DIY White Concrete Countertops

Ever since we came in contact with the Pugmire’s concrete countertops in their kitchen, we have had it in the back of our minds for ours–except in white to contrast our dark cabinets. We love to mix traditional and modern with an industrial edge in our home and white concrete countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen (with a walnut island top) not only sounded like a fun project to do and share, but we hoped it would add a bit of modern character to the kitchen. There are a few different kinds of concrete countertops floating around blog land, but for ours, we poured them in place using white countertop concrete mix and squared edge counterforms from Z Counterforms. Last Saturday, with the help of our friend Preston (musician, DIY master, concrete worker extraordinaire), we DIYed our countertops and today I’m here to spill all the details, the results and a few lessons we learned.

DIY-Concrete-Countertops-_-Chris-Loves-Julia

PREP

The prep work is the most important part of DIYing concrete countertops. We started out by screwing in 5/8″ CDX plywood from underneath our cabinets. Although our countertops turned out awesome, if we were doing it again, we would definitely use Durock cement boards in place of the plywood. While plywood is an acceptable base, we learned that Durock absorbs liquid, while plywood repels it. This concrete mix was more fluid and we had quite a mess on our hands at one point. Like I said, it all turned out great in the end, so all is well that ends well, but after talking to the guys at Z Counterform, Durock would have eliminated a lot of the excess liquid.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Once the plywood was set, we started attaching the forms. Preston is the one who told us about Z Counterforms because he had worked with them before, had great results and they are geared to DIYers and professionals alike. The backside of the countertop had a simple 90 degree straight edge form:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

While the form for the front edges had a dip in it so it would go slightly down in front of the cabinets appearing to be a full 2 1/4″ thick. They had all sorts of fancy profiles for countertops, but we like the simple square edge.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Since we were planning on an undermount sink and pouring concrete in place, this is the time to undermount the sink! It felt a little backwards at first, but we cut the hole for the sink and siliconed and braced it in place.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

To protect the sink from getting mounds of poured concrete in it, we used the sink template to cut out a form in 2″ blueboard styrofoam. We wrapped the edges in packing tape to promote the smoothest finish on the sink edge, marked where the top of the concrete would sit and siliconed that to the sink (came right off after the concrete dried!). We did a similar process for the faucet hole.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

This is where you are going to want to silicone every crack where the concrete could leak out. Where the counterform meets plywood, all seams (from the outside)–we also duct taped the outside corners as an extra precaution, and where the counterform meets the wall in the back. We thought we did this pretty well, but we missed a few spots where the wall meets the form and had some leaks to clean up during the pouring process. We’d definitely spend more time on this part doing it again.

The last part of the prep was rolling out fiber glass mesh (equivalent to rebar in large concrete projects) we picked up from Z Counterform, too. It keeps the concrete from cracking and reinforces the counters.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Once we had it rolled out and cut, we attached what are called “Z clips“. They get screwed into the plywood and hold the mesh up and in place.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

We laid out rosin paper on the floors and covered all the cabinet fronts, too, after the above photo was taken. And we were finally ready to start pouring the countertops!

MIXING AND POURING THE COUNTERTOPS

As I mentioned earlier, we used a countertop specific mix from Z Counterform–this one! The directions are right on the bag, but there is a little wiggle room in how much water you add to the mix.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

Because we used plywood, instead of Durock, we settled on about 2.5 quarts per 50 lbs of concrete mix. We ended up using 14 bags of countertop mix for our perimeter countertops (about 35 sq feet).

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

The day started out with both Chris and Preston mixing, but after the first couple batches, Preston settled inside working on leveling the concrete while Chris kept mixing. In retrospect, we should have rented a mud mixer from the hardware store. Even these heavy duty drills were struggling to keep up and Chris’s shoulder was feeling it, too. Note: Rent a mud mixer!

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

After a bag was mixed up, it was poured onto the countertop:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

And worked into the mesh with a magnesium float.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

When there was enough concrete in place, Preston would level it first with a screed. This was one Chris made in a couple minutes using a scrap piece of wood and two handles that came on a pallet we got.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

And then moved to the magnesium float:

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

While the concrete was still very wet, we took a palm sander (with no sandpaper on it) to the sides of the form and turned it on. This helped settle out any bubbles forming in the concrete.

IMG_6986

And finally, once things started setting up, a more flexible zinc trowel was used, which Preston explains a little more about in this short video that was shot during the final step right before we called it a night:

REMOVING THE FORMS AND SANDING

We finished that final step above on Saturday night. Monday night, we had the Pugmires over for dinner and to remove the edge forms. The back forms stay in place and will never be seen once we put in the backsplash. Z Counterforms are designed to bend and snap off–it’s the coolest and scariest part. Before removing the edge, we sanded over the form so we could pry it back a bit.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

I took a 15 second video showing how easy it was to remove the forms.

