Product Guide - Information and Instructions
This page will include instructions and a comprehensive walk through of all the products needed to pour a concrete countertop. Each job will vary so not all items will be necessary. Use the navigation links below to skip to a specific section on this page. If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before ordering product, you should take the following measurements as accurately as possible. This will allow you determine how much of each product you will need. All products have their covereges listed in the product descriptions.
1. Square Footage - This is the Length x Width of the countertop space which will be used to calculate amount of mix, stain, sealer, etc.
2. Linear Feet of Front Edge - This is the footage of countertop edge that is on the front of your cabinets. This is used when deciding what size form package to use.
3. Linear Footage of Backwall - This is the linear feet of edge where your cabinets are up against a wall. The backwall form is included in the form packages but you will want to make sure you are purchasing enough.
a. Cutting Cement Board - Measure and cut 1/2" cement board so it sits flush with the top of the cabinets. The most commonly used cement board which we recommend is either HardieBacker board or Durock. The cement board should be held in place on top of the cabinets with a few dabs of silicone caulking.
If using IKEA SEKTION cabinets there are a few extra things to consider. The first thing to consider is that you will need to have at least 5/8" of substrate between the forms and the top of the cabinet. This means using 5/8" or 3/4" cement board, or shimming your forms up. Another thing to consider is that the weight of the countertop is adequately supported during the pour. If the fronts of the cabinets are "faceless" or completely open, you will need some sort of temporary reinforcement to support the front edge of the cement board during the pour. The thin metal rod at the top of the cabinet may not be enough for wider base cabinets.
b. Cutting and Attaching Forms - Forms should be cut with a miter saw. Along the edge on every corner (both inside and outside corners) use roughly a 3" piece of edge form placed on the cement board and scribe a line where the nailer flange meets the cement board so two lines create an intersection. On inside corners, the lines will need to be extended until they intersect. Where these lines intersect, is the point you will measure and cut the forms to. Please see our video titled "Full Instructional Video (Old Version)" for more detail on this. Forms should then be screwed into place with a #10 x 5/8" panhead screw. Pre-drill the forms so you do not strip the cement board. Be careful not to over tighten screws as this will strip the cement board.
c. Form Sink Opening - There are three main types of sinks - undermount, top-mount (drop in), and apron front (farm house). If you have a Dual Mount sink, it will be easiest to use this as a drop in.
Undermount - If you are installing an undermount, the easiest method will be to use our undermount sink form. An installation video can be found on the product page. Your sink will have to have vertical walls for this form to work. If this is not the case, you will most likely have to create a knockout. This is most commonly done with dense form insulation board. To create the opening for the faucet holes, you will use our rubber knockouts.
Apron Front Sink - For an apron front sink, the easiest way, is to use the profile form around the three edges of the sink. You do want to make sure that when you set the height of your sink, it is 1/8" - 1/4" lower than the top of the cabinet. The sink will not be in place when you pour the countertop. Once the forms have been removed, you can slide the sink in under the countertop overhang and caulk around the sink. You can see an example of this in our website gallery photo #42.
If you want a flat edge around the sink and are not using the square profile form, you may have to get more creative with forming out your sink opening. One option would be to use lumber similar to how it is done for a stove opening. This can be seen near the 4 minute mark in the Full Instructional Video. One difference is you will want to have the concrete overhang the sink opening (not sit flush like the stove opening). This way the concrete will cover the top of the sink wall.
d. Reinforcement - There are several valid ways to reinforce the concrete but one of the easiest methods is with our FG50 Fiberglass mesh which is held in place by our Z Clip. This mesh is light weight and incredibly easy to handle/ cut to size. The Z Clips hold the mesh at the ideal height which takes all of the guess work out of setting the reinforcement. Other common types of reinforcement are 6x6 welded wire mesh or 3/8" rebar. If using rebar, make sure it is low enough in the concrete to prevent ghosting.
