The concrete industry has come a long way and keeps reinventing itself to answer the needs of builders, architects and even decorators. With more and more home owners attracted to a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, we have seen, in more recent years, a new use of concrete, blending innovation and artistry to create truly unique surfaces for interior floors, patios and kitchen counters. Here are some of the coolest new possibilities:
Concrete Countertops in the kitchen:
When you think kitchen countertop, a few options usually come up. Depending on your budget, you can get high end and more expensive products like: polished granite, marble, quartz, soapstone, stainless steel and glass. On the cheaper end and ideal for DIY afficionados, you have tile, wood and laminate. Other options that are becoming more popular are concrete and recycled concrete. The later one being one of the most eco-friendly choice that allows you to combine post-consumer products like glass, paper, composite and plastic with concrete for a truly unique finished product.
Plain concrete can be used in countertops, landscaping and customized with various textures and finishes (stain color). A really nice feature of concrete is its ability to be energy efficient. Whenever the temperature rises, the concrete traps the heat and releases it when the temperature cools down.
White Portland cement
To transform what may be viewed as boring cold grey concrete into bright, elegant aesthetic surfaces requires a combination of special ingredients, forms and finishing technique. The magical ingredient in this case is white Portland cement. It comes plain or pigmented and is available in wide array of colors, from pastel to saturated colors. It can be used indoor or outdoor and has the same durability properties as grey cement but contains more metal oxides like iron and manganese, giving it its whiteness. White cement concrete is used in exposed architectural concrete, landscaping, building accents and more. It provides greater energy efficiency and safety because of its light color.
Some design ideas
Concrete can be transformed to look like natural stone. To create this effect, you will need to cast the concrete in an integral color then apply multiple layers of acid stain to the surface until the desired result is obtained. TIP: Use the veins produced by the marbelizing effect to hide seams on your countertop.
Create a wood-grained finish to any surface by applying a technique called “board forming”. To create this unique texture, you will need to cast the concrete in forms that have been previously lined with unfinished wood that will imprint the wood texture into the concrete surface. You can also create board lines by cutting straight lines with a saw after it is cast. Next is creating a realistic color using both integral color with topical stains.
To create a smooth and elegant look to your surface, you can polish or sand your concrete. It is recommended that the counter top be poured in one piece and not show any