Concrete Finish-ed

We’re rounding the corner on this house, and can’t WAIT to have our Master Bathroom back; no offense Mili, but sharing your tub just isn’t hacking it.

And with that, comes the next step in our arduous journey to remodel this space:

The counters…

img_5735

Yep, they’re yellow and green…yep, those are seashell sinks…yes, they ARE crafted into the stonework.

Quick aside: what the **** happened in the 1970’s? Maybe one day I’ll take a class on the history of house décor and style to find out what the interior designers were thinking throughout each of these decades, but c’mon.

I digress…it’s time to give these shells back to the beach they came from:

img_5740

You can see the remnants of the lovely wallpaper the previous owner decided to put up. You can also see the wonderful tool I used to get the counters off. I felt a little bad about ruining the stone, but I quickly overcame those feelings once the room was rid of the delicious green and yellow color scheme. Now on to installation!

Much like with our counter project in the downstairs guest bath, we installed sheets of plywood cut to the size of the counters (3 layers with staggered joints):

img_5743

How “deep” you cut the counters (i.e., how far they will hang over the cabinets) is completely up to you; most countertops have an overhang of 2″, so that’s what we used.

To secure the plywood, I marked the location of the cabinet frame, and then used 2″ wood screws in combination with Liquid Nails for each additional layer.

Next, you’ll want to dry fit the sinks you intend to install to make the necessary cutouts prior to cementing:

img_5746

Again, the placement of the sinks is to your discretion, but you’ll want to ensure they are in a location that is compatible with your current plumbing setup and in a spot that doesn’t interfere with the cabinet drawers.

Once you’ve determined a good spot for your sinks, you’ll want to trace out the shape of the sink onto your countertop base (your reference line); then…VERY IMPORTANT…trace out another line inside the reference line. If you cut along the reference line, your sink will fall right through. For our two bathrooms, I used a radii difference of 1.5″.

Using a hole saw or other large drill bit, drive a hole into the inner traced shaped (try to go as close to the inner line as possible to prevent excess work). You can then use a jig saw to cut your sink drops out of your countertop base.

We’re on to concrete-ing! I’ve added a video (a tinslam first!) to explain the process of using the Ardex Concrete product:

After your first coat, you should have a product similar to this; like I mentioned in the video, it usually takes a few hours for the Ardex to dry, and I wouldn’t recommend sanding for at least 12 hours to ensure it has completed finish adhering. On subsequent coats, you can get away with a little less stringent wait times as you won’t be applying as much.

img_5852

After the first coat has dried, sand the surface with 80 grit paper to remove any ridges or uneven portions of the surface; you’ll then want to take 120-220 to smooth the surface. Don’t fret too much if you sand away the concrete on your first coat, since you’ll be applying subsequent coats to cover any bare areas. After sanding, you should be left with something like this:

img_5856

NOTE: concrete dust is VERY fine; it will get everywhere. It’s very important to not only where a mask when sanding, but to cover/remove/mask any areas or items that you don’t want covered with dust.

I would advise repeating the process of Ardex application and sanding at least 2 more times to ensure you’ve built up enough of the product on the counters (you don’t want to seal your counters and then notice particle board peeking through).

Once you get to the third/fourth coat, you can “spot” apply to particular areas instead of full coats:

img_5881

On your final coat, I would recommend hand sanding using 220 or higher in order to get that silky smooth texture on the surface of your counters. At this point, you’ll start to see the final “look” of your counters (i.e. the striations, patterns, grain, etc.). If there are areas on the counters that you don’t like the look of for whatever reason, you can always apply more Ardex or sand them away:

img_5899

Oh yeah, we also painted those cabinets! #whitepaintstrikesagain

Now…on to sealing! There are many concrete sealers out there, normally used for garages and outdoor spaces; they can usually be found in the paint section of your local hardware store, but often times near the concrete mix (who would’ve thought). The mixtures can be applied with a brush, roller, or cloth, but for ease of use I would recommend a roller to prevent streaks:

img_5902

Often times, people will pair the sealing with a wax coat to give it a little more sheen, but I’ve found that it can leave your counter tops feeling “tacky” if not done properly. In this particular bathroom, we opted to use two coats of sealant and no wax:

img_5906

After your sealant has dried (48 hours for our product), you can go about setting your sinks/faucets and plumbing (all that masking is my OCD way of ensuring a smooth caulking seam with no residue):

img_5916

Congratulations! You’re finished – feel free to run your hands over the cool-to-the-touch industrial feel of your counters; feel free to knock on them too (trust me, it’s gratifying)!

img_5921

We eventually got to installing a backsplash to match our shower tile with our leftover mosaic (1 pt. for efficiency); a little paint, a few knobs, and some décor, and we finally finished our master spa…I mean bathroom. Your darn right I’m proud:

img_5964