11.27.2012

Concrete Counter How-To

Okayokayokay, I'm a little late on this tutorial. I know I promised that this would be up weeks ago, but shit happens (and by shit I mean I've submersed myself in The Men Who Built America T.v. show and haven't really focused on anything else. This is normal, right?)

I digress....

I would like to sit here and type that I am solely (or mostly) responsible for making this amazing piece of concrete, but I really had nothing to do with it. Other than saying, "Make sure the overhang matches the other counters." and "Don't fuck this up B, I am NOT buying anymore concrete." I've found threats to be a great motivator. Completely kidding. Writing this post had to wait for B to be able to sit down and hold my hand in post writing.

Step One: "You know what we could do..." This is usually how B brings up the idea of any home improvement project. And might I add I hear this probably once a day. The kid is ambitious. But this time, that sentence was coming from me. See, B didn't like the idea of adding a cabinet to that side of the fridge. He liked the open space and  was opposed to putting in the cabinet that I really wanted. So, I did the only thing I could do in that situation. I challenged him to build something. In this case, a counter top. Of his choice. B never turns down and challenge, and NEVER turns down the opportunity to build something. Game on. Before I could even blink, he had plans drawn out and measured for a concrete counter top. I think he hides building plans somewhere because they seem to materialize out of nowhere.

I instantly loved what he had planned and from here it all gets a little blurry in my mind. Excuse the terrible iphone pics. It was late at night and all B thought to do to document the process.
  
First, he gathered supplies. Not everything is pictured but we used 2 bags of Quickcrete, 4 pieces of rebar, a hammer, 3'' drywall screws, plywood, an old laminated counter top, and an old cabinet cut into pieces.
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The reason we used an old laminate counter top and an old cabinet is because of the ultra smooth surface. When pouring concrete the 'bottom' is actually the top of the counter, and you want a nice even finish, so this worked great for us. Plus, we already had a piece of laminate counter, saving us some money. B measured how big we wanted our counter to be and he built a frame to those dimensions.

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After the frame was built, the next step was to create a 'rounded' edge on the counter. This creates a cleaner edge, and prevents any concrete from leaking through your frame. To do this, B used Frog Tape to make a 'guide' for placing silicone caulk. It gives you a clean edge and prevents any caulk from getting on the concrete top.

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After the caulk was done curing, B placed his rebar in the frame. Before the rebar was placed, each intersection was secured with wire. Rebar is placed in concrete counters for strength and stability. Without it, the center of the counter could cave or crack if too much weight is placed on it. 

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After the rebar was placed, B mixed the concrete. B made sure not to make his mix too wet because the drier the concrete, the more strength it usually has. 
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It might be worth noting that we did NOT add any stains or dye to our concrete. It looks a little brown in these photos, but that's just the color of  wet concrete.  After our concrete was mixed, it was time for the most exciting part-pouring the concrete in the frame! This is the part where I held my breath and hoped that the thing didn't completely fall apart or start leaking concrete everywhere. But I should know better by now. Not to brag, but B seems to do everything flawlessly.  Make sure you fill the concrete to the top of your frame, and even add a little more. After all the concrete has been placed, you use a highly difficult, scientific technique called Screeding. Wait for it folks....you drag a flat board across your frame to level the counter. Oh, and jiggle the board back and forth. Just like a Shake Weight. Oh yeah. 

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After the screeding was finished:

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Before we walked away to let our counter cure, we placed a piece of plastic over the frame for a more even curing.  Then we waited,  a week to be exact. We've read to let the counters cure for a minimum of 4 days up to a couple weeks, so we settled somewhere in the middle. B removed all the screws holding his frame in place to reveal the finished product. B left the screws still partly attached to the wood so he had something to hold while prying the frame away from the concrete. 

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After all that was said and done, B and my dad (this thing is HEAVY) moved the counter to our basement so it could be sealed. We had to seal it indoors because it's freezing here and too cold to seal concrete outside. Sealer takes about an hour between coats to dry and we did three coats. After that finished setting (about 24hrs), our counter top was ready to install. This was the easiest part of the process, although I wasn't the one holding the counter top. All I did was put silicone all over the edge and the piece of plywood set in the cabinet. 


Done. What a long couple weeks that was, all summed up in one semi-wordy post. And now for the moment I've we've all been waiting for. The afters:







Our kitchen feels so much more finished and put together. And the extra counter space doesn't hurt either. This has been one of my favorite projects to date and this certainly is my favorite post thus far. Why you ask? Well not because of the new counter top, but I finally got to reference the Shake Weight in one of my blog posts. Bam. 


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