Rosie Renovation: DIY Concrete Overlay Countertops
We got a ton of questions about how we did these countertops after we posted a preview on our Instagram story last week, so I thought I'd get this post out ASAP just so you guys can see the process. Once we've got the kitchen backsplash done and cabinets in, you'll get some well lit "after" shots and I'll update this post with them as well - promise! But for now, we're just gonna go ahead and dive in, dark grainy photos and all.
So out of all of the projects that we had lined up for Rosie, refinishing her countertops with concrete overlay was the one that had me the most intimidated. Like, what if I cement my hand to the counter? What happens if it cracks into a million pieces once it dries? What happens if it doesn't end up looking like shiny pretty concrete counters and instead just looks like some messed up concrete on top of an otherwise fine kitchen counter? What if I ruin everything?!
*let's collectively take a deep breath*
So it turns out this is actually hella easy to do, if you screw it up royally it's not impossible to fix, and concrete is weirdly easy to work with and reminded me a lot of icing a cake - which is something I'm actually confident doing. Given that this was only a kitchenette counter top, it took about two hours of actual labor, and then we had to wait several hours between different coats of sealer - so if you're doing a similarly petite project, you're looking at needing about two days to do this but you'll only actually be working like 2 hours of it total. We can't take too much creative credit for this step of the reno, because we pretty much followed this guide on Vintage Revivals to a T. Their trailer renovation is legitimately insane so definitely check it out!
Overall I'm loving how they look - but tell us what you think! We may go on to eventually seal it with a high gloss sealer, which will give it a more refined look and kinda lighten the color a bit. For right now though, I'm really digging this slate-ish color. As for weight, it's only about 1/8" thick so there's no real concern of it causing any weight distribution issue for the trailer.
Anyway, let's dive in!
As part of our partnership with eBay for Rosie's renovation project, we'll be showing you how you can use eBay for your own vintage camper trailer renovation. If you're planning to do a concrete overlay, check out eBay's selection of light industrial equipment.
First, things first - here's your shopping list:
- All-purpose counter cleaner
- Microfiber rags
- Screwdrivers with the appropriate heads for your sink and faucet hardware
- A hand sander with both 400 grit sheets and 60 grit sheets
- Henry Feather Finish concrete
- 511 Impregnator concrete counter sealer*
- Bucket for mixing
- Wooden stir stick for concrete
- Plastic putty knives (we used one that was about 3" wide and one that was 1" wide for the tight spots)
- Protective masks (inhaling even small amounts of concrete dust or sealer fumes can be very dangerous for your respiratory system, babes!)
*Whichever sealer you end up going with, just remember to make sure it is food safe!
Once you've gotten all of your little goodies from above purchased and ready to go, remove the sink and faucets on the portion of the counter you'll be doing the overlay. You should also go ahead and remove the little rubber band on the outer sides of the counter (if yours has this), to expose the wood or particle board. If you've got a vintage camper like ours, you're going to come across about 60 years of absolute nastiness (adhesives, dust, Satan, etc) that you can then just scrape off really well with a scraper or razor to make sure it's all gone.
Then, go ahead and wipe down with the cleaner and a clean rag. Now, use your 60 grit sanding paper and sand down the surface of your counter. Once it's extremely scuffed up and all surface gunk is for sure gone, wipe it down and repeat with the 400 grit sanding paper. Use your cleaner and a clean rag to again clean off the entire surface of the counter.
If you're using a new faucet from the one that was already in the counter, you'll need to fill the original holes. You can cut and sand a piece of wood to fit, and then drill it into the hole before applying the concrete. You will also need to drill a new hole for your new faucet.
Now we're about to jump into the actual concrete part of this, but first a few notes: you're going to do multiple layers of concrete, and between each layer you'll need to mix fresh concrete as the concrete previously used will have dried up by then - so keep that in mind and don't just throw away your gunky concrete bucket after the first use. Also, it takes about 30 minutes for the concrete to dry and this can go a bit faster if you set up a box fan to blow on it - so maybe think of what you can be doing while waiting. Finally, and this is a do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do situation... use blue painters tape and tape off the backsplash and the oven. This should be obvious, but we were overthinking this whole thing and in turn missed that step - but it was fine cause we were extremely careful. Yay!
Now that you're ready to start concrete applications ... follow the instructions on your concrete; the instructions will be something like combine the concrete with water in a bucket and mix until totally combined. Rocket science, I know. We mixed our concrete in a bucket with measurements listed on the side and made about half a liter of concrete per batch, but we found that we needed only about half of what we prepared for each layer. Once you've got the concrete ready, you're gonna need to work fast as such a small amount of concrete begins to harden very quickly.
Use your putty knife to scrape a small amount of concrete onto the counter. Just get comfortable with it and how the putty knife works with the concrete. Layer on more and more, spreading it carefully around the counter and scraping it into a single layer that is as even as possible. Don't freak out if it's not perfect, that's what sanding afterwards is for!
Once the top surface is done, do the sides of the counter the same way, evening out the concrete where the sides meet the top. Now, you wait! Set up your fan if possible and leave the camper for fresh air. You'll need 30 - 45 minutes for it to dry. Then, repeat again ... and again. For a total of three layers. We found just two layers to not be quite enough in terms of giving us enough depth of concrete so that we could confidently sand it all down at the end, but three was perfect.
Once your last layer of concrete has dried, hit it gently with the 60 grit sanding paper just to remove any major bumps, lumps, and imperfections. Follow it up with the 400 grit sanding paper to give it that shiny smooth surface. If it's looking good, it's time to seal! We used 511 impregnator sealer and did two coats. The result is a shiny (but still matte) finish that looks so fresh, and so, so clean. We love it. Next, we'll be putting back in the faucet and getting started on the backsplash!