DIY Concrete Countertops

The most-requested tutorial from last week’s laundry room reveal was by far and away the concrete counters. Many of you asked if this treatment is durable enough for a kitchen. It definitely is! If you have laminate or formica counters and want something to get you by for a couple years until you can splurge on stone, this is a really great option. The best part is it costs about $15 and it’s incredibly easy to tackle as a solo project!

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Let’s jump in…
There are a few of these concrete overlay tutorials floating around the web. I used this search on Pinterest to find the best ones (this one from Kara Paslay Designs was my favorite). You might want to look around yourself and find a tutorial that works with your existing countertops, though the concept is pretty much the same across the board.

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The hardest part (which is not all that hard) might be hunting down the concrete. The stuff you need to find is called Ardex Feather Finish. You can look on the Ardex website for local distributors, but it’s easiest to just call their toll-free line for the info. There were like six distributors in Phoenix, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find some in your area. A 10-pound bag cost me only $15 and I needed about half a bag for my laundry room. So cheap, right!?

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I was talking to a contractor friend about this product (which is a concrete-PVC mixture I guess) and he said he uses it all the time and that everyone he know has been raving about this stuff for the past couple years – it layers on top of and easily binds to just about any surface. He said that any time you see a concrete floor in a retail space it’s more than likely this product, which made me feel good about it’s durability.

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Even though the Feather Finish binds to flat surfaces, it’s a good idea to really rough up your old counters before layering on the concrete, just to be safe. I used a wallpaper scoring tool and that worked pretty well. I think even just a good sanding with course-grit sandpaper would work.

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Once your surface is prepped, you just mix a small batch of concrete in a medium size bowl. There’s not really a formula, so I just added water from a cup until I got a good consistency. I think like a thick gravy is about what you’re shooting for.
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You should follow the instructions on the back of the bag. You’re supposed to mix the concrete, let it sit for about 10 minutes to do a quick set and then mix it again before troweling on. It’s hard to mess this stuff up though, so don’t be intimidated by the idea of mixing concrete.
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We used a long drywall knife to spread on the concrete mix. It is exactly like frosting a cake. If you can make a peanut butter sandwich, you can have concrete counters.
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Just like with painting, the secret is to work in multiple thin layers. Try to keep trowel marks to a minimum, but don’t worry about each layer being perfect. You can sand off any imperfections later anyway.
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This was when my first layer was about halfway dry. You can see I didn’t cover up all the green in my first layer, which was no big deal at all. I think I ended up doing three or four layers, but you can do as many as you want.
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The secret to getting this stuff really tough is to give each layer a good sanding. I hand sanded the first two layers and used my electric sander for the last two. The sanding removes a lot of the soft stuff from the mixture and leaves you with a really hard surface that continues to harden over a day or two of drying.
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I used my little putty knife a lot too in the clean up process. I used it to sort of plane off bumps and wrinkles before sanding and to scrape down my walls.
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I also used it to score in a seam line anywhere there should have been an edge if the counters had been made of solid concrete slabs. I think this little step helped the look so much!
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As the final layers go on and get their sanding, it is so fun to see the natural patterns and bubbles in the concrete emerge. I wanted to preserve that raw concrete look as much as possible.
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I purposefully left some of my trowel knife marks to give the concrete some character, but you can make these as smooth as you like.
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So to keep the natural concrete look and to keep the concrete really light, I used a matte finish sealer from the Home Depot. I think this one is a little more on the light-duty side. If my concrete gets wet, it darkens until it dries again (sort of like soapstone). It’s not soft when it’s wet though, it’s completely durable as far as I can tell. You might want to do some sealer experimenting if you’re trying this in your kitchen. I think the heavier sealer will make your counters permanently darker, but they will definitely keep all the moisture out.
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I basically fully saturated my concrete with the sealer at least twice to really let the sealer seep down into the concrete.
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I’ll probably reapply the sealer every year or so, but it’s been a couple weeks now of use and I still love these concrete counters. They are wearing really well. I spilled some detergent by the sink last week and was relieved that there was no staining or discoloration. Not that I expected there to be, but I have been a little skeptical that these counters could be so good while being so easy to DIY and so affordable. I’ll be sure to update you all if my opinion changes, but so far these are not at all too good to be true. Two thumbs way up for Ardex Feather Finish.Update: Because I only recently made these counters for a limited-use space, it’s not 100% fair for me to recommend this method in a kitchen application. I don’t know how it would hold up with constant use. I think if I were you, I would buy a piece of plywood first and do a practice run. Maybe even cut the plywood to fit your countertop and live with it sitting on top of your old counters for a week or so to see how you like it. Kara Paslay Designs posted a similar tutorial here look like she and her husband know a lot about concrete (they teach a class on it) and they recommended this application for kitchens, so I know some people do it and like it. I think it’s worth a practice run first though for such a huge commitment! xo
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  1. mera

    Did the Ardex adhere well to the vertical areas? My counter & backsplash are the same awful tile, and I'd like to cover them both!

