My Experience Installing Ardex Concrete Countertops

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NOTE: I’m NOT an expert, this is simply my personal experience. 

Alright friends, the wait is over. I’m finally sharing my experience Installing Ardex Concrete Countertops in our new kitchen! (Note: when I went to write this post I realized a lot of my pictures didn’t turn out so well, so be sure to read through all the details because I’m sharing a lot of insights in between the pics) 

Now before we dive in, let’s discuss a few hot topics. The total cost for my entire kitchen (plus bathroom) countertops was just $200! It’s messy. Like really messy. Would I do it again? YES. How hard is it? ANYONE CAN DO THIS. Is it a lot of work? YES. Ok now that we got that out of the way, I’m going to share some tips and tricks I learned along the way.

How to Install Faux Concrete Countertops Using Ardex Feather Finish! Entire kitchen costs her $200! designdininganddiapers.com

I first discovered this technique when I stumbled up this post from Kara Paslay Designs a few years ago. I’ll admit, I was super intimidated when I first read it, I hadn’t seen it done anywhere else and I just tucked the idea away. And then a friend of mine actually did her kitchen using it and after seeing her countertops  and talking through the process it motivated me to do my own.

I did a trial run on my bathroom back in October and I definitely learned from my experience (we’ll chat more about that later) and decided to do my kitchen with a few changes. And I’m SO SO happy I Did.

Supplies

Ardex Feather Finish (I could only find this locally at Home Depot, but Amazon also carries it. I used 3 1/2 boxes and they cost me $16 a piece at HD) : Scorer ( I used a Utility Knife) : Bucket : Something To Mix With : Flat Trowel : Rags : Painter’s Tape : Mouse Sander : 50 Grit Sand Paper : 220 Grit Sand Paper : Vacuum : Water-Based Acrylic Concrete Sealer : Paint Brush : Food Safe Concrete Wax : Buffer  : Masks 

 

Prepping

Ardex Concrete Countertop Tutorial 1

Like any project, prep work is involved. Clean off your counters, remove the sink and REMOVE THE STOVE. I didn’t remove the stove and attempted to work around it. FAIL. When we removed our old appliances, part of the countertop chipped off and I had to repair it. Thankfully these countertops are SO easy to fix so it wasn’t a huge issue but I would remove the stove to prevent any problems.

Taping. Ok. Here is the deal. Definitely tape under the countertops to protect the cabinets but I have mixed feelings about taking around the edges. It did help but once the concrete dried it was hard to remove the tape and again, parts chipped off. If I were to do this again, I may try just being really careful with the trowel and wiping the walls down as I go. On the bright side, the concrete actually washes off the walls really easily even after it dries. 

I would also suggest covering your floors, especially if you have nice ones because this stuff is messy. Really messy.

Ardex Concrete Countertop Tutorial 2

To prep your surface you need to score it. I used a standard utility knife to rough it up so the concrete had something to adhere to. But man this is that moment when you get this sudden rush of  ‘Ok, there is no turning back now because I just destroyed my countertops’

Applying Concrete

Ardex Concrete Countertops 3

Using a 2:1 ratio of powder to water, mix your first batch. I found that a batch of 4 cups concrete to 2 cups of water was the perfect amount to work with at a time. Mixing the concrete is very similar to mixing thin set or grout when tiling. You just want a good peanut butter consistency.

TIP: If you wait more than 20 minutes to mix a new batch, throughly clean out your bucket or get a new one. I ended up getting a bunch of plastic bins at the Dollar Tree because I had limited chunks of time to work on these and if I left my container for too long and then mixed another batch in the same container, huge chunks of concrete will break off and get in your batch. So I generally just tossed the container once I was done working for that time period.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 19

Using a flat trowel, apply the concert to the laminate countertop. My first coat was always pretty rough and uneven. The left shows the concrete right after I applied it. And the right is about an hour after. You can see how it’s starting to lighten and harden.

TIP: Applying concrete to the edges can be tricky. I found that waiting until the concrete hardened a bit helped and I ended up using my hands instead of the trowel. I decided to apply thick layers with my hands knowing I could sand them down later.

TIP: Be sure to periodically clean your trowel. If the concrete dries on the trowel, you’ll start to notice marks in the concrete as you apply it. 

Ardex Concrete Countertops 6

As you can see, as I applied each layer it got smoother and smoother.

TIP: I waited until the first few layers of concrete started to dry before doing the backsplash piece. If you do it when it’s wet, the trowel with remove what you just applied on the counter. 

Ardex Concrete Countertops 20

Here is what my countertops looked like prior to sanding. They are not perfect and pretty rough in some areas. Getting around the outlets was tough. Again, it was hard to maneuver a trowel so I used my hands and sanded down later. Just be careful not to apply too much concrete over the outlet screws (I had to chip some away) because you’ll need to pull those out 1/4″ before putting the covers back on due to the increased thickness of the counters.

