A Guide to Concrete Countertops
Are concrete countertops for you?
Concrete countertops are the most unique and personal countertop option available because they are hand crafted to each client’s preference. To determine whether concrete is right for you, think about whether you believe:
- you want something unique and personalized
- you want something that looks natural and has character
- you appreciate high-quality, hand-crafted items
- you think granite is too shiny, too formal, too common
- you think synthetic solid surface materials look and feel like plastic
- you desire a color or visual texture that’s not available with other countertop materials
If so, concrete countertops may be right for you.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of concrete compared to other countertop materials?
- Customized: Concrete’s biggest advantage is that it is truly a custom piece. Your countertop will be unique and highly personalized to your style and taste.
- Versatility: Concrete is extremely versatile. It can enhance any style, from French Country to Contemporary. From Arts and Crafts to Industrial. From Traditional to Modern. The possibilities are endless.
- Practicality: StoneCrete’ proprietary sealer provides a surface that is extremely stain-resistant and low-maintenance. Common food items will not stain it. The sealer does not degrade, and therefore does not need to be reapplied every year like many other sealers. The sealer also exhibits great heat resistance.
- Imperfections: We believe that this is an advantage. Concrete countertops are hand made and hand finished. Since concrete is a heterogeneous mixture of many different ingredients, subtle variations in color, shade, texture and overall appearance should be expected. All concrete is susceptible to harmless hairline cracks. They will sometimes appear months or years after installation and are generally a result of seasonal movement of the cabinets and the house itself.
This is considered part of the aesthetic charm of concrete and its natural patina, not a defect. Concrete exhibits natural beauty rather than plastic perfection.
- Staining: Concrete countertops actually behave very similar to granite in this respect. Granite countertops are also a porous material and have to be sealed and maintained. Most people don’t realize this, because granite is usually too dark and patterned to show stains. Food, acid and oils will not stain your countertop if wiped up immediately. If left on for a longer period of time, they will cause only a light spot whose appearance can be minimized with a StoneCrete Touch-Up kit.
- Scratching: While the sealer is very durable, it is possible to scratch it. For example, in kitchens, you should use cutting boards on concrete countertops.
- Lead time: Concrete countertops are a long lead time item. They take approximately 4 to 6 weeks to fabricate.
How much do they cost?
Even though it is completely custom material, concrete is competitive in price with standard countertop materials. The price is competitive with mid to high-end granite, ranging from $50 to over $125 per square foot. We are happy to work with you and your designer to give you an estimate on your project, and we can also help you tailor specific options to fit your budget.
Where can I use concrete in my home?
- StoneCrete makes concrete countertops for kitchens, bathrooms, fireplace mantles, tables, desks, and anywhere else countertops are required. Horizontal countertops must be at least 1.5” thick. StoneCrete can make thicker countertops as well as fabricate front edge returns up to 6” deep.
- Concrete countertops can be straight, curved, notched, multi-level, etc. Unlike granite, which would drastically increase in cost for curved shapes, creating curved concrete shapes simply involves some extra time and labor in forming.
- Concrete can also be used in vertical applications such as backsplashes, shower surrounds and fireplace surrounds. For vertical applications, concrete is generally 1” thick.
- Maximum slab length for standard depth countertops is about 8 feet. Seams are located around sinks and cook tops, or wherever required for structural reasons. StoneCrete will work with you to design seam placement that is both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. Seams are typically 1/16” wide, similar to tile grout lines. However, it is important to realize that concrete countertops are hand made and hand processed. They are not machine cut, so tolerances for seams are more generous than with granite. Seam appearance is minimized by using color-matched acrylic caulk.
- Integral and vessel sinks are possible. See the section on sinks for more information.
- Concrete countertops can be used both indoors and outdoors.
- Concrete flooring is a different application. StoneCrete has associates who specialize in various types of concrete floors and we can provide referrals.
What colors are available?
Any color! StoneCrete offers any color on the spectrum. Colors can be produced in solid, speckled or variegated patterns. You can specify embedded stone, glass, or other objects. You can even choose the color, size and density of selected embediments.
What is the process for custom colors?
StoneCrete specializes in custom color development. We can customize existing colors or match the color of an item such as a paint chip or fabric. The process takes about 3 weeks. We produce two or more 12” x 12” samples and submit them for your approval.
How much color variation can occur?
Concrete is a natural, handmade material. Many factors such as humidity, sand lot and cement lot can affect the final appearance of the concrete. All of our color formulas record the type of sand, type of cement, and exact measurements of pigments to 1/10th of a gram, and we use specially developed software to calculate mix design. However, colors can still vary because of the aforementioned factors.
Another factor that contributes to perceived variation is simply the size of samples. A 3” x 3” sample or even a 12” x 12” sample will look different than a whole countertop simply because the small sample does not capture all of the natural, random variations that will occur over a large surface. The color in a 12” x 12” sample may appear completely uniform, but a whole countertop in that exact same color will not appear as uniform. The same situation occurs with other natural materials such as granite.
