Details and instructions for installing DIY feather finish concrete countertops, and the possible complications you could face.
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.
A Year Later… DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops Failed Us
However (don’t you hate, however), 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 the right choice for them and to aid in any research in the matter.
I’ll list the products we used, the 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 successes/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.
The Original Kitchen When We Bought the House
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 on how he completed this project, as I feel like his techniques will work great if you are tackling concrete countertop projects yourself.
How to Make DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops
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 inches thick.
Then he made a flat edging with 1 x 4 pine ripped down to 2 3/4 inches 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 the 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 a 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 its 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 at 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. 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. 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 as I mentioned, it was a 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 veiny, 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 a while after when it dried.
As for stain-proof – hmm.
It was for a while.
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 crockpot on for about 6 hours and the concrete cracked and flaked off below. I put my crockpots 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 a 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).
Are DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops Right for You?
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.
7. 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!
*This post contains amazon affiliate links for the products we used. See my disclosure policy, here.
**Linking up to these parties, HERE.
I’ve researched this for months, literally, and just about to start my countertops. Any seams in the timber would need to be covered with fibreglass mesh tape to prevent splits. It makes sense because different substances expand and contract at different rates. Also, a very hard drying wax like onyx wax oil which repels water and resists coffee/wine stains would have been better. Onyx is a bit pricey but the cost and disruption of replacing failed counters is exponentially higher. I’ve been researching for months to find a light coloured feather finish but none seems to be available. So I’m doing tests using white sand and white cement with volcanic Ash and a polymer sbr. Thanks for your blog- the style of your kitchen is beautiful.
Her problem is that she mixed with grout. I’ve had feather finish concrete counter in a boys’ bathroom for nine years. They’ve gone from 3 little messy, splashy kids to three nasty teens (haha) and the counter is fine. We even applied over plywood. I’ve only resealed once in all those years. No staining and no cracking.
Follow directions and you’ll be fine.
Nancy Adams says
Very impressive, thanks a lot for sharing a helpful post with us.
Ardex didn’t fail you. 🙄 You mixed it half way with grout and used way too much water. You can’t mix a product completely different than the instructions and then say the product failed. I’ve had Ardex in a bathroom used by three boys for five years (over wood, not laminate) and it still looks wonderful!
concrete sealer says
I used a brush for the 511 sealer and It worked well then after that I waited 5 minutes and wiped excess off, but there was hardly any excess because it soaked it up.
She absolutely had issues due to the grout and the obvious different mixing ratio of water. Cement has a particular PSI depending on the type and by adding grout and more water you completely distroyed the PSI. Heck..adding too much pigment in concert can lower PSI and give you integrity issues.
I love concrete constructions and always want to know more about them. Your post covers so many things about concrete that I am grateful to you. It was worth reading. I would love to see more posts like this. Keep up the great work!
Fabian Acevedo – https://www.satxreadymix.com/
I love the look of the cement countertops but just see If the pictures of the process it was pretty evident they were made WAY too thin. I understand why they cracked.
The whole feeling of this post reminds me of recipes posts for somethin like bacon cheese ball and you see reviews saying things like ‘didn’t have bacon used ham….didn’t taste the bacon at all!” Lol
Had you guys followed the directions and followed other peoples advice who made them previously they would have held up.
I am sorry you had a bad experience with this cement. I noticed that you mentioned that your husband added more water than was recommended for spreading. No, I am no cement expert, but I do work with it. I make cement planters and yard art. That extra water was probably your down fall. The extra water broke the components down more than it should have been. Meaning, it caused the Feather Finish the become weak and not be the strength it should have been. I also noticed that he seemed to be using more than a simple coating each time it was applied. This cement should be able to breath and bond in very thin layers. I have read others who say they only use 3 to 4 coats, when actually it would need 6 to 7 very thin layers, if not more, to be strong. The first few layers you should be able to see through. I am considering doing my counter tops as well, and after reading so many posts on this I am wondering if there shouldn’t be some type of cloth, like cheese cloth laid on top of he first 2 coatings for added strength, such as one would use rebar in large outside projects. Your blog has opened my eyes before I start…lol..I will try the cheese cloth idea on one area and see how it works out. I am willing to bet it will durable.
My father was an industrial chemist and therefore knew that the setting of concrete products was a chemical reaction rather than a drying action. He would mix concrete dry for a long time before adding water. His concrete was never wet or self-levelling like most ready-mix deliveries are. The water would rise to the surface eventually and after tamping. The result was a rock-hard slab that did not dust. Anyway, it really aggravated my brothers and me as we had to do all the hard work. Even scrim-coat for floors was fairly dry and never over troweled. Concrete is basically gravel mixed with cement. The gravel, like grog in clay made items, prevents too much shrinkage when they are fired. The concrete tops would contain something else at the molecular level that adheres to the cement molecules as they shrink that is flexible and can expand or stretch to fill the void. That requires the dry powder to be mixed thoroughly before water is added. If it is DIY friendly then it may well assume that the mix is poured onto the laminate surface and adjust the water content accordingly. I am not sure I would have put a thin coat of the mix over the wood edges if that is what you have done. But rather put shutters in with screws through plastic tubes to create a narrow void for the mix to flow into or a horizontal board around the outside with a smooth-faced waterproof upright for the surface height establishment. A round-edged Formica top would create thicker portions naturally where a sharp corner may create a strength problem later.
