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DIY Concrete Countertops

A major point of contention with the house was the hideous laminate that "devoured" the kitchen, as I dramatically liked to say. In the search for affordable countertop fixes, my favorite one was concrete. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the easiest and cheapest DIY! 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

  • Feather Finish Concrete, I used this one from Home Depot (one bag did the trick!)
  • A drywall knife
  • A small bucket
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Concrete wax, like this one
  • Food safe sealer, like this one
  • A paint brush
  • A polisher
  • A paint stirrer or mixing bit

Everyone's prep work will be different, I've read that you can apply the concrete directly to your countertop after sanding it up a bit. In my case, removal of the laminate layer was necessary in order to get the laminate backsplash off of the wall. Pesky miniature flashing thingy!

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After what I can only describe as a demo derby, it was time to mix the concrete. Mixing was definitely daunting at first, you only want to mix as much as you can spread without it drying in the bucket. It will take a few tries to get the right consistency and amount, but once you get the ball rolling, you'll feel like a certified chemist. Peanut butter is what you're going for.

If you've ever made a mean PB&J sandwich, you can create concrete countertops! Thin layers are key! I tried to avoid as many trowel marks as possible, but in the end, any I missed actually added more "cool factor" in my opinion. You can always sand down your mishaps as well, this project is almost foolproof. Let each layer of concrete dry completely before starting the next one, kind of like painting a wall, if you go to do the next layer before it's dry, you'll just take off the layer you did before. I lightly sanded in between each coat with fine grit sand paper. When it comes to the edges of the counter, I wound up using my finger to press the concrete on. After about three layers, I was pleased with the look and decided to stop. I'm sure I'll eventually add another layer down the road for maintenance purposes, but for right now, I can dig it.

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I brushed on about 3 coats of sealer (sealer + water, then a little less water, then almost none--check the directions on the bottle for exact amounts). Let each layer completely soak into the concrete before applying the next. After sealing comes waxing! This part was fun, I channeled my inner Mr. Miagi by waxing on...then off... The electric buffer made a huge difference in the amount of elbow grease applied. After about 2 coats of wax, I tested the absorbency (we're aiming for little to none here) of the concrete by splashing a few drops of water on it. Nothing soaked in! I was done!

It's been about 2 months now, and the counters still look exactly as they did when I finished them! I'm not sure how an avid cook would fare, but we haven't had any issues so far. I've read that I'll want to seal again every few months, and I started using this stone cleaner as well, just in case. Overall this project took 2 days after allowing all layers of concrete to dry overnight before sealing and waxing. Not bad at all!

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

I would like to start this post out by saying that I really did my research on this. I have so many tutorials saved on my Pinterest, that I really wasn't sure where to look first, or who to listen to. I ended up using this one from Young House Love. The tutorial itself was great and I'm happy with the results, but I definitely learned a lot along the way. Most important being that I will never do this again! Second most important being, that sometimes, it's easier to do touch ups when all of your doors are hung back up. You'll see what I mean.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

  • drill (I imagine a screwdriver would work just fine, but do yourself and your hands a favor and grab a drill for this one)
  • sandpaper (80 grit, 120 grit), I used an electric one which made a process a whole heck of a lot easier
  • oil based primer, I used this one.
  • acrylic paint color of your choosing, I went with A Bit of Sugar by Behr for the uppers and Intellectual by Behr on the lowers.
  • gloves (I learned this the hard way after day one with the oil based paint)
  • drop cloths
  • painters pyramids or anything else to keep your doors above the floor, I went with some extra quarter rounds I'll be eventually putting in the bathroom
  • paint brushes (you'll want the oil based paint to have it's own brushes, cause those are going to get ruined)
  • 4" foam rollers
  • painter's tape
  • caulk, I used this one
  • wood filler, I used this one

I started by removing all of my doors while simultaneously numbering each door/cabinet combo with some painters tape. This took the guesswork out when it came to putting the doors back up. Essential, trust me! I actually left everything in the cabinets during the sanding/painting process. If you have more square footage than I do, by all means remove everything. For me, it was easier to go back through and clean up the dust than to fill the whole house up with canned goods.  I also did the uppers and lowers seperately. In part because I painted them two different colors, but mostly again, to control clutter. 

Next, I sanded down the cabinets and doors with 80 grit sandpaper. Roughing them up definitely helped the oil based primer stick to the wood. Luckily, my cabinets and doors were in pretty good shape and by using oil based primer, I avoided a lot of sanding in between coats (I really only sanded drips or obvious mistakes, I'm sure most would frown upon this, but I'm pleased with the results). 

Once you're all sanded, wipe down your doors and cabinets with a clorox wipe! It acts like a degreaser and collects all of the dust from sanding. As soon as they dry, it's time to open a window and put your gloves on. Oil based paint sucks, there's no way around it.  I painted the backs of the doors first so that the fronts would dry face up. I definitely recommend using something to lay them on, so they're up off of the floor. I used a mixture of painter's triangles and some quarter rounds I had cut for the bathroom trim. When you get to the fronts, paint in the grooves first, then use your roller to cover the rest.

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It took a full day and three coats (one primer, two paint) to do the cabinets and the backs of all the doors, then another day to do the fronts of the cabinets. Again, that was just for the uppers! I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I wasn't on a week's vacation from work. I'm so, so happy with how they came out and I've ordered some hardware already. Stay tuned!