Concrete Countertops

Written by Adam Blau
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In recent years, contractors have increasingly introduced concrete into the home. Concrete construction techniques have undergone something of a revolution in recent years, allowing for smooth surfaces, unique shapes, and an unprecedented degree of design flexibility. What's more, concrete is an exciting way to involve the homeowner in design details, as he or she now has the capability of realizing interesting and innovative ideas in the form of concrete.

"Concrete?" you may ask yourself. To many, concrete is the stuff of sidewalks and industrial parks. A brief look at the portfolio of any decent concrete contractor, however, will reveal a jaw-dropping array of concrete structures and home furnishings. Concrete is finding its way into interior flooring, furniture, art sculptures, and kitchen and bathroom countertops.

The Look of Concrete

What many may not realize is that the appearance and texture of concrete can be molded into a variety of styles. By introducing various aggregates into the concrete mixture, contractors can change the basic makeup of the material. Instead of a bland, plain-looking substance, concrete can provide the look of a heavily-textured stone or a marbled surface.

The color of concrete can be modified in a number of ways throughout the construction process. Chemical treatments on the surface of concrete can alter its pigmentation, subsequently allowing for interesting mixes and layering effects. Different aggregate mixtures can similarly change the hue and color scheme of a slab of concrete. Sealers and outer coatings can change the tint and vibrancy of the underlying concrete, as well.

Concrete can also be made to look like extremely smooth and polished stone. Through a series of grinding techniques, concrete is honed to a smoother and smoother state. The grinders are often composed of diamond bits, and they function similarly to sandpaper; rough grinders slough off the outermost surfaces, and then finer grinders perform detail work to evince a polished shine.

Concrete and Function

Some homeowners may worry that while the concrete might look the part, it may not be able to withstand the rigors faced by a kitchen countertop. The kitchen counter, after all, is a place where heat, liquid and various sundries are placed throughout the day, every day. It must be able to withstand the elements over time, and remain structurally sound.

It is true; concrete itself is a porous substance which ages over time. This is why contractors will inevitably coat the outer layer of concrete with a sealer. This sealer serves several purposes: it strengthens the underlying concrete; it can affect the color of the material; and it protects the concrete from liquids and other substances that may damage it. If you are considering fashioning your countertop out of concrete, pay special attention to the quality and texture of the sealer.

Concrete and Flexibility

Most of all, contractors and homeowners cherish concrete because of the vast amount of design flexibility it can afford. Because concrete countertops are created individually for clients, they are not prefabricated; more often than not, they are custom-created for each kitchen or bathroom. This allows for a tremendous degree of customization, including the size and shape of the countertop, the texture and composition of edges and corners, and the introduction of design elements such as trivets, sinks and cutting boards.

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