Self-levelling floors contain an epoxy or polymer to prevent cracking but where it is very thin it is a disaster. It is interesting that some will put the concrete material directly on top of Formica. Well, it is less likely to absorb the moisture like the wood base. Wood expands when wet and may have caused the grainy look following the different densities of wood grain underneath. This may have caused hairline cracks in the concrete surface. That concrete based mix will probably stick to Formica anyway. The reason that your mixture started to thicken was that the wood underneath was drawing away the water like a sponge, hence the need to add more moisture during the chemical reaction which only serves to isolate the part bonded molecules.
Finally, most concrete countertops I have seen professionally applied, create these at standard countertop depth, very heavy and done with a fairly dry mix and small gravel particles. These blocks are then sanded and polished to a marble-like finish. The beauty is in the impurities on the surface but not suitable for food preparation. These are easily filled with a different colour cement or even a coloured epoxy. That can be very effective where rough polystyrene wedges have been introduced and stuck to the Formica before filling then removed. Polystyrene residue can be removed with paint thinners. This can also be done with cracked timbers with natural edges and then a clear epoxy resin finish added to complete it all. You can also have a mixture of the two and fill knots and cracks in the patterned wood with your concrete finish. The resin finish means that you can put lights in the cupboards that will be seen through the coloured resin infills.
It’s great that these things are now available for DIY, but I would want to see physical results before by the manufacturers before I fully trusted them. A good finish is easy, but a good strong permanent stainproof finish is not. Hence the invention of Formica.
I wish I knew what you meant by dry mix. I have a few DIY projects I’m working on. Is the dry mixing for when there’s gravel, ie to disperse the expanding agent evenly? Is this necessary in a finely milled concrete mix?
I did the Henry’s featherweight concrete overlay on my countertops almost 2 years ago. I used a highly recommended sealer…which failed right out of the gate… So a year into using the countertops I decided to sand and add new concrete to clean them up. I also decided I wanted a more permanent seal to them…so I started researching 2 part poured epoxy. I found 2 very reputable companies. I went with the less expensive one and went for it. I tell you! My countertops are FABULOUS! I wanted the lighter grey coloring but my husband wanted darker grey counters. So I poured the epoxy onto the “naked” concrete. The color is a wet looking concrete and I truly LOVE them!
My employer has asked me to do the countertops at work he loves them so much!
Would you share the epoxy you used? We are looking to do our countertops. Following the product instructions so we do not see failure.
Jonathan Sager says
This is a super post. really I love to read the blog. Your information is very helpful & your every image is so pretty & fresh. Thanks for sharing the beautiful post. Keep posting such an article!
Jonathan Hufana says
At least you have learned from your experience. It is still a good way to help other people in deciding what products or methods they will be using. Thank you!
Penelope Smith says
Concrete countertops look really amazing. It is good to know that you can do a concrete overlay. That is a good thing for me to know because I want to get some concrete countertops in my kitchen and in my guest bathroom.
I can’t understand why some people hate using these products not as they were made for. Why not?
Very Nice post
concrete prices says
Some DIY needs repairs on concretes. Always get your supplies in reputable retailers.
I did ardex over tile countertops. It’s been 6 months and so far, so good. I used Duck concrete sealer. One bottle did four coats and then some in my very large kitchen. It is food safe sealer, but is glossy, not matte.
I used Henry’s for the last coat because I ran out of ardex. I was worried about chipping but so far I haven’t had any.
I did not read all the replies but after working with ceramic tile and grout I would never mix unsanded grout with a patch product. This basically what Henry’s and Ardex are, but you would have needed to add a latex or polymer that is made for patch to keep the seams from cracking. Wish me luck we will be starting ours over laminate soon!
concrete prices Brisbane says
Remodeling can also take on the form of revamping or adding a bathroom, redoing a kitchen, overhauling your home’s exterior for improved curb appeal, or completing an addition to increase your home’s square footage and add valuable space. Big and small changes can both have an impact and will improve the way your home looks and functions, increasing its value and making it more enjoyable for you and your family.
What a gorgeous interior. I am just loving it. Can I ask where did you get the kitchen faucet? Its simply beautiful.
We did regular cconcreteover my sons old formica counters and stained them. Five years later they are perfect. We sealed them with polyurethane.
We built counters in our kitchen and expected the same results. Nope!!! You have to seal the wood A LOT or they crack and just come off. We plan on starting them over one day. If that day ever comes. It’s very difficult to redo such a messy project.