  2. I did this in a half bath. I used the Kara Paslay DIY you linked to. So far so good! And, that was about 4 months ago. I used a matte concrete sealer. Also I used Henry concrete from Home Depot. It's made by the Ardex folks and easy to find in the flooring section.

    So awesome, Jenny. You have inspired many, many projects at my house!

  3. wow, Jenny, this looks so so good! I love the spray painted baskets too.

  4. Wow, very impressive! This is such a great option for not having to spend a lot of money!! They look great!
    Shawna

  5. Mara

    Great job! I'm also in love with your free standing hanger too. Can you tell where you got it from?

  6. The last house my family rented had new concrete kitchen countertops that the landlord had DIY-ed when he redid the kitchen. It looked really cool, but I hated them!! After only a few weeks they looked terrible especially in the high traffic areas by the sink and stove. We were being really careful with them too because it was a nice rental. The sealer would come off very easily with any kind of contact with acid (ie tomatoes etc.) or oil. It left bubbles and oil looking spots in places. I would definitely not recommend doing this in your kitchen or hiring a professional to do it (I had a friend whose brother did it professionally and she said her counters were tough like granite and beautiful). So when done right I guess it can work. Also hers were black so I know you can color them, but again hers were not DIY. Just my experience.
    -Rachel

  7. Rachel

    I love this tutorial! The laundry room looks amazing. I think this might be the solution to our horrible laminate work tops but my husband is worried about it cracking. Do you think this could be a problem?

  8. While I am amazed at your LR transformation, my husband LOVES it. He went starry eye over your concrete counters. I could tell he was wishing we had some old laminate counters instead of spiffy granite.

  9. Jen

    AMAZING!!! Question for you… How long did you wait I between applications and did you use a fine or coarse grit sandpaper ? Thanks!!

    • Always rersefhing to hear a rational answer.

  10. What is the "heart" picture on your laundry room

  11. Donna

    Great Tutorial. I'm definitely thinking about trying this with my 20 year old laminate countertops. Although I probably won't mix the concrete in such a lovely milk glass bowl? :-) Must be a blogging thing.

  12. I am in awe as in this is awesome! Please never stop blogging!

  13. Martha

    fabulous! pinning this for later. thanks for sharing. the whole room is so pretty.

  14. This is awesome! If I had older countertops, I would definitely try this. I love the look!

  15. Jen

    Sorry for so many questions but I have one more!! I just did this in the kitchen yesterday… LOVE IT… But aside from needing to find a food safe sealer, how long Did you wait before putting the sealer on?? I can't seem to find that answer anywhere!? Thanks again ;)

  16. In your opinion how well do you think this would work on 80's ceramic tile and backsplash complete with thick grout lines? It's so ugly but not a change I want to fully invest in right now. Concrete would be a great temporary fix.

  17. I LOVE the counter tops and want to do this so badly in my kitchen. I'm super paranoid about breathing in nasty stuff – did you wear a respirator for this project? It doesn't look like you wore gloves? I hunted down the MSDS for the Feather Finish product and it says it can cause burns with skin contact, eye and respiratory irritation, etc. I am trying to convince my husband that we should do this to our laminate kitchen counter tops but now I'm kind of worried.

  18. Just did this in the kitchen and love the look. Thanks for the idea!

  19. I love how this looks and the price is amazing. My kitchen counters are laminate and could definitely use some sprucing up. My cabinets are bad too though, so maybe I should just save up for a new kitchen! Haha

    http://www.jjmodern.com

  20. I love how this looks and the price is amazing. My kitchen counters are laminate and could definitely use some sprucing up. My cabinets are bad too though, so maybe I should just save up for a new kitchen! Haha

    http://www.jjmodern.com

  21. I love how this looks and the price is amazing. My kitchen counters are laminate and could definitely use some sprucing up. My cabinets are bad too though, so maybe I should just save up for a new kitchen! Haha

    http://www.jjmodern.com

  22. I just don't think this would be very durable. I'm not sure what the PVC admixture does, but concrete in general does not adhere to anything – you have to use a physical connection. I'm going to read the other blog you suggested as well, but from my knowledge of concrete and cementitious materials, I'm a little concerned about this.

  23. I just don't think this would be very durable. I'm not sure what the PVC admixture does, but concrete in general does not adhere to anything – you have to use a physical connection. I'm going to read the other blog you suggested as well, but from my knowledge of concrete and cementitious materials, I'm a little concerned about this.

  24. I did some research on this system and the first thing I have to point out is that it is NOT a flooring system, it is a flooring UNDERLAYMENT. Meaning that when an existing subfloor is damaged, this stuff can be poured over it to even it out and create a better surface for the new floor to bond to. In reading the technical data, there is absolutely NO data regarding its usage over a plastic-type surface like laminate counter tops. In addition, the material is a portland cement with a vinyl acetate copolymer (not PVC, likely polyvinyl acetate, PVAC). I read up on polymers as concrete additives and what I found is that this kind of additive is utilized to increase bond, however that doesn't preclude bond failure – in fact the most common type of failure is bond failure and it is recommended that a bonding agent is first applied. The American Concrete Institute does have guidelines for the use of PVAC as a bonding agent – I don't have this guideline and it's pretty costly so I won't buy it, but it's good to know that PVAC is included in this specification.

