Scott bought a cement mixer, so we have to use it right?
After spending our honeymoon week last year laying concrete, it’s safe to say we are no strangers to doing cement work ourselves around the campground. So naturally, when we decided we wanted to have concrete countertops in the camp store we figured we would just make them ourselves.
Mixing concrete is not the easiest of tasks, and if we had to mix the concrete by hand it would have been possible, but certainly not as fun as using a cement mixer! If you have ever worked with concrete before then you know, it is heavy! We were using Quickrete bags that were 80 pounds each – so we know Scott was going to have to lift the bags to get the powder into the mixer.
Once he successfully emptied the bag into the mixer it was time to flip it on and slowly mix in the water until all the powder was completely dissolved. After the powder was fully mixed, we wanted the countertops to have a darker tint than what you see on your average concrete sidewalk, so we poured in some dye until we got our desired color.
So far the process had gone smoothly and now it was time for the more challenging part of working with concrete – carrying it to its destination. With some teamwork, we were able to dump smaller amounts into some 5-gallon buckets that Scott was able to lift and pour onto the countertop forms. Since it couldn’t all be moved at once, we had to work swiftly so the concrete wouldn’t cure before we got it into its place!
Luckily, this wasn’t our first concrete rodeo so we were able to get into the groove and get the concrete onto the forms and smoothed out without any hiccups!
After troweling for what felt like hours, we eventually reached a point where the concrete looked nice and smooth and was ready to cure into place. But something we sort of forgot about – how dry Colorado is, leading the concrete to begin to cure way too fast, creating some cracks throughout the smooth top layer. To prevent the cracks from worsening, we quickly jumped into action and used some spray bottles to give the concrete just enough spritz of water to keep it moist and help prevent more cracks from forming.
We allowed for the concrete to set into the forms overnight before carefully removing them from the edges to unveil our work. The top of the countertops looked good, but we were a little worried about the bottom edges as we didn’t have a good concrete vibrator to eliminate all the air bubbles and air pockets. We had a small one that Scott used around the top edges, but we feared it wasn’t quite heavy-duty enough to get the job done. As we removed the forms from the smaller countertop to our surprise the edges were smooth and looked mostly clean! This gave us high hopes that the rest of the edges would be smooth as well, but unfortunately, that was not the case.
The vibrator didn’t make it as deep into the concrete as we were hoping, causing air pockets to form along the bottom of the forms. Safe to say this was not the look we were going for. Although the air pockets now left the edges of our countertops looking ridged and crumbly, it wasn’t something we felt we couldn’t fix!
After doing some research and getting some advice from a friend’s father who was in the concrete business, we concluded that our best next step of action would be to use some grey-colored thin-set to help fill in the gaps.
We did keep the forms after taking them off the edges and thank goodness we did so we could use them to help mold the thin-set into the right position over the cracks and holes.
We purchased the color grey, but as it started to dry it looked super light compared to the dyed concrete. Good thing we still had some dye left and added just a touch into the thin-set to hopefully blend the two together a little better.
Overall, the process went well, but we will see exactly how things turn out when it is completely finished. We still need to sand and seal the countertops, so check back soon to see the final result!