DIY Concrete Countertops – Part 2, pouring and finishing.

I’m so excited to share part 2 of the DIY concrete countertop series, the concrete pour and finish!  (If you haven’t already, read Part 1 – Setting the forms.)

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As I said in the first post of this series, this experience is new to Bryn and I. We have never poured concrete before, so we were so excited to try this out!  Before we did our actual countertops, we watched a ton of YouTube videos and did a test pour in a small form that we built.  This was helpful, as we knew a little bit more of what to expect when we did it for real!

Before we get into the process, let me start by saying that overall we are happy with our concrete countertops. However, that doesn’t mean that this project was super easy.  We ran into multiple things that tested our creativity, and our teamwork.

Also, this is a job for more than 2 people.  Luckily my mom and our neighbor could come over and help us out with the process.  We are so very thankful for the extra hands!

For the concrete pour, you will need:

Liqui-Crete
Quikrete sand mix
Something to mix the concrete (we used a drill and a paddle mixer)
A large bucket, or two
A long piece of scrap wood
Steel trowel
Magnesium float
Spray bottle of water
A tool with a hard handle (such as a screwdriver)

STEP ONE
Mix the concrete.

We used the Liqui-Crete from Z Counterform that is a natural concrete color and a 60lb bag of Quikrete mix.  Following the directions on the box, we mixed the Liqui-Crete with 2 quarts of water, then added the 3 quarts of water with the Quikrete mix.  Once it’s about the consistency of a Wendy’s frosty, it’s good to go!

concrete-bags

dsc_0805(He was not too pleased with the mess.)

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STEP TWO
Pour the concrete into the forms.

We mixed one box/bag at a time and then poured the concrete into the forms.  With two people mixing the concrete and myself spreading it into the forms, this worked out perfectly for us.

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However, if your concrete isn’t wet enough or your house is too warm, your concrete may start drying faster than you can keep up.  We made sure this didn’t happen!

Make sure to get the concrete into all the corners. I used the magnesium float to help spread it all out. Once there was enough concrete in the form, it was time for the next step.

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STEP THREE
Screed the concrete.

To be sure your concrete is level, use a long piece of scrap wood to take off any extra concrete on the top.  


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We also used a level to help us see where we had high and low points.

**Tip** One thing I wish I would have done is remove any extra concrete off the back of the forms.  Once it dried it was a bit messy/rough in the back.

STEP FOUR
Remove the air bubbles.

When pouring the concrete into the forms, it is highly likely that air gets trapped in the middle.  So, to get rid of the air bubbles, we used the handle of a screwdriver and tapped on the edges of the forms.  This worked very well for us!

Even if you do this perfectly, chances are you will still have some air bubbles.  After all, nobody’s perfect, right?  You can either embrace the imperfections, or you can fill them with a concrete filler.

STEP FIVE
Smooth with a magnesium float.

Once the concrete has set a little bit, smooth it out with the magnesium float.  Depending on how quickly the concrete dries, this could be almost immediately, or it could be an hour later.  Watch your concrete and when you can touch it and it leaves a light fingerprint, it’s ready!

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I will admit, I think I spent a little too much time on this step.  I was so worried about it being perfectly smooth at this point and I don’t think I needed to do that.  If you mess with it too much you can overwork the concrete. Lesson learned.

STEP SIX
Smooth with a steel trowel.

This is the final step before it dries!  You know you are ready for this step when you touch the concrete and it doesn’t leave a fingerprint and nothing comes off on your finger.  Be careful not to do this too early, or too late!

For more information on the finishing steps, watch these videos.

b-and-c-doneHere we are, smiling, even though we are SO worn out after a L O N G day. (Stay tuned for my next post on lessons we learned during this process.)

messy-floor

And here is the messy floor.  Good thing I used all that paper!

Since we already replaced our floors, I didn’t want to ruin them.  If you missed my post about the flooring install, check it out here.

STEP SEVEN
Remove the forms.

Wait 24-48 hours for the concrete to set.  We waited 48 hours just to be safe!  Before you remove the forms, sand off the edges to prevent any chipping.  And…go!

It’s fast. It’s loud. It’s a little adrenaline rush!

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Here’s what the sides look like after the forms are removed.  They were SUPER smooth.

At first, I was very hesitant.  I didn’t know if the white was dust, or if it was going to look like that forever.  I was anticipating a solid grey color.  

**Tip** Once we lightly sanded the sides and wiped them down, most of the white went away.

Some of the concrete is completely perfect, while other areas have imperfections.  I told Bryn that I would embrace the imperfections, so I am!

