Concrete FAQ

This section answers some common questions about concrete countertops:

 

Who would want concrete
countertops?

Concrete countertops are the most unique, personal
countertop option because they are made from scratch for each client. To
determine whether concrete is right for you, think about whether you believe
that:

  • you want something unique and personalized
  • you want something that looks natural and has character
  • you appreciate high-quality, hand-crafted items
  • you think granite is too shiny, too formal, too common
  • you think synthetic solid surface materials look and feel like plastic
  • you need a color or visual texture that’s not available with other
    countertop materials

If so, concrete countertops may be right for you.

 

What are
the advantages and disadvantages of concrete compared to other countertop
materials?

Advantages:

  • Custom: Concrete’s biggest advantage is that it is completely custom. Your
    countertop will be unique to you and highly personalized.
  • Versatile: Concrete is extremely versatile. It can enhance any style, from
    French Country to Contemporary. From Arts and Crafts to Industrial. From
    Traditional to Modern. The possibilities are endless.
  • Practical: H2 Concrete Design’s sealer provides a surface that is extremely
    stain-resistant and low-maintenance. Common food items will not stain it. The
    sealer does not degrade, and therefore does not need to be reapplied every year
    like many other sealers. The sealer actually reacts with the concrete and makes
    your countertops harder and denser as the sealer cures.
  • Imperfections: We believe that this is an advantage. Concrete countertops
    are hand made and hand finished. Since concrete is a heterogeneous mixture of
    many different ingredients, subtle variations in color, shade, texture and
    overall appearance should be expected. All concrete is susceptible to harmless
    hairline cracks. They will sometimes appear months or years after installation,
    and are generally a result of seasonal movement of the cabinets and the house
    itself. These should be considered part of the aesthetic charm of concrete, and
    not a defect. Concrete exhibits natural beauty rather than plastic perfection.

Disadvantages:

  • Staining: Concrete countertops actually behave similar to granite in this
    regard. Granite countertops are also porous and have to be sealed and
    maintained. Most people don’t realize this, because granite is usually too dark
    and patterned to show stains. Food, acids and oil will not stain your countertop
    if wiped up immediately, and if left on for a longer period of time, they will
    cause only a light spot whose appearance can be minimized with a touch-up kit.
  • Scratching: While the sealer is very durable, it is possible to scratch it.
    For example, in kitchens, you should use cutting boards on concrete countertops.
  • Lead time: Concrete countertops are a long lead time item. They take
    approximately 4 to 6 weeks to fabricate. See the section on lead time for more
    details.

 

How much do they
cost?

Even though it is a completely custom material, concrete is
competitive in price with standard countertop materials. The price is
competitive with high end granite, ranging from $70 to over $100 per square
foot. We are happy to work with you and your designer to give you an estimate on
your project, and we can help you with options to fit your budget.

 

Where can I use concrete in
my home?

  • H2 Concrete Design makes concrete countertops for kitchens, bathrooms,
    fireplace mantles, tables, desks, and anywhere else countertops are required.
    Horizontal countertops must be at least 1.5” thick. H2 Concrete Design can make
    thicker countertops as well as fabricate front edge returns up to 6” deep.
  • Concrete countertops can be straight, curved, notched, multi-level, etc.
    Unlike granite, which would drastically increase in cost for curved shapes,
    creating curved concrete shapes simply involves some extra complexity and labor
    in forming.
  • Concrete can also be used in vertical applications such as backsplashes,
    shower surrounds and fireplace surrounds. For vertical applications, concrete is
    generally 1” thick.
  • Maximum slab length for standard depth countertops is about 8 feet. Seams
    are located around sinks and cooktops, or wherever required for structural
    reasons. H2 Concrete Design will work with you to design seam placement that is
    both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. Seams are typically 1/16”
    wide, similar to tile grout lines. However, it is important to realize that
    concrete countertops are hand made and hand processed; they are not machine cut,
    so tolerances for seams are more generous than with granite. Seam appearance is
    minimized by using color-matched acrylic caulk.
  • Integral and vessel sinks are possible. See the section on sinks for more
    information.
  • Concrete countertops can be used both indoors and outdoors.

 

What colors are
available?

Any color! H2 Concrete Design has developed hundreds of
colors including every color on the spectrum. Any color can be produced in a
solid, speckled or variegated pattern. And, you can specify embedded stone,
glass, or other objects. You can specify the color, size and density of
embedments. Coupled with the many color choices, you have myriad design options.

 

What is the process
for custom colors?