Sanding

*SANDING AND SEALING ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS*

Ardex Concrete Countertops 9

In case you missed my bold statement above, sanding and sealing the countertops are THE most important part of the process. And just to give you a heads up, I sanded for easily 5-7 hours. I wanted my countertops to be as smooth as possible so I worked really hard at sanding. Of course there are still imperfections which adds to the beauty, but I wanted them really smooth to touch.

It gets really dusty, so I suggest taping off the area with a tarp and wearing a mask.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 10

Start with 50 grit paper to sand down really rough spots, but don’t do much more than that. The 50 grit will remove more of your countertops than you want and may cause some of the edges to pop through. Quickly switch to a 220 grit because this will give you that really smooth finish. Now sand. Keep sanding and sanding and sanding.

If you start to see parts of the counter top pop through, don’t stress too much because you can always go back and touch them up with more concrete. That’s the beauty of working with this stuff. It’s pretty fool proof because you can reapply it.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 11

Here is what mine looked like close up. You’ll want to vacuum periodically to remove the dust and see the countertops better.

Sealing

Sealing the countertops is a huge deal. This is a make or break decision. Concrete countertops are really porous and stain really easily. I waited a few days to seal ours and we used our stove and the oil stained the countertops. Thankfully I could fix it by sanding and applying more concrete! But seriously, the right sealer is really important.

Ok. Anyway I did A LOT of research on this topic because I didn’t like how our bathroom turned out and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND going with a Water Based Acrylic Concrete Sealer. The Acrylic part is key. This leaves a hard finish and really protects the surface. Here is a chart I put together to help understand the difference between the two sealers I used in the bathroom and kitchen.

*Note. I’m not an expert, this is just my experience. Also note, neither of these sealers are certified food safe. The only concrete sealer I found that was certified food safe was not acrylic, had horrible reviews and was not the look I was going for. I never put my food directly on my counters and eat it, so this didn’t bother me.  PLUS, the wax you end with IS food safe. 

Tips for Choosing A Concrete Countertop Sealer by designdininganddiapers.com

I’m going to be sanding down our bathroom vanity and resealing it.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 12

So when is it safe to seal your countertops? A really knowledgable guy at the hardware store taught me a trick. He said that I didn’t necessarily have to wait the full 30 days to seal (like it says on the back of the can), I just needed to wait until all the moisture was out. SO. He suggested that I tape a square of plastic wrap down and wait 24 hours and if no moisture appeared I was good to go.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 13

I used this Water-Based Acrylic Sealer in Satin and I loved how it turned out. I’d do it again in a heart beat.

Ardex Concrete Countertops 14

The countertops are going to get really dark when you apply your first layer, but it doesn’t take long for them to lighten up a bit (they will still keep a wet look). You can see some of those darker areas in the picture above, those are areas that must have missed the first coat. I did 3 coats of sealer. On the third coat I didn’t see any of those dark spots which mean the entire countertop had been sealed!

Waxing

Ardex Concrete Countertops 15

Last step! I used Cheng Concrete Wax, which is food safe. I bought this little buffing kit that came with a drill bit attachment and did an entire coat.

Note: You’ll need to wax your counters every 6 months. 

Cleaning

Ardex Concrete Countertops 18

When cleaning your counters you have to use a non-acidic cleaner or else it could potentially stain your countertops. I found this one at Lowes and so far it is working great! 

MODERN FARMHOUSE KITCHEN REVEAL9

MODERN FARMHOUSE KITCHEN REVEAL2

CLICK TO VIEW MORE PICS OF THE FULL KITCHEN REVEAL 

FAQ

How much did they cost: About $200 (4 Boxes of Concrete at $17 each, Sealer $30, Wax $20, Sandpaper $20, Trowel $10, Misc. Supplies)

Are they durable longterm? I’m not an expert on this, BUT, I think these are a fabulous inexpensive fix but I don’t see them being a good longterm solution (thinking 10+ years). And my opinion is based primarily on the fact that they can stain easily. That’s just my opinion. I still love them though.

Can you place hot things on them? I actually don’t know and I haven’t tried.

Would I do them again if we moved? YES. In the right house I would.

If you have any additional questions please let me know! I’d be happy to help.

 

 

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About 

Taryn is the owner/editor of Design, Dining and Diapers, a lifestyle blog that focuses primarily on DIY home decor, seasonal crafts, easy recipes and just being a mom! She is all about making things for less by upcycling thrift store finds, using what’s on hand and transforming dollar store finds. Taryn lives in the greater Seattle area with her husband, 2 year old daughter and newborn son.

