SO many people told us we were mad to try and create our own DIY kitchen worktop but what is life if not for a little adventure?
Creating our own worktop allowed us to be flexible with our kitchen design and we love the results. Here’s a little step-by-step photo explanation of the prep and pour phase of creating our worktops. We used a system which enables you to make a bespoke frame to suit your requirements from Z Counterform Europe and we love the fact we created one continuous surface with a story behind it!
Step 1: Create a ply base on top of your units. Z counterform suggest using Durarock but we went with ply. In retrospect the ply repels the water when Durarock absorbs it so it made the mix slightly wetter to work with (which made it messier) but it worked fine!
Step 2: Fit the plastic formwork to the edges of the worktop and around holes you’ll need to keep e.g. sink and hob. You will need to cut the edges at a 45 degree angle so they sit tightly together which is made easy by the mitre block provided. Duct tape and silicone EVERY joint you can see!
We bought a few tools but the pack was really comprehensive and included the mitre block, plastic formwork, plastic spacers and screws, glass fibre reinforcement mesh, the dry pre-mixed cement and magnesium float. All we did was buy a paddle mixer and some additional trowels.
Step 3: Roll out the fibre glass mesh to the length you need and overlap the mesh slightly on the corners to ensure the joints are strong. Using lightweight gloves is a good idea as otherwise it makes your hands itchy! You then need to snap off the longer plastic legs of the Z clips which are provided (you only need the shorter legs for domestic use) and attach them to the fibre glass mesh approx every 10 cm in a square formation and lastly adding a central clip to each square. There are 2 grooves in each Z clip to hold the mesh so this ensures your mesh will stay at the correct level when the concrete is poured on top. Using an electric drill is a must when you have so many screws but a good tip is to buy a magnetic tip for your drill if you don’t have one. It holds the screws on the end of the drill when you’re trying to fix down and stops a lot of cursing!
Step 4: Remove your drawers / cupboard doors and protect your floor and units with lots of plastic (we used packaging from appliances we’d bought which worked fine). We also cut plastic bags and taped them over sockets and the extractor hood to avoid splashing concrete onto them. We covered over the holes for the sink and hob with the ply which we’d cut out from the ply worktop to stop too much concrete seeping in. Be sure to leave holes in the corners though to be able to easily remove once the concrete is set! This worked for us but they took a while to cut around the ply edges as concrete had dripped and set into the joints. In retrospect styrofoam would have been easier and worked just as well from a protection POV with the added bonus of being quick to break up after the concrete was set.
Step 5: Mix and pour the concrete as per the instructions on the packets. Make sure you mix up a trial amount first to check the consistency and make sure it’s suitable for working with. This process is messy and renders you feeling rather kid-like! It was an incredibly exciting / scary morning! Once the concrete is level vibrate the edges of the formwork by tapping on them with the end of a trowel or by using a sander. We did the latter and this worked brilliantly for us – we have very little holes on the edges as a result.
Step 6: As the concrete started to set we peeled back the plastic sheeting and wiped the plastic formwork clean. We also used a little trowel to move any concrete spillage from the edge of the ‘holes’ so that it would be easier to take the ply protection out. Tidying before the concrete dries was really easy and we were glad we’d done it when it came to removing the formwork later on.
Step 7: On Day 2 the concrete had dried a lighter colour and we could take the ply framing out of the holes for the sink and the hob. It required a bit of jiggery pokery but worked fine. We could then test that our fitted appliances would fit snuggly on the new surface.
Step 8: Break the formwork off – this peels away and is a very satisfying step! You’ll need to sand the top, edges and corners so don’t be worried about a little bit of excess concrete as shown below on the corner edge.
This is when it starts to get fun and you can put in a few drawers back in to start to imagine the final effect! We chose a simple square edge formwork frame with a white concrete mix but there were so many options to choose from according to your style which you can check out here.
We posted about our progress on our Instagram account and the most frequently asked question we had was ‘is it possible for an amateur DIY-er to do?’. We would respond – absolutely! We had both sets of our wonderful parents over to help and definitely a little ‘team’ is recommended when little leaks start to spout or the drills overheat as this is a time-pressured activity! However going with Z Counterform meant they provided links to videos which really highlight each stage and this took the fear out of the process for us. If you follow them on Instagram you can see some of their latest projects to get ideas and we found this really helpful for imagining the final result.
Next up we’ll cover the sanding and sealing process so watch out for the next blog later this month… We’d love to hear your comments though on our DIY adventure and thoughts on using a concrete worktop!
In the interest of transparency we received a discount from Z Counterform when purchasing their products but this post genuinely depict the process we undertook to create our first DIY countertop!