Thank you for the lovely feedback about our new kitchen! I had some questions about the benchtops so here is the nitty gritty about that process.
Firstly, you may recall that this was not our Plan A. I actually painted the benchtop with laminate paint but we chose a colour that looked horrid against the newly-white cabinets (oops).
We considered our options and ended up deciding on concrete after a friend recommended it. The first thing we did was to give the benchtop a serious sand with coarse grit sandpaper to give the concrete something to adhere to.
We also used a jigsaw to slice off the curved overhang on the end of the kitchen island as we figured it would look like more of a legit concrete slab that way. We weren’t worried about losing a small amount of bench space and in fact the room feels more spacious because the shorter island doesn’t close things in so much.
Moving onto the concrete itself. My friend generously gave me her leftovers of Ardex Feather Finish so we used a 10kg bag between the two of us (with a bit to spare).
I mixed the powder with water with a putty knife in an ice cream container until it formed a smooth paste. It was a bit of trial and error: too runny and it didn’t provide enough coverage and would come off with the sanding; too thick and it would dry too quickly and be impossible to spread smoothly.
We used a broad knife to apply and spread the concrete to get it as smooth as possible. I’d say the coats were about 2mm thick, roughly a quarter of which was then sanded off. I was hoping to get away with two coats but my handiwork was a bit patchy (it was hard to gauge even coverage because the wet concrete was a similar colour to the laminate) so in all I think we ended up doing four coats.
After each coat we left it to dry overnight and scraped off any rough patches on the surfaces and beneath the overhanging using a narrower knife. We followed up with a coarse sandpaper and then a smooth one. The surface isn’t perfect but too much sanding resulted in shiny patches so we are left with a bit of texture which we don’t mind.
We The Man removed the sink and cooktop which was a total PITA to be honest. It was totally worth it for the superior finish around the edges but the project will take a fair bit longer. You’ll have to be willing to take on some basic plumbing and possibly electrical work depending on how your cooker is connected (thankfully ours could pop up without being disconnected).
After the final coat went on we left it to cure for a couple of days.
The Man and I had decided we wanted to keep the natural texture so we were looking for a permeating sealer rather than a topcoat. The sealer we opted for was Stonetech Professional Heavy Duty Exterior Sealer purchased from a local tiling trade supplier.
It went on super easy (like water). I was advised you can get away with one coat generally speaking but we did two to be on the safe side.
It was one of those rollercoaster projects. You know, where one minute you’re like ‘BOOM! I could be a professional concreter.’ and the next you’re chucking a tanty because ‘Waaaaah, NOTHING is going to plan!’.
In fact I was so over it – having spent the best part of two months in the kitchen, doing the majority of the de-wallpapering, painting, tile/laminate painting solo – that The Man swooped in and took care of the final coats. It is not a job for when your patience has run out so I was grateful to step aside into the supporting role.
His approach was a lot more successful than mine. The key is to do the smallest patch at a time – I thought I was doing a small area but in hindsight I needed to go even smaller (maybe 30cm²?). Otherwise your concrete will dry too fast and won’t go on as it should.
The verdict? Well I’m not in a hurry to try concreting anything else, but we adore the kitchen. The combination of an industrial look plus a natural, textured feel is a winner in our book. It was harder and more time-consuming than expected (isn’t that always the way?) but the result was worth it.
The only thing is, despite our total paranoia we have had some staining from splattered cooking oil around the cooktop and another couple of drips on the island. So if I was doing it again I’d use a matte topcoat instead of a permeating sealer. Unfortunately if we did a topcoat now we’d just be sealing in the current stains so we’re not quite sure how to deal with that yet (suggestions welcome!).
If you missed the progress or want to remind yourself of the before photos, here is the kitchen makeover part 1, kitchen benchtop dilemma and makeover part 2.