Sarah's Big Idea
Sarah's Big Idea
  • Hometalker
  • Minneapolis, MN

Easy DIY Concrete Counters: The Missing Link.

$150
4 Days
Easy

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/

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Sarah's Big Idea

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

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Have a question about this project?

41 questions
  • Kimberly Murray
    on Jan 14, 2016

    Have you had any problems with oil stains on the counters. I did mine and love them but have had some issues with oil stains. What sealer did you use?

  • Mindy Tate McCollister
    on Jan 14, 2016

    How did you get the cement to adhere to the trim? Or is that just painted?

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jan 14, 2016

      @Mindy Tate McCollister It is concrete, not painted. But the concrete goes on super thin, so I didn't have to do anything to get it to "adhere." It's similar to spreading joint compound on drywall -- it just sticks.

  • Tami Chrisman
    on Mar 9, 2016

    I missed something regarding the color. Did you paint, add color to the product or what. I love the look, the finish, the durability, the COST but not black. Is it possible to do other color?

    • Barbara Lowell
      on Mar 13, 2016

      she mentions she added liquid black pigment.

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jun 6, 2016

      The cement alone is gray, and I think you can even buy ARDEX in a white base. But concrete pigment comes in lots of colors. You can make it whatever color you want.

  • Patrice Edwards
    on Apr 18, 2016

    Is there a way to do this in a matte black finish instead of the high gloss? I'd like to mimic the look of soapstone.

  • Dwight St Clair
    on May 6, 2016

    Which ardex feather did u use ie self self leveling or regular how ma many bags did u buy? What dye did u use?

  • Karen
    on Jun 1, 2016

    WOW!! Looks amazing! Could I do this on a builder grade bathroom vanity and do a vessel sink??

  • Rosemary Loescher-Sauer
    on Jun 5, 2016

    Does the Ardex product scratch or wear in areas of high usage

  • Karen Lloid Ridenour
    on Jun 5, 2016

    Is there a weight issue....

  • J
    on Jul 22, 2016

    First of all, you are awesome. Been trying to figure out how to do pour in place for awhile and my husband definitely not on board with that. Next, do you feel it really needs to be ardex or would any feather skim work?

  • Vonnieschmitt
    on Aug 11, 2016

    Do they last? I love this idea, but my counters are in bad shape already. Chipped or peeling ardex would not help.

    • RichandTammy Whiteside
      on Aug 11, 2016

      Definitely check out the links that she has posted in the above. Make sure that you go all of the way to the 15-month update and the fix. Very interesting. She also mentioned somebody's epoxy coating comment in one of her posts but having done a marine-grade epoxy countertop in one of my bathrooms, I wouldn't recommend it because the scratching issue is the same.

  • Tani
    on Sep 3, 2016

    How do I do this over my existing ceramic tile countertops?

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Sep 15, 2016

      You'd have to really rough up the surface of the tile or use a special primer so the concrete has something to stick to.

    • Rhonda S
      on Sep 29, 2016

      In addition to sanding the ceramic tile as recommended by Tanimetzger, you will likely need to put on more than three coats, since you have a less smooth surface to start. You will need to fill in the grout lines before you start putting the top coats over the face of the tiles. My advice would be to allow lots of time and don't feel as if you have "failed" if the grout lines take several applications. Be patient and keep working it.

  • Linda Cheverie-Mulholland
    on Sep 4, 2016

    Could you use the self levelling cement for flooring,as opposed to the Ardex? I'm sure it would work alright just with thinner coats,,,yes or no?

  • Patrice Paige
    on Sep 24, 2016

    Was it difficult to do the edges....any tips

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Dec 28, 2016

      It wasn't difficult. Kind of like frosting a cake. But work fast because the concrete sets up quickly.

  • Cherie Pipkin-Jordan
    on Oct 8, 2016

    I did similar concrete look and stain over laminate. It's been 10 years and I need to redo the sealer - it's still glossy in most areas. I was thinking I'd lightly sand it all down but not sure what to seal it with. Any suggestions?

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Dec 28, 2016

      The best thing to do would be to use the same sealer you used the first time around, and follow any instructions it has for re-coating. Generally you'd have to do a light sanding first, but that may depend on the original sealer.

  • Callie Baldwin
    on Dec 26, 2016

    Where did you find the beveled 1x2's for the edge? Or did you have to create that edge with a saw?

  • Brian Arnold
    on Jan 22, 2017

    I painted my laminate countertops then put a epoxy over it. It came out uneven in some spots. Could i can the counters down then add the skim coat or do you think that it want stick because of the epoxy?

