Through the Thick and Thin of Building a Concrete Countertop
by Deborah Meyer, ConcreteExchange.com
Chris happens to be no stranger to concrete: “My interest goes back several years when I was building restaurants and retail spaces. I installed concrete countertops and worked with concrete artisans doing integral color and stained concrete floors.”
“We both enjoy the process of designing and creating our own living space to fit how we live. This applies to the space we occupy as well as the details within it,” says Ali. “We both like the idea of working with our hands, using materials that are natural, accessible […] and flexible.” Chris added, “Concrete counters are beautiful, cool, earthy, solid, and you just want to touch them. The counters were a perfect way for us to create something beautiful out of our own ideas and hard work, and the uniqueness of the end product is a representation of our unique ideas.”
Like most urban San Francisco properties, space is almost always an issue. To remedy this, a straight run of upper and lower cabinets and a concrete countertop with a dishwasher, sink, oven and stove were placed along one wall of the kitchen. A built-in banquette and dining table are located opposite the concrete countertop work area. An adjacent wall hosts a refrigerator and tall cabinets.
Chris and Ali agree that the most interesting addition to the kitchen is the concrete countertop. The couple's instructional guide and source for design inspiration was award-winning designer Fu-Tung Cheng's Concrete Countertops: Design, Forms, and Finishes for the New Kitchen and Bath (Taunton, 2002), a national bestseller in the remodeling and design genre.
The finished countertop is a visually stunning work surface with rich, complex colors: reddish-brown with flecks of semi-precious Leopardskin (yellow and black) aggregates. “This particular color combination blended perfectly with the color theme we had for the cabinetry, tile backsplash, floor and wall finishes,” says Ali.
Understated design details of the 12-foot long, 3-inch thick concrete countertop include rounded edges at the countertop front and the sink openings as well as a decorative metal strip under the front edge of the countertop to conceal the plywood sub-top.
Chris and Ali took special note that despite the tight working space of their basement, their collaborative work ran smoothly from pour to finish. “Like the rest of our remodeling project, building the concrete countertop brought us closer together,” says Chris. “We work very well together. It starts from the fact that we communicate very well and our design ideas complement each other.”
With the completion of the project and the creative work done, Chris and Ali admit that their biggest challenge was building the concrete forms. “Particularly for the sink cut-out, which has radius corners and two different size basins,” says Chris.
Despite a couple of minor learning curves, Chris maintains that there is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment upon completing their concrete countertop. “The best part is seeing and feeling the finished product and knowing we did it!” It's been said that if a couple can survive a home remodel — especially a DIY project — together, they can survive anything.
From the looks of a job well done on their first concrete countertop, these happy do-it-yourselfers are in it for the long haul. Chris says of future projects, “We plan to create a concrete fireplace surround and perhaps a hearth to go with it!”
Photos courtesy Chris and Ali Collins
For more information on making DIY concrete countertops, please visit www.ConcreteExchange.com .