Q1: Why consider concrete as a material for interior applications, like my kitchen or bathroom counters?
Concrete is an extraordinary material that is practical, expressive, and aesthetic all at once. From a primal and formless slurry, you can transform it into virtually any shape that becomes a solid mass. The possibilities for creative expression are endless. You can grind, polish, stamp, or stain it. You can embed meaningful objects within it.
Q2: What are the advantages of concrete countertops over marble or granite? How does concrete compare to granite in terms of both cost (per square foot) and surface texture?
The biggest advantage of concrete over natural stones like marble or granite is that it is completely customizable; you can sculpt, mold, and texturize it to your desire. If you have a concrete kitchen or bathroom counter made for you, the cost will be based on the complexity of the form, the mold-making process, and the desired finish, rather than the size. Material cost comparisons should be done on a project-by-project basis.
Q3: Do concrete countertops have an application in more traditional kitchens?
Yes, absolutely. Style is dictated by design; concrete can adapt to any look and have a "warmer" feel than other natural stones. Edge detailing and decorative inlays can help a concrete counter blend into more traditional environments.
Q4: Can I use concrete countertops in a commercial kitchen?
In Oregon as well as many states concrete counters are allowed in food surface areas. Here at ICC we use an FDA approved wax on all counters.
Q5: Would concrete countertops be good for outside use—as in an outdoor barbeque countertop? How will a colored concrete counter hold up in the sunshine?
Concrete is perhaps the most common building material for exterior use on the planet, however polished and pigmented concrete require special consideration when placing outdoors. The effects of freeze/thaw along with the wear and tear from weather and natural elements can degrade the polished surface if proper care is not taken. The UV rays from sunlight can fade some types of pigments, most notably the class of pigments known as "organic."
If you live in an area where your concrete countertop will be subject to freeze/thaw conditions, we recommend covering them when not in use during the winter months.
Q6: Can I use concrete countertops as a cutting surface?
As with marble or granite, we do not recommend cutting directly on a concrete surface; it could result in scratches and gouges in the finish of your countertop as well as harm the blades of your knives.
Q7: Can I put a hot pot directly onto a concrete kitchen counter?
Concrete is heat-resistant but is subject to thermal shock if a red-hot object is placed directly upon it. Like granite, the exposed area may flake or chip away if too much heat is applied. In addition, the heat could damage the sealer and wax applied to the concrete surface. We recommend using trivets for hot cookware.
Q8: Can concrete countertops chip, flake, or crack?
Like marble or granite, concrete corners and edges can chip if struck by a hard object. Sealing and rounding the inside corners of a concrete mold, or form, with silicone will ease the edges and prevent chipping. An eased concrete edge is much less likely to chip or flake than a sharp edge.
Q9: Does concrete stain? What type of sealers do you recommend?
Properly sealed concrete should not stain. However, unsealed concrete has approximately the same porosity as limestone and marble. In addition to stain susceptibility, acids (especially red wine, lemon juice, and vinegar) will etch the surface if not cleaned up right away.
Concrete countertop sealers can be segregated into three primary categories: penetrating, hybrid and topical sealers.
Penetrating sealers seal the concrete from inside, leaving the visible surface with minimal protection against staining and etching. Customers who prefer this method, value it's very dynamic nature. They appreciate how quickly it allows the concrete to patina the same way a cutting board or butcher's block changes with use. Mineral oil and tung oil are penetrating sealers.
Topical sealers seal the concrete by building a thick, plastic-looking membrane over the concrete. While this method initially protects the concrete against stains and etching, it is exceptionally vulnerable to scratching, peeling and chipping. Epoxy and polyurethane are topical sealers. Be wary of claims that these types of sealers are "stain-proof;" many of them have a tendency to easily peel off of the countertop.
Hybrid sealers seal the concrete by penetrating deep into the concrete surface while allowing a micro-thin layer of protection on the visible surface. This micro-thin layer completely seals the surface without sacrificing the warmth and beauty of the concrete.CHENG Concrete Countertop Sealer (a hybrid sealer) and CHENG Concrete Countertop Wax work together to create the best performing and most beautiful maintenance system available. CHENG Concrete Countertop Sealer effectively protects concrete from acids, stains and cleaning products while our super durable Concrete Countertop Wax protects the sealer from wear and abrasion. Used together, they are an unbeatable combination.
Q10: Where can I see more images of concrete countertop work? How can I find a local concrete countertop professional?