Everything I know about concrete countertops I learned from Riko Ramos. Well almost everything … here’s how it all started. In previous years, Blog Cabin’s kitchen has had butcher block tops, man-made stone, real stone, you name it. But not concrete. This year we were blessed with a new appliance finish: Slate. This slate line has a similar look to stainless but without the finger prints. It’s also darker, as the name would suggest.
With those appliances anchoring the room, we knew we wanted another apron front sink. But one that would fuse farmhouse with contemporary style. Luckily the two-bowl Whitehaven sink was available in Thunder Grey which was a close match to the Slate line. Not only did it have simple lines but it was also available with a short apron which meant we could modify a standard sink base.
After all that, I’m looking at those two — the appliances and the sink — thinking now we have to tie it all together. Concrete seemed the obvious choice. But where do we even start? With only three days from templating to completion, we had to pour them on site. Plus Kitchen Crashers had so many other projects already that we knew that this choice was no simple solution. It was going to mean some late nights.
Enter local expertise: Riko Ramos, of No Boring Concrete, just happened to walk into The Waller Group‘s office on a cold call. They thought I had sent him. Riko had been doing concrete and epoxy floors and was looking to break more into the countertop market. After a short talk, some references, and some pricing, we decided he would join the team for almost all the countertops in Blog Cabin.
Another challenge was the fact that this year’s kitchen was so much more massive than last year with a large U-shape. So the tops had to be done in a manageable way that worked with three new walls, an apron sink, a stove, and … countertop herbs? I think Riko thought I was crazy when I first suggested it. At least that was the look on his face. With a year of firsts, not only could we have fresh food in our new exterior raised beds but we could also have fresh herbs and spices in the house for morning teas or cooking. But it meant two more steps: creating the forms and breaking them free (which I learned is harder than it looks when you let a concrete novice like me do it). I certainly wasn’t making this expedition any easier.
What I learned through the process was that concrete tops have come a long way, aren’t as simple as pouring 50 lb bag mix in a form, and are kind of a science. Specialty companies have arisen that greatly expand the options, finishes, and educational support for DIY tops. For instance, on the second floor, we had Riko order Java colored glass beads to put into a white top to complement the coffee bean backsplash. The possibilities for surface finish and embedded items are really endless.
There’s two basic ways to do a concrete top:
- Full precast fill where one flowable mix is poured and settled into a form
- Face and backer mix where a smooth face is applied and then backed with a structural material
The former is one step but heavier and uses more material (because the top is one solid thickness). The latter is two steps but is lighter and uses less material (because the interior portion is 2/3rds of the edge thickness). For the kitchen, Riko recommended the face mix.
Read on for how we built the kitchen countertops. Click on a how-to image below to bring up the images in a larger gallery format. Also be sure to check out the other tops in the master bath, sitting room, back patio, and dock.