Are High-End Concrete Counters Right for Your Kitchen?

Concrete Countertop in Kitchen
Getty / Dana Hoff/Beateworks/Fuse

This is clear: concrete countertops are the trendy thing and infuse your home with a unique urban appearance. This also is clear: concrete is the only counter material that you can shape entirely to your liking.

What is not clear to most homeowners is whether this striking-looking material is reasonably priced, functions well, and provides years of usage with minimal maintenance.

It is difficult to pin down exactly why concrete counters exploded in popularity. One reason may be that kitchen designers and remodelers saw this as a novel, fresh way of dealing with the countertop problem of how to provide rock-solid, stone-like counters without necessarily going the “granite route."

Concrete Has One Quality That No Other Counter Material Shares...

The ability to be infinitely styled, colored, and shaped.

Since concrete counters are made from scratch, you are not limited to colors, shapes, or styles.  Ceramic tile countertops would be the nearest competitor since they give you the ability to draw upon thousands of available tiles and mix and match them.

If you have an unusual configuration of base cabinets, concrete can accommodate any shape--it literally forms itself to whatever shape is needed. 

Besides shape, concrete can be color-tinted and even embedded with inserts and inlays such as glass, stone, and even fiber-optic lights. Just try doing that with your quartz or solid surface countertops.

Concrete Is Not a Cheaper, Easier Substitute For Other Materials

If you just want basic counters, go for solid-surface (Silestone, Corian, etc.), laminate, or even granite. Concrete counters are not what you might call basic.

Envisioning building a form around your existing laminate countertops and pouring in concrete? Nice fantasy, but that's not how it works.

Depending on the needs, concrete counters are best created by experienced fabricator/installers. The counter may be built in the shop, where the fabricator has a controlled environment and can produce a predictable product. This is the preferred method.

If a counter is cast on-site, it is because the job has special design needs that can be met only by casting in place.

Do your cabinets need extra bracing? 

Concrete counters are heavy, but if you have ever seen a massively thick concrete counter, the true secret is that you are probably just viewing the drop-front apron.

Aprons are visual illusions that give the appearance of a thicker countertop and serve to cover up the seam where the counter meets the cabinet.

The majority of that counter is just 1.5 to 2 inches thick, and you do not need to have a thick face, either. That is just another design option. 

A 1.5-inch thick concrete counter is close to 19 pounds per square foot. This compares to the weight of granite. So, no special cabinetry or bracing is needed for concrete. There is really no need at all for a six-inch countertop throughout.

Maintenance

The wise philosopher Ron Popeil may have once declared "Set it and forget it" about his Showtime Rotisserie oven, but this statement does not apply to concrete countertops.

Concrete counters need sealing, but not “constant sealing.” After installation, the counter will receive an initial sealing. Afterward, only occasional sealing is needed.

They Cost More Than You Might Think

The old saying is true: “It depends.” It depends on thickness, style, colors, etc.

In general, a 1.5-inch concrete counter will cost, on average, $100 per square foot, uninstalled. This compares favorably with granite countertops, which can easily run $100, $200, or more per square foot installed.

The cost of concrete counters is more than solid-surface or laminate, but this is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison since solid-surface and concrete are entirely different types of counters. Concrete is more of a high-end countertop choice.  Appreciative home-buyers will likely love your concrete counters, thus raising your home's overall resale value a little bit.