Concrete countertops are handcrafted, customizable counters that can be used in your kitchen, bathroom, or outdoor area. These counters are not only functional and beautiful; they are also durable and simple to clean.
Many people think that concrete countertops are drab gray slabs; however, concrete is completely customizable. In fact, a concrete specialist can create a beautiful surface that is akin to natural stone countertops. Concrete countertops fit perfectly in rustic, traditional, or contemporary kitchens.
Concrete is made from rock, fly ash, and sand that is combined with water and a cement binder like calcium sulfate or limestone. Today’s concrete countertops include polymers that allow the countertop to be lightweight and protect against staining or cracking.
Concrete countertops can either be cast directly in the kitchen or created in a countertop shop. Typically, homeowners choose to have their concrete countertops precast in a countertop shop because they can be custom designed in a controlled environment. Precast countertops are handmade, which means that the thickness, shape, texture, and color can be chosen. Additionally, prefabricated countertops offer a number of edge profile options. Precast countertops will have visible seam; however, these seams allow the countertop to flex, which will reduce the risk of cracks.
Some homeowners prefer to have their concrete counters cast in place. These countertops are great for areas that have irregular shapes. Cast in place countertops do not have seams. Although this provides a smooth surface, cast in place countertops are more likely to crack.
Concrete Countertop Color and Texture Options
Concrete countertops can be any color imaginable; however, the most popular color is the natural, stony gray color of concrete. The texture of concrete counters can vary from rough-hewn to a glossy polished finish.
Concrete countertops add a touch of warmth to kitchens and bathrooms. Because each counter is handcrafted, the counters have an authentic character that is not found in natural stone or synthetic countertops.
How Much Do Concrete Countertops Cost?
Because concrete countertops are handcrafted, you can expect to pay between $70 and $150 per square foot, installed. This price includes designing your countertops, the materials and supplies needed for your countertops, and the installation of the concrete countertops. If you want custom elements added to your concrete countertops, i.e., special finishes, aggregates, or inlays, the price of your concrete countertops will rise considerably.
Concrete countertops are considered mid-range price countertops. Although these countertops are more expensive than laminate counters, solid surface countertops, or tile countertops, they are comparable to granite or quartz countertops and cheaper than marble countertops.
A low end priced concrete countertop costs between $65 and $100 per square foot. These countertops will have straight edges and standard knockouts for your sinks and faucets. Concrete countertops in this price range will not have as many color options or finish options as mid-range or high-end concrete countertops.
Mid-range countertops cost between $100 and $135 per square foot and feature custom or decorative edges or shapes. Mid-range concrete countertops will have additional color and finish options.
High-end concrete countertops cost more than $135 per square foot. These countertops allow you to choose the thickness of the countertops and offer unique shapes. Multi-color options are available. Concrete countertops in this price range can have custom inlays, trivets, and drainboards cast into the countertop.
Pros and Cons of Concrete Countertops
Concrete countertops have both advantages and disadvantages that should be considered to help you determine if they are the best countertop for your kitchen or bath.
- Customizable Finish – Concrete countertops are entirely customizable, allowing you to choose between rough-hewn countertops or brilliant shiny countertops.
- Color Options – Concrete counters can be left in their natural gray color, or color can be added. Skilled concrete craftsmen can create concrete countertops that look like marble, granite, or wood counters.
- Custom Features – When your concrete counters are cast, you can request custom features like trivets, cutting boards, or drainboards cast into your countertops.
- Additives – Stone aggregates and decorative glass can be added to the concrete mixture to create a stone-like finish.
- Durable – Concrete countertops can be reinforced with glass fibers for a lightweight and durable countertop. This reinforcement allows you to create long spans and large overhangs without seams. Reinforced concrete is not likely to crack.
- Stains – Although your concrete countertops will last for many years, they are not resistant to stains. Applying a sealer helps to increase the stain resistance of concrete. If a spill occurs on your concrete countertop, it must be cleaned up quickly.
- Time – Because concrete countertops are hand cast, they take longer to manufacture and install than other countertops. Once the design is complete, the concrete must be cast and allowed to cure. It typically takes several weeks to complete the process from design to curing.
- Cost – Concrete countertops are handcrafted, which means the labor costs will be more than other materials. However, concrete countertops increase the value of your home, which can offset the costs of the countertops.
