Oh boy am I excited to share this make-over with you!! For as long as I can think, I did not like the white laminted countertop, the previous owners of our house put in. It might have “in-trend” in the 80’s but it sure isn’t now. Nevermind the practicallity of a white laminated workspace…
Even thought this would have been the first thing to swap out completely, we were stuck with it. Basically because it is glued to the lower cabinets and would require tearing it all out. You can insert a sad face in here. In the first kitchen re-vamp last year I gave it a coat of paint, but that just didn’t do much about the feelings I had for this area. So when I started researching again, what I possibly could do with the situation presented, I came accross the magic characteristics of mircocement (mikrozement in swedish), infact the product I used is a step up from microcement or what can also be called concrete overlay. The makers of Vitrivius* cement had one goal only to refine the existing microcements on the market, and is comfort and the authenticity to actual concrete.
I am going to go a little so you understand the difference fully. For a bunch of years now it has been super popular have concrete floors in houses, patios, and bathrooms. A somewhat raw and rough material mainly used in commercial construction work was taken into private homes, and people noted fairly quickly that concrete is solid & durable material but also very moody. When I say moody, I mean it can (and most likely will) crack and is untreated quite dull in appearance. Now I have somewhat first hand knowledge since my husband is actually working in the special concrete repair business (mind two thirds of our outdoor area at home is concrete too) and get numerous calls a week from private home owers wondering how to fix said cracks or dullness of the concrete. There are things that can be done, but it is a labour and cost intensive procedure of grinding and polishing the layers of the concrete off. And even then it is not guaranteed that you have unified look, as concrete is a mix of sand and cement, making most likley different grains of sand visible in the grinding process.
Anyway, back to Vitrivius! I said above the authencity to actual concrete, meaning the colour, shading and patina and the sealing function of actual concrete should be the goal. And that is exactly what they did – a product that is easy to apply for the private person and novice like me! Ok now I told you that my husband is a professional in concrete, but I did not ask him for help, nor did I show him the products – just so that I can be like most people – a complete beginner. The best part is that it adheres to almost all surfacres – just what I needed, thanks to a special primer supplied and a special composition of developer. The application itself is super fast and you need one layer only! Infact you can have a completely new look in two days (with approx 2-4h work investment).
Vitrivius in Sweden is distributed and markted through Design By Cement* a fun company specialising in making it possible to get the urban and modern feel for little money & effort into private households. I am super grateful that they decided to sponsor me with their product for this make over.
*Side Note: I have received the products for free, but all opinions and experiences expressed are my own.
So now that you’ve seen what can be done with Vitrivius’ product, I am going to show you how I got on when preparing and updating our old countertop!
Just a quick reminder these are the stages it went through:
Originally it was white laminated surface, which I then ended up painting with a mix of chalk & wood paint + PU sealer.
To prepare for the concrete overlay I had to scrap the paint off – it is true what they say, the foundation of every good job is preparation and that was just something that had to be done.
Tools & Materials needed:
complete kit from Design By Cement – you can use the code: earthlyurban to get 15% discount off your products! That is fun right?
Putty knife & concrete trowels, you can even use a an edge steeler to get really sharp (or rounded features)
Drill with grout mixer attachment
Masking tape & plastic sheets to protect the surrounding
Sanding machine with 80 + 120 grit paper (+if you have a commercial vacuum cleaner to reduce the dust)
The ‘How To’ video by Design By Cement
Step #1 – Priming the surface
After I removed the paint and cleaned the surface, and taped everything securly off, I applied the primer, that came with the complete kit with a wide brush. You can see in the images below, that the primer itself has very fine sand mixed into it that gives you surface a sandpaper-type handfeel after it dried. This is sloley for better grip.
That whole set up I let then dry for 2 hours. The instruction manual says 1 hour but I wanted to make all is definitely dry before I continue).
Step #2 – Mixing the concrete components & application
When you buy the products from Design By Cement, you will also receive a very in-detail instruction & application manual + they even made the video for you to really see how it’s done. The video you can see after my ‘how to.