H2 Concrete Design specializes in custom color
development. We can customize existing colors or match the color of an item such
as a paint chip or fabric. The process takes about 3 weeks. We produce two or
more 6” x 6” samples and submit them for your approval.

 

How much color
variation can occur?

Concrete is a natural, handmade material. Many
factors such as humidity, sand lot and cement lot can affect the final
appearance of the concrete. All of our color formulas record the type of sand,
type of cement, and exact measurements of pigments to 1/10th of a gram, and we
use specially developed software to calculate mix design. However, colors can
still vary because of the aforementioned factors.

Another factor that
contributes to perceived variation is simply the size of samples. A 3” x 3”
sample, or even a 6” x 6” sample, will look different than a whole countertop
simply because the small sample does not capture all of the natural, random
variations that will occur over a large surface. The color in a 3” x 3” sample
may appear completely uniform, but a whole countertop in that exact same color
will not appear as uniform. The same situation occurs with other natural
materials such as granite. If you are looking for perfect uniformity, solid
surface might be a better countertop option for you.

 

What edges are
available?

For concrete, edging is formed and cast rather than cut like
granite or solid surface. Therefore, edge choices depend on the availability of
appropriate trim moulding. For example, H2 Concrete Design can do pencil,
beveled, concave and reverse cove edging, and other custom edges may be
available. Edging may be placed on top or bottom of the countertop. Bullnose
edging is available for 2” thick countertop edges.

 

What kind of sinks can be
used with concrete countertops?

H2 Concrete Design concrete countertops
can accommodate all types of sinks including drop-in, undermount and apron
front. The minimum lip of concrete around all sides of sinks is 3”. Concrete can
also accommodate drop-in cooktops. The minimum lip of concrete in the front of a
cooktop is 3”; we recommend 3” for the back also, but 2” will suffice.

H2 Concrete Design can make integral concrete sinks of almost any shape.
Bathroom vanities are an excellent application of integral concrete sinks. We do
not recommend integral concrete kitchen sinks for engineering reasons. Kitchen
sinks are deep and have angles that would put large stresses on the concrete and
have high potential for cracking. Also, the size of kitchen sinks generally
dictates a very thick concrete bottom that would be a problem with standard
plumbing and cabinetry.

Concrete vessel sinks are also possible, and
concrete’s versatility means that the sink can be any color and shape.

 

What about
backsplashes?

Backsplashes are cast and finished separately and deck
mounted after the countertops are installed. Backsplashes are nominally 1 inch
thick and can be from 3 inches high to full height. Outlet openings are cast in,
not cut on site.

 

Will concrete countertops
stain?

Bare concrete is very porous and will readily stain. Virtually
all concrete countertops are sealed to prevent staining; however the degree to
which these sealers works varies significantly. Commonly used sealers include
wax and penetrating acrylic sealer. Both of these are inexpensive and easy to
apply. However, neither offer significant stain or heat resistance, and both
require frequent reapplication to prevent the formation of a “patina”. H2
Concrete Design’s sealer is different. We use a high-performance sealer that is
exceptionally durable and provides excellent resistance to incidental contact
with staining agents such as red wine, lemon juice and olive oil. Complete care
instructions are included in your Owner’s Guide. Touch-up of any marks that do
occur is simple and easy.

 

Will they
scratch?

While the sealer is durable, it can scratch if cut with a knife
or subjected to heavy, sharp objects dragged across the surface. Cutting on the
concrete may compromise the integrity of the sealer and allow stains to permeate
the concrete matrix. Cutting on the concrete will also ruin knives, requiring a
professional resharpening to reshape the damaged edge. Remember, concrete is
made with stone, the same thing used to sharpen knives (and will therefore dull
them just as easily). If you do scratch a countertop, you can easily repair it
yourself using the H2 Concrete Design Touch-Up Kit.

 

Can I put hot pots on the
countertops?

As with almost all types of countertop surfaces, it is best
to use trivets. Concrete can micro crack if exposed to high heat, and the sealer
is not elastic enough to “absorb” these micro cracks. The surface will appear
“crazed”. However, the Touch-Up Kit can be used to minimize the appearance of
these micro cracks, just like it is used to touch up scratches.

 

How are concrete
countertops made?

All of the slabs are precast in our shop and fully
finished and sealed prior to installation.

