What a process these countertops have been! I feel like that has been out motto for pretty much everything when it comes to the renovations. But it’s all good!! We knew we wanted to do concrete kitchen countertops long before we even moved in. In our previous house back in San Diego, we ripped up all of the carpet on the first floor and Atom acid stained the concrete floors and they turned out amazing. He wanted to do a spin on that for our countertops.
Originally we wanted to get the kitchen built as fast as possible directly after we finished the guest bathroom. But then we changed our mindset and decided to take it a bit slower and really make it exactly what we wanted and take our time doing it, rather than rush to just get a kitchen built. Having a massive commercial kitchen in the basement in the mean time isn’t too shabby either. We have become quite fond of having 7 ovens, 12 burners, a flat top griddle and a commercial deep fryer to cook with! Here is the part of the second floor before we started the kitchen construction (after Atom had pulled up the carpet and finished the original wood floors.)
Finding places to anchor the wood into the walls was a challenge because it’s all plaster and blocks of some sort (I forget what they’re called). Atom had to use these giant anchor bolts and a huge drill bit to drill into the walls to anchor them in place. Being that the building is just under 100 years old, it isn’t built with the traditional drywall & wood so it has made the process MUCH more difficult.
One night I was feeling silly so I brought up the crockpot and we “made our first dinner” in the kitchen in progress. Haha!
Once all of the wood was in place for what will become the cabinets underneath, Atom laid the treated board down that would become the base of the countertops and seated the sink in place. Karen, one of our very curious bengals kept a close eye on the entire project. She thinks she’s basically a dog, or a human.
Wire mesh was bolted down to help with the concreting process and the sink was completely sealed off.
The first layer of concrete was mixed and put down. Atom added color/dye to the concrete to make it a “light sand/tan” color.
After that was all spread around, Atom came in with more concrete and really smoothed it out. He spent almost 12 hours coming back every 30 min or so smoothing out any bubbles and imperfections.
Once it dried, we had to wait 30 days (yes you read that right) before he could start the grinding & sanding process. While doing the initial grinding, there were several spots that basically crumbled and Atom had to add more concrete to those spots and then wait ANOTHER 30 days for it to completely dry & cure. Are you starting to see why this process has taken so long?! He initially tried sandpaper of various grits but that didn’t work well and after a weeks worth of constant sanding and going through 25 full sheets of sandpaper, he switched to diamond buff pads and got the entire length of the countertops buffed until they were as smooth as marble. He used 50, 150, 300, 500, and 1,000 grit of the diamond buff pads with the grinder. What took him an entire week with the sand paper only took two days with the buff pads. Live & learn! It was pretty incredible to feel the concrete as smooth as it got, I had no idea it could feel so amazing! I’ll have to admit the plain concrete looked pretty darn cool by itself even without any stain on it!
We initially had decided on some sort of brown/tan with a hint of red for the acid stain. But then late one night Atom & I were looking at stain colors to order online and came across a turquoise color & we both pretty much knew we wanted to incorporate it into the counters somehow. Not too much, but something to accent it here & there. We ordered a small bottle of it along with the gallons of the other colors.
We decided to make some earthy looking cracks with the turquoise. Atom being the artist he is, got to work.
There were a couple of places on the concrete that were the low spots that Atom had to add more concrete to fill in and they were left a slightly different color/look than the rest of the concrete so we decided to stain those the turquoise color as well. There are no mistakes in art after all!
After the turquoise mostly dried, Atom started applying the base brown/reddish color all over. He used a stippling & dabbing technique initially with a corner of a giant car sponge to give it a textured look and then sort of painted over it to blend out the edges. It’s hard to explain. With acid stains, you will want to blend it a bit to prevent harsh lines. Unless of course that’s what you are going for. Then by all means go for it! We wanted a more natural(ish) look. As natural as a brown/red countertop with a few giant turquoise cracks though it can look. Haha!
We did 3 separate applications of the stain. The first one burned for 4 hours. Then you have to wash it with a ton of soap & water (or if you’re fancy you can buy neutralizer stuff from the store. We went the budget route and used soap & water) to neutralize the acid & stop it from burning and wait until it is completely dry before adding another layer. The second acid application covered about 80% of the surface, focusing on where we wanted more of the shadows etc to be and burned for 6 hours & then had to be washed & neutralized. The final (3rd) layer we did was mainly touch ups and a few specific areas we wanted to darken. We left that one to burn overnight for about 10 hours or so & washed/neutralized it the following morning.
Once everything was thoroughly washed and air dried, Atom put two coats of this wicked expensive food grade porous sealer over the whole thing. After a couple days it was dry & then he put the final wet look concrete sealer over the top of it. He did a total of four coats of this stuff and each one took 24 hours to dry. Holy moly the end result is amazing and we couldn’t be happier! The countertops are SUPER SHINY!!!!!
We decided to go with a half-brick backsplash and Atom put those up this week as well and just grouted them in yesterday afternoon. Once the grout is all set we can clean off the bricks and we will use the same wet look sealer to seal them (but only one coat- don’t need to go crazy with it on the bricks). We will reseal the countertops annually.
We already have all of the wood purchased for the cabinets and all of the appliances as well. The bummer that came of the countertops is that from all of the sanding/grinding, the wood floors will have to be totally redone all over again. Sucks, but it’s a lesson learned. We’re going to build the giant island in the middle of the kitchen BEFORE we refinish the floor. The appliances will all go into place to have the kitchen fully functional & cabinets built & stained/painted before we start on the island.
Our children are super excited to be out of school for the summer next week so we will be spending a lot of time with them working on our giant garden (stay tuned for that post!) that they started alongside the building a month ago as well as other fun things over the next 3 months until they go back to school. And find time to keep working on the kitchen!
It’s also time to start planning our annual summer block party!!
Happy summer friends!