Extremely durable, fashionably modern and easily customizable, concrete countertops are becoming one of the most popular kitchen additions. How has this humble material made it into the most stylish kitchens around? With spunk and contemporary design, of course. Consider this type of countertop when planning your kitchen renovation and realize the many benefits of concrete in your home.
Composition of Concrete
Concrete countertops are made of common concrete, the same material that forms your home's foundation and the sidewalk up your street. Decorative aggregates may be added for flair and drama, but the basic composition is the same.
Concrete contains three main ingredients:
- Water - standard H2O is used, mainly for economical reasons.
- Binder - several materials can be used to bind concrete together, although Portland cement is the most common, followed by environmentally friendly binders like fly ash, silica fume and slag cement.
- Filler - nearly any sort of stone aggregate can be used in concrete, such as gravel, sand, glass bits, beads and stone chips.
Typical additives include pigments to change the color and decorative elements to personalize the space. Your concrete countertop contractor may also suggest other methods of altering the appearance, including acid staining, which uses metallic salts to permanently stain the concrete surface, or UV-stable dye applied to the cured counter.
Depending on the consistency and color desired, one of the above coloring methods may work better. Discuss your vision before the counter is cast and ask your contractor about the most efficient way to ensure your new concrete countertops look their best.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Concrete delivers several benefits in your kitchen. One of the strongest materials used for kitchen countertops, concrete is generally more affordable than natural stone. This type of countertop is highly durable and more than flexible; concrete can be easily adapted to suit the layout of your kitchen.
But you will encounter cracking, and that phenomenon drives many from concrete countertops. Due to the composition and mixture used, as well as the natural conditions found in these materials, hairline cracking often occurs.
These small cracks may develop into larger issues with time, but most often tiny cracks do not affect the countertops structure. Site cast concrete countertops present a higher rick of cracking than precast, and the quality of the concrete mix comes into play.
There are two main methods of manufacturing or installing a concrete countertop. Choose the style that works best for your project:
- Precast countertops - Probably the more common method, precast counters are formed offsite based on a template of the area. Local artisans create the countertops at their shop, and deliver it to your home for installation during the kitchen renovation.
- Site Cast countertops - Good for difficult or tricky projects, this method requires the contractor to form the slabs on site, including all levels of finish. It requires significantly more clean up, but allows for smoother handling of challenging areas.
Consider using a concrete countertop to form a breakfast bar, create a workspace and desk or transition from the kitchen to your living space. This flexible material can be formed into any number of shapes, complementing both modern and traditionally designed kitchen renovations. Use color schemes, decorative elements and differing heights to separate rooms.
Concrete countertops are fairly easy to maintain, especially when compared to other stone styles. Experts coin concrete as the indestructible material. But even the most indestructible products could use a bit of help now and then.
Protecting your counters from heat, scratches, dents and other damage allows your kitchen remodeling investment to stretch out even longer. Always wash a concrete countertop with mild soap and water, avoiding the use of abrasives and harsh cleaning products wherever possible.
â€¨Sealers provide the best solution for long-term protection. A good quality sealer is worth the money, time and effort and will help to make your kitchen more functional and appealing. Sealers come in two main types:
- Topical products - applied to the surface of your concrete countertop, topical sealers such as epoxy, acrylic, wax and urethane can be applied by a homeowner or contractor (depending on the product and skill level). They could scratch off and become easily damaged by wear and tear.
- Penetrating products - absorbing deeper into the concrete, these type of sealers offer premium protection and all but disappear after application. They protect the concrete from spills and other issues, but do not leave a sheen or a protective coating on the outside surface. Remember that spills can still leave a permanent stain if not wiped up immediately, although a penetrating sealer will help.
Not all sealers are equal and it's wise to talk to your contractor about the ideal sealer for your project. Depending on the location of the counter, usage, mixture and color, certain types of sealer may affect longevity and detract from the benefits of this beautiful countertop.
Sealers can also be damaged or broken by regular kitchen use. A wax sealer offers very little protection against cutting, heat and food acids commonly found on a kitchen countertop. Many sealers will not stand up to standard use, and as such, are not worth the investment. However, a good quality sealer applied properly will help you to protect your investment for years.
Are Concrete Countertops Environmentally Friendly?
Because they use recycled materials, such as gravel, crushed glass, stone ash, etc., concrete countertops have gained a reputation as a green alternative for your kitchen renovation. Remember that the ingredients in your concrete can also contribute to the carbon footprint of the product, with slag cement, silica fume and fly ash being the greenest choices.
Consider whether the strength and beauty of concrete countertops will suit the design of your kitchen renovation. This style of counter offers several advantages, although inferior products and shoddy installation could result in cracking and stains. Be sure to hire a trained installer and have the best composition and design planned out well before the kitchen remodeling project begins.Posted by: diana