Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DIY Concrete Counters: A New Hope

Buckle your seatbelt and strap on your helmet - a fresh wave of DIY mania is sweeping through the Streicher household. Ground zero for this project is the kitchen. All the counter gear has been removed, up to and including the kitchen sink. There's also a big hole where the range top belongs, so cooking has been reduced to the bonsai surface of my mini rolling cart. 

In what name has this chaos been committed?

I'm making new concrete countertops.

Wait. What was so wrong with the old ones? 

^ Well, from across the room, these 1980s relics seem dated but fairly unobjectionable. Why not just save up some money for a proper quartz or granite replacement?

^ Here's why. Upon closer inspection, an ugly truth emerges. 

Dingy, mildew-stained grout worn to within an inch of its life. And then some.
Cracked, chipped and worn tiles that have endured more wear than they were built for. 

And on top of these unpleasant facts, there's a bank account with no wiggle room for fancy kitchen upgrades.

^ So my sturdy German no-nonsense make-do-ability has kicked in and after a year of mulling over the idea of transforming them into concrete contertops, I've decided that the time is right to do it myself.

I'm several steps into the project and so far, so good. Extensive, well-written how-to posts by several high-profile bloggers have stood me in good stead. Features on Little Green Notebook and A Beautiful Mess gave me the step-by-step encouragement to jump in, but now I'm forging my own path through the process of layering the concrete on and sanding it down between layers. 

^ I've applied two layers of concrete so far - these photos show the second coat just applied with patches of wet and dry, which explains the variation in color. When the concrete dries completely, it takes on the lighter shade of grey shown above. 

I'm excited and enthusiastic to carry on, even if that means a fine layer of grey grit settles down over my kitchen after each day's sanding session. Alas, two steps forward, one step back.

But I'm feeling more than just an adrenalin buzz for the kitchen upgrade. There is a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction that I get when something old is made new again. I love the idea that my old, tired counter is still serving me. Lying beneath new layers of industrial-chic concrete, those wrecked 80s tiles are being transformed to new life.

As I think about how well my counters served me in their day:

the countless meals prepared, 
the babies who sat on them, 
the jack-o'-lanterns carved,
the Goldfishy crackers snacked upon,
the Sunday papers spread out,
and the many friends who shared a cup of tea or a glass of wine across them,

I am content to know that those faithful friends will be with me for another age.

I'm glad to be giving my old counter tops a new hope. 

* * * * *

One time I ripped out all my upstairs carpets and painted the subfloors white. That was fun. 

* * * * *

A break-down of my current kitchen upgrade adventure:

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