Choosing the right countertop material can be one of the most daunting tasks of the kitchen renovation process — even if you know exactly what you want in terms of aesthetics, function, durability, and maintenance, finding the perfect match requires you to familiarize yourself with every option in your price range and weigh the pros and cons of each.
To help you navigate the ins and outs of selecting a kitchen countertop, we’ve started a regular blog series exploring the main advantages and drawbacks of each choice. After covering quartz, soapstone, and wood/butcherblock countertops, we’d like to go over the pros and cons of one of the most misunderstood options: concrete.
Here’s what you should know about this smooth, durable surface and its one-of-a-kind beauty:
Concrete Countertop Basics
You’re probably already familiar with the functional attributes and practical applications of concrete — as one of the strongest and most durable construction materials, it’s used in everything from sidewalks, patios, and driveways to foundations and fence posts.
What you may not know, however, is that concrete can also be a stunning, high-end countertop material that’s every bit as sophisticated as more conventional options like granite, marble, and even quartz.
Formed from cement, sand, water, stone pigments, and reinforcement fibers, concrete countertop slabs are just as versatile as they are resilient. High-strength, specially formulated concrete is so versatile, in fact, that it can be shaped to exacting dimensions and finished precisely to your liking.
Far from the cold, impersonal slabs of grey you might expect if you’ve never seen them before, concrete work surfaces are typically warm, gleaming, and remarkably stylish. From its shape, edging, and thickness to its color, texture, and finish, every aspect of this functional beauty can be crafted to your vision.
Because of their weight, concrete countertops are typically cast in forms right in your kitchen. During this fully customized process, they can be formed into any shape to create one-of-a-kind countertop configurations.
They can be tinted, dyed, or acid stained to create the perfect color; they can also be embedded with small, decorative elements like smooth stones, colorful marbles, glass fragments, ceramic tiles, or even fiber-optic lights. Finally, concrete countertops can be ground to various depths and polished to a matte or gloss finish as desired.
Pros and Cons of Concrete
Many home renovation experts think of concrete as the ultimate in custom-crafted countertops — this thoroughly bespoke, statement-making choice really can “check every box” when it comes to bringing your design vision to life.
Even so, every countertop material comes with its own unique set of advantages and downsides. The main benefits and drawbacks of this singular material are:
Advantages of concrete
- Fully customizable: Design versatility is one of concrete’s greatest attributes. It’s a quality that suites aesthetics and practicality in equal measure — custom design and installation makes it easy to incorporate integrated sinks, drain boards, soap dispensers, trivets, and cutting boards.
- Strong and durable: Concrete is a strong, durable material that, while not fully heat-proof and scratch-proof, resists scratches and scorching remarkably well. When this porous surface is properly maintained — sealed upon installation and re-sealed every year, at minimum — it’s also resistant to staining.
- Bring added value: Concrete is considered a high-end countertop material that’s on par with engineered quartz and natural stone options like marble, soapstone, and granite. As with other premium countertop materials, a well-fabricated concrete countertop made with superior craftsmanship can improve your home’s resale value.
Downsides of concrete
- Extremely heavy: Concrete countertops are usually only one to two inches thick, and for good reason: they’re very heavy. Fully cured, they can weigh upwards of 19 to 25 pounds per square foot. As such, installers may need to reinforce your cabinets — and sometimes even the floor — to safely bear their substantial weight.
- May crack over time: During the fabrication process, concrete countertops are reinforced with ladder wire or steel mesh to enhance their strength and rigidity. These hidden reinforcements allow the material to contract and expand naturally, helping to prevent the formation of deep structural cracks as time goes on.
Even so, concrete may develop hairline cracks as it ages; these lines add character without compromising structural integrity. Hairline cracks and chips can also be repaired with filler.
- Less eco-friendly: Concrete isn’t necessarily low on the list of green countertop options, but it isn’t too high on the list, either. As a material that incorporates a considerable amount of sand, which is a fast-depleting natural resource, concrete is less eco-friendly than greener options like quartz and reclaimed wood.
The Bottom Line on Concrete
Widely misunderstood as a basic, one-note material designed to meet functional construction needs, concrete is a transformative material that can be used to create high-end, statement-making countertops that enhance a full scope of kitchen styles, from traditional and transitional to modern, contemporary, and industrial.
They’re an excellent choice if you’d like your kitchen to feature curved or multi-level countertops; they’re also an ideal option if you want to have full control over every element of design that goes into making your work surface.
Concrete may be less appealing if you don’t want to re-seal your countertops every year or deal with the potential development of hairline cracks; it’s also a poor choice if you don’t want to reinforce your cabinetry and floor to bear its weight.