The stains are never going to be what you see on the bottle. So be ready for an open mind on color.
This reminds me of someone who gives a negative review of a recipe after they add and subtract to the list of ingredients. “i didn’t have any xyz so i just doubled abc and then decided to replace the asd with jkl.”
i’ve done the ardex feather finish and no cracking and still in perfect condition. then again i didn’t add more water to the product and didnt’ mix in other products. i actually followed the manufacturers directions and then sealed once it was completely dry. no cracking, no chipping, no staining.
Hi I was reading up on cement cecounter tops an was woundering if a thin set could been used but have seen the ardex seems to be working well may try in our new home any suggestions
It’s completely unfair to say this product failed you when you added ingredients to the product and didn’t follow instructions. Of course grout weakens concrete, and you mixed it too thin/watery.
Also, Henry is made by Ardex; it says it right on the box.
Nelson Miller says
This is the really great way. I like your idea for kitchen remodeling. Thank you for shear a great idea for us.
Hi. We are considering this product for a kitchen update, and I’m hoping you can answer a question or two. I know its been a while since you did this, but do you recall if you used exterior exposure plywood, or just untreated? The manufacturer specifies the latter, so wondering if an improper substrate played a role in the veining and cracking. Also, on the corners where it cracked, were those glued joints, or just nailed/stapled? I’d like to use it, but don’t want it to fall apart in a year! thanks for any help.
And to Linda , above , says stop doing bench tops… who are you? Huh? Get stuff! Rude begets rude! Col the concreterer
Hi. You guys did a great job in that your finished product looked great. However it didn’t last. My grandfather was a ding and taught me all about concrete. The reason why your finished product did not last is pointed out by the people who gave commented with years of experience. Waiting up to a month before sealing!!! Everyone is tempted by impatience in today’s world. It is a trap… and here’s the big one… if for example you are to add a litre of water to a bucket of mix, you add a litre to the mix. Adding water to increase working time is a trap. Let’s say the mix is going off a little halfway through , you add bit by bit another half a litre… that means in the second half of the mix there should be total half a litre of water, you end up with s litre. So twice the water and half the durability. Particularly on thin coats. Rather than add more water my grandad and also my father would use a squirt of plain washing detrgent to their mix. This makes the mud more workable and seems to increase work time while having seemingly no effect on cure time or strength. I don’t know the science behind this but I also do this and have no problems as a result. Finally by adding a squirt of detergent you will achieve more smoothness with each coat reducing sanding required and the cleaning associated with the gritty dust that is a bugger to clean. Chin up and god bless. Col the concreterer
Great article – thank you for being this detailed. My esthetic style is very similar to yours – the shade of the concrete, the non-glossy finish which is more difficult to achieve than dark concrete with high-gloss. Even the barstools in your kitchen are the same as mine.
What I think you described though is your experience with the grout in the Feather Finish, not the experience with the proper mix. Maybe adjusting the title of the article would be a good idea. The chemical bonds aren’t like mixing watercolors and you really need to understand the properties of each element if you go mixing this way. I have used the VERY SAME grout on my backsplash in the kitchen and only one year later it is breaking off and chipping off where it gets exposed to water daily. Also, the Ardex Feather Finish isn’t GFRC so it’s not even the sturdiest concrete mix on the market, let alone diluted. There is a white Portland cement that would act as a colorant as well as an aggregate so instead of compromising the integrity, it would make it tougher and you would get the ashen shade. For kitchen countertops, I wouldn’t choose wax or water-based sealer but rather a heavy duty epoxy sealer and then sanded it down to honed look. Not that I speak from an experience. 🙂 I merely finished 3 months of research and started applying Feather Finish on porcelain tile but not in a kitchen or bathroom.
I actually like the way it looks with the cracking and the wood showing through. I even like the way it looks with just wood. Limewashed wood, with a sealer, would look cool.
Michael Cabral says
I have worked with Ardex for years. Amazing product. 2 rules. Never add water to the mix once it is mixed (if it gets stiff you can rewhip it). Never make a watery mix, it has to be peanut buttery consistentcy..
Thanks – I am in the middle of an Ardex project as I was reading this! I got a little nervous until I got the the watery-mix part, as the directions on the bag very clearly state the proportions of Ardex to water, and specify not to add water once it is mixed.
So hopefully as long as I follow directions I should avoid this cracking problem.
Aaron C. says
I never knew you could save so much money by doing this yourself. Thanks for writing!
Maryscott O'CONNOR says
I used Ardex over the board that was under the laminate on my original counter. I added dye to make it dark grey with a blueish tiny. I think the key to my success — after nine plus months it’s perfect — was using epoxy to seal the concrete. I love it, and have had none of the problems I’ve seen discussed here and elsewhere. Really, it must be the epoxy.