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We ended up with some air bubbles.  You can fill these in with Z counter-patch, or you can leave them as they are.

In all honesty, they are actually kind of neat.

STEP EIGHT
Sand the top and sides.

I was a little bit nervous to sand the countertop, but knew it had to be done. As we started sanding, we noticed a bit of the sand texture coming through.  At first we didn’t think much of it, then we quickly realized it’s not supposed to look like that.  On the outside, I appeared calm.  But, I can assure you my thoughts didn’t match up with my ‘calm’ appearance!

rough-edges

When I went into a little panic mode, I emailed Dario (the Z Counterform rep) and he quickly assured me it would be fine.  We used the Z counter-patch (which is basically a slurry) to cover it up.  Once it dried we re-sanded it.

We did end up getting it smooth, however, it was not what I was expecting.  As I said earlier, we have never done this before (so really I shouldn’t have assumed anything).  I think our concrete ended up a little rough because I overworked some areas in the beginning. It also could have been because we used too rough of a sand paper.  I’m not exactly sure.

After all the sanding was complete, the top ended up looking like this.

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Can you tell the differences?  Yes.  But, I think that’s what I love about these countertops.  Every inch of the counter looks different.  Some parts you can see a lot of the sand/aggregate, other parts not so much. Some parts it’s really grey and on other parts it’s really light.  It really does look organic.

(Side note: I spent a lot of time trying to make the top look ‘perfect’. I’m not sure if this is something everyone must do, or if I had to do this because I overworked the concrete in the beginning stages.)

If you don’t like the imperfect look, these countertops are not for you.  In all honesty, this is what I wanted all along.  The imperfections.  If I wanted a perfect looking solid surface, we probably would have purchased a granite.

STEP NINE.
Wipe down and apply sealer.

Once you have your countertops sanded the way you’d like, wipe them down with a wet cloth to remove all the dust.

Then, apply your sealer.  We used Z SiAcryl 14 to seal our countertops.  This sealer is a matte finish and is to be applied 3-4 times.

We used a microfiber cloth (with gloves on our hands) to apply it to the concrete.  It’s a simple process and the sealer goes a long way. Be sure to rub it in really well.

Once the sealer was applied, the countertops felt even more smooth.  I will admit, the overall texture of the counter is not comparable to granite.  It will not be a completely smooth glassy-like finish.  Remember, this is concrete and it’s not perfect.

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As you can see, depending on the lighting, sometimes they appear darker than others.

dsc_0822-1(They look really light in this photo.  I promise they are more grey-ish.)

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And it’s done. It’s just that easy.  Okay, not really.  It wasn’t easy.  And it wasn’t all fun and games either.  As with every home project, this took us way longer than we anticipated. From start to finish we probably spent a good 30 hours on this.

(Remember, this was our first time.  If we were to do it again, I’m confident it would not take us that long.)

tile-half-done-range(Don’t mind the tile that’s half done, the shiplap that isn’t finished, the missing cabinet doors and the paper on the range hood.  One thing at a time.)

Don’t they just look awesome?

Oh yes, and here’s a breakdown of cost:
$95 Liqui-Crete
$66 Quikrete sand mix
$6 A large bucket, or two
$27 Steel trowel
$27 Magnesium float
$20 Counter-patch

In my next post of the DIY concrete countertop series, I share everything we learned from doing this ourselves for the first time and more kitchen photos of where we are now. You won’t want to miss it – I promise you, we are making progress!

Click here to see Part 3, lessons learned

And if you missed Part 1, setting the forms, check it out here.

Oh yes, I almost forgot the best part.  If you want to DIY your own concrete countertops, Z Counterform is offering a coupon code just for you! Use the code GW015 to get 15% off your order at Z Counterform. This code is good until March 31st!

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7 thoughts on “DIY Concrete Countertops – Part 2, pouring and finishing.

  1. Hi there. Love all the info. you have shared. Do you know what your cost per sq. ft ended up being? The countertops look amazing.

    1. Hi Karen! I’m so sorry it’s taken me this long to respond. This is hard to answer because it will depend on what you already have. We had things such as sand paper and steel trowel already, so we didn’t really need to buy those things. But assuming we bought everything we needed and paid full price, for us it would have been around $16 a sq. ft.

      I plan to do an update on the countertops soon, as we’ve learned a bit more about them. So stay tuned for that! We also did a practice one in a small frame we built to test it out first. I HIGHLY recommend that! I almost wish I would have done like my laundry room countertops first and then my kitchen, because I learned so much after doing the kitchen and seeing the results. Let me know if you have any other questions! I’d be happy to answer them via email as well (cotaube@gmail.com).

      Thanks Karen!

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