anna. Home. October 17th , 2017.
Unique styling and durability are just a couple of the reasons that concrete countertops have become so popular. A far cry from the early versions, today’s concrete countertops are thinner and come in many more finishes, thanks to improved technology. Variations in color and texture — along with some natural imperfections — add to the charm of concrete, but may not appeal to all homeowners. Just as with any countertop surface, before you choose concrete, it’s important to understand what the pros and cons of the material are before investing in it.
The material used for concrete countertops is made of cement, lightweight aggregates, and a combination of additives, according to the the ConcreteNetwork.com. Manufacturers also add various additives, from fibers to acrylic or silicates. Sometimes the terms cement and concrete are confused or intended to mean the same thing, however cement is actually an ingredient used to make concrete, explains the Concrete Contractors Association. Cement consists of limestone and silicate materials ground into a very fine powder. To make concrete, the cement is mixed with water, sand and gravel or crushed stone.
Inside, concrete requires structural reinforcement and this is where technology has improved the process. Steel, wire mesh, fiberglass, and fibers are used alone or in combinations for structure and stability. Finer reinforcement materials allow for thinner countertops. After being poured, the Concrete Network explains that the countertop must be cured. Then, the surface of the countertop goes through a series of grinding and polishing steps that improve durability and enhance the look.
Just as the imperfections in live edge furniture and authentic leather upholstery enhance the beauty of the object, the natural imperfections inherent in concrete are not undesirable. Because concrete is a mixture of many different ingredients, the Institute emphasizes that subtle variations in color, shade and texture are to be expected. Concrete is poured into a mold, so air bubbles and mottling can affect the surface. And concrete has to cure, which means that temperature and humidity levels can impact final results.
In addition, all concrete is susceptible to harmless hairline cracks over time. Those who expect perfection might not be happy with concrete countertops in the long-term.
Concrete is strong and durable, so countertops will last a very long time. It is, however, porous and may stain, so concrete countertops must always be sealed. Using a surface sealer makes it resist water and stains. Each contractor has his or her own preferred sealant and new types of sealants last longer and require less maintenance. According to the Concrete Counter Institute, new products make the surface “stain-resistant, heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, food safe, easy to clean, easy to maintain and perfectly smooth.”
Minimalist kitchens can benefit from concrete’s long, smooth surfaces. Unsealed, concrete can handle high heat, but not stains. Consumer Reports notes that sealers can protect concrete countertops against stains but not heat. Consequently, it’s not advisable to place hot pots directly on the surface, even if it is heat resistant because the sealant can be damaged or discolored. A definite benefit is that unlike natural stone, concrete countertops can be repaired — they typically do not need to be replaced.
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