DIYuck – Concrete Countertops

Have you ever seen the Debbie Downer skits on SNL? If you haven’t do yourself a favor and watch them now. That’s what this project ended up being. A big fucking Debbie Downer. I’ve made every face Rachel Dratch makes in those skits while looking at these countertops. I think this is my first DIY-Fail. Well, maybe not a fail exactly, but this project definitely didn’t come out the way I expected and I don’t think I’m happy with the results. Womp womp.

DebbieDownerI was really excited about covering the existing formica countertops with Feather Finish concrete and had planned on doing it from the moment I bought the house. It’s a DIY I had seen on like a million blogs, like this one, this one, this one and this one. They all look awesome, easy, cheap, everything you want out of a DIY. My countertops were none of those things except cheap.  I’m not sure where this project went wrong.

Firstly, I used Henry Brand Feather Finish (made by Ardex) which was available from Home Depot, instead of having to order it online. Most of the other blogs used the real thing, which seems to be a much thinner consistency than the Henry product. But at least one blogger used the Henry stuff with better results than I had, so maybe that and the dry-time was part of the issue. Maybe I didn’t sand enough (5+ hours!) maybe I sanded too much? Who knows. They came out MUCH more textured looking in color than I was hoping for.

Here’s the before pics. There were two different countertops, one was a fake butcher block pattern on laminate, and the other was a weird fleshy tan color. They were in decent shape, so they had been livable for a while, but they were time to go. Also, check out the awful, floor tile backsplash. Everything left from the original kitchen was a weird skin tone. As part of the prep for this job, I tore the tiles off the wall where the counter top connected. There had been a backsplash piece of laminate that went up the wall too, that had separated from the counter, leaving a gap so it got ripped out as well.

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The skim coating of the concrete went on pretty easily. The rounded edges and vertical pieces were a bit of a challenge, I ended up just rubbing the concrete on with my hands. *pro tip, always wear rubber gloves, concrete ruins your hands. IMG_4539.JPGEverything was looking good, the color was a nice consistent gray, everything was evenly covered, I was optimistic. I did about three coats of concrete over everything. The coats were drying quickly, so I waited maybe 5-6 hours between coats a couple times, maybe this was mistake #2 and I should have waited longer? The problem with DIY at a weekend house is you are always up against the clock to get your project done before sunday night. Otherwise, what would take 2-3 days ends up stretching out over a month, which is exactly what happened with this project.

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When the sanding started is when this project seemed to fall apart. I started with a power sander and a 60 grit sand paper to knock down the higher points in the concrete and quickly switched to a 150 grit. The weird textures started to come out in the concrete which I hadn’t seen on anyone else’s blog! You could see trowel marks, scratches, all kinds of patterns. There were a few spots that had gouges that I needed to patch, or some of the vertical areas where sanding went all the way through, back to the counter tops. When I patched these areas, they were really obvious when I started sanding again.  A few areas started to come through as that pretty, polished cement in a nice consistent color, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the whole countertop to that point. The more I sanded didn’t seem to be making any kind of impact.

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The pics below are the “after” for this project. Not so pretty. I finally resigned that the color wasn’t getting any better and this was as good as it gets for now. On the positive side, they were smooth, solid and felt nice. They just didn’t look so nice. I used a gloss concrete sealer for 3 coats. I was hoping this would just darken everything up and make it look better, but it didn’t really help anything. I then did a coat of carnuba wax over everything to help them be extra water resistant. IMG_4994.JPG

IMG_4995.JPG Here’s a close up of the detail so you can see the weird textures and patterns. You can see some of the spots that came out nicely polished, you can see some of the ugly patch spots. Overall NOT what I was hoping for or expecting. I’m not sure why everyone else’s blog DIY’s came out so differently. These might not be around for very long, maybe I’ll rip these out and put something nicer in, or maybe I’ll eventually try a concrete stain and see if that will improve things. Whether these are an improvement over the crappy laminate is up for debate. IMG_4945.JPGSo, this project took forever, was a mess (concrete dust ALL over the house) and then the end result sucked. Basically the complete opposite of what I was expecting. DIY-FAIL

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