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Concrete countertop fabricators have been trying many unique ways to set their countertops apart. One semi-common technique is inlaying decorative materials into the concrete countertop when the concrete has yet to cure. Inlaid materials can include sea shells, tiles, natural stones, glass, etc. Even more delicate objects like preserved leaves can be inlaid. Although a sealer can add some protection, always consider the long-term durability of the materials you choose to inlay in the countertop. Countertop artists have also been playing with objects to impress into the concrete. If used on a functional countertop, impressions should be shallow to avoid creating an area that collects dirt and grime. Impression materials are abundant and can include rubber stamps, hand or foot prints, leaves and sticks, cookie cutters or cake molds, etc.
If you can imagine an edge finish, it is available with concrete countertops. The only limitation is the makers ability to create the mold or form. Of course, square corners are an easy and common edge shape for concrete countertops. Also, you can use a router, like those used on granite or marble countertops, to create edge styles including bull nose, rounded corners, triple egg, ogee, and more. There are also a variety of Styrofoam and rubber edge molds that can mimic wood trim, jagged rock edge, and numerous more. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can create your own molds. Just remember: you only get one try. If you mess up, the only fix is a new concrete countertop.
If you are really going for a streamline look with your countertop, consider actually molding your sink into the concrete countertop. This will mean you have one fluid piece that accounts for the counters and the sink with no seams. There are even more sink shapes available with concrete than there are with other materials. Again, if you can dream it and build the mold, you can make it with concrete.
Portland cement is the binder that keeps concrete held together. Because traditional Portland cement is grey in color, it can have an effect on the overall look of the concrete countertop. If you are looking for a top that can be easily stained dark colors, or if you are wanting to leave the concrete countertops the natural, grey color, then regular Portland is the right choice for the project. However, if your concrete countertop is going to be white or light colors, or you need it to be easily dyed or stained, you may be better suited to choose a white Portland cement. It has the same binding properties as traditional Portland, only it is white in color when cured. White Portland is the only way to get a truly white concrete countertop.
For every concrete countertop, you will want to use some sort of sealer. Concrete is naturally porous, so you will need a sealer to keep the pores from sucking in bacteria, stains, etc. There are many different sealers. Because this sealer will protect your concrete countertop investment, dont cheap out on this step. Especially for kitchen applications, choose an FDA approved sealer. There are also some that are less hassle than others, so pay attention to details like application procedures and length between reapplying. Sealers can come in many different sheens and even tints. A higher gloss sealer tends to bring out the richness of the colors, while a flat or matte sealer will tone the concrete countertop down a bit. Tinted sealer must be used carefully because if the color is conflicting or if the particle count of the tint is too high, it can completely ruin the hard work you put into the concrete countertop.