DIY Concrete Counter Top Using Overlay Approach
A few people have asked about the products that were used for this project…
The first layer (troweled over the metal lathe to about 1/4″ thickness) can be a high-polymer thinset mortar that is normally used for setting porcelain tiles. For added flexibility and stickiness, polymer admix can be used instead of water when preparing the mix. The second layer can be a polymer enriched sanded grout, again prepared with polymer admix instead of water. And the third and final layer(s) can be unsanded grout without the polymer addition (the top layers want to not be so sticky). The sanding steps don’t really have to be intensive if your trowel work produces the flatness that you desire.
For this project I made my own mixes using raw cement, lime, and fancier cementitious materials just because I wanted to learn and experiment. But over-the-counter materials as mentioned in the above paragraph are essencially the same. To finish I used a few coats of a food-safe solvent based tile sealer, the kind used for non glazed porcelain and terracotta tiles, followed by a cocktail mixture of tung oil, natural solvent, beeswax, and carnuba wax to seal the surface.
It has been a year and a half since the project was completed, and I WOULD do this again. You should know however that the surface DOES “stain.” Over time and use it develops a patina. Common use areas morph into different shades and colors depending on what was above those areas and for how long. This may be a deal-breaker for some people, however this is exactly the look I was trying to achieve. Over time the varying shades blend into use-shapes as you would expect for example from leather or copper goods. It should also be mentioned that doing a concrete counter this way as opposed to the pour-in method or making a mold, saved many hundreds of extra pounds of dead weight sitting on the cabinets and weighing down on the foundation.
Lastly – to get experience with the process I experimented with a couple af ad hoc counters to be used as gardening tables (seen in the very early parts of the video). This ended up to be very important since from the start I realized I was going to make a big mess.
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Last update 2020-09-20. Price and product availability may change.