The edges and underneath the counters are so, so smooth since they were up against the forms. The tops were pretty smooth thanks to all of the effort Preston put in during the first 5-6 hours after pouring, but still got sanded down after the forms were snapped off. We got this sanding block from Z Counterform and it has 3 different diamond sanders with velcro on the back (printed with the grit). We started with a 150 grit and went up to a 300 for a velvety smooth finish.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

We couldn’t be happier with the results! The concrete is cool to the touch, like stone. It looks very organic with spots speckled with “pepper” and others swooshed with white. It’s smooth and thick, giving us a great overall counter + cabinet height.

DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia DIY White Concrete Countertops | Chris Loves Julia

The cost breakdown (not including sealer) is:

The concrete mix: $29 a bag x 14 bags= $406
Square Edging: $180
Fiberglass Mesh: $50
Z Clips: $20
Z Gem Pad (Diamond sanders): $60
Magnesium Float: $26
Zinc Trowel: $39
Screed: (DIYed)
Plywood: $45
Silicone: $15
Blueboard for sink: $15

TOTAL: $856

The last step is sealing it. We did a ton of research on sealers and invested in one that promises the utmost protection–fingers crossed! We are going to wait a full week, allowing it to cure completely, before doing that. So, I’ll share those details next week. We’re so glad we branched out a bit and tried something new to us. We love, love, love them. Is it something you would ever try?

SEE HOW THE COUNTERTOPS LOOK IN OUR FINISHED KITCHEN HERE.

UPDATE: Woot! I just got an email from Z Counterform and they’d like to offer all of our readers 15% off all products for the next 3 months using code CLJ015. Go get em, guys!

After all that work, we wanted to make sure our countertops would last. See how we finished and sealed the countertops in this follow-up post!



99 Comments

  • Reply October 20, 2016

    Matt

    Thank you so much for all the insight. Your post really gave us the confidence to take on the project for our own kitchen. We just finished up ours last week and they turned out great. It is definitely an in depth process but the final results are pretty amazing.

  • Reply October 3, 2016

    Ashley

    Hi,

    I was wondering how these are such bright white? Did I miss it in the process? I gather you used white cement, but these seem really bright. Would love to have that same look in my kitchen!

    • Reply October 4, 2016

      Julia

      We used the white concrete mix from Z counter forms and this is just how white they are.

  • Reply July 9, 2016

    Christina

    We have referred to your kitchen counter post at least 50 times! So helpful. Two questions: Did you just dry sand or did you wet sand at all? We have some pin/bug holes on top of the counters and on the edges. We are using the same sealant you used (thanks for doing all our leg work! :-)) and it appears that b/c it is an epoxy, many of those tiny holes will be filled in. We have been filling in hole by hole itty bits of concrete but if from your experience, that is unnecessary, we will stop. Thanks so much for you help.

    • Reply July 9, 2016

      Julia

      I wouldn’t worry about those little holes, they’ll all be taken care of with the sealer! Send pics!

  • Reply May 14, 2016

    john

    so we are doing ours on top of ikea cabinets as well. You had mentioned you would have used durok or cement backer board for the base. Which is what i have seen in a lot of videos. but with ikea cabinets that lip would have blocked the top drawer from coming out. Luckily I saw your guys video because I was all about using backer board until I saw this video. I actually thought you guys caught the mistake so I remeasured and realized my drawer wouldn’t open if I used duroc. Thanks!

  • Reply April 8, 2016

    Amber

    Beautiful-how long did it take you to grind and sand?

  • Reply April 4, 2016

    Emily M.

    How long did you wait to apply the sealer?

    • Reply April 4, 2016

      Julia

      This post should answer all your sealer questions. We waited a full week before sealing them.

  • Reply March 23, 2016

    Tessa

    Amazing tutorial. One question, another blogger who used the same brand of white concrete and they said it turned out cream and not 100% white. Your counters look bright white, any issues with the color? Would you call it a cream or bright white? Thanks!

    • Reply March 23, 2016

      Julia

      I would call it white, for sure! There are specks of gray specks in it that we love so much but really no cream.

  • Reply February 22, 2016

    Becca Ewald

    Hi can you give me more insight on the kitchen sink prep ?

