All About: Concrete Countertops

updated Jun 5, 2019
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Are you thinking about renovating your kitchen? Doing research on countertop materials? If so, then our Countertop Spotlight series will help you. Today we look at the pros and cons of concrete countertops:

Material: Concrete

Overview: Concrete countertops are made from a general-purpose mortar mix: one part cement to three parts sand. To avoid the appearance of a sidewalk, concrete countertops can have any color added to them, and must be sealed to make them non-porous and heat- and- stain- resistant. The end result is an industrial looking surface.

Environmental Impact: Cement production and transportation are very energy-intensive, but the impact can be reduced if the aggregate pieces are recycled or locally sourced.

Pros: Heat-resistant; very durable if sealed; shapes, edge details, and texture can be fully customized (i.e. you can add recycled glass or stone pieces into the mixture); can be made to look seamless with a filler.

Cons: MUST be sealed to protect it from stains, water and heat damage, and bacterial growth, but even with sealing moisture or oil can make the countertop look “wet” and sloppy; can be expensive depending on the level of customization required.

Installation: Installation and grinding concrete can generate large quantities of dust, so be sure to take proper health precautions in your home.

Price range: $65 – $135 per square foot, depending on the amount of custom work required.

Kitchn Reader Reviews:

I have them in my rental which leads me to think that I don’t have the best ones out there. However, I do kind of hate them. They’re sealed but they still stain really easily. I’m always rushing to wipe up any colored spills. I scrub them but they take forever to dry. And leaving a printed food package on a damp spot will leave a very accurate imprint of that package on my counter that will take 20 minutes to scrub off. The worst is oil. It discolors it in a way that I have not been able to remove. – Bklynchic
We have concrete countertops and yes, they were sealed by the manufacturer. Within a month, stains from drops of oil and vinegar from general cooking stained the countertops severely. Every drop is small, so we considered them a patina and sign of our frequent and joyful cooking. However, there are many other stains, many which have an unknown origin. There is a banana outline on the counter, ring marks from various containers, and where the water from the sink drips, a crackled patina. Every where there is a new stain or drop of something, the surface of the concrete changes, where something acidic has spattered, it’s very rough to the touch. Ee have tried buffing, sanding, resealing, talking to the concrete manufacturer (now out of business) and nothing has worked. We have had these for less than a year now and have vowed to never get concrete countertops again. They are extremely heavy and were custom built, so replacing them is going to be an expensive and time-consuming upheaval. – Pedalpowered
I’m an avid baker and cook and when my husband and I remodeled our kitchen this year we poured our own concrete countertops. We borrowed the Cheng book from the library and bought some of his products to mix in with our bagged concrete. Although making them was challenging, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love the look and find that they are not hard to care for. Most of the problems that people mention can be avoided if you use a good wax and also a good sealer. We used Cheng for both and had good results. Concrete can stain, especially if the seal is wearing thin, but we have not had a problem with it even with heavy use. – Gilliang
I’ve lived with my DIY’d concrete countertops for four years. It is NOT the material for people that want a pristine, perfect looking surface 100% of the time. My taste leans toward character, patina and things that look like they are used and functional, so I love mine. They are what I think of as a living surface. They are not maintenance free. Even if well sealed, citrus juice or other acid will etch them, but this is easily polished away with a 600 or 800 grit diamond hand pad. Oil can and will soak into them. The effect of this probably depends on the color and finish of the tops to begin with. It doesn’t bother me (mine are plain, uncolored concrete), and eventually it evens out. I roll out pastry and work with very wet doughs on mine at least once a week. I think it’s a fabulous surface for that, comparable to marble. They do require re-sealing and waxing a couple of times a year, but the frequency of this totally depends on the sealer you choose and your tolerance for shiny vs. dull. Mine have NO cracks after 4 years. Cracks are a fabrication issue that CAN be prevented in almost every case… I would do it again in a heartbeat, both the decision to use them and the DIY. – Splatgirl

Readers, do you experience with concrete countertops? Tell us below!

Related Kitchn and Apartment Therapy Posts:
• Can You Give Me an Honest Opinion on Concrete Countertops?
• Our Visit to the Concrete Countertop Workshop
• How To Make DIY Concrete Countertops

(Images: 1. Monika Gromek; 2. Jill Slater; 3. Leela Cyd Ross; 4. Jill Slater; 5. Apartment Therapy)