Constantia petrou says
can you use this to cover bathtub, sink and shower walls? If so what waterproof sealant would you use? Thanks
wow great advice from your experience with the concrete counter tops! I hate that ya’ll had too deal with those issue, it still has a great look to it! Thanks for sharing!
I don’t understand how you two failed to mix the Ardent as directed by the manufacturer as expect a positive result. SMH
Stephanie Toundas says
White Cap is where I got mine. I had to go online and order it and have it delivered to the store near me, as the people in the the store had NO idea.
Willie Simpson says
Your presentation is absolutely great. The organized detailed sequence of events is perfect.
The open, honest format is refreshing. There is danger in adventurous expeditions; we sometimes pay, in different ways for innovative ides. I am a sharer in your type of suffering. Sometimes the cutting edge experiment works great; sometimes the struggle goes on and on refining and correcting the idea.. to success, or to cussing your losses. (to late to cut your losses) Your husband is great in launching out with you and going through the gauntlet of hard work.
Congratulations you your sturdy constitution and sharing the expedition.
He’ll, just came across this site as I have a new obsession with anything concrete, and just wanted to say that I love how you have experimented and done what you wanted to do. Ignore any rude comments. Good on you for trying it out. I haven’t done a concrete worktop yet as I’m not that brave, but I will. I have done a widow sill and a bench all in concrete and just sanded and satin varnished and they look pretty good. I hope you carry on to do many more projects and if they don’t work at least it’s a memory to share with your husband. Well done you both. X
It’s called Ardex SM-D. Do a google search… :0
I admit I didn’t read all of your comments but I read a lot and wanted to add some tried and true answers to your issues, and solutions.
RE #3 and #4 above – the reason you’re having issues is because of what you did, yes. And you’re correct that by having seams in the wood you’re having cracking, but that can be avoided. You should have glued the wood, and screwed it. Standard wood glue should be used over the entire wood surface and it won’t move, as it’s stronger than wood itself once hard.
I made our countertops from scratch using 3 sheets of 3/4″ plywood and Ardex feather finish. We sealed them with Z SiAcryl 14, which is food safe. Sure, it’s more expensive than the stuff at the fix-it stores, but it works. No staining and great at stopping liquids from soaking in. You should reseal it periodically, but that takes 15mns before bed and come morning you’re ready to use the counters.
I have a huge kitchen and pantry with over 65sq ft of countertop, including a 4x9ft island. All in (wood, glue, cement, sealer) we spent only $400 on materials. Even if we went with a cheaper sealer it’d have been about a $30 savings, which is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
And for what it’s worth, I also have a huge 15′ wall and 15’5′ floor behind/under a wood burning stove in our living room that we did Ardex on. I did a cheaper sealer on that because I didn’t need it to be food safe. We even built a modern bench/wood holder and put concrete over that as well.
Hope this helps any future concrete DIYers!
I don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment as it is so long after you have posted, but I wonder if you would be willing to send me photos of your walls and counters? I’m getting ready to do a bathroom and would love to see how you did the walls. Also if you have any suggestions for making it work 🙂
Handy Manny says
What’s everyones thoughts on using epoxy over the concrete. Doing this type of finish for my outdoor kitchen (patio cover over it). I was able to score some very heavy industrial solid core fire doors from my local habitat for humanity store fore $20 each! Going to cut to size, feather them with the Henry’s brand and seal with uv resisted two part epoxy. Thinking they will hold up nicely. What do you think?
Pamela s Hegel says
Hello, I Just wanted to leave my brief comments as it seems many have commented negative contents about using products for a use they were not intended for. To me, that’s the fun and creative nature of diy. And yes. ..sometimes it doesn’t work. Anyway, I used ardex over bare wood and nanocoat tk6 sealer in a bathroom in our commercial restaurant bathroom and one year later they still look fantastic! I am ton of research on sealers and am so happy with the nanocoat. I did the walls and the counter and they are super easy to clean and are still sealed even though I intended to reseal aster 6 months. I agree with others that adding grout was more than likely the mistake you made. I’ve had no problems with chipping or flaking. Hope this helps someone! Use nanocoat…I’m so impressed!
William Ray says
I think there are several factors here that created the perfect storm…
1. Mixing Concrete and Grout
You have to be very careful when mixing products like this. They have different cure times and different PSI ratings.
2. Too much water.
It’s always best to only mix up just enough material to do each first layer. Always keep a lid on your material when you are not pouring or scooping out of the bucket. Once it starts to cure there is not a lot you can do. It is also beneficial to keep the product stirred. This discourages the premature curing of the material. (Think of a concrete truck)
I build furniture as a hobby and one thing that you always have to keep in mind is the moisture of the wood. I really wouldn’t contribute the cracking to the wood pulling the moisture out of the concrete as much as I would blame the movement of the wood itself. Although I could see how the wood pulling moisture from the concrete could affect it. I don’t think pressure treated wood would work well either because that stuff is practically dripping wet when you pick it up from the store and once it starts to dry out it WILL have movement. Could you have gotten by with sealing the plywood first? maybe…. But you would have needed to seal both sides of the plywood. A sanding sealer might have done well. I am not sure this would have been a great long term solution though. Because… Well….. Wood MOVES. Like others have suggested, a backer board probably would have been the key. It keeps everything nice and tight.