  • Reply February 13, 2016

    Katie

    Hello! I absolutely love the counters! Am about 90% of the way there in terms of planning for them. One question I’d love to know the answer to is what do you mean when you say you used silicone on the forms and around the sink to stop leakage? I’m from the UK and wondered if the terminology was different! Could you tell me a product name so I could find an equivalent please? Thank you :)

  • Reply January 31, 2016

    Russell Strand

    This Do it yourself project is very good and I am going to try this project at home. This kind of do it yourself project is very good. For sure I am going to try this post at my home. Keep posting and keep growing.

    קורות צהובות

  • Reply January 16, 2016

    Charlie Coker

    I love these! Very inspiring. How did they hold up to wear and tear since installation?

  • Reply December 7, 2015

    Dan

    How or when did you of you did remove back forms along wall?

  • Reply November 23, 2015

    Becca Ewald

    How do you level them to make sure there are no dips / groves ? Also does the cement clean up on cabinets well ? Also any pics of the faucet hole prep ?

    • Reply April 10, 2016

      Wendy

      I had these same questions. ~ Did you set a hole for the faucet before you poured the cement (I didn’t notice in the pics) or drill the hole out later? Either way, I would really appreciate hearing how you prepared for the faucet. ~ Thanks so much! I’m totally inspired to try this.

  • Reply November 14, 2015

    Liz

    Did you pay for shipping? Or did they ship for free in exchange for your blog posts?

    • Reply November 16, 2015

      Julia

      There was an exchange. But you can use the coupon code and hopefully that will cut it down!

  • Reply November 4, 2015

    Sonya

    This is amazing – love the blog and the countertops are absolutely gorgeous. I’m so grateful that you took the time to post all the photos and steps in detail; I’ve been scouring the internet trying to figure out how I can create a white concrete vanity top for my bathroom and this is perfect. I’m going to give it a try!

  • Reply November 2, 2015

    Angela

    Your kitchen looks amazing! I am also doing the Ikea Laxarby black-brown cabinets and a concrete countertop. I’m still on the fence whether or not I want to go with the white concrete mix from Z counterform or to go with a gray concrete. Anyways! I had read at one time that the z counterforms came down too low and would collide with the ikea drawers, and that modifications were needed so the countertop did not come down so low. You didn’t run into this issue, right? Maybe the problem was with the old Akurum cabinets and not the new series. If you could confirm, that would be great!

    • Reply November 2, 2015

      Julia

      Hmm, no problems on our end! Good luck!

  • Reply October 27, 2015

    Wendy

    How does this hold up to stains. I have been thinking about doing white concrete in my kitchen.

    • Reply October 27, 2015

      Julia

      We just had a huge party with over 100 people and lots of spills and no stains so far. Although, I do believe our sealer has a lot to do with it. Don’t skimp on the sealer! Check out this post for more details:

  • Reply October 22, 2015

    Greg

    Looks Great! Did you guys have any concerns with the weight or look into the weight of concrete countertops on the IKEA cabinets?

    • Reply October 22, 2015

      Julia

      There were no issues at all concerning weight. The concrete we used was specifically for countertops so we weren’t concerned about weight.

  • Reply October 8, 2015

    Chelsea

    These look amazing!! We used the same edge forms from Z Counterforms and loved them too – well worth the extra money. We just used standard concrete mix in our kitchen and did the whole project for about $16/sf. I think we’re going to splurge and do the white mix in our bathroom soon though!

    Check out our project here: http://www.moderninthemiddle.com/#!home/c1k8r/Tag/concrete countertops

  • Reply September 24, 2015

    Devlin

    Love the white counter tops. I am thinking of doing it with navy cabinets. Can you tell me if it is a cool, grey white or a warm tone? Thanks!

    • Reply September 24, 2015

      Julia

      I would say it’s a warm white

      • September 25, 2015

        Devlin

        Thank you, Julia! That is what I am searching for. Now I am even more excited! (We live in the middle of the woods and having someone come and install granite or quartz is mind-blowing expensive. This DIY counter top will give me the look I want and I can save same money!) Thanks for the great tutorials!

  • Reply September 22, 2015

    Matt

    So I looked into getting the Z Counterform product (concrete and accessories). One cost you didn’t mention is shipping… $450 for shipping alone just for the bags of concrete to Utah!! That’s a deal breaker. I wish they had a distributor here. Or if you got yours some other way I’m all ears.

    • Reply September 29, 2015

      Matt

      Shipping on the sealer is also $20 FYI. So with shipping, your $856 price should really be closer to $1,356 which makes your countertops approx. $38/sq. ft.

