Today I am going to discuss our kitchen countertops in detail, as many of you have been very very curious about them from our kitchen reveal post, HERE. Perhaps you have seen or heard of DIY feather finish concrete countertops. A simple search on pinterest will reveal many instances where people are trying this trending method of “faux” concrete countertops. I was completely enthralled with the beautiful pictures and knew I wanted to give these affordable DIY countertops a try on our kitchen make-over.
After the days and days of research, work and mess – our countertops were stunning! They looked better than I had hoped.
However (don’t you hate howevers), a year later we came to the conclusion that the feather finish countertops had completely failed us.
We had imagined they were going to be a temporary fix (2 or more years), but they began to fall apart and look horrible much sooner than we had planned on.
I want to share our experience and methods, in order to help others determine if feather finish concrete countertops are a right choice for them, and to aid in any research in the matter. I’ll list the products we used, steps we took and the detailed results we got. I will not say our experience will be or has been the same as others.
It appears that many are having more success than we have had. But my hopes are to help you compare different methods and success/failures to give you all the knowledge you need before you tackle this DIY project.
Just keep in mind, the above pictures show our kitchen with the current remodel (almost) complete. The below pictures will be showing the kitchen in progress, so you will be seeing a lot of the good, bad and ugly shots. I’ve talked about each aspect of the kitchen in detail, HERE.
Here is the kitchen from the realtor listing before we bought it.
Needless to say – my hubs and I have put in a lot of work 😉
The original countertops were a Formica top with a maple wood edge piece, that had seen better days.
Here we are, with the concrete countertops finished (and looking A-MAZ-ING), and mid way through the update.
Then we had a baby, and it stayed like this for a long, long time.
My husband did a wonderful job installing the concrete overlay surface. It was even, silky smooth, and his methods seemed to work great in achieving this look. I will give you detailed directions of how he completed this project, as I feel like his techniques will work great if you are tackling concrete countertop projects yourself.
We knew we wanted the concrete to look thicker than the original Formica that was on there, and we thought it would adhere better to a raw wood surface. So my husband bought some plywood and built up our countertops to be about 2 3/4 inch thick.
Then he made a flat edging with 1 x 4 pine ripped down to 2 3/4 inch and screwed in place. (Be sure to keep reading to the end, to see why would have done this a little differently). This had the structure of our new countertops in place.
Once we were ready to spread on the concrete, we did A LOT of testing on sample wood pieces. There are 2 types of feather finish I’ve seen DIY’ers use online, and that is Ardex feather finish, or the Home Depot, Henry brand. We decided to use the Home Depot brand as it was cheaper and local. This type of concrete overlay gives a dark gray color, and I really wanted a light gray. So . . . we experimented.
The hubs had the idea to mix in white non-sanded grout, as it dries and hardens the same as feather finish (or appears to). Mind you, we tested this method a lot before actually installing it, and it seemed to be working. We tested a mix of 3:1 ratio with 3 parts feather finish and 1 part grout. We tested 2:1 ratio and 1:2 and 1:1. Our favorite sample was the equal parts, 1:1 ratio. It achieved the color we were looking for and seemed to be hard enough, like concrete. So – we began.
The hubs gathered a bucket, a trowel, the grout and feather finish. He mixed 1 part feather finish to 1 part grout, and added water in the bucket until it was a somewhat runny consistency.
He found it was easier to work with being more on the runny side rather than thick and mud like.
It would thicken up quickly on it’s own, so he had to work fast once he poured on the surface. He would occasionally add more water to the bucket if it started to thicken too much.
But once it was mixed and on the surface, he never added water to that. He used the trowel to smooth the concrete over the entire flat surface. It did take some work to get it nice and smooth. He preferred to work on the edges when it had thickened a bit, so it didn’t drip everywhere.
He came to find out, it was best to use his fingers to press the concrete on the corners and edges, nice and thick. It didn’t look pretty for the time being, but was easily sanded smooth later on.
Once we had the first layer smoothed on, we let it dry overnight and one day. Then, he took 100 grit sandpaper and sanded the concrete down to a very smooth and even surface. This first layer is pretty important to get the foundation even.
Keep in mind, the sanding makes a HUGE mess, and you’ll be amazed how dusty the rest of your house will get. Just a fair warning 😉
He repeated this process 4 (or 5?) times. Mix concrete, spread, dry, sand – until we felt a complete coverage was achieved.