4. The Sealer
I really think it’s important with these concrete counter to do a three step seal process. First off, you need something that will penetrate into the concrete. This is the sealer. Sealer is soft and flexible and should not be relied on for the protection of your counters. Secondly, You need to have a top layer of an actual hard coat. Like you would use a polyurethane or something similar for a piece of furniture. I believe there are several companies that sell water based sealers and top (hard) coats for counter tops. I think one brand is actually called “Final Coat” concrete coating. Finally, Add a couple layers of wax as sacrificial layers. Wax is not perfect. When you apply it correctly it can be a durable surface, but it must be recoated frequently. Also acidic foods and cleaners will strip the wax quite easily. I think the sealer you used may not have been compatible with the wax. I could be completely wrong about this though. When I stain a piece of furniture with an oil stain I can apply a water based or an oil based clear coat. If I do a water based stain or coating then I can ONLY apply a water based clear coat. If you do an oil based coat over water based it will start to peel up. So maybe you had something similar happen with your finish?
Good job putting all the effort in! Sorry it didn’t turn out. That’s so frustrating. Thanks for helping people out n sharing your experience. Don’t listen to random crazy people who yell at you. (Who does that?) Do say a prayer for them tho 🙂 God bless you n your family!
Linda Buschman says
You are using a floor finishing product to do a counter top and adding a grout! Good grief no wonder it failed!
What are you thinking?
Of course you were unhappy with the finish! Ardex Feather Finish was developed for the construction professional industry-not for DYI people to do countertops!
Stop using this product to do your countertops! You will not be happy will the results!!
Keith h says
Arden mdx is designed to take a stain. We mixed in a concrete white color into the ardex for a white base with white ardex mdx
So far so good. Sanding and getting ready to stain Metalic silver
I have never heard of this product but I do have concrete countertops/bar inside and outside at my house. My husband works at a local concrete plant and we used real concrete. You can actually add color (it comes in powder form) to concrete right into the mixer(truck). The color is sold through the concrete plant. The sanding process with this type countertop is called wet-sanding. This is just simply done with water and sandpaper. It doesn’t make a dusty mess. You can sand it down as smooth as you want it to be. Ours are all about 3 inches thick and super smooth on top. No cracks at all. (Rebar helps prevent this). We added several layers of sealer and the wax is in liquid form. A little experience and advice goes a long way too. Luckily for us, we know the right people who finish concrete for a living and we gots lots of help AND advice from them. We love ours and couldn’t be happier. I’m not sure how much you spent or how much elbow grease was put into your countertops but it sounds like our experience was much easier. Just wanted to post this so you would know that ordering concrete from your local concrete company is an option. You just have to form up your area and pour it in. Once it is dry, it only takes a little bit of elbow grease to finish it up. Hope this helps you not totally hate the idea of concrete counters.
R. Alderson says
Sorry for your results after all that work; we’ve all had those projects. After saying that, I used Ardex for my countertops and they came out better than I had hoped. I had ceramic tile countertops that were showing wear and wanted to try the concrete, figuring if it failed I would have to splurge and buy new counters.
Trying to avoid all the pitfalls, my original counters had an oak wood edging and I chose to keep them, painting them with 3 coats of enamel, thus having no concrete on sharp angles. The hardest part was sanding the tiles enough to etch them for the concrete to adhere to. 4 thin coats of Ardex, sanding after each coat, resulted in a thickness between 1/16 to 1/8 inch.
Once it was sanded for the final time, I stained my counters with 4 colors: tan, brown, sienna and black. I stained them to be different and bold, but also thought any food stains that may occur later on wouldn’t be apparent. I then sealed it with an acrylic sealer from http://www.concretecountertopsolutions.com, which is where I bought my stains.
After time, I still love my countertops. I have had no staining issues at all. The sealer has shown some minor scratches, but they are not really apparent, and have figured the sealer will probably have to be reapplied every couple of years.
What type of stain did you use ? Mix it into the concrete or so it on top before sealing? Have any pics?
Please and thank you!
STEVE WILLIAMSON says
Being in decorative concrete for the last 15 years I have done a few countertops (poured, stained & polished)
The Counter in this post looked nice. I know some of this products claim to stick to wood, but I think that is for subfloors that will be covered. As a rule wood absorbs water at a different rate then concrete or cement. As wood expands and contracts concrete cracks and delaminates. I don’t think wood is a suitable substrate for concrete with regards to adhesion. If I was going to “rig” a countertop like this I would use tile board over the wood.
But really after all the time spent, why not just build a form and pour one, after all, time is more valuable then money as it is cheaper to do things right once then twice wrong.
