A New Take on Ancient Art Form
Home Ideas Magazine - September 2014
When we see new products come onto the market, we often do not think about what it took, or how long it took to get that product on the shelves. It is just there one day and we think "wow, that is cool." Well, concrete countertops fall into this category.
Though, technically speaking, concrete countertops have been around since the time of the Romans, they have only gained notoriety in the last 10 years or so, depending on your geographical location. The West coast has been using them for years, while the East Coast and Mid West only more recently started to recognize the medium.
Because of the advancements in concrete technology, concrete countertops are no longer viewed as "a sidewalk in the kitchen." In fact, their refinement and performance have taken them into a whole new category. This is not your father’s driveway and it is not the same old granite that every house on the block has, it is an exciting opportunity to express your visions through an artisan that creates with this medium.
One of the beauties of creating with concrete is the ability to make it look as old and rustic as the Roman pieces or as new and refined as any sleek piece of modern technology. Because it starts as a liquid, it can be molded into any shape and can mimic almost any surface and texture! It is a design chameleon, with the ability to look like wood, cloth, stone, metal and most importantly, concrete! This is one of the biggest selling points of concrete: Its versatility.
Concrete countertops and concrete elements, like sinks and furniture, are handmade typically by a local artisan/craftsperson. It begins with the design process, and the imagination of the client and the artisan. Choosing concrete as a medium for your home is not just a choice, it is an experience. It is not simply picking a color or choosing your slab of stone. It is a relationship with you, the artist and the material that you will create with. It truly is an experience to see your countertops start as an idea, become a liquid and be molded into your vision through the hands of the maker! It is something that becomes an expression of your personality and your home. It is the option to make a statement with a piece of functional art that has a story; it has a life. It is the opportunity to not just buy something that you need, but to create something that you will love. As I said, it truly is an experience.
So, with a project in mind, countertops we’ll say, the process would begin with a design. The artisan/craftsperson will help guide you through the choices and help you to understand the medium and set your expectations. Each artisan will create in a way a little different than others, so don’t let everything you read about concrete pre-set those expectations. Talk to your local artisan to find out what to expect from their concrete. With this medium there are uncontrollable factors such as different cements, environmental conditions, water purity and much more that can affect the way concrete does what it does. Artisans will learn what works for them and create from there. Concrete is not a consistent, It is a very organic material with a mind of its own, and that is one of its beauties. No two pieces, even done by the same artisan will ever be alike.
Once the design is set, the artisan will make templates for your countertops and then proceed to create the molds to cast in. Most design options will be created in the mold and then they will be cast and cured. Once out of the mold, the artisan will complete any other details such as custom color or polished aggregate exposed surfaces and will then prepare them for finishing and sealing. The countertops will be sealed with one of several options based on your desired expectations of performance of the surface. Concrete typically performs as good as or better than most stone options out there, just make sure you understand what those performances are and select your sealer option to suit your needs.
Once finished, the artisan will typically deliver and install your countertops and the first part of the experience is complete. Now time for the second part: Telling all your friends that “yes, it really is concrete!” and sharing with them the experience you had helping to create them.
Depending on location, artisan and the design options you choose, concrete can run between $60 and $250 a square foot, and this may or may not include installation. It is not an easy or inexpensive medium to create with; it is not comparable to $40 s/f imported granite. It is custom made, one off and personal to you and your home.
By Tommy T. Cook, Concrete Artisan