      • September 29, 2015

        Julia

        Don’t forget the 15% off! ;)

  • Reply September 21, 2015

    Brienne McDowell

    It sounds like you had a lot of help from your friend that works with concrete. Do you think you would have had the same results without his expertise? e.i. Can most of us really get these results at home?
    They look amazing!

    • Reply September 22, 2015

      Julia

      Brienne, that is such a good question and one that I have really, truly thought about before sharing our own countertops. We wanted to do concrete countertops because we love the look and we thought it would be a fun DIY project. Our friend, Preston, he LOVES working with concrete. It’s not his career but it is one of his passions. So naturally he was excited to help us out. And while he definitely held our hands and guided us, this is 100% something any DIYer can do. We followed the instructions given by Z Counterform (they even send a video demonstration to watch before you get started that breaks down all the steps really well!) and we even made a few minor mistakes (i.e. plywood instead of cement board) and they STILL turned out amazing. You can do it. Anyone can do it. :)

  • Reply September 9, 2015

    anissa

    I love the way these look. I do have a question about the sink. In thinking long term, what will you do if you ever need to or want to replace the sink since it is sandwiched between the concrete and the plywood?

    • Reply September 9, 2015

      Julia

      Good question! We are able to cut the plywood from underneath and release the sink if need be.

  • Reply September 4, 2015

    Dominika

    Absolutely the best DIY concrete counters i have ever seen. LOVE them! Did you have to do anything special to the cabinetry to be able to hold the weight of the concrete?

  • Reply September 3, 2015

    Arielle

    This looks so, so good. Our kitchen needs a major overhaul and we’re going to try to do as much on our own as we can, so this post is inspiring (if not a bit daunting)! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Reply September 1, 2015

    terre

    Of course they look beautiful. I’m wondering if these companies you mention are sponsors- or maybe they will be! Is there any reason you didn’t cast them upside down? It’s more work but gives a mirror finish if you use plexi or metal. Once it cures there is no problem flipping it.

  • Reply August 28, 2015

    Alexa~FurnishMyWay

    Wow! This DIY is awesome! I would’ve never thought of DIY-ing my own counter tops. This post definitely inspires me to make my own counter tops one day. Great post!

  • Reply August 28, 2015

    Joanna

    Those look gorgeous, modern and earthy. Love them!

  • Reply August 28, 2015

    Emilyjane

    I’m inspired!

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Ally

    Gorgeous! Did you have to do anything to make sure there weren’t any bubbles that would prevent the smooth finish?

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Chris

      Yes! Good question I’ll have Jules update the post. We took a vibrating sander, removed its sanding pad, and ran it along the edge of the forms (while it was turned on, off course). The vibration brought the bubbles out.

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Julia

      Oops! Yes, I’ll update the post. I even have a photo of that!

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Marnie

    Hi Julia,

    Amazing job! The kitchen is looking great is is really fun to watch as it transforms. I am curious… how do you drill the holes for the faucet?

    Thank you!

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Julia

      We just used a 1 1/2″ drill bit through the plywood and then added a same-sized blue board foam piece into the hole before we poured concrete. Similarly to how we did the sink. :)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Lexy | Proper

    You stop it right now. This is exactly what I want someday! I keep telling Logan that he will pour me some counters whenever we buy a house and I want concrete! I am sold on the white. How bright and beautiful is your kitchen?!?! Wish we could be up in Rexburg with guys!

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Julia

      So nice! Come to Rexburg, the water’s warm! (no it’s not.)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Evelina

    They are so gorgeous! I love that you went with white.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    brittanyMakes

    MAN, this is good. SO SO SO good. I would LOVE to do something like this, now I have to think on where I can do this in our home. love the attention to detail you guys put into each project. It looks a million times better than the other concrete counters you see on the internet. WELL DONE

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      Thanks so much, Brittany! Your comments always make my day. :)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Allison

    How did the Pugmires do in the contest they entered? Did they win anything?

    What awesome friends, by the way! It’s great that you’ve been able to help each other out with DIY projects.

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      I owe you guys an update on that! They didn’t win the grand prize, but they got an awesome opportunity out of the whole thing. I’ll write a whole post on it when their house gets a facelift next month–wooott!!! And you’re right, it’s awesome to have such great friends.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Victoria

    They look elegant and strong. I love them.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Lauren M

    This is amazing!! I would love to try it someday. Thanks for sharing every detail! What do you estimate the cost to be on a square foot basis? Great job!

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      If the total cost was $856, dividing that by the square footage of the counters (35 sq ft) works out to about $24 a square foot. But that does include all materials and tools, too. Not JUST the concrete.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Abby J.

    These look really really cool! If you can get detail shots, I would love to see some of the color variation you mentioned!