Thanks for this post. I’m looking for a 2 to 3 year fix and I think I’ll go with concrete, learning from your mistakes – you’ve already done the failed experiments so now I don’t have to hahaha
I think the biggest thing is just read the instructions. Henry instructions are surprisingly thorough. They’ll tell you about substrates, etc… Including why bare plywood might be a big prob.
Besides mixing too thinly on purpose, bad substrate, and particularly mixing with a totally different incompatible product (the grout), I think you did good! We all have those failed projects. That you got something out of it (a good story, tips for the future, experience, etc) is the best thing.
Your issue had nothing to do with the wood NOT being sealed. When our Feather Edge product is being applied over wood, it must be Clean, Non Painted, Non Sealed and free of any dirt and grease.
Mixing Grout and Feather Edge is like mixing Apples & Oranges, they are both fruit, but it stops there. The two products do not both go through the same chemical process or have the same chemical reaction from water being added. The Curing and Hydration of both products are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Also, any time you add more water than necessary / required to a cement based mix, the final product will be significantly more weak. I would guess, based on the pictures, yours ended up with a 35- 50% reduction in the PSI (should be 4500 and most grout only is 3000 PSI).
So there were multiple issues which were the cause of the crumbling (as several others have already stated).
The Sealer is the Key to the equation, and matching a sealer and a wax is always good. For most DIYers, Cheng is a great source.
Awesome job on the sanding though, they did look good!
Angela Waterford says
I really love the look of your concrete counter tops, especially since you went with a lighter gray color. My worry with doing concrete counters in our kitchen is that our cabinets won’t be able to hold up to the weight of the concrete. What did you do, if anything, to make sure the concrete wouldn’t be too heavy?
Brie Brouillet says
You changed a whole bunch of things including the recipe for the concrete. And then this post is written from an indignant point of view. Just because two things seem to have the same drying time and density dose not nessasarly mean they will bind together. Maybe if you haven’t been so cheap this project would have worked out better for you.
I don’t know if it was your intent… But your comment reads extremely rude.
I’ve never been to this blog; found it on google images while researching. Personally, this post and its comments has been the most helpful information I’ve come across.
Coming from a totally unbiased outsider… You should probably take a step back to consider how your tone is going to be taken… Unless you meant to come off as arrogant, rude, and slightly mean. My intent is only to be helpful in the case that you don’t want to be looked at that way. :/
catherine davis says
Nice going “Brie,” wonder if you talk that way casually to people you meet face to face or do you save that up for cowardly attacks on internet. Dreadful manners, either way. Anyway thanks for the insight Cami. I have been thinking about a DIY on Pinterest that I saw about concrete over cultured marble, even in the basin. Looks great, but definitely adventurous. I’m still nervous about it, but the the countertop is in a cottage bathroom and could be swapped out if need be, it’s just all the lost time and effort. Still undecided. Your kitchen is gorgeous though, Cami.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Cami. Your kitchen is beautiful. I don’t understand the hateful attacks, over something you chose to share about your KITCHEN?? Mean comments here help no one and are certainly nothing you deserve. I have been thinking about trying concrete countertops. Your blog post is very helpful. Thank you.
I think your problem is that you applied over untreated plywood. The plywood sucks the moisture out of the wet mix causing it to crumble later. If you seal the plywood first or use hardi backer it doesn’t dry out the concrete mix.
You know – I hadn’t heard that one yet, but it totally makes sense! Thanks for the tip and I hope it can help someone later on!
Very good point, Linda– reminds me of when my DH did lots of brickwork in our yard. Before setting the bricks with the mortar “gluing” the rows together, he soaked the bricks in water. Had several buckets soaking and used the wettest ones in turn. This way, the bricks couldnt suck the moisture out of the mortar before it was done curing. It would’ve been a crumbly mess if the mortar had dried too quick, and as the walls he built were structural, it actually could’ve been dangerous.
However the part about sealing the plywood did not make as much sense, for a similar reason. I think the point where the wood (or bricks, as the case may be) does start to suck up a little of the concrete moisture, is when a good bond takes place. I’m not an expert, but it does make sense. If the wood couldn’t suck up ANY moisture, the bond between dissimilar materials may be too weak to stand up to any kind of hard use.
There’s also a Bonding Agent (you can use it in HyperTufa crafts) that both strengthens the concrete mixture, and helps it to adhere to a substrate.
Rusty Empire says
After a lot of research I’ve come to the decision that when we do our counters we will fabricate a base of 3/4 plywood but then use cement board as the substrate. We will prep all joints and fasteners over – as you would normally prep cement board for say a shower wall. This will create a better base material for the concrete mix to adhere to, and one that is more stable than plywood (which will wick up moisture). Instead of Ardex we will go with Rapid Set Cement all as per Jenice’s earlier post. This is because of its very high strength as well as the additives that they have in their product line. These will act to extend the working time as well as the strength. We can add color to the mix as needed. If the surface doesn’t end as smooth as I’d like at that point we could then trowel on the Ardex mix ( we would use the white stuff, tinted to match our creamy tones) to get a butter smooth finish. As with any concrete, mixing correct water volume is key, too water and the mix will fail. Adding more water after mixing ditto. We will do a small test board first just to see how it looks too. Thanks for the post BTW as it has very helpful points.
brick work Northern NJ says
Improving the layout of your home can make your home more usable and enjoyable.