- Heat Resistant – Concrete is naturally heat resistant; however, if you have sealed your concrete countertops, the heat can discolor or damage the sealer. To prevent damaging or discoloring your concrete countertops, always use a trivet.
- Crack – Concrete countertops can crack due to the settling of your home. You can reduce the risk of cracking by reinforcing the countertops with rebar, wire mesh, or fiber reinforcement. If a crack does appear in your countertop, it can be fixed quite easily.
- Scratches – Concrete is susceptible to scratches. To help reduce the risk of scratching, always use a cutting board when chopping foods.
Physical Characteristics of Concrete Countertops
One thing that must be considered when thinking about purchasing concrete countertops is the weight of the countertop. Although concrete countertops do not weigh more than natural stone countertops, you will need to ensure your cabinetry can handle the weight of these countertops. A one and a half-inch thick countertop will weigh eighteen and a half pounds per square foot. If the concrete countertop is two inches thick, it will weigh twenty-five pounds per square foot.
Many homeowners think that concrete countertops will feel rough to the touch. Although this is an option (rough hewn), concrete countertops can be polished to a smooth finish using diamond polishing pads. Furthermore, concrete countertops can be inlaid or embossed for added interest.
Concrete Countertop Care and Maintenance
The way you clean and maintain your countertop will depend on whether your countertop has been sealed. Concrete countertops are typically sealed with an impregnating sealer that prevents fluids from soaking into the countertop. If your countertops are sealed, the concrete countertops are easy to maintain. All you need to keep your counters looking great is some warm water and a drop of dishwashing liquid. Bleach should never be used on your concrete countertops as it can damage the sealant, resulting in splotches.
To ensure your countertops look fantastic for many years to come, you should clean your countertops each day. If a spill occurs, clean it up immediately using a damp cloth and a bit of dishwashing detergent. Never scrub your countertops as this can damage the finish of your countertops.
Sealing Concrete Countertops
Unsealed countertops are porous. When your countertops are not sealed, liquids can soak into your countertop and stain them. If acidic foods and liquids like citrus juices and vinegar will dissolve the cement and etch the surface of your countertops.
A high-quality sealer protects your countertops from damage. A sealer helps:
- Decreases the porosity of your concrete countertop
- Food safe
- Improves your concrete countertop’s appearance
- Increases chemical resistance
- Increases heat resistance
- Increases scratch resistance
- Long term protection
- Low maintenance
- Reduces the risk of etching
- Will not yellow in sunlight
There are two types of sealers on the market – topical sealers and penetrating sealers. Different brands of topical and penetrating sealers offer varying degrees of protection. Topical and penetrating sealers have advantages and disadvantages. Choose the concrete countertop sealer that is best for your lifestyle and your countertops.
A penetrating sealer soaks into the countertop and will be invisible when it dries. This type of sealer will not affect the appearance of your concrete countertop. However, it will increase the hardness of the countertop and decrease the porosity, making it less likely to stain. There are two types of penetrating sealers – densifiers and hardeners and repellant sealers.
Penetrating stains do not create a film on the surface and prevent liquids from soaking into your countertops. However, penetrating sealers do not provide long-term protection against stains or etching. A penetrating sealer will last many years without needing to be reapplied.
- Densifiers and Hardeners – This type of sealer chemically reacts with the cement to increase the surface strength of the concrete countertops. These sealers fill the pores of the concrete to decrease the porosity of the countertops and enhance the colors in the countertop. The three types of densifiers are made using either sodium silicate, potassium silicate, or lithium silicate.
- Repellant Sealers – This type of penetrating sealer changes the surface tension of the concrete so it will repel spills. There are two types of repellant sealers – silicone-based, and fluoropolymer based. In addition to repelling stains, repellant sealers protect against abrasion, heat, and UV damage.
Ghostshield Concrete Countertop Water and Stain Repellent uses nanotechnology to protect against oil-based and liquid-based stains. The formula penetrates the surface of the concrete countertop and, once cured, is food safe. The concrete countertop sealer makes cleanup a breeze and increases resistance to UV light damage, wear and tear, scratching, and heat.
Topical sealers are designed to coat the surface of your concrete countertops to reduce the porosity of the concrete. There are four different types of topical sealers that can be used on a concrete countertop – wax, acrylic sealers, epoxy sealers, and urethane sealers.