a. Overhangs -You can do up to a 12" overhang without any additional support or reinforcement. All you will do is let your cement board overhang the cabinets. Remember the form will add another 1-1/2" of overhang. You will need to temporarily support the cement board so it does not flex or sag under the weight of the wet concrete. To do this, we will usually use 2x4 legs placed every 24" along the overhang. They should stay in for 2-3 days while the concrete sets up. The cement board will stay in place as the drop down in the forms will completely cover it. If you wish to do a larger overhang, you will most likely want to use extra rebar reinforcement or an exterior brace.
b. Bending Forms - You can bend the forms by cutting relief V notches in them but how much you can bend them depends on the profile you choose. The more decorative profiles will start to deform as you bend them too far. The Square edge can bend to any radius and the Half Bullnose and Fancy will also bend pretty well. To see how to cut the forms you can watch our short video titled How to Bend the Square Edge Form. We also sell a pre-cut Bendable Square Edge Form.
c. Sample Piece - It is highly recommended to make a sample piece if it is your first time pouring a concrete countertop. Even if working with concrete in the past, a hard steel trowel finish and countertop mixes may be new. The easiest way would be to form up a small 2' x 2' mold using lumber. If you are going to have left over Z Counterforms, you may prefer to use these. This will not need any reinforcement but it is advised to use the exact mix (and integral color) that you plan to use for the actual pour. This will allow you to get a feel for the mix design and practice your finishing to make sure you are happy with the results. If you will be staining, it will give you a great place to practice and test out colors. If anything goes wrong or you are not happy with the results, we would be glad to help correct any issues.
a. Choosing Concrete Mix - There are many things to consider when choosing the concrete mix to use for your project. For a countertop, the most important features are normally strength and crack resistance. Cracking in concrete can happen for many reasons but by picking a strong mix with low shrinkage, using a reliable reinforcement, and pouring on a solid base will be the best ways to prevent your top from ever having issues. One great option, especially if looking for white, is our White Countertop Mix. It has the very best blend of fine aggregates, Portland cement, and proprietary admixtures to ensure no curling or shrinking. It mixes, pours, flows, and fills better than any other high performance mix on the market. However, it can be expensive to ship several 50lb bags of concrete. For this, we have developed our admixes.
An admix like our Counter-Pack or Liqui-Crete allows you to convert a cheap bag of standard concrete mix (bought locally) into a very high strength (7500 psi+) with low shrinkage. The difference between the two admixes is the consistency of the resulting concrete. The Liqui-Crete is designed to use slightly more water, giving you a more flowable mix that will flow throughout the small 1" grid of the FG50 fiberglass mesh reinforcement. If you are using the fiberglass mesh and clips, you will want to go with the Liqui-Crete. If you are using a more traditional reinforcement such as welded wire mesh, you will be better off with Counter-Pack.
b. Mixing Concrete - Depending on the concrete, the mixing instructions may vary. If you are using one of our admixes or our concrete mix, please refer to the instructions on the back of the product packaging or in the technical data sheet found on the product pages. If you are using the Liqui-Crete admix or the White Countertop Mix with the recommended amount of water and it is still too thick, it is most likely due to environmental factors. You can slowly add water until you acheive a pourable mix that will flow through the FG50 Mesh. With that said, it is always safer to err on the slightly drier side.
c. Placing Concrete - Once concrete is mixed to desired consistency, you will pour it into the form. Always start at one end of the countertop and work towards the other so that you keep a wet edge. As you place the concrete, you will screed it off to make sure it is level and flat with the top of the form. As you move, you will want to go back and check previous sections to make sure the concrete is still full to the top and you do not have any dips. It is important to vibrate or tap on the edge to aggitate it. This will help remove trapped air that will cause pinholes or larger voids in your edge. If you do get voids or pinholes in the edge, they can easily be fixed by filling them with Counter-Patch.
