Kitchen concrete benchtops have become a common fixture in modern homes these days. Homeowners used to prefer stone or timber benchtops because of their visual appeal. But recent changes in design sensibilities have paved the way for concrete to be considered a suitable alternative.
Concrete gives kitchen benchtops a more modern and sleeker look. It also makes surfaces more durable and easier to maintain compared to other materials. In most instances, concrete benchtops are more resistant to heat and stains. This can save you a lot of money on expensive stain removers needed to clean stone, marble, or laminated surfaces.
Let’s take a look at what makes concrete such a smart choice for kitchen benchtops.
Why use concrete for benchtops?
Concrete is an extraordinary material that is practical, expressive, and aesthetic all at once. It’s evolving nature allows concrete to slowly patina and express its beauty even further as the years go by.
Designers prefer concrete because of its highly workable characteristic. They can transform the material into virtually any shape, giving them endless possibilities for design and creative expressions. This makes concrete an excellent choice for interior and exterior applications.
For ideas on how to use concrete for your space, you can check out our own building projects here.
Types of concrete for kitchen benchtops
Builders commonly use two types of concrete for kitchen benchtops. They either employ:
- traditional Wet Cast Concrete, or
- Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC or GRC).
Wet Cast is often used in cast in-situ benchtops. The concrete is formed up and poured in a single piece, which removes the need for joins or grout lines. This eliminates any restrictions on what sizes and shapes builders can create with the material.
At Art of Concrete, we prefer to use Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete for benchtop applications. GFRC is stronger and more durable than other types of concrete. It also lets us make lighter benchtops with more complex designs.
You can even make your concrete benchtop as thin or as thick as you want. GFRC benchtops can be made as thin as 20mm without sacrificing its strength and durability. The concrete helps keep the weight of the surface to a minimum.
Both West Cast and GFRC offer a wide range of customisable finishes and colours. However, GFRC is less susceptible to cracking. As a cantilever, it can also cover long distances without the need of any support structures.
Advantage of concrete benchtops over marble or granite
Unlike other popular kitchen benchtop materials such as marble and granite, concrete is much more customisable. You can sculpt, mould, or texturise concrete to suit your desired look. You can also give it a high-gloss sheen or a non-reflective satin finish.
For a cleaner and more environment-friendly option, you can choose ground and polished concrete. The mechanical polishing process doesn’t require the use of any volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It is also less likely to accumulate concrete dust (efflorescence) on its surface. This can cost a lot of time and money to clean regularly.
Additionally, polished concrete can give your benchtop the same level of reflectivity as marble or granite. It helps improve ambient lighting in your space, which can lower energy bills in the long run. It’s also more cost-effective to use polished concrete instead of marble or granite.
There’s also a significant difference in cost between using marble or granite and using concrete. If you choose marble or granite kitchen benchtops, the cost will be based on the size of the material you’re going to use.
However, if you go with concrete, it will be based on the complexity of the form and the mould-making process. It will also factor in your desired finish for the benchtop.
Untreated concrete has a porous surface, just like marble and limestone. This makes the material susceptible to staining. Fortunately, a lot of concrete sealers available on the market right now do a better job of protecting surfaces. Many of them are made specifically for sealing concrete kitchen benchtops.
At Art of Concrete, we use and recommend concrete sealers depending on the context of their use and our client’s desired finish. Our high-end sealers are extremely resistant to staining, heat, outdoor weather conditions, and abrasions.
There are two general categories for concrete sealers: densifiers or penetrating sealers and topical sealers. However, some suppliers also offer a hybrid of these two sealers.
Densifiers penetrate into the concrete, closing its pores and strengthening its surface. They provide greater scratch and abrasion resistance but only some stain resistance.
People who want to retain the natural beauty and feel of concrete prefer using densifiers. They don’t mind seeing a few staining or etching on the benchtops over the years. Most of them even welcome the patina of concrete.
Meanwhile, topical sealers mostly act as a protective layer over concrete. They offer varying degrees of stain protection depending on the price of the product used. If you don’t apply and maintain topical sealers properly, it can result in scratching and chipping. Some popular examples of topical sealers are acrylics, epoxies and polyurethanes.
Damage due to chipping, flaking, and scratching
Similar to marble and granite, concrete benchtops are also susceptible to damaging over time. If struck by a hard object, it can chip the corners and edges. You can try using rounded concrete edges since they are less likely to chip or flake compared to a sharp edge.
Concrete is also vulnerable to cracking, just like all other stone products. This typically happens around the thins sections near voids and cutouts such as with sinks and cooktops. Most concrete benchtops are reinforced, so if there are any cracks forming, they’re most likely not structural.
You might want to avoid placing red-hot objects on your concrete benchtop as well. Concrete is resistant to heat, but it’s still subject to thermal shock. If you expose your concrete kitchen benchtop to too much heat, it may chip or flake the surface. Try placing trivets on your benchtop before putting down hot cookware.
A lot of people also tend to use their exposed concrete benchtops as a cutting surface. What they don’t realise is that cutting directly on it can scratch and gouge the finish of the countertop. It can also seriously damage knives, leaving them with duller or crooked blades.
To prevent chipping, flaking, or scratching, we recommend using Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete for your kitchen benchtops. It’s more resistant to this kind of damaging compared to other types of concrete.
A smart choice for kitchen benchtops
With more homes and businesses incorporating modern designs, it’s no wonder why concrete benchtops are fast becoming a popular choice. Concrete offers the same beauty and sophistication as higher-end options such as marble or granite. Yet, it is not as expensive and difficult to style.
For us, no other kitchen benchtop material marries form and function quite like concrete.