Concrete Countertops Pros and Cons List
Concrete is a solid building material that business and homeowners have been using for years. It’s popularity is rapidly increasing for its versatility and durability. It is becoming especially popular for countertops. Before you start redesigning your entire kitchen or bath, however, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of concrete.
List of Pros for Concrete Countertops
1. Color Choices
One of the strongest reasons for considering concrete for your countertops is the endless color options. There is no reason for your freshly remodeled bath to look like you laid a slab of sidewalk across the vanity. Pigmented or stained concrete is actually very beautiful. And it can be stained to match any color you can imagine. So no matter what color scheme you choose for your new room, your countertops can match seamlessly.
Speaking of seams, they are another consideration to keep in mind when choosing a countertop surface. Large countertops need to assembled in pieces. Some surfaces, like laminate, have invisible seams. Others, like granite, will show where two pieces come together. Concrete does have visible seams, but color matching fillers can be used to make them invisible.
3. Custom Shapes
If you have typical rectangular countertop surfaces, almost any material will do. But if you are working with an irregular space or simply trying to add visual interest to your work area, concrete can be poured to match any shape. Custom designed shapes will cost more than standard countertops, but they will also leave you with a one of a kind surface area.
4. Embeddable Objects
When you do decide to go custom, your imagination is your only limitation. If you are putting up a little vacation home near the ocean, you can have seashells embedded into your countertops. Recycled glass adds color and sparkle to your space and even little pebbles can be interesting and beautiful. Whatever you want to add, it can be done in concrete.
The unique character of concrete is not for everyone. Overtime, it will develop a patina of age. If you want a pristine work surface that will always look brand new, concrete is probably not for you. But if you appreciate character and want a unique space that tells its own story, then you might be one of the many customers who find concrete only gets more beautiful as the years go by.
6. Heat Resistant
When it comes to practical matters beyond appearance, concrete still shows up most of its competition. When it comes to high heat, concrete can take anything that you throw at it. This is just as important in the bathroom, with its curling irons and straighteners, as it is in the kitchen with stoves and ovens.
Concrete is also very durable, as you would expect from something that is used to make sidewalks that sit outside in the elements year after year after year. If you have children running through your house or love to entertain with large gatherings, you won’t have to worry about somebody damaging your countertops. They are very scratch resistant, so you can show off your new space without fear of any harm being done.
Concrete’s rise in popularity may also be due in part to the increased awareness of sustainability issues. It takes a large amount of energy to create concrete countertops. On the other hand, slag cement, fly ash and silica fume-all industrial waste products-can be recycled into concrete countertops which prevents this debris from going into a landfill.
9. DIY Possibilities
If you are an ambitious do-it-yourselfer, it is not difficult to pour your own concrete countertops on site. Of course, what this saves you in money you will pay for in time. But you gain the satisfaction of using your new work surfaces with the pride of knowing that you made it with your own two hands.
Price per square foot for concrete countertops is hard to nail down because it is so customizable. If you go with a basic shape and minimal coloring, you can expect to spend around $65 per square foot, which isn’t bad when compared to other surface materials. If you want a highly customized shape or decide to embed objects into the concrete, the price rapidly climbs, though it stays under $150 per square foot. Even at the high end, it is still cheaper than granite and quartz, which are the most comparable surfaces.
List of Cons of Concrete Countertops
As strong and durable as concrete is, it does need regular maintenance to keep it in top shape. Bare concrete is very porous. This makes it stain easily. Even water can soak into the surface and discolor it. For this reason, sealants are almost always applied to protect it.
There are many, many different sealants on the market and some work better than others. It will pay off if you take time to do your research on which sealant people have had the best results with. There are penetrating sealants that soak into the concrete to keep it from absorbing other liquids and there are surface sealants that create a barrier as a layer of protection.
One of the important things to keep in mind is that your concrete countertops will need resealed regularly. A new coat will be needed at least once a year. Many sealants require multiple coats throughout the year. Some sealants are almost odorless, but others leave a very strong smell behind. You will want to apply them on days when you will be out of the house for much of the time.
No sealant is perfect. You will still have to be diligent about cleaning up spills quickly. Water may leave a discoloration, but it should disappear over time. Other substances like red wine will leave a much more permanent mark. Oil splatters around the stove may not show up immediately, but the next morning they will be visible and by then they are much harder to clean. For this reason, you should take care to wipe up around your stove after any cooking project, whether it looks messy or not.
4. Wear and Tear
Even with the most diligent care, your concrete countertops are eventually going to start to show wear and tear. Under the list of pros, this was called a patina and some people really do consider it beautiful. But to other people patina is just a fancy word for stains. Even if you learn to love that unique look, keep in mind what it will look like to visitors in your home.
As anyone who has ever walked on a sidewalk has noticed, concrete can crack overtime. Precast concrete that is poured in a shop and then installed in your home is usually fairly durable, though it can occasionally crack. Concrete that is poured in place is more problematic. As it cures and settles, it often develops tiny hairline cracks. These cracks do not affect the structural stability of your surface. They do, however, mar the smooth finish if that is what you were after. They also create more openings for spills to run through the sealant and make your concrete even more vulnerable to stains.
6. Deep Cleaning
If, or more realistically, when, your concrete stains, you may be able to get rid of the discoloration, but you need to approach the process carefully. In some cases, elbow grease may do the trick, but you will have to be prepared for long hours of scrubbing. Harsh chemical cleaners can do more damage to your countertop than just leaving the stain in place. You can always sand down and reseal your countertops, but this creates a lot of dust in your home.
Many people complain about scratches on their concrete countertops. As noted under the list of pros, concrete is very scratch resistant. Sealants, however, are not nearly as durable. Acrylic sealants in particular, do an excellent job of protecting your surface from stains but they are very vulnerable to scratches.
If you are a perfectionist, concrete countertops are probably not for you. Due to the nature of the concrete and available sealants, you will most likely end up with either scratches or stains across the surface. If that rugged characterization appeals to you, concrete countertops might be perfect for you. They will provide you with a nearly indestructible surface that can start out completely unique and only become more so with time.