Frequently asked building professional concrete countertops questions:
Q1: I want to start a business building concrete counters, islands, fireplaces, vanities and other interior concrete applications. Where should I start?
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Q2: Cheng’s Concrete Countertop books mostly explain how to build a precast concrete countertop, but I was considering pour-in-place. Do you consider a pour-in-place counter to be a bad idea?
The pour-in-place (or cast-in-place) technique is covered in the last chapter of Concrete Countertops and Fu-Tung’s second book, Concrete at Home (Taunton Press, 2005). The two main limitations to the pour-in-place technique are the lack of detail possible with top troweling and the difficulty in achieving elevation changes (which limits an array of design possibilities). Even if you wish to grind and polish in-place after the piece has cured, it is inherently more difficult to do so because the countertop surface is not as flat as when precast; therefore, achieving a level surface will require a significant amount of grinding or polishing.
While there are a number of projects that call for pour-in-place like a water feature and perhaps a fireplace, we favor the precast method for it’s numerous advantages particularly the resulting look, feel, and quality of craftsmanship.
Q3: What concrete countertop products do you recommend for professional use?
You can choose between two systems of mix products, CHENG Pro-Formula Concrete Countertop Mix and the NeoMix Original Products, depending on your type of work. NeoMix Original Products include three separate components: Admixture, Water Reducer (liquid form) and Pigment. Each component is packaged separately and requires you to add it individually to a mixer. When combined with six 60-lb. bags of 5000 psi sacked concrete, the mixture yields a 3 cu. ft. concrete countertop mix.
CHENG Pro-Formula Concrete Countertop Mix is our proprietary formulation of admixture, pigments and other key ingredients combined in pre-measured quantities to yield an ideal consistency for pouring and finishing (available in one or three cubic foot concrete countertop mixes). In general, results from both products are the same. Most customers and DIYs purchase Pro-Formula for its simplicity and consistent results. However, certain professionals prefer our NeoMix Original Products for the ability to control (for reason including color and climate) the individual quantities of admixture, water reducer and pigment.
Q4: Why didn’t you cover acid staining in Concrete Countertops? Is there a reason why you stay away from them?
We avoid acid-staining countertops because some of the stains contain heavy metals which may pose a health risk and are not as environmentally friendly. Years ago, we used this technique extensively on floors and walls; however, we learned that all wash-out rinse residue is required to be taken to a hazardous waste disposal site—information that was not conveyed in the product instructions (many contractors simply wash and rinse this potentially grievous substance into the ground).
Since then, we’ve chosen as a business to cut back on the use of this otherwise effective technique. There are, however, many contractors are using acid stains exclusively and extensively throughout the United States.
Q5: Can the techniques used to build concrete countertops be adapted for vertical surfaces, like for bathroom walls or a shower surround?
Yes, especially if you decide to precast your concrete project. Essentially, you would be making large concrete “tiles.” Pour-in-place vertical surfaces are a little trickier, may require more intensive structural reinforcement, and are addressed — along with other interior concrete elements — in Fu-Tung’s second book, Concrete at Home.
The Fiber Reinforced Concrete (FRC) method is a good alternative to the traditional flat methods. It affords the opportunity to do lighter, longer runs, which can be ideal for going vertical.