4. Finishing Concrete
a. Magnesium Float -Once an initial set is recognized you may begin to trowel concrete with a magnesium float. In a controlled temperature and humidity this will most likely be 30 minutes to 1 hour after the concrete is placed. Light to moderate pressure should be used to achieve a nice and level preliminary finish. Be careful not to drag or pull concrete out of place. The magnesium float will help pull a cream to the surface which is what you should be looking for. It will leave the surface with a porous texture. This is key to allow air and water to continue to escape from the concrete as it cures.
b. Steel Trowel - Once all bleed water has evaporated and the concrete is very firm, you will use a steel trowel for the final finish. Again, the amount of time will vary significantly depending on a number of factors but will most likely be around the 2-4 hour mark. Steel troweling too soon will trap moisture in the concrete and leave you with a soft, dusty finish when the concrete cures. You can test the concrete by lightly pressing down with your finger. A light touch should not leave a finger print nor will wet concrete stick to your finger. A very firm press will leave a slight indentation. At this point, use the steel trowel with moderate to firm pressure to smooth the concrete to a slick surface. Once finish is satisfactory, let concrete cure for 48 hours before removing forms or sanding.
c. Sanding/ Polishing - After 48 hours, the forms may be snapped off and you can begin sanding or polishing.
Sanding - It is always a good idea to lightly sand the concrete before proceeding to staining or sealing. This will help open up the concrete and can be used to remove any minor burrs or imperfections. If you have some rough areas or deep trowel marks, you may want to begin with sand paper as low as 60-80 grit on an orbital palm sander. You will want to work your way up to 220-320 grit. A Gem-Pad can also be used to touch up burrs, knock down sharp edges and corners, and remove any excess concrete that may be left behind where the forms were seamed.
Polishing - Polishing concrete is a process that normally uses a Wet Polisher and Diamond Polishing Pads to grind away the top surface of the concrete (often to expose a decorative aggregate) and bring the surface to a highly polished finish similar to granite. This is not a necessary process unless it is the look you desire.
There are several ways to color concrete depending on your preference. The three options we offer are detailed below. We always recommend making sample pieces to experiment with colors.
a. Integral Pigments - Integral coloring is when you add a colored powder like our Terra-Tint into the concrete while mixing. This is a popular choice for coloring in decorative concrete. It should be used when looking for a more uniform color. Integral pigments are usually UV stable and safe for outdoor use. The color intensity will vary depending on how much color is added. Typically, integral pigments are more buff or earth tone colors and not used for creating bright vibrant colors. Many factors can affect the final outcome so making a sample is always advised.
b. Dying - Z Aqua-Tint is a water based dye that can be used to topically color the concrete. It can be thought of and used like a stain. The difference between a dye and a stain is in the chemical makeup. A dye uses much smaller particles which can help with its absorption into the concrete (especially polished to tightly finished concrete). Because of this, it is usually more of a translucent coloring. Dyes can be mixed, diluted and overlaid to create a wide spectrum of colors and effects. One down side is a dye will not exhibit UV stableness meaning they will fade in sunlight and should not be used outdoors. It can be applied by brush, roller, sponge or rag to give different effects.
c. Staining - Our Aqua-Stain UV is a typical water-based concrete stain. This is different than a reactive acid stain but many of the same colors and effects can be created. It is safe for indoor or outdoor use but should not be used over polished to tightly finished concrete as it will not penetrate as well as a dye. Stains will give you a more opaque covering than dye and can be used to create some really great faux finishes. Like our Aqua-Tint it can be mixed with other colors, diluted, or overlaid to create a wide spectrum of colors and effects. It can be applied by brush, roller, sponge, rag or spray bottle to give different effects as well.
Sealing your concrete countertop should be the final step. It will ensure a durable, stain free finish that will last a long time.
a. Type of Sealer - There are many types of sealers available so doing some research is necessary to pick the one that fits your needs the best. We have a line of sealers that all provide different appearances and features but all protect your concrete very well. Some questions to ask yourself are - Do you prefer glossy or natural? Is it for indoor or outdoor use? Do you want a darkening "wet out" look or to keep the same color?
b. Application - The application will always differ depending on the sealer you choose. It is important to read the directions first and make sure you have a good understanding of the recommended application instructions. Also, testing the sealer in a small inconspicuous area will allow you to make sure you like the final look.
c. Maintenance - Again, this will vary depending on the sealer you choose. Some may require reapplication every year where other may be fine for several years. These are good factors to think about when selecting a sealer. To clean your countertops that were sealed with any of our sealers, you should use soap and water or house hold surface cleaners with a sponge, rag or paper towel. Avoid using citrus cleaners or any abrasive scrubbing pads.