Since they first appeared in homes in the 1970s, concrete countertops have continued to add value and sophistication to rooms with their affordability and natural composition. According to Concrete Network, a resource for
homeowners and DIY-ers interested in concrete construction, a standard 1.5-inch-thick countertop costs from $65 to $135 per square foot compared to granite and engineered quarts countertops that range from $100 to $200 to buy and install.
Made of materials like cement, crushed stone and gravel compiled from local sources, concrete countertops are free of chemicals and other hazardous matter, which ensures a safe and environmentally savvy design. They’re also an environmentally conscious purchase because most packages of concrete are bagged locally, which means that the retailer can cut transportation costs and the product’s carbon footprint.
Concrete countertops possess other qualities that make them an ideal installation in kitchens and bathrooms. Unlike granite countertops that are susceptible to stains, concrete is stain-resistant after it has been sealed with a sealer, which closes off pores in the surface after the concrete has cured, or hardened. Concrete countertops that haven’t been sealed or waxed are resistant to heat, unlike their synthetic solid or laminate counterparts, which make them an ideal addition to the kitchen.
Concrete countertops also allow for creativity. Because concrete can be molded freely, everything from the shape to the edges of the countertop can be customized according to the purchaser’s artistic vision. Pourfolio Custom Concrete, a concrete design company in San Diego, Calif., creates countertops with octagonal edges and accented indents and crevices where a soap dish can sit. Two Stones Design, a concrete countertop manufacturer that serves the Chicago area, has embedded cutting board molds and other inlets into one of their countertop designs.
“There’s a little art to it,” says Fu-Tung Cheng, award-winning designer, creator of Cheng Design and author of Concrete Countertops Made Simple. As a struggling artist in 1985, Cheng experimented with concrete countertops to “create something special and save money.” Since then, Cheng has refined his craft by incorporating nature’s design and the principle of acting locally into his work. His countertops emulate the contours of the California coast or the aesthetics of a Japanese rock garden and come in a variety of earthy colors from amber to indigo. Cheng also introduces techniques of inlaying memorabilia such as seashells, tiles and even machine parts on to the countertop’s surface to create a countertop that is unique to the owner.
“You are doing yourself and the Earth a small favor,” says Cheng, referencing the way concrete countertops are bought and made. Every order his business receives elicits an email from them to the concrete mix distributor closest to the customer, which cuts carbon footprints and transportation costs.“It’s greener, more affordable, potentially healthier and a lot more fun than buying monotonous granite countertops that are mined, fabricated and shipped by boat from faraway countries,” he says.
Do It Yourself
DIY-ers are increasingly drawn to concrete countertops because of their customizability, according to Concrete Décor, a magazine that follows trends in concrete manufacturing and design. Artisans interact closely to help customers realize their desired design, which also makes concrete countertops attractive.
A simple countertop can be made over the course of two weeks, Cheng says. Depending on how hands-on you are, the process may seem shorter or longer than your usual half-day DIY project, but in the end, your concrete countertop will be a timeless addition to your home.
When Cheng struggled to break the concrete countertop scene years ago, a customer who took an interest in his work helped launch him into the limelight. To give back and to share his craft with others, Cheng offers workshops for DIY-ers who want to build their own concrete countertops. He simplifies the once-complicated process in his book and offers helpful tips for the everyday DIY-er.
Getting Started: Basic Tools
The essential tools to construct and refine your concrete countertop are a drill, a hot glue gun, a felt-tipped marker for measurements, a SPEED