NYC Renovation Q's

Should I Consider Concrete for My Kitchen Countertops?

By Tracy Kaler | July 11, 2012 - 8:37AM

Q. I’m thinking about putting in concrete countertops. What are the pros and cons? How does it compare to granite countertops? How does it affect resale value? 

A. When it comes to kitchen countertops, there’s no natural material that’s more popular than granite. Available in polished, honed, flamed, or brushed, granite is extremely durable, and can easily adapt to both modern and classical aesthetics. 

Concrete is another versatile material with more design flexibility than granite, according to interior designer Andy Goldsborough.

“Depending on the installation, pigments can be used to color concrete, and it can be paired successfully with most any other material," he says.

Master carpenter and concrete specialist Greg Johnson of Joistbuilders agrees.

“Concrete sounds like it would be cold, but it’s not," says Johnson. "It can create a warm and inviting feeling. It really depends on how you finish and texturize it. It works well with mahogany, pine, oak, ash, copper, and stainless steel. In terms of functionality like hot pots and pans, concrete can stand up to granite with the right sealer."

If you’re looking for a countertop that requires little maintenance and will keep its look, concrete may not be the best material for your kitchen.

Polished granite should look the same in 10 years as it does the day it's installed. Concrete, on the other hand, takes about “28 years to fully cure” and “becomes even more unique with age,” says Johnson.

Granite could go contemporary or traditional depending on the edge treatment, be it bull nose, ogee, or square. Goldsborough prefers to use concrete in modern spaces: "It’s a personal choice in that concrete lends itself to an industrial setting.”

There’s an art to installing concrete, especially since it's prone to cracking, so be sure to hire a seasoned professional.

“As long as concrete is installed properly, it’s durable and will wear evenly,” Goldsborough says. “Expansion joints over a large surface area are a good way to eliminate fissures in the material. Also, if it’s not sanded and sealed properly, it can be rough and porous.

When it comes to stains and acid etching, granite is the most impervious material. Concrete must be kept sealed to avoid stains.

Finish-wise, “If you don’t like a high-gloss finish, you can have [concrete] dulled with steel wool, or grind the concrete to bring out the gravel," says Goldsborough. "You can also lightly sand it and customize it with beads, fossils, seashells, etc.”

This can be a good option for those looking to personalize their décor, who plan on staying in their home for a longer period of time.

“The labor involved with pouring concrete in place and detailing it is typically more expensive than granite,” says Goldsborough. The cost of concrete can greatly vary because it’s such a custom product.

But on the flip side, your kitchen will also get a unique look like no other. 

When it comes to resale value, granite is probably the obvious option for most, as the average homebuyer may question the durability of concrete and require an education on this material. Though granite is less interesting and somewhat utilitarian, it’s a sure thing. 

For the open-minded and contemporary design aficionados, the beauty of concrete may very well be worth the time, money and maintenance.

As Johnson says, “It looks more like art than it does a countertop.”

For those who want the versatility of concrete without the maintenance, engineered concrete is another way to go. Verdicrete by Brooks Custom (pictured) can be used in both traditional and contemporary rooms. 

Todd Costello of Brooks explains, “In Verdicrete, stone aggregates are removed and replaced with microfibers. Therefore, the product cures quicker, can be custom colored, and is virtually stainproof.”

Verdicrete countertops have a durable finish that lasts for the lifetime of the countertop. It’s waterproof and requires little maintenance.

What’s the catch? Be prepared to fork over 20-50% more for Verdicrete than regular concrete depending on the complexity of the design. 

What does it all cost? Those interested in granite countertops can expect to pay a minimum of around $3,000 for materials and installation for a typical 30-square-foot kitchen island. Verdicrete will likely run from $4,200 up, and concrete somewhere in between.

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