Easy DIY Concrete Counters: The Missing Link.

4 Days

When choosing counter tops for our new kitchen, I'll be honest: CHEAP was the #1 priority. So Ardex was the clear winner. But there was one problem with all those concrete skim-coating tutorials out there: they assumed you had an EXISTING counter. What do you do when there's nothing to spread the Ardex on? I'll show you how we built our counter tops from scratch, and spent less than $150 on the whole project.
Ardex counter tops built from scratch.
Ardex counter tops built from scratch.
Back when we were discussing counter top options (almost a year ago now), very few people had heard of Ardex and faking your way into concrete counters. In fact, I found only two tutorials on the subject, but they were enough to convince me to give it a try. Chris was not so convinced. He was absolutely certain that normal particle-board counters (like the laminate ones in the tutorials) would flex, allowing the thin coating of concrete to crack. So, in order to add a little more strength and stability to the counters, I engineered this solution:
Counter top cross-section.
Counter top cross-section.
We built a "frame" out of 1x2s. Then we topped it with 1/2-inch OSB (to satisfy my need for "cheap"), and 1/2-inch cement backerboard (to satisfy Chris's need for "durable"). The final thickness of those three layers came to 1 3/4 inches, a little more than a standard counter top.
Add a trim piece around the edges.  Fancy-schmancy.
Add a trim piece around the edges. Fancy-schmancy.
We used 1x2s with a beveled edge to fancy 'em up a bit. This trim piece also creates that little overhang you usually see on counters.
Easy Ardex counters: the supplies.
Easy Ardex counters: the supplies.
Once we had a counter top to coat, we mixed up our Ardex with liquid black pigment.
Apply the Ardex in small batches.
Apply the Ardex in small batches.
Ardex sets up pretty quickly, so we found we had to work quickly and in very small batches. We mixed it thinner than the directions on the bag recommend; it seemed like a pancake-batter consistency was best for our purposes.
(Normally, you wouldn't want to mix concrete with too much water, because it seriously weakens the final product. But we're not using this in a structural application, so no biggie...and so far, we haven't had any cracks.)
Sand lightly between coats.
Sand lightly between coats.
We ended up doing three coats of Ardex, knocking down the high points between each coat. You don't need to sand too much, because each coat goes on a little smoother. After the final coat, I used 220-grit sandpaper and finished it by hand, instead of using the sander.
Then it was time to seal.
Sealing the counter tops.
Sealing the counter tops.
I chose a concrete & masonry sealer for waterproofing. Once it was fully dry, I followed it up with wax.
The final result is gorgeous glossy black counter tops, that cost less than the cheapest laminate.
easy diy concrete counters, concrete masonry, concrete countertops, countertops, diy, how to, kitchen design
easy diy concrete counters, concrete masonry, concrete countertops, countertops, diy, how to, kitchen design
easy diy concrete counters, concrete masonry, concrete countertops, countertops, diy, how to, kitchen design
For the full step-by-step, come on over to my blog: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2013/09/faux-crete-counters-from-scratch/. There's lots of good Q&A's in the comments section there, too.
I also did a 4-month follow-up on the durability of these counters here: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2014/01/to-faux-crete-or-not-to-faux-crete/.
And if you'd like to see the whole kitchen renovation (and some pretty impressive before-and-afters, if I do say so myself) check this out: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2014/05/the-kitchen-reveal/
Sarah's Big Idea

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 38 questions
  • Jennifer French Knox
    on Jun 18, 2018

    Did you use a concrete stain with your concrete? I wanted the darker color as well but the Henry's seems to have a grayer tint. Is the Ardex just that much darker?

    • Graeme Abbott
      on Aug 6, 2018

      its very hard to get a perfect black, most pigment mixes go dark grey when dry, so stick with a liguid stain or dye, you could possibly tint your sealer.

  • Christine Moore
    on Jun 24, 2018

    hello-looks very cool. and Helpful, with using the Durarock on top is good idea. We have an island to do. We are thinking of using MDF as bottom, then durarock, and MAYBE a trim piece around, maybe not if we want it just square edge...But we wonder, do you think you could do this thing outside (due to the sanding) and carry it in to lay on island, or is it subject to cracking.. ? And if there is an overhang, how far did you go underneath.? thanks!!

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Aug 18, 2018

      Since this isn't a real concrete counter, it would be much easier and lighter to move if you wanted to. But the topcoat is thin, and if the counter flexes in transit, the concrete skim coat would probably crack. I would just do it in place. The sanding really wasn't that bad; if you want to keep the mess down, tape (or just hold) a vacuum hose to your sander.

  • Jen Wolf
    on Oct 25, 2018

    So beautiful. How long have you had them? How are they holding up?

Join the conversation

2 of 181 comments
  • Margee Powell
    on Jul 26, 2018

    My daughter and I are going to make over our countertops using concrete concrete and your tutorial.

  • Toni Debord
    on Aug 20, 2018

    Looks amazing! Great job! I love the dark tint!

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