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DIY Concrete Countertop

In this DIY tutorial we will show how to make a DIY concrete countertop as well as 5 concrete mistakes to avoid.

DIY Concrete Countertop

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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

DIY Concrete Countertop
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.

Don’t forget to see out how we built the base of our coffee bar as well as check out how our finished coffee bar turned out.

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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DIY Concrete Countertop

  1. Hi there,

    How heavy would you guess the top slab is? I’d love to take a try at making this but wondering how I can move the slab a distance into the house. Thanks!

    • Hi Justin,
      The large concrete slab on the top took two people to lift. It took all of five 50lbs bags to make so it weighed somewhere around 250lbs. Luckily Courtney is strong and could help me by lifting the heavy side.
      -Brent

  2. Wow u two are the BEST!!! I would follow u anywhere 😀 Thank you for sharing so humbly about your mistakes and the pitfalls. I would like to try to make a slab for in front of my fireplace and am thinking to reinforce it with something, like hardware cloth since my floor uneven and I (98#) will be stepping on it to build/tend fire. I thought to do slightly hypertufa which adds in some featherweight fluff to lighten the piece. Any thoughts. Many Blessings and thanx. U ROCK!!!

  3. Did I miss it maybe, can u tell the measurements of this project to get a ballpark of how far the concrete will go so I can half or third the project supplies?

    • Hi Barbara! Aw, thanks so much for the kind words. We are so happy you stopped by our blog. That is awesome to hear you want to make a slab for in front of your fireplace. We used rectangular welded mesh to reinforce our concrete slab since it was on the large side. We chose to use that because it is rigid and provided more structural integrity.
      We have never used hypertufa so if you use it for your project, we would love to hear your results and how you liked working with it.

      The measurements for our concrete counter top are: 7 feet by 16 inches by 2 inches. We used five 50 pound bags for our countertop. Hope this helps! We are so glad you enjoyed the post and feel free to let us know if you have any more questions. Good luck with your project! 🙂

      -Courtney

  4. Thank you for sharing your talent. Where did you get the legs? I’m having a problem downloading the plans for the coffee bar? Is it just me??!!! 🙂

    • Hi Ellen, I hope you got Courtney’s email with instructions to download the plans. We made the legs by screwing 2x4s together and wrapping them with thin gauge sheet metal. -Brent

  5. I just completed a similar project and used Ardex Feather Finish over MDF….it looks like a solid piece of concrete but it isn’t heavy. A small bag covered our 60″ by 22″ counter. It’s a great product and saved my back and hours of clean up.

  6. Hey Brent,

    Thanks so much for an amazing article, I am going to be doing something similar this weekend and these tips were exactly what I needed. That being said could you share the dimensions of the slab (5 bags worth) you created? I was looking at the amount concrete the bags you used yielded and its said .45 cu ft (per bag) which with nothing to compare that to seems small. At least if you could tell me the dimensions I could know if mine is less or more then your table. Also, did you secure it to the area you added the slab…I imagine not given its weight. But if so…what did you use?

    • The concrete countertop on the coffee bar is 84 inches by 16 inches by 2 inches. After pouring the slab we would suggest getting one extra bag. We could only mix two bags at once and after losing a bit of each bag to the bottom of the bucket it was a stretch to fill the mold with the exact calculated number of bags. Just to be safe the countertop can be attached with Heavy Duty Liquid Nails.

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