In this DIY tutorial we will show how to make a DIY concrete countertop as well as 5 concrete mistakes to avoid.
Hey everyone! It’s Brent here today sharing all the details about the DIY concrete countertop we built for our coffee bar. It has been several months since we finished the concrete countertop on our coffee bar and we haven’t been anxious to post about it because it was a pretty frustrating experience. However, we have been asked several questions about how we made the top of our coffee bar so now that the appropriate amount of time has passed that we can laugh about our mistakes, we are sharing the whole messy process.
This was our first time to use concrete on such a large scale so needless to say there were aspects of making the DIY concrete countertop that were frustrating.
Despite how crazy the process was, we are extremely pleased with the finished result. It turned out amazing. So we are here to tell you the never give up pep talk works.
Before we jump in and show you how we poured the concrete slab, we thought it would be important to share five DIY concrete countertop mistakes to avoid to help others bypass the battle that we went through.
5 DIY Concrete Countertop Mistakes to Avoid
1. OVER TIGHTEN SCREWS IN THE FORM
The walls of the melamine form is attached to the base with screws. If the screws are over tightened the walls of the form will split and warp.
2. FLY SOLO
The plan was for Courtney to document the project but it didn’t take long before I was frantically asking her to put the camera down to help me. Since concrete only has a small window to work with it is important to have an extra pair of hands around.
3. MIX BY HAND
We bought a large tub to mix the concrete in and thought we were prepared because we would be able to mix two bags at one time. We needed five bags for the largest slab.
While the tub did allow us to mix more concrete in a single batch, doing it by hand took way too long and the concrete started setting up in the tub. Plus, the more concrete we mixed in the tub the tougher it was to transport to our form.
A mixer allows you to mix and transport multiple bags of concrete without worrying about the concrete setting up. It is worth $45 dollars to rent the mixer for a day.
4. THINK YOU WON’T MAKE A MESS
We didn’t have enough space in our garage for this project and we figured since the piece of furniture would ultimately be situated in our breakfast nook, we might as well build it there.
We covered the tile floor with plastic and cardboard to protect it from any stray concrete and luckily no concrete escaped the plastic. However, there was one moment where I slipped coming in from outside with 80 lbs. of mixed concrete in my arms. It was in that moment while I was trying desperately not to spill any of the concrete onto our kitchen floor that I realized you can’t guarantee a project with no mess and it is best to take every precaution when planning a project. It is also probably wise to make sure you have plenty of time to complete a project before you begin.
5. BELIEVE CONCRETE IS EASIER TO CLEAN AFTER DRY
Dry concrete flakes off slick surfaces easily but we learned not painted surfaces. We mixed the concrete on our back patio and in the disarray of the time crunch, splattered quite a bit of wet concrete on the house.
Worried about the concrete mix drying, we assumed the concrete splatter would flake off once dry. Well, you know what happens when you assume. The concrete fused to the paint and the only way we found to remove it was to pressure wash it AND the paint completely off the siding. Repainting the back of the house has now been moved up on our to-do list. Oops.
How We Made the DIY Concrete Countertop for our Coffee Bar
1. First we took a 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ melamine and cut into strips. The width of each melamine strip should be the same size as the DIY concrete countertop will be thick.
2. Once the strips were cut to the correct length to frame the outside of each slab, we used a drill bit to pilot holes for the screws. First we used a drill bit slightly larger than the threads of each screw and drilled all the way through each melamine strip.
After drilling through the entire width of the melamine strips, we used a drill bit slightly larger than the head of the screw to drill down about 1/4″ allowing the screw to be countersunk below the surface.
To avoid drilling too deep with the larger drill bit we wrapped tape around the bit to mark the correct depth. After drilling all the pilot holes we attached the strips to the surface of a second sheet of melamine with screws.
3. To create a water tight form for the concrete, we used black silicone caulk to fill the seams. We used painters tape to mask the surface of the melamine and create a clean caulk line.
4. After smoothing the caulk with our fingers, we removed that tape before the caulk dried to create a smooth finish. The dark color of the caulk made it easy to see where any caulk is out of place.
5. To create the strongest slab possible we used welded steel wire to reinforce the concrete. After cutting the wire with a pair of bolt cutter we used denatured alcohol and a rag to wipe off any rust.
6. With the form complete it was finally time to mix the concrete. We used precision grout by Quikrete to make our countertop. We started by using the recommended water to concrete ratio but realized after the first batch that we needed to use slightly more water than the bag recommended to provide adequate dry time.
7. We poured half the mix into all the water before using a mixing paddle attached to a drill to blend the concrete together. Once it blended into a consistent mixture, the rest of the dry mix was added.
8. We mixed two bags of concrete at a time and it definitely takes more than one person to lug that much concrete around. After pouring the concrete into the form we used a trowel and shovel to spread the concrete out.
9. After the first batch was in the form and smoothed out we added the metal wire mesh. We used an orbital sander to vibrate the mixture to shake any air pockets to the surface to create a smooth finish. We mixed the second batch of concrete and filled the rest of the form. With the entire form filled we vibrated it once more and covered the two slabs with plastic to allow the concrete to cure as slowly as possible.
10. Once the countertop had time to cure we unscrewed the walls of the form from the base but found that it was difficult to remove the boards. We were able to remove the boards by attaching screws to the side of each board and pulling on the screws with pliers.
While it was tempting to try to take a crowbar to the boards to pry them loose it is important to be carful not to damage the surface of the countertop.
After we had the concrete slab loose, we lifted it up and placed it on top of the coffee bar base we built.
We could pretend that we are experts on everything DIY but that just wouldn’t be true. We are still learning as we go and a lot of the times we just don’t know what problems could arise until we are knee deep in the middle of the project and run right into them.
But the best thing to do is to not give up, push through the challenges and learn from your mistakes for the next time. This was our experience making the DIY concrete countertop. We hope this post will shed some light on our process of making a concrete countertop for our coffee bar.
Have you had any messy run-ins with concrete or a story of how one of your projects didn’t go according to plan? We would love to hear some. Share them with us below.
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