Forming grids for laying the concrete
An integral concrete sink in a countertop is created using a "hand pressed" technique with a stiff concrete mix.
Concrete is being mixed in a paddle style mixer.
In this process the concrete surface is going through wet grinding with diamond tooling.
The terra cotta orange concrete has embedded metal gears with blue concrete inside them.
A wine glass stem has been embedded in this concrete surface.
A sleek, contemporary kitchen with soft gray countertop and full-height backsplash.
Cure: Concrete hardens and strengthens through a chemical curing process. Slabs must be kept damp and covered during the curing period. The length of time needed to cure to an appropriate strength depends on the properties of the mix.
Process: The forms are stripped away, and then the slabs are flipped over. Depending on the mix design and method, the slabs may require grinding, slurrying with a cement paste to fill air holes in the concrete and polishing. Usually edge designs have already been cast in the countertop; however, it is possible to use diamond tooling to cut edge designs, but any aggregates in the concrete will be exposed.
Stain or Dye (Optional): Some craftsmen use acid stain or dyes to color the surface of the concrete. Sometimes these colorings are applied over integrally colored concrete to give more depth of color or patterning, or over stencils to create an intricate pattern.
Seal: Concrete must be sealed. Many of the performance properties of concrete countertops (stain resistance, acid resistance, heat resistance, scratch resistance, required maintenance) depend on the sealer. Concrete countertop manufacturers use a wide range of sealers, from penetrating to film-building, that provide a wide range of performance characteristics, gloss and build levels.
Install: Installation is performed almost exactly like granite countertops.
Note that as far as the client is concerned, the process is very much like other types of countertop materials — they are templated and installed. As far as the manufacturer/fabricator is concerned, however, the processes can be very different, especially with poured countertops versus premade concrete slab fabrication. We will revisit this issue later, but for now let's explore how concrete countertops are similar to solid surface.
One of the main differentiators of solid surface materials from natural stone products, like granite and marble, is the customizability of the product. A skilled fabricator is a craftsman in the true sense of the word. Like solid surface, there is an increasing demand for custom features like built-in drainboards, integral sinks, seamless backsplashes or special designs etched into the tops to achieve a more custom and personalized product.
This uniqueness and personalization is what clients most desire in concrete countertops. Concrete countertops also offer many customizations and features, including drainboards, sinks, backsplashes, decorative designs, embedments, custom colors and custom thicknesses or sculptural elements.
From a performance point of view, concrete countertops and solid surface also have many characteristics in common. Depending on the sealer used, concrete countertops may be highly stain-, chemical-, scratch- and heat-resistant. Concrete countertops are usually colored throughout using pigments mixed into the concrete. If any chips occur, they can be repaired, although the repair will not be invisible.