectly solid.

concrete counter

I made a little video for ya.

I don’t remember what the Petersiks suggested to use for a sealer (and I wasn’t concerned about food prep safety), but I just read the labels on some products I already had and found one that could be used for masonry/concrete.

sealer masonry sealer

The hubs finished the backsplash that flows into the rest of the wall tile, which included raising an outlet.

finish backsplash outlet

(Final pics at the reveal, as always.)

And then we were ready for a sink (or two?)…

Tell me what you think