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Jan 22, 2017

      Uneven in color o uneven in level? If it's level you need to smooth it out while applying it to get it an even level.

    • Brian Arnold
      on Jan 22, 2017

      Its uneven as far as being level. Thank you so much for reply and now i have new hope for my countertops

    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jan 23, 2017

      I think if you sand the epoxy down you can probably skim-coat over it.

  • Patti McCurlie
    on Jun 3, 2017

    Great job, I was wondering if this is food safe ?
  • Debby Glofcheskie-Huber
    on Jun 3, 2017

    What sealer did you use? I have been searching for a food grade countertop sealer and not been able to find one. I am searching in Canada and our availability is less than yours bit still trying.


  • Ess23733707
    on Jun 3, 2017

    Your counters are beautifu! Great job!
    Are there different colors that can be used? Also I have counters can I apply this directly onto the existing counters?
    Thank you
  • Raquel Alicea
    on Jun 6, 2017

    What if the counter top is Formica?
    • Curtis N Heather Green
      on Aug 9, 2017

      It will still work just sand the whole formica top, wipe off the dust with damp cloth and let dry. Then add the ardex as described above.
  • Carlos
    on Jun 8, 2017

    who sell durex?
  • Inn23106946
    on Jul 29, 2017

    Nice result and infornative blog. Thanks! I would like to use concrete to fireproof the floor around my wood stove. Advice? Suggestions?
  • Day22425230
    on Aug 29, 2017

    I am really considering DIY concrete countertops for my new kitchen in my new house and my main question (I didnt see it anywhere in the comments) is how do you figure out how many bags of Ardex you need to cover your cabinet area??
  • Day22425230
    on Aug 29, 2017

    How do you figure out how many bags of Ardex and the other products you need in order to complete your countertop??
    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Sep 5, 2017

      You'll only need one bag of Ardex. A little goes a long way when you're applying it this thin. We have somewhere around 50 square feet of counters and used less than half a bag. As far as any other products, just follow the instructions on whichever product you use. Pigments will tell what ratio of pigment to concrete to use (it's also a very small amount) and sealers/topcoats should tell you approximately how many square feet they will cover.
  • Diane Hurst
    on Oct 2, 2017

    I am interested in hearing how it is holding up at this point in time.
    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jan 24, 2018

      Still holding up. The topcoat could use a refresher, but any concrete counter would need to be resealed after (or before) 4 years. The skim coat is still intact.
  • Kathy Harris
    on Jan 13, 2018

    What if you don't want a glossy finish? I'd like a more "honed" or matte look.
  • Kris Stupka
    on Jan 13, 2018

    Can this just be put over Formica counter tops
  • Craftyfox
    on Jan 13, 2018

    I want to do this to my countertops. I have tile countertops with grout between. I can't stand them because the tiles always look dirty. Do you think that I would be able to cover them with the Ardex? Would I have to do something with the grout lines?
    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jan 24, 2018

      You wouldn't have to do anything with the grout lines but you would have to do something to really rough up the surface of the tile so that the Ardex will stick to it.
    • Craftyfox
      on Jan 25, 2018

      Where can I find Ardex? I sure appreciate all your help

  • Kc Nordquist
    on Jan 13, 2018

    I noticed you're using under-counter sinks with this concrete countertop. You put the Ardex on the top of the counter? Wouldn't the water start rotting out the wood under the Ardex?
    • Uncommonsensesc
      on Jan 15, 2018

      She sealed the counter tops to keep water out. You have to seal concrete countertops no matter if they're solid or a top coating.
    • Vicky Corey
      on Jan 22, 2018

      Thank you Uncommonsensesc for answering these questions. :)
  • GoddessOdd
    on Jan 14, 2018

    This is great, and I may use this as my solution too, but I have a question about the edges of your counters. Your edges are not square, making these counters look more like stone, which I like. Did you do that on purpose? Also, I have a back splash piece on my counter top, how does the Ardex do on a vertical surface. Finally, I have only a small gap between my sink and the wall, can the Ardex be brushed on in this area?
    • Uncommonsensesc
      on Jan 15, 2018

      She did do it on purpose - that's the beveled edge she talks about doing to give it a more finished, professional look.
    • Sarah's Big Idea
      on Jan 24, 2018

      Yes, it is beveled on purpose. Yes, you can use Ardex on a vertical surface. And finally, it's hard to say without seeing the gap that you're talking about...my guess is yes, the Ardex can be brushed or troweled on anywhere, including around a sink, as long as it is sealed with a waterproof sealer.
  • Alyssia
    on Jan 14, 2018

