Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hey, Remember When We Had a Blog?

Sup, boos?

I can't tell you how many times Husbo or I have said to each other, "we should blog about that."  Oh, the intentions are good but when it comes to loading up pictures, typing up our thoughts and making sure it strikes that infamous balance of humor and content...well, the bag of Oreos and the couch normally win out.

But even though I think New Year's Resolutions are dumb, I suppose now is as good a time as ever to get back into it.  And since we undertook a DIY project that a lot of people requested more deets about, the "comeback" blog topic seemed clear: How we turned our fugly laminate countertops into high-class concrete beauties.

Pssst, here's a secret: we didn't reinvent the wheel.

Through the magic world of Pinterest, I stumbled upon this a few months ago when my mom had asked that we redo her outdoor bar for a Christmas present.

It's hard to hate it when you've got an adorable cat as your Vanna White.
My first thought was some type of tile mosaic top, but it was a bit too traditional for my taste.  I'd always loved the idea of concrete counters but everything I knew about making them was they're time consuming, extremely heavy and require some work area.  None of those items sounded like a party to me.  So when I stumbled upon the Kara Paslay tutorial for essentially skim coating your existing counter...I was sold.  

Since they did such a good job going through the steps, I'll walk you through the few things we may have done differently and load you up with pictures.  From an iPhone.  B/c we still don't own a real camera.  (Judge not, Nikon elitists.) 

As they mention, whatever surface you're looking to resurface, the subsurface needs to be roughed up to "grip" the concrete.  For the bar, we removed the padded border to expose the laminate counter.  Once we did that, we were concerned with how thin the top was.  We had planned on sanding the top down, but visually, it was going to look too dinky.  So we went to Lowes and had them cut a piece of good exterior-grade plywood to add to the top to beef it up.

Husbo squirting the Liquid Nails to the existing top.

Plywood added, clamped to keep it in place.

Screwing new plywood into place.
We also added a piece of 1x2 trim to the front (you'll see it in a picture in a minute) to give the front a nice smooth finish.  We were mildly concerned if the two surfaces weren't perfectly flush, there'd be an odd line or gap at the front.  No bueno.

When it came to our kitchen counters, we didn't have the option (nor did we need) to add plywood on top.  The edges are bullnosed and there was a backsplash that would have been a nightmare to work the wood around.  
You're gross, old counter.  I hate you.
So to get these puppies ready, Husbo took a palm sander and went to town.  But let me back up a second.  If you're getting ready to do what we did, you ought to take some of the same precautions.  

1) Unload the kitchen.  Take everything out of there.  Pictures, appliances, doodads and chotchkies.  
2) Cover the major appliances that can't be removed (the refrigerator, range, etc.)

3) Cover any registers feeding the room.  With all that dust floating around, you'd hate to get it sucked up in the HVAC and blown out into your bedroom.  
4) We had one door we could close and the other opening we taped up a giant sheet.  Just seal off the room in whatever way you can.
5) Wear a face mask.  Or make one and play cops and robbers.

There's a new sheriff in town.
Ok...NOW you can go to town.  Let me just tell you...if cleaning up the giant mess that will ensue makes you faint at heart, don't do this project.  I don't see anyway of avoiding how to keep your kitchen from looking like a bunch of Cuban gangsters had a giant cocaine party in your house.  

I swear Dexter doesn't do crack.  He's just fat and lazy.
When it comes to obtaining Ardex in the RDU area, our local supplier is Fishman Flooring Solutions.  They are out on Corporation Parkway and they're awesome.  They are actually a vendor of mine through work but you can walk in and buy right off the shelf.   They're also Wolfpack fans so you know they're good folk.

The directions on the bag tell you when making smaller batches, it's about 2 parts concrete to 1 part water.  We found that it came closer to 1 to 1.  Ultimately, you want the consistency to be like pancake batter.  Not too thick, not too thin.  

Don't make too much at once.  You can always make more.  If you make too big a batch, it will begin to thicken up and become harder to work with.  Luckily, Husbo and I were able to work at the same time (save for the times I was snapping pictures) so that we could move quickly.

Notice the trim piece we added to the front here.

We did two thin coats at mom's bar and on our kitchen counters.  It took about 2 hours for the first coat to dry so we could trowel on the 2nd.  

Use your finger to help smooth/mold any hard areas like the bullnose curve or where the backsplash meets the counter.

Give it a light hand sanding between coats and wipe with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

Drying.  Give it one more light sand once you're done to smooth out any rough spots.


Once the concrete is fully dry (we waited over night to be sure), it's time to seal.  We didn't use the sealer Kara Paslay recommended due to not being able to find it. I did some research and found a water based sealer that would work on porous concrete and picked it up at Lowes.

Make sure it's water based if you're going to put it on a surface where food is prepared!
Then it's as simple as brushing on the sealer.  We put four coats on the counter to make sure it was really sealed well.  It took about 45 minutes to an hour between coats.  Luckily, we had gotten into watching Downton Abbey so we had plenty to do while we waited.  

Look at that lovely semi-gloss shine.
Even after the last coat was dry to the touch, to be safe, we let it cure another 12 hours or so before putting anything back on it.  Better safe than sorry, I suppose. 

We like the "hand troweled" look.  You can always try to smooth it out a bit more if that's not your jam.

Overall, we're really pleased with how it turned out.  We rent our house and so a lot of folks have asked if our landlord cares.  Well our landlord doesn't know.  But he also isn't aware of how many bedrooms this place has so I highly doubt he'll remember what the counters look like.  Plus, it's a giant upgrade in our opinion.  

When the counter gets wet, it gets dark in those areas, but it dries no problem.  We've had the ones in our kitchen for just over a week and have made food, spilled things, etc and they are holding up well.  We'll let you know if that changes.

Well, maybe.  We all know how good we are at keeping up with this thing.