When it comes to concrete
countertops, there are two basic processes: cast-in-place and precast.
Cast-in-place involves building forms and pouring concrete in place, directly on
the cabinets. While this avoids the hassles of transporting heavy slabs, it does
tie up the site for many days (or weeks), and it involves a messy process. In
addition, cast (or pour) in place provides fewer options and less control over
the finished product. Generally the only finish available is a trowelled
surface, which is either acid stained or colored with pigments. The quality of
the concrete, the finished appearance and ultimate performance of the countertop
are all hampered by the fact that it’s all being done on site under a rushed
time schedule.

Precast concrete countertops, on the other hand, move all
of the processes off site into a controlled environment. In the structural
engineering community, it is well known that precast concrete is superior to
cast in place concrete, mainly because tighter quality control can be exercised.
Curing, which is a critical step that is commonly misunderstood, can be closely
monitored. Moving the process to a shop allows greater flexibilty in terms of
the look of the concrete. Glass, stone and other objects can now be embedded;
these require extensive wet grinding with diamond power tools to reveal the
embedded objects and hone and smooth the resulting surface.

 

What is the lead
time?

Although countertops are one of the last items to be installed,
concrete countertops should be selected as early as possible. Here is an outline
of the process:

  1. Color selection
    • H2 Concrete Design often performs custom color matching and submits samples
      for your approval. Allow about 3 weeks for this process. See the section on
      custom colors for more information.
  2. Templating
    • Templating is done from finished and installed cabinetry, and it takes less
      than one day.
  3. Fabrication
    • The typical time required to fabricate most concrete countertops, depending
      on their size and complexity, is 4-6 weeks. Note that the fabrication process
      may not start immediately after templating depending on how full our production
      schedule is. A good guideline is to contact H2 Concrete Design at the beginning
      of the project, or at the latest one month before cabinetry is scheduled to be
      installed, both to allow time for custom color samples and to secure a spot on
      H2 Concrete Design’s production schedule.
    • In the case of a residential project such as a complete kitchen remodel,
      homeowners are usually willing to wait longer for their custom-made, handcrafted
      concrete countertops. However, temporary countertops can be a way to minimize
      inconvenience. Temporary plywood countertops are one possible solution. Or, the
      contractor can preserve parts of the old countertop to provide some work
      surfaces.
  4. Installation
    • Because H2 Concrete Design concrete countertops are precast and prefinished,
      installation generally takes less than one day.

 

How are
templates made?

Concrete countertops are templated just like granite.
Templating is done after any existing countertops are removed, or after new
cabinets are fully installed. Your contractor needs to arrange for existing
countertop removal. Almost all concrete countertops require physical templates
from the finished and installed cabinetry. In some cases, such as small or
freestanding pieces, we can fabricate from CADD drawings instead of physical
templates. We will advise on templating requirements for your project, and we
provide your contractor with a templating checklist to help him prepare. All
fixtures that penetrate the concrete, such as sinks and faucets, must be
available at templating time.

 

How are the
countertops installed?

Concrete countertops are handled and installed
just like granite. Seams are caulked with a color-matched acrylic caulk. Your
contractor needs to arrange for plumbing and electrical hookup no earlier than
24 hours after the countertop installation.

 

Are there
any special structural considerations?

A square foot of 1.5” thick
concrete weighs about 17 lbs; a square foot of 3 cm granite weighs about 16.5
lbs. Typically, no special considerations are necessary for standard kitchen or
bathroom vanity countertops. Cantilevered slabs, bartops on kneewalls and
similar situations sometimes require brackets or other structural supports for
the countertops. H2 Concrete Design can advise on support requirements.

 

Do you offer a
warranty?

H2 Concrete Design provides a One-Year
Structural Warranty. The countertops will of course last a lot longer than a
year, but if any problems were to occur, they would occur in the first year. We
subject the concrete to much larger stresses while handling it than clients ever
could once it is installed.

During the first year after installation,
H2 Concrete Design, at its sole option, shall repair or replace
its product if it fails to maintain its functional structural integrity for the
intended purpose of the product solely due to a manufacturing defect.

This applies only to H2 Concrete Design products that
have been handled, fabricated, installed and maintained in the manner
recommended by H2 Concrete Design. Hairline cracks, surface
scratches and chips are not included as part of this warranty, nor is structural
damage caused by severe impacts or damage stemming from loss of support and/or
excessive deflections by the supporting cabinetry or hardware. H2
Concrete Design
, shall have sole and final right to determine whether a
warranty claim is valid.

Should an issue arise, H2 Concrete
Design
provides each client with an Owner’s Guide and a direct phone
number for customer support.

 

Whom can I contact with
questions or to discuss a project?

Contact your designer or Mark Hohn, our Client Services Representative.

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