I recently had concrete countertops installed in my kitchen. I got a pretty good deal on them so I guess that is why I had to finish them myself. It sucked at first, I couldn't find anything about how to finish concrete! During the time that they were unfinished they were so fragile and easy to stain, I had to do something! The only things I found when I searched were extensive messy ways to finish concrete - and my kitchen was not the place to be using chemicals that needed to be sprayed off with a hose. I looked all over the internet, I looked at lowes, home depot and all the local hardware shops in my town. I couldn't find anyone who really knew what they were talking about. I could have acid stained them but that would have been to messy in my new kitchen.
I decided to take a chance and come up with my own way finish them. What follows is a creative, do it yourself way to give a luxurious, natural finish to concrete countertops. I made this up as I went- and we were happy with our results. If you give it a try- let me know how it turns out!
Part of the appeal of concrete is that it has a natural quality to it... surface and color variations that will make it completely unique. I wanted to take that natural feel even farther. The dark gray color of the concrete already gives it a stonelike quality- so I figured, let's really run with the aged stone look... here's the inspiration:
I practiced my idea in my garage on the floor to see how concrete would take stain. I used wood stain, wood stain is just pigment in water. Its the same thing that is used in paint only in a much more concentrated form. I bought a black and a green. (Technically it was a Minwax Water based stain- Ebony and Mediterranean Olive.) Our concrete was completely untreated - so it was very porous and absorbed EVERYTHING. A drop of water would soak in within a second. It's important to note this - not only before you stain your countertops- but during the process. Because they are so absorbent- a little bit of color goes a long way.
I also used a sponge for texture and an old t-shirt rag to blend the stain.
I wore gloves because wood stain does not come off skin! I diluted the black stain. I used 3/4 water and 1/4 stain at first.
Rubbing It In
I started slowly with a rag soaked in the water stain mixture. In a circular motion I started just barley darkening up the outside of the counter. I wanted an aged look with a lighter middle so I slowly worked my way into the middle, adding more layers to darken the color around the outside.
I worked the rag in a circular motion so it would look more organic. I kept another rag with only water on it close by and as I went along, I buffed my marks with the wet rag to dilute the stain. The photos make the stain look very dark- this is an illusion because the concrete looks dark when it is wet. As the water dries out, the first layer of actual stain is considerably lighter than what you're seeing in these photos.
After i got an even color that was a little darker on the edges and lighter in the middle of the counter tops I began using a sponge. I used the sponge to give texture. I used the same mixture of water stain that I had used before.
I kept the damp rag with water only on it and buffed out a lot of the sponge marks. I didn't want it to look sponged, I wanted an organic aged look. (Safe to say, my favorite things have a little history to them since I own a vintage clothing shop!)
This is about the time I started sponging on some of the green. I just wanted it to have a bit of a mossy look. I sponged the green on very sparingly, mostly in the darkest areas. Then I buffed it and patted it with the water rag to get it blended in. I didn't buff all the marks, just enough to make it look natural.
After the layer of light sponging and green stain sponging, I used 100% stain to get some more dramatic marks. I patted the concrete in certain spots with the pure stain and then I patted those marks a little bit with the water rag. I didn't want it perfectly even so I only did this in some spots. I went back and forth with the green and black blotting it in between to give it an organic mossy rock look. This is where your artistic skills have to take over. You cant do this if you have none. Sorry.
I kept going with the sponging 100% stain until I was happy with the outcome. I used the water rag a lot just to blend while I sponged. Another note: That highly absorbent concrete we started out with was quickly becoming "sealed" as I added layers of stain. This can actually work in you favor because you gradually have to let the stain sit on the surface longer as it becomes less absorbant. This makes it easier to regulate the color.
Here is the finished product. I used a concrete and stone sealer on top of the stain the next day.
And then I buffed the countertops with a beeswax mixture.
I hope this helps anyone who is having the problem that I was. My concrete countertops are durable, beautiful and I think they will last a long time! Good luck!