September 15, 2009

Not for the weak of heart, but also, not THAT bad either

Well, I'd like to be able to say that the kitchen is finally done, but it isn't. But the counter tops are done, and that was the biggest hurdle and the biggest inconvenience. Now all we have to do is hang the other shelves,attach the handles to the doors and drawers, put up some upper cabinets, frame in and cover the back of the island, install a hood, put up new lights, switch a few more plugs, put in all the floor trim...just a few minor details:)

It does seem minor, well, sort of minor, in comparison to the project that was the counter tops.

So here's how it went down, just in case there are others out there who are crazy enough and patient enough, to try it for themselves.

There are two ways to pour concrete counter tops, in a reverse mold off site, or in a mold right on top of of the counter tops. At first I was convinced that we should do it in place. It sounded easier and quicker and I was so not looking forward to going who knows how long without counters. (and since we were moved in by August 5th and it is now September 15th, it was a month and ten days of counter free living) But as it turns out, pouring in place is much harder, and much messier and so we opted for the reverse mold technique.

We spent about a week building molds our of melamine, to which the concrete wouldn't stick and then waited for a nice sunny (but not hot) weekend when we could both spend a whole day doing just about nothing other than pouring, spreading smoothing and packing concrete.

For the mix we used a combination of half bagged concrete made specifically for counter tops and half our own recipe of white cement, white sand, gravel and a silvery colorant from a concrete specialty company. We mixed in six separate batches since a single cubic yard was all our mixer could handle, and the small mixer at the rental shop was all our car could handle.

Will measured and mixed and brought it up a bucket at a time to our porch where I was ready with the molds. I worked the concrete into the corners, smoothed out the tops and banged away at the sides with a rubber mallet to shake out the air pockets. It took literally all day. And thankfully we have kind neighbors who helped to keep an eye on the kids who were running amok in the yard.

It was hard work, but not the hardest we've done. And the worst part of the whole thing was waiting ten days while the concrete cured in the mold before cracking it open.

When the ten days were finally up we pulled them out of the molds, crossing fingers, toes and everything in between that there were no major cracks and not too too many bubbles. Luckily the surface was almost completely smooth. Other than one corner that was a little rough and a few minor bubbles the tops were perfect. The sides were a little rougher, but nothing terrible and nothing that wasn't fixed with a thin coat of concrete slurry (also from the counter top specialists, along with the sealer and the wax)

Surprisingly Will and I were able to lift all but two of the pieces by ourselves and we roped in a friend that help with those. So now they are in, and I love them. I'd probably love any kind of counter tops at this point but I really love these. And even if it meant waiting ten days (did I say ten days? It was supposed to take ten days, Ha!) it was worth it. Next up, well, I guess the cabinet handles, or maybe the back of the island, and we do need to put in the fence and get the garden beds started....I guess we'll have to see where inspiration strikes next.