- Wax – Wax for concrete countertops offer minimal protection and slightly darkens concrete countertops while bringing out the color of the concrete. In order to remain effective, the wax must be reapplied often. Wax helps prevent liquids from seeping into the countertop; however, heat can soften the wax, and acidic liquids can strip the wax and cause etching.
- Acrylic Sealers – Acrylic sealers have the unique ability to be pigmented or left clear. The surface of the concrete will have a glossy sheen and offers good stain protection; however, it can scratch easily and offers moderate protection from heat.
- Epoxy Sealers – Epoxy is made by combining a hardener with resin. Once these two substances are combined, they will create a durable and hard surface that offers great stain protection. Epoxy sealers are quite glossy; however, they can scratch easily. Many say that an epoxy sealer gives a plastic appearance to concrete countertops.
- Urethane Sealers – Urethane sealers protect against chemical etching, stains, and heat damage for your concrete countertops. In addition to this, urethane sealers create a UV and scratch-resistant finish.
Step by Step Instructions for Sealing Concrete Countertops
No matter the type of sealer that you use, the most essential thing that you need to do to ensure the sealer adheres properly to the countertop. A clean, dust-free, dry countertop is an integral part of the sealing process. Always read the instructions on the sealer prior to the application. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Use lint-free cloths to clean the surface and ensure the concrete countertops are completely dry before applying a sealer.
When applying your concrete countertop sealer, you want to work in a dust-free environment. Ensure your kitchen or bathroom has plenty of ventilation. However, avoid using fans in the area because if the sealer dries too fast, streaking can occur.
Clean Your Countertops
Use clean water and a touch of dish detergent to wipe down your countertops using a soft, cloth. Then, rinse the countertops with clean water. Allow the countertop to dry before you apply the sealer completely.
Apply the Sealer
The sealer that you use should be applied in several thin coats, which will help ensure the entire countertops are properly sealed. Wipe the sealer across the surface of the countertop using a clean cloth, a paintbrush or a paint roller. When applying the sealer, apply it methodically and uniformly. Work quickly so that the sealer does not start to dry to prevent streaking. Allow the sealer to dry completely before applying additional coats or using your countertops.
Perform a Water Drop Test
After the countertop sealer has dried overnight, perform a water drop test to ensure the sealer is providing the protection that you need. Pour some water on the countertop and allow it to sit on the counter for ten minutes. Soak up the water using a soft, absorbent cloth. If you notice any dark spots on the countertop, you need to reapply the sealer, allow it to dry overnight, and perform the water drop text again. When the surface does not darken, the countertop is protected.
Why Hire a Concrete Countertop Specialist rather than Sealing Your Concrete Countertops Yourself?
Sealing a countertop is not an easy task. If your countertop is not spotless or the sealer is applied incorrectly, the sealer can streak or have bubbles. If the sealer does streak or bubble, concrete specialists have specialized tools to buff out these streaks for a beautiful finish. Furthermore, concrete countertop specialists have the experience and the skill needed to ensure that your countertops are correctly sealed.
When you hire a concrete countertop specialist to seal your counters, the specialist will discuss the different sealant options and where the sealer will be used. For example, if you are sealing your kitchen counters, you want a seal that provides stain, scratch, and heat protection, and it is food safe. In other areas of your home, you may need a sealant to only reduces the porosity of your counters. A countertop specialist will know the best concrete sealer for the job.
How Often Should Concrete Countertops be Resealed?
Certain sealers are designed to provide you with years of protection, while others will need to be reapplied more often. For example, if you use wax on your countertops, you will need to apply another coat of wax every couple of months to protect your counters. Conversely, penetrating sealers will only need to be applied every ten to fifteen years.
Concrete countertops allow you to create custom countertops. As the concrete dries, it can be embossed, or inlays can be placed in the concrete for a unique countertop. These highly durable countertops are very porous; therefore, you must choose the best concrete countertop sealer to protect against stains, etching, and heat damage.
Concrete counters look amazing in the kitchen and bathroom and bring a touch of warmth into your home. Because of the many options that concrete counters offer, you can improve the aesthetics of your home. Concrete countertop specialists can include a number of pigments or aggregates to your countertops for a countertop that blends seamlessly with the rest of your home.
Concrete countertops can be costly; however, they can increase the resale value of your home. In order to maximize your earnings potential, find a countertop specialist who has a lot of experience working with concrete to create custom-designed countertops. Concrete countertops can be created to look like natural stone or wood countertops without the upkeep needed to keep these countertops looking amazing.