    Can you make the concrete any color? We have dark bamboo flooring and it would make everything too dark if our countertops were this dark.
    • Renata
      on Jan 20, 2018

      Yes, they make concrete paint. You can either add it to your concrete or paint afterwards. Then seal
    • Carlee
      on Feb 25, 2018

      If Ardex doesn’t sell a light-colored base, trying starting with white Portland cement (available at Home Depot in my state). It’s far easier and cheaper to darken white cement than lighten gray cement with pigments/stains (typically quite expensive to purchase and have shipped) that you add before or after casting. I’ve used white Portland cement to cast everything from cement countertops to hypertufta planters. There are a lot of online tutorials about how much water to add, what types of additives (e.g. fiberglass) can help with durability, the temperatures and humidities that help cement cure quickly, etc.


      Good luck!

  • Kathy Scott
    on Mar 19, 2018

    This looks great! Do you think this product could be put directly on a tiled countertop? Thanks much!
  • Ashlie
    on May 21, 2018

    This is beautiful!! I want to do this! Looking back, do you think that the osb was necessary? Do you think that the cement board on its own would have been enough?

  • Ashlie
    on May 21, 2018

    Oh also, was one bag of Ardex enough for your whole project?

  • Jennifer French Knox
    on Jun 18, 2018

    Did you use a concrete stain along with your concrete? Or is the Ardex just that dark by nature? I wanted dark as well but the Henry's seems to be a lighter color..

    • Elena Gomez
      on Aug 28, 2018

      Per the article : Once we had a counter top to coat, we mixed up our Ardex with liquid black pigment.

  • 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?

    • Ashlie
      on Jun 19, 2018

      She says this in one of her steps, “Once we had a counter top to coat, we mixed up our Ardex with liquid black pigment.”

    • 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.

    • Cher
      on Dec 29, 2018

      I used Rit fabric dye in a gallon water jug and used that for every batch of cement I used, therefore the color was always the same... It worked great!

  • 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!!

    • Dwp7470b
      on Jul 8, 2018

      Depends on Size. Crack on dropping is more likely in a Foot or Hand, as: Carrying any 8 foot by 3 foot by 2.5 inch Concrete Slab from the worksite is duly not recommended, and wow, certainly not up steps from a basement or garden, nor as Husband and Spouse only Team job. Keep in mind: You always got more weight of the set concrete, than weight of bags you put into it. When talking 3 qty 80lb bags, or more, you are talking a big strain, carrying that up steps too? PLUS a next day muscle ache from the weight that feels like 50 reps of 1/4 ton, not 1 rep of 1/7 ton, atop that? And: you really do need to consider that as any weightlifting exercise, needs stretching and getting to that weight class prior. To an end that even Putting those Plastic DuraStraps [that you cut off when you do get it in place] in Undersides of concrete, (even BX Cable [rather than any banding tape]) assists only in making it far less awkward to handle, but not less weighty. Possibly, using Insertable rolling casters, [set dowels first into the concrete at the backside noone sees], may assist, as long as you are careful enough to not topple it, so, if this seems like a fine way to break a foot, it's alot wiser to 'Set in place' than to 'Set then Place', any Monstrous Slab which unlike patio bricks, cannot assemble.

    • Christine Moore
      on Jul 9, 2018

      Thank you good points!

    • 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?

  • Mitzi
    on Jan 12, 2019

    Can this be done on top of tile like mine?

    • Grant
      on Apr 8, 2019

      Yes I did it to my tiles that were the exact same type except in pink. Easiest way because of the grout, is to put thin layers in the grout first let that dry and then put the first top layer over the tile and grout together. I started with the grout grooves first, you bring depth to be level to the tile, this lets you have a completely smooth surface without the grout lines showing up underneath.

  • Jw
    on Jan 13, 2019

    Same as Mitzi. Can you do this on tile?

  • Lisa
    on Jan 20, 2019

    How did you prep the edges of the cut out for the under mount sink? Did you put some sort of material on the edges prior to covering with the Ardex like you did the outside edges with trim?

Join the conversation

2 of 185 comments
  • Debbie Paul Child
    on Feb 5, 2019

    I agree with Kathy I want to do a smaller area first. I dont want to screw it up. Yours is so beautiful. Great job.

  • Shelbi Gibson
    on May 9, 2019

    What's the best way to do this on existing laminate counter tops? I want the black concrete look with boxed edges.

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