My builder grade bathroom vanities have seen better days. When I looked into replacement options, I was shocked at the expense for anything quality/high end, to the tune of $1,000 and up. For next to nothing, I reused my bathroom cabinet (painted it ) and poured a concrete counter top. Add a glass bowl sink, a farmhouse industrial faucet and you have an updated look for around $150. Another affordable option would be to build open wood shelving for under the countertop, a future project for the master bath.
Note – we have poured countertops inside, installing directly on the cabinets and in place but we’ve also tried it outside the area and installing once completed. For small surfaces like a bathroom vanity, we highly recommend doing this somewhere else…it’s easier and not that heavy to move into place. Keeping all the mess outside your home.
Step 1: Construct your mold
You will want to decide on the shape of your edge. Here we used a mold that was left over from another project (front only) ordered from www.concretecountertopsolutions.com. But you absolutely do not need to use a mold…it’s a small detail that ups the cost of your countertop (the molds are sold in sets to do an entire kitchen for $100 +). We have done one kitchen with a square edge and another with this type of mold…see lakehouse kitchen and kitchen reno
You will need to decide on sink and faucet options. This is for placement of the drain and faucet hole. The bottom of the mold is Durock, a cement board material. The sides are melamine board, allowing for a 1.5 inch thickness. Because of the mold, the front is 2 inches thick with the extra .5 inch hanging down. You will need to add metal remesh for reinforcement. The PVC pipes are glued down (with regular adhesive caulk) to prevent them from slipping when pouring the concrete. We used 2 inch PVC pipe but you will want to make sure whatever you use will work with the faucet and sink you will install.
Step 2 – Mix and pour your concrete
There are different types of concrete. We like the rough industrial look for the cheap $4 per bag Quickrete, but if you want a smoother surface, you can purchase a finer grade concrete ($30 per bag). It only took about 1.5 bags to do this countertop. Mix your concrete slowly, don’t add too much water initially, add gradually…you can always add more water but your only option is to add a lot more concrete mix if you get it too runny. The consistency should be like heavy pancake batter. Pourable but not drippy if that makes sense. As you are pouring the first layer, make sure to get roughly a half inch of cement under the remesh so it is securely inside the mix. Use a trowel to get the cement evenly spread and in the corners and edges. We used a mixer attachement to mix the concrete in a bucket, it attaches to the drill – much easier to do it this way. Once you are close to getting the mold full, start vibrating the edges of the mold with a palm sander…just turn on the sander and let it vibrate the edge, this ensures that the corners and edges are getting completely full of concrete, it also brings out the water, which makes for a smoother edge.
Once the mold is full, use a flat edge tool or piece of wood to smooth out the top. This surface will be the top of the counter, so the smoother and more even you get the top, it will save you a lot of finish work when you go to sand. We used a piece of the melamine board(flat edge) and gently slide it back and forth removing any cement that is above the top edge of the mold. Once you have sufficiently worked the cement into the mold…some areas you have to tap the trowel over when working with the more coarse cement – this makes the small pebbles go underneath the surface and leaves a smoother surface.
Step 3 – Let dry and then sand
You will want to let the counter dry for at least 2 days, maybe longer if your workshop is not that warm…we had a cold spell (for Texas) and it took 3 days in our garage. The front mold pops right off and the rest of the molds just remove the screws and take off. The cement board stays, as well as the back plastic mold (if you choose to use a purchased mold kit). I used a 80 and 100 level sand paper to smooth out the top and edges.
Step 4 – Patch any holes or rough spots
Because of the cold, we had some roughness to the decorative edge that I corrected with another batch of concrete, made thick like putty to fill in the holes. After your patched concrete areas dry, you will need to re-sand.
Step 5 – Finishing options
I like to use what’s called a feather finish concrete product as one of the final steps before sealing. This is a very thin and smooth mix that will fill in any small scratches or holes that may have been caused by your trowel. After any patching or feather finish, sand again before sealing or staining. If you are planning on using some acid stain/color, do this a little or as muc
h as you want. As long as you haven’t sealed the concrete, you can add layer after layer. I used an acid stain in the color desert amber, one coat..waited 12 hours per the instructions and then another coat and another 12 hours to wait. After you have applied your desired amount of stain, neutralize the acid stain by mixing 1/2 a cup baking soda and 2 cups water and apply to the counter. I did this pretty liberally because I wanted a very muted tone to the counter. Let dry, then apply the sealant. I like to do three coats, but you can get away with two. Wait at least an hour between coats.
My favorite aspect of a concrete countertop is the contrast of something delicate, like a flower vase on the harshness of concrete. It’s a great contrast and appealing to the eye.