What profiles are available?
For concrete, profiles are formed and cast rather than cut like granite or solid surface. Profile choices depend on the availability of appropriate trim molding. StoneCrete offers bull-nose, diamond cut, capstone, Ogee profiles. Custom profiles are available upon request.
What kind of sinks can be used with concrete countertops?
StoneCrete’ concrete countertops can accommodate all types of sinks including drop-in, under mount and apron front. The minimum lip of concrete around all sides of sinks is 3”. Concrete can also accommodate drop-in cook tops. The minimum lip of concrete in the front of a cook top is 3”; we recommend 3” for the back also, but 2” will suffice.
StoneCrete can make integral concrete sinks of almost any shape. Bathroom vanities are an excellent application of integral concrete sinks. We do not recommend integral concrete kitchen sinks for engineering reasons. Kitchen sinks are deep and have angles that would put large stresses on the concrete and have high potential for cracking. The size of kitchen sinks generally dictates a very thick concrete bottom that would be a problem with standard plumbing and cabinetry.
Concrete vessel sinks are also an option and can be of any color or shape.
What about backsplashes?
Precast backsplashes are cast and finished separately and deck mounted after the countertops are installed. CIP or cast-in-place tops can incorporate a backsplash as a single monolithic pour. Backsplashes are nominally 1” thick and can be from 3” high to full height. Outlet openings are cast into the backsplash not cut out on the job site.
What about Counter Top Sealers?
Bare concrete is very porous and will readily stain. Virtually all concrete countertops are sealed to prevent staining; however the degree to which these sealers work varies significantly. Commonly used sealers include wax and penetrating acrylic sealers. Both of these are inexpensive and easy to apply. However, neither offer significant stain or heat resistance and both require frequent reapplication to prevent the formation of a “patina”. StoneCrete’ sealer is different. We use a high-performance sealer that is exceptionally durable and provides excellent resistance to incidental contact with staining agents such as red wine, lemon juice and olive oil. Complete care instructions are included in your Owner’s Guide. Touch-Up of any marks that do occur is simple and easy with the StoneCrete Touch-Up kit.
Will they scratch?
While the sealer is durable, it can scratch if cut with a knife or subjected to heavy, sharp objects dragged across the surface. Cutting on the concrete may compromise the integrity of the sealer and allow stains to permeate the concrete matrix. Cutting on the concrete will also ruin knives, requiring a professional re-sharpening to reshape the damaged edge. If you do scratch a countertop, you can easily repair it yourself using the StoneCrete Touch-Up Kit.
Can I put hot pots on the countertops?
As with almost all types of countertop surfaces, it is best to use trivets. Concrete can micro crack if exposed to high heat, and the sealer is not elastic enough to “absorb” these micro cracks. The surface will appear “crazed”. The Touch-Up Kit can be used to minimize the appearance of these micro cracks, just like it is used to touch up scratches.
How are concrete countertops made?
When it comes to concrete countertops, there are two basic processes: CIP (Cast-in-Place) and PC (Precast). CIP involves building forms and pouring concrete in place, directly on the cabinets. While this avoids the difficulty of transporting heavy slabs, it does tie up the site for several days (or even weeks). In addition, CIP provides fewer options and less control over the finished product. Generally the only finish available is a troweled surface, which is either acid stained or colored with pigments. The counter top surface can be lightly honed and polished with proper attention to dust collection, but is not highly recommended.
Precast (PC) concrete countertops move all of the processes off site and into a controlled environment. In the structural engineering community it is well known that PC concrete is superior to CIP concrete, mainly because tighter quality control can be exercised. Curing, which is a critical step that is commonly misunderstood, can be closely monitored. Moving the process to a shop allows greater flexibility in terms of the look of the concrete. Glass, stone and other objects can now be embedded; these require extensive wet grinding with diamond power tools to reveal the embedded objects.
Are there any special structural considerations?
A square foot of 1.5” thick concrete weighs about 17 lbs; a square foot of 3 cm granite weighs about 16.5 lbs. Typically, no special considerations are necessary for standard kitchen or bathroom vanity countertops. Cantilevered slabs, bar tops on knee walls and similar situations sometimes require brackets or other structural supports for the countertops. StoneCrete can advise on support requirements.
Do you offer a warranty?
Yes. StoneCrete warrantees the structural integrity of the concrete for ten years after installation. The countertops will of course last a lot longer than ten years, but if any problems were to occur, they would usually occur within the first year. We subject the concrete to much larger stresses while handling it than clients ever could once it is installed. In addition, StoneCrete provides each client with an Owner’s Guide.
Whom can I contact with questions or to discuss a project?
Contact your designer or our Client Services Representative, at 214-469-9342 or online at Info@stonecretestudio.com.