    Some other things to note when dealing with concrete are that it is highly basic and can cause burns and skin issues if you don't use gloves. Concrete is HIGHLY susceptible to shrinkage cracking. Concrete doesn't dry, it "hydrates." Hydration is a chemical process that results in large amounts of heat – for small applications such as this, it's unlikely to be an issue, just something to keep in mind.

    All that being said, I would be concerned about using this product in such a high traffic area as a kitchen. A good research project might be to take some junk laminate, pour this stuff on there, allow it to cure completely and then beat it up pretty substantially to see if the bond fails. Sounds fun!

  25. Amazing job. I love the look of concrete countertops and knowing that they can be created over a laminate counter is great. You'd never know what lies underneath the fantastic surface. I am so inspired to try this now!
    Jamie | andersonandgrant.blogspot.com

  26. I'm a little late to the party, but wanted to add my two cents- We just finished using Ardex FF over our gross plastic lam counters in our kitchen and are thrilled with the results. We found a really great sealer on Amazon: Professional's Choice 511 Porous Plus Sealer. It's pretty expensive, around $30 for a small bottle, but it works like a champ. No liquids are getting through and it says it's guaranteed for up to 20 years (we'll see, but so far I'm impressed). It's probably not necessary for low-moisture zones, but I'd definitely recommend it for kitchens!

  27. Sarah

    I recently did this DIY to my kitchen counters, and would like to leave some info for others interested and slightly worried. These were not as easy as they are made out to be, and don't look nearly as good after even light use in a kitchen (which I'm so sad about!)

    1. The concrete mixture must be consistent with every coat. We have about 40+ sq feet of counter space, and after two coats noticed that if there was more water added to the mixture, it was a lighter color. You won't get the pretty color that Jenny does if you even very slightly add more or less water.

    2. We added several coats of heavy duty seal, and sanded as recommended, but liquid is still seeping through the seal if left on the counters for longer than 20 seconds. This makes cooking and doing dishes really annoying. Oil totally stains.

    3. Although I love the overall look, I just don't think these are a good option for kitchens. We are now going to replace our counters. We had planned to do that anyway, so we're only out the labor and cost of the Ardex and seal.

    • David G Freyer

      I am in the process of doing this concrete countertop now and have read that putting a carnabu wax finish on top of the clear sealer help with durability in the kitchen

      • Jenny

        Yes! Food-safe wax has given me another year or two on the life of these counters! I need to post an update with photos!

  28. Anne

    I am anxious to hear and see long term durability of this product. Please give a follow up post

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  33. Jennifer

    I love this look. Wanted to know how your countertops look after couple of years? Any pics or comments?

    Thanks!

    • Rebecca

      I am with Jennifer! Let us know how it has been holding up.

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  35. kristin

    LOVE the look!! Can I do this to limestone? There is a house we are thinking of buying and it has these dark green limestone countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. I’m sure there are people out there who love them, but they don’t match our style and it’s a big statement in the kitchen because they are on 3 different surfaces. Problem is, this place is stretching our budget as it is, so no new countertops, at least for a while. I don’t really care about food safety or whether they are porous because we will eventually replace them and we don’t cook that much, I just want them to be grey. Has anyone tried this over natural stone? Can you paint limestone or put peroxide on it or anything that will change it from green?

    • Tawny

      actually, on the unfollowing business, i was curious of this so i asked around a few days ago – admittedly, not very comitted – how and if i could see who unfollow me. i use twitter on web so i can’t use the iphone alerty stuff. i don’t even know how to do it. ar;17#82n&et there like many twitbots going on and off all the time?

  36. Now a days website is most important thing to show up and promote your I read this post. Its just perfect about the creation and the use of the many fields. Thank you so much for the post.

  37. Tosha

    GREAT job!! I’ve been looking for inspiration to re-do my kitchen countertops, and this durable fix might be the answer. Thanks for sharing!!

  38. Thank you much for the post! You have really saved my lots of time. I’ve just bookmarked this blog site.

  39. reida davis

    I’m getting older but still like rehabbing, as long as God g .Love what you did, don’t give up.Ms Reida

  40. Larry Morgan

    I presently have concrete counter tops in my kitchen and bathrooms( 4 years old ).
    When water got on the tops, the sealer comes loose and turns white. It’s an awful site. My wife wants to get new counter tops, but its too expense. My question: Is there a hard paint that might be painted over and get rid of the mess and re-new our tops? We have tried sanding and resealing, but to no avail.

  41. Larry Morgan

    I can send pictures

  42. Francesca Todd

    Absolutely awesome!

  43. Jaxon

    IJWTS wow! Why can’t I think of thigns like that?

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