Real Life Renovations: Our Experience Installing No-Pour Concrete Countertops

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When I wrote 10 Actually Awesome Countertop DIYs, I had a little trick up my sleeve: our own concrete countertops were already in the works. My partner completed them last week, and I've been singing "Concrete Counters Are A Girl's Best Friend" ever since!

We'd been wracking our brains for ways to replace our over 35-year-old countertops on the cheap—IKEA, butcher block, plywood, tiles, prefab—when I encountered Kara Paslay Designs' DIY Ardex Concrete Countertops tutorial. I hastily sent the link to my partner, rapidly followed by Little Green Notebook's tutorial and beautiful photos, and then a third note saying, unnecessarily, "I'm really excited about this idea." As well I should have been, as they are absolutely beautiful. Photos taken in our dark kitchen do not do them justice, but they are stoney and luxurious and I love them.

As I mentioned in my Renovation Awards, Ardex Feather Finish earned major accolades for being the most money-saving DIY:

Thanks to the the wonky shape of our kitchen counters (one of our new house's many handmade quirks), getting new ones from Menard's would have been over $400- and not for anything special! Just standard, boring, decently attractive countertops that have to be cut and combined in non-standard shapes and sizes." We bought one 10lb bag of Ardex Feather Finish for $26 + $6.99 for 2-day shipping (that deal doesn't seem to currently exist), and bought one gallon of GST International Satin Seal from Menard's on sale for $16.99, for a total of $49.98.
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One of the original sheets of formica had been pulled up (when we were planning on using it as a template), revealing rough, ripped-up wood below:

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This had to be filled in with wood putty to make a reasonably uniform surface on which to spread the Feather Finish.

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The other countertop was left intact (pink boomerangs included!), was sanded to create a more textured surface, and had the concrete applied directly to it. This was easier overall, but the metal outer trim did provide a challenge when it came to creating clean edges. Basically, I don't recommend doing any more steps than you have to!

The counters and 1x2 back-borders all have three coats of Feather Finish, with each coat allowed to dry 24 hours and then sanded with a power sander.

The final coat was the most painstaking to apply as smoothly as possible, and once it was dry, four heroic hours of sanding were performed. Those hours are well worth it (at least to those of us who didn't have to actually do the sanding), as the countertops are astoundingly silky-smooth.

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Once they were sanded and all dust was wiped away, the counters were sealed three times with the GST International Satin Seal. We are not moved in to the house yet, so I will post an update once we've cooked/spilled on them!

In addition to the Kara Paslay Designs and Little Green Notebook tutorials mentioned above, we also used this very informative Ardex Feather Finish PDF (this is generally not included when you buy the material). I recommend printing out all three before you start (deleting photos to save paper and ink if you prefer), so that you can refer to them as you work. Yes, they're available online, but navigating your phone with concrete-coated fingers while the concrete rapidly dries is less than ideal.

Has anyone tried this or any similar method? Please share your tips and tricks!

(Image credits: Tess Wilson)

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