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.
Although many concrete countertops exhibit similarities with solid surface, note there is a very wide range of manufacturing methods that result in different performance and aesthetic characteristics. For example, one common method involves making perfect, watertight molds and using a highly liquefied mix that is vibrated to remove air bubbles. When the concrete is removed from the molds, its surface has a smooth cement skin that forms the final finish once sealed. Concrete countertops made using this method are unlike "solid surface" because they have a very thin fine-grained cement skin over an interior containing larger sand grains and aggregate. They are not uniform throughout. Acid stained or dyed countertops are another example of a nonuniform surface.
Should You Embrace Concrete?
Many surface fabricators now fabricate solid surface and natural stone. Quartz has also increased in popularity, and many fabricators have added this to their offerings. Should you add concrete?
If you consider adding the fabrication of premade concrete slabs, the decision comes down to consumer demand and how you want to position yourself in the market. You may decide to add concrete if you want to offer "green" alternatives or if you have clients who want a different look from other countertop surfaces.
If you are considering adding custom concrete countertop manufacturing to your shop, many business questions enter into consideration:
What types of projects do you do? Concrete countertops are extremely versatile and can be used in almost any application: residential kitchen remodels, downtown condo developments, restaurant bars, furniture such as tables, benches and even chairs, fireplaces, sinks and tubs, to name a few. However, few very large or institutional projects use concrete countertops. There simply aren't enough large manufacturers, and there are no standards as to end performance because so much depends on the sealer and the particular manufacturing method used. So if you specialize in the hospital and education sectors, you are not likely to see much demand for concrete countertops.
Is there demand for concrete countertops in your area? If you do work with custom residential and light commercial projects, are local designers and architects specifying concrete countertops? Are owners asking for them? The demand for concrete countertops currently varies widely in different areas of the country. It tends to be highest in California, on the East Coast, in upper Midwest major metropolitan areas and other areas known for progressive design.
Do you have the shop space to dedicate to mixing and casting equipment? While the equipment requirements for concrete countertops are modest — usually only a few casting tables, a small concrete mixer and some grinding equipment — the casting tables do take up space.
Do you have the staff to dedicate to concrete countertop manufacturing? The skills involved in creating a high-quality concrete countertop have some overlap and differences with those required for solid surface and stone fabrication. The same attention to detail in templating, processing and installation is very important, but there are other skills as well, such as form building, color consistency in mixing, working with the concrete and specialized grinding techniques.
Do you have the time to dedicate to concrete countertop manufacturing? The time required to make a custom concrete countertop is measured in weeks, not hours. The processes described in this article take about 10 working days of time, with some waiting in between.