I mixed the cement component with the developer in my mixing bucket, using the power drill with grout mixer attachment. It says in the manual that you should whisp it visciously as this will activate the developer and do it’s magic. The first batch of concrete (I am just going to call it that for the purpose of keeping it simple), I mixed exactly accoring to the instruction, but after doing the first round of application, I noted that it was to dry and not so easy to apply in a thin an even layer. The mix consistency was like bread dough. For the next bath I mixed in more developer (50g more than advised) and as result I had a beautiful type pancake batter mix. So my tip! Add a tad more than the handbook says to get a more fluid/ pancake batter type consistency!
I unfortunately was not able to take pictures while laying out the concrete, as I was wearing gloves and wanted to work the product as fast as possible. Yes I admit, I was slight afraid it would dry before I was done. Simply by knowing how quickly concrete can react – especially since you are laying it out in a thin layer.
Regardless, I do have some tips for you, something I had to learn the hardway:
You want a pancake batter consistency – it will be easier to apply and the product goes further
When distributing the material over your surface, work in long and even strokes. Try to keep the same pressure to avoid marks (I have marks, which is ok too)
Stop when you have a somewhat even layer. As I said above, it will dry and if you keep working on it, or more like overworking it, it is possible to take material of and end up with holes that need filling again. So again – once you have your surface covered, no holes, big marks, gaps are visible, STEP AWAY FROM THE SCENE – you can sand things after the drying period
If you have small spaces, like I have between my two round (imagine me shaking my head here) sinks, you can use your finger. I made mine a bit wet and smoothed the concrete out in between.
Round edges! You know how I said above you can use an edge steeler? Well I did not use one, but wish I would have! Next time around, if there will be one, I shall have it on hand. That in fact was something my husband said after wards, why I did not ask him for one. Oh well I wanted to do it my way – by hand.
After a short while I could already see things starting to happen. The lighter areas are where its starting to dry.
Step #3 – Sanding
So if you think that was messy, just wait for the sanding part. If you have sanded wood before, you know that it can be dusty and woodspan flying everywhere. Well if you sand concrete it’s like a million times worse. This is why I absolutely recommened that you tape up whatever area you can. I taped up hald the kitchen, door to the living room, upper cabinets as well as the lowers + used an construction vacuum cleaner to cover the worst. You really do not want to use you home vacuum cleaner as it’ll gets clung up with all the fine concrete particles.
Another thing to think about is that you wear a mask! Don’t I look great? Concrete dust is no joke, not only for your house but also your lungs – so protect yourself.
You see what I mean with dust, when you look at the picture below, right?
The first roung of sanding I did with 80 grit sandpaper, which took away the big uneven spots, and then I went over it again with 120 grit sandpaper. You can see in the images above that surface has an amazing landscape, with ridges and graters and different shading. This is what I like about conrete – no surface looks ever the same. Mind the ridges are the result of me not working slow and evenly, so if you don’t want ridges in your landscape, make sure to work with slow and even strokes when applying and distributing the mix.
Step #4 – Sealing
The reason why you want to seal your concrete is to protect it from oil, food and other residue spills. Concrete is a natural stones with tiny pores that love to absorb any type of liquid. So we seal to increase the materials durability and extend the worktops life, since it offers protection, as well as enhance the colour. Pretty good, right?
Not to worry, because the complete kit from Design By Cement comes ready with the sealer you need and the application is very simple not messy at all. So you can totally go ahead do deep clean of your kitchen, before you start applying it. Infact I do recommened cleaning the kitchen before, from all dust & residue you acquired during the previous steps.
I applied for thin coats, and let them dry of completely, before I took more of the sealer and literally drowned the worktop in it. You can do this over and over again because the more you apply the better the protection. Once you notice that the surface does not become dark or wet, than you know it’s fully saturated. Again this is a work top so I want maximum protection.
And that was all there is to it! My take from it? I loved the process (you really feel like to creating something spectacular) and the outcome, and if you have any type of surface that is need of some TLC or have a table, a staircase, wall or floor you want to add that urban feel too, I can highly recommend getting in touch with Design By Cement to see if their products are for you.
And don’t forget you can get 15% off the purchase price if you use the code ‘earthlyurban’ at check out.