They were looking fantastic!
Now it was time to seal the concrete. I had been doing a lot of research, and decided on this product by GST, (Global Sealer Technologies | Stain Block Elite) which was said to be stain blocking and food safe, as that was very important to me with 4 kids. I decided on a matte finish because I was really liking the look of the concrete as it was. I thought too glossy would take away from the natural concrete look. I applied 3 coats of the sealer. (I’ll share my thoughts on the sealer down below).
The sealer itself left the surface still feeling a little “chalky” to the touch. I had read that wax can help with that, so I discovered Cheng, concrete countertop food safe wax.
My husband spread it on with a buffer and it made the surface slightly glossy, but smoother to the touch.
We seemed to be pleased as punch with the results at this point. But, it didn’t take too much time to begin to notice the “quarks” of our DIY feather finish concrete countertops.
After we applied the sealer, but before we had applied the wax – the water and any food mess would bead up on the surface and easily wipe off with no problem. It was pretty neat to watch. But like I mentioned, it was very chalky feeling so we applied the wax. I can’t explain why, but after the wax was applied the water began to soak in quickly and no longer beaded up. When we would wipe it clean with a wet rag, it looked all dark and vein-y, which I hope you can see below.
It really made no sense why the wax would affect it like this, but it did.
After wiping, it would darken and look wet until awhile after when it dried.
As for stain proof – hmm.
It was for awhile.
But I learned that I had to be very, very careful or it darkened and stained easily with foods that I didn’t even think would affect it. In essence, they were very high maintenance, and with 4 kids and a lot of meals cooked – they began to look pretty blotchy. The peninsula section was the worst because that is where I would work the most and where the kids ate.
The worst part of all, was the cracking. In almost every spot where there was a seam from the wood my husband built around, it was cracking within months. We imagined it being from the natural flex of wood. There was also the instance when I had a crock pot on for about 6 hours and the concrete cracked and flaked off below. I put my crock pots on top of a cutting board from then on.
We also had one corner that was chipping off.
They were beginning to look pretty scary after just a few months, but we were not in the position to replace them, quite yet. We actually repeated the process of laying on new feather finish, sanding and sealing 3 other times. They would look great when repeated, but we would begin to have the same problems shortly after.
We did finally reach a decision of what to do next about our countertops (which you can be sure I’ll post about as soon as my husband finishes the new ones), but let me offer you some reflections of our process and tips/things to consider if you might be doing feather finish countertops/surfaces.
1. Many DIY’ers are spreading the feather finish on top of existing Formica or other countertops. I would love to have a sit down conversation with someone who has tried it this way to see if they are having the same flaking and cracking problems or is this just a problem when installing over bare wood.
2. We learned that you should avoid any wood seams underneath the concrete. It will crack. The end.
3. We did mix grout and feather finish, which I am unsure if that is the reason they are cracking after all. Perhaps all feather finish is the way to go, but again, I’d love to know if others are having this problem with the brands and mixtures they are using. The light gray color was my dream, which is why we did the half and half mixture.
4. We did consider trying a different sealer and going with a high gloss to see if that would help with the staining. But because concrete sealers that are food safe can be more expensive than the feather finish itself, we didn’t make this investment. We have decided to go an entirely different DIY route.
5. Don’t bother dusting your house until you are completely done with this process. Each sanding makes such a mess, so be prepared for major house cleaning when all is said and done.
6. Perhaps these countertops are perfect for a laundry room or small side table, and not so perfect for kitchens. Food for thought.
6. Are we glad we tried feather finish countertops or do we regret it horribly? Good questions. My answer is, yes and yes. I’m glad we did it, as it was the thing that got the ball rolling (so-to-speak) with our kitchen makeover. I wonder if we would have waited until we could afford a higher end countertop, if I would still be living in a maple oak kitchen. Heaven forbid. Do we regret it? My husband does. I thought it was a good learning experience and I loved the look while they lasted. But, maybe we should have just saved our pennies and did more research before we put in so much time and work on something we would replace a year later.
That completes our experience with DIY feather finish concrete countertops. I would love to answer any further questions you might have, and I think all readers would appreciate any input you have with your experience in the concrete countertop matter. Add any thoughts/comments/advice you might have in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
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