Brisbane core drilling says
Looking good. What did you do or planning to do with the floor? I like kitchen floors to be tiled.
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I also ‘concreted’ over my countertops about a year ago. I applied mine right over my laminate countertops after sanding. I have not experienced any cracking, but mine really stain. I used (maybe 4) layers of Quickrete concrete cure and seal (satin finish) but many things have stained our countertops. Water can be wiped off but until it dries after, it leaves a dark mark. Coffee has stained the countertops a light brownish where it was spelled and not wiped up for 12 hours later. Overall, it gives them a cool lived-in, aged look. Personally, I’d prefer them NOT to look like there is 100 years of food somehow in every pore. The good news is that they are easy to add another coat to. And I will likely use a more industrial sealant after that too.
Yes, I’ve heard staining is a problem – it seems no matter the sealer. Thanks for sharing your experience with me!
I have been doing custom concrete for many years and learned early on that you must wait the prescribed time for the concrete product to set up completely before applying any sealer. Most sealing products recommend 28 days of cure time before application.
Natalie Marshall says
I have also done ardex feather finish on my counter tops. I had a beveled type edge on my original, so when applying the ardex I rounded the edges. I have had no cracking or any problems with mine! I do know the key is the sealer!!! Do to trial and error I have discovered two sealers that are amazing, and in my opinion should only ever be used for these counter tops! THE SEALER IS KEY!!! I use Cheng sealer, or TK6 Nanocoat! They are both designed for concrete counter tops.
Hi Natalie, I’m thinking of trying this with our tile counter tops. They also have beveled edges. Would you mind sharing a pic of yours? Thanks, Kim (email@example.com)
Lorene @Remodelaholic says
Hi Cami! I just emailed you about featuring this in a roundup over at Remodelaholic. Sometimes my emails get caught in spam filters, so I wanted to leave you a comment, just in case. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Lorene @Remodelaholic recently posted…Tribal Inspired Suede Embellished Planter Tutorial
Ardex Feather Finish is a flooring underlayment – used to smooth substrates prior to installing finished flooring. There is no recommendation to use Feather Finish for countertops — according to the Ardex website. If you use a product in a non- recommended application — you get awful results! Read the Feather Finish package — or the Henry equivalent at Home Depot — there is no mention of “countertops”.
I use plenty of products against their indications. I mean, it’s always a risk, but it’s not really true to say “If you use a product in a non- recommended application — you get awful results!” I used galvanized pipe to make my towel rack, wall cabinets for a shallow storage cabinets on the back of my island, j-channel as metal edging on a homemade OSB counter-top, and old glass fuses for drawer pulls… None of those uses were in the specifications, but I certainly don’t think the results were awful.
None of the examples you provided dependent on the proper application of materials for failure/success. Cement based products do. Surface prep, proper mixing, proper application, etc.
While there may be some truth to your comment, keep in mind she wasn’t responsible for holding up a heavily traveled bridge with her off-label use. She only was conducting a TEMPORARY experiment she EXPECTED to not last! Sometimes we just want to give a tired old area a facelift until the Big Remodel begins. I appreciate Cami’s bravery in trying an experiment that resulted in ME not wasting time and money only to get a less than satisfactory result. I also have learned a few things here in the comments that made total sense (for one, that you can’t add extra water to extend the working window.) I’m bookmarking this page so I can refer back.
DIY Bloggers are a gift to those of us who spend considerable time gazing at Pinterest boards. Having someone write a Blog about “My Fail, dont do what I did” is truly a Godsend. And I LOVE Sam’s ideas to use unexpected stuff in non-traditional ways. Thats what makes life fun, and makes homes interesting. We all need to throw out the rulebooks! As i said, unless we are building something structural, the first rule should be FUN!
I literally just read the entire label on my squirty can of Whip Cream. It does not say to top your coffee with it! I do it anyway! Nothing bad happens. Let your creativity out! Go against the rules and see how you feel. Just be sure unexpected results won’t be dangerous now or later. (You do have to think it through seriously)
Do NOT cross the street against the light, do NOT store straight pins in your mouth during a sewing session, NEVER try to catch a falling knife or mascara wand (I’ve done both)… do NOT use Clorox to bleach your hair… but you MAY use exterior house paint to paint the living room, and even living room paint to paint the exterior, knowing ahead of time it will only last until your in-laws go back home, LoL.
Oh, yeah, NEVER use Dawn dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher if you run out of Cascade. NEVER.