  • LOVE.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Joy Weber

    It looks awesome! Addicted to Decorating used the Z system too, but it is really interesting to see the contrast between your counters. Hers is much more traditional, but as you described I like your more industrial vibe. This kitchen is awesome. I cannot wait until you have cabinet doors!

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Dan

    These look amazing! I’ve done the ardex feather finish on countertops and was not too happy with the result, but these look so great. I would love to know what your final costs were. I also wonder how much the white will stain and age over time. The feather finish countertops got all kinds of oil stains despite sealing it multiple times and using a wax on it.

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      Hi Dan,

      The final cost breakdown is:

      The concrete mix: $29 a bag x 14 bags= $406
      Square Edging: $180
      Fiberglass Mesh: $50
      Z Clips: $20
      Z Gem Pad (Diamond sanders): $60
      Magnesium Float: $26
      Zinc Trowel: $39
      Screed: (DIYed)
      Plywood: $45
      Silicone: $15
      Blueboard for sink: $15

      TOTAL: $856

      I am going to update the post with this information since a couple people have asked! Also, I’ll go over the sealing process next week, but we spent a good chunk of change on just the sealer (Stonelok E3/2K Epoxy/Urethane countertop sealer) that is supposed to lock all of that stuff out but time will tell.

    • Reply September 1, 2015

      terre

      cutting boards!

  • Wow! Looks great! Thanks of the in-depth tutorial and videos too. Great info here. Can’t wait to see more! :)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    AmandaH

    Love it! So beautiful! We are about to embark on our own kitchen gut and reno so it’s great inspiration reading you blog! So I was wondering…can you share details on the cost? Or just a general it was so much more or less expensive than that amount of granite or Quartz? I want to know if it was a cost thing or just the esthetic and diy spirit that caused you to choose this.

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      It is a LOT less expensive than granite or quartz IF you do it yourself. Here’s the breakdown:

      The concrete mix: $29 a bag x 14 bags= $406
      Square Edging: $180
      Fiberglass Mesh: $50
      Z Clips: $20
      Z Gem Pad (Diamond sanders): $60
      Magnesium Float: $26
      Zinc Trowel: $39
      Screed: (DIYed)
      Plywood: $45
      Silicone: $15
      Blueboard for sink: $15

      TOTAL: $856

      It wasn’t necessarily a cost thing for us, although this kitchen is definitely a mix of splurge and save to keep us in a reasonable budget. We also truly love the look of concrete, especially this white concrete and thought it would be a fun project to try.

      • August 27, 2015

        AmandaH

        Awesome! Thank you SO much for giving this cost breakdown! I love your counters. Now just have to show them to my hubby!!

      • September 15, 2015

        Matt

        Is there a Z Counterform distributor in Utah? Or did you order yours direct? I’m not too excited about paying shipping and handling for bags of concrete… :)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Beatiz

    Simply Gorgeous! We renovated our kitchen one year ago and I wanted concrete countertops but couldn’t find an experienced contractor. We ended up splurging on white quartz. In the end, I love the look of the quartz but wished I had tried something new. Now, with your tutorial,l we may be bold enough to try it on a bathroom vanity?! I can’t wait to see the final kitchen reveal.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    BeccaS

    Wow! I love it! Can’t wait to see it paired with the island top….and the cabinet fronts of course lol

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      Yes! Cabinet fronts stat!

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Corine Pugmire

    The light!! The white! It’s all gorgeous. And I love the gritty industrial specks in the smooth classic white counter tops. It’s such an interesting balance. The thickness is what makes them look so rich and modern to me. You explained the process really well. It’s a huge DIY project, but those Z products make it seem so much less daunting.

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      Couldn’t have done it without your constant positive energy Corine! xo

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Meagan Briggs

    So,once it’s sealed, how is it cleaned and kept sparkly white? Do you have to use special products on it?

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      I’ll definitely go over that once we seal it next week. :)

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Stephanie

    These are Awesome! I cannot wait until the final Kitchen reveal! Will you be doing a cost break down of your kitchen reno? I need to tweak my kitchen and get rid of my countertops!!!! Please give us the info about the sealer!

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      I’ll go over everything sealer in a post next week, but we used Stonelok E3/2K Epoxy/Urethane countertop sealer.

  • They turned out great! Must have been quite a process :-)

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      Julia

      Thanks Morgan, the process took all day on Saturday and then a couple hours Monday evening. Not too daunting.

  • They look SO good! Love how thick they are and the contrast to the dark lowers. The light is literally pouring into your kitchen now thanks to those windows! Can’t wait to see what’s next!

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