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Comments

  1. says

    This is gorgeous you did an amazing job! I love this so much you have me rethinking the white marble I’ve wanted for years! Pinning and sharing!

  2. says

    Such great information. I’ve been thinking of doing this on my countertops but the time and mess have made me rethink. How did you get all this done with your little kiddos?

    They are so beautiful! Love how it all looks!

  3. Catrina Davis says

    I love these! I’m wondering how they would work over wood? I may just try it out and see! Thank you for sharing.

  4. says

    Holy Moly, for not being an “expert”, you did amazing! Better than an expert :) I am in love with them. I bet you want to stand in your kitchen all the time and stare at them :)

  5. Sandra Bland says

    Countertops look lovely..perfect solution for that 80′s laminate. I too have oak cabinets and I am thinking of painting them..were yours sprayed? do you have another post showing how you did this? I am definitely a follower from now on..

  6. says

    I’m literally in the process of making my own concrete counter tops, took a break to hit up facebook, and saw this post! It was meant to be!. I’m doing pre-cast, but I still haven’t found a good sealer or wax. Definitely looking the ones you used up. Pinned for sure!

  7. Dennis says

    Your countertops look amazing. Really great job. I did cast concrete counters because I wanted to add some color in to the concrete, Can you add color into the concrete with this method?

    This looks like it would have been a lot easier. Probably faster too, but the sanding, WOW, that looks like a lot of sanding and dust.

    I use the Cheng wax too. They also have a really great food-safe acrylic concrete countertop sealer. You might want to look into it for your next project. I found it really easy to use.

    • says

      Thanks Dennis! Yes you can apply a stain directly on top the concrete before you seal them. I chose not to because I wanted the original color. Yes, the sanding was A LOT of work. But worth it and it just depends how smooth of an application you can get in the first place. I looked into the Cheng sealer but heard so many mixed reviews that I decided against it. It’s good to hear your experience with ti!

  8. Johanna says

    You’ve inspired me! I’ve also seen it done and thought ‘forget it, too much work’.
    Question 1: how did you estimate how much concrete you needed by square foot of surface?
    Question 2: what was the drying time between coats and sanding? I know you spread out te project over time but if we were to do this ‘weekend warrior’ style how much do you think we could get done excluding the sealing process of course.
    Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Johanna! It’s definitely worth the work if you are looking for an inexpensive fix! And I love how they look. 1) After doing my bathroom I realized that it doesn’t take a lot of masonry concrete to do the job. I used about 3 boxes in my kitchen so if you look at the full reveal that will give you an idea. It’s only about 1/4″ thick 2) By the time I was done applying 1 coat to the entire kitchen, the concrete was dry enough to cover again. I did mine over a few days purely because of time constraints. I would definitely wait at least 24+ hours to do the final sanding. If the concrete isn’t dry enough it will sand off too easily. It needs to fully dry in my opinion. I think you could get it done in an entire weekend minus the sealing. The application process is pretty fast, the sanding takes up a lot of the time.

  9. Jess says

    I’m guessing you removed your sink when you did the countertops? It looks awesome and as I’m trying to get a full plan in place to update my kitchen I think this could be the perfect contertop solution!

    • says

      Yes I did! I recommend removing it because I didn’t remove my stove and when I took it out to put the new one in the concrete cracked and broke off. It’s really easy to repair but it would be nice to not have to :)

  10. says

    I cannot believe how fabulous they look! I’m sure all that sanding was a pain in the behind, but it looks like it was so worth it!

  11. Erin says

    Hello! I am getting ready to begin the sealing process on my Ardex countertops. I know that it has only been a couple weeks since you finished the project, but I wanted to see how your sealer working. Have you had any issues with grease or coloring stains? Also, do you think that the waxing step could have been skipped or was it necessary?

    • says

      Hi Erin! I actually finished these back in February. It just took a while to get the post up. They are holding up great. I really like the sealer that we used. With that said, oil can still stain them. When wiped off quickly it’s not a problem, but when left on too long I’ve noticed a few spots darkening. It’s not super obvious though since the countertops are rustic anyway. I haven’t noticed any other stains though from colors. I would definitely wax. It adds an extra layer of protection and makes them really smooth. I wouldn’t skip this step. Waxing should be done every 6 months.

  12. says

    Thanks so much for this! It looks amazing! I had been thinking about doing butcher block countertops next year, but I’ve also heard you can stain this kind to look like butcher block. I definitely want to try it now that you’ve convinced me!

  13. Natalie says

    Hi, these came out beautiful! Do you know if you can do this over tile? Also, do you know if can be used as a backsplash too? Thanks so much!

    • says

      I would not suggest going over tile. As for a backsplash, you definitely could do the concrete as a backsplash! Just make sure to really seal and wax it because cooking oils can stain the concrete when left on too long.

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