Just have some fun, already!
concrete core drilling services Brisbane says
High grade cutting tools is sometimes need for concrete cutting and shaping. Some professionals do this.
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It’s so interesting reading your results. I did a lot of research too, but wasn’t completely sold on the feather finish product. Having worked on some concrete projects before, I decided to go with a product called Rapid Set Cement All. I used it on my bathroom vanity and I only had to do one coat. I chose not to completely smooth out the surface and then chose to fill divits with a grout in a secondary color. Anyway, Rapid Set dries harder than regular concrete and is about 40% stronger because it’s a hydraulic concrete. I have to say that my new surface is SOLID. I actually tested it out on an old piece of formica before applying to the vanity and then I took a light hammer to the test piece and it didn’t crack. You can see the piece here: http://diyfunideas.com/diy-concrete-counter-overlay-vanity-makeover/ Some people love it and some people (on Hometalk) hate it. I guess it’s a matter of taste. But I agree that it may have been the added grout. Another additive choice that likely would have worked better was to add cement. There is also a concrete color additive you can purchase that will whiten/lighten concrete. Also, as someone mentioned above, more water equals less strength. But, anyway, looking forward to seeing you new counters!
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I did the Ardex finish over laminate kitchen counters about two years ago. Painfully applied 5-6 layers, dealt with the sanding mess and sealed with the best food safe sealer I could find. I have had the exact same problems you have. The edges of the counters are chipping, it stains easily etc. Water does leave dark spots but they tend to dry out over time. I don’t mind the mottled finish so much as ours are dark, but would be crushed if I had achieved the beautiful chalky gray you did only to have it marred. I’m in total agreement with you – only good for low use areas.
Just a few thought after gleaning your article. Bare wood, even plywood, will wick the moisture out of concrete. You need a moisture barrier. Rosin paper or bituthene. Also your mix looked too wet. More water=less strength even with a moisture barrier. I would also staple metal lath over the rosin paper next time. Good luck.
Agree. The plywood would wick the moisture out of the concrete and cause cracks. The same thing happens when glazing old windows. I learned the hard way that the glazing will crack in about one year unless you seal the wood first, in the case of windows, linseed oil is recommended.
Thank you for sharing your lessons learned and to subsequent people for the insights. Very helpful.
Lolly Jane says
My brother in law made concrete countertops and only had issues with it sealing, it showed EACH stain from food or oil… maybe he didn’t seal it properly? Anyway I love this look and although you had issues, it sure is pretty! Nice job! PS- Featuring them tomorrow at our link party, thanks for sharing! XOXO
We had this same problem
Oh my heavens! Where were you a year ago! Ha! I am so glad to hear that the ardex is working for you. After all the cracking happened, we did make the assumption that it was probably the grout mix but you have verified that for me. And holy cow, I had no idea ardex made white or we would have been all over that. In fact, if my husband had not just finished installing our new solid surface countertops, we may have given it a go any ways. And yes, I do wonder if the wax and sealer were reacting like that, but I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere in my research and many companies recommended adding the wax. So confusing. I really truly appreciate you taking time to comment and leave such a helpful one. I still think concrete countertops look fantastic and it is so good to hear that it can work. I hope there will be many encouraged by your comment! Thank you!
Debi Bush says
After working with plaster & stone in n the orthodontic field for 33+yrs, I can give you another possibility as to why your countertops flaked. Your husband would add more water if it thickened. If you do that you weaken the material & once it starts setting, you compromise the integrity of the material. That plus adding grout. Grout has to be sealed with grout sealer or it crumbles over time.
He added excess water even before it stared thickening then added more this is the main problem . His first mixture was way to wet then he thinned it again.
Douglas Lyle says
You said in your post that you didn’t use Ardex, you used Henry’s instead because of the cost. I think that was your first mistake. Also if you thin the mixture too much it won’t set up correctly. That will cause it to flake. I’ve mixed and poured sanded grout and mortar mixture up to two inches thick with no problems at all. Just make sure your mix is no thinner than pancake batter.
Deborah Child says
I’m so thankful,for your blog. Now I know what not to do. We are preparing to do,our countertops with the ardex and are waiting for it to come in the mail. We did get ardex and I also spent the $75.00 for the roll of concrete countertop reinforcement to put between the first and second coat of concrete. I got the white ardex and yes it is spendier but hopefully worth it. When I read about the Henrys and rread that it has cancer causing agents in it, that made my mind up for me on which kind to get. I saw on Hometalk that a woman used robin’s egg blue paint and mixed it with her concrete. Look that up for the ratio that she used, if I recall right it was just a small portion. They turned out beautiful. So it might have been better to add some white paint to get the color u wanted. I am thankful to know,not to use bare wood. Your kitchen looks very nice.
You cannot add more water to concrete mix when it is hardening during installation. It weakens it. Another possibility is in your pictures the cement looks awfully thin. Love the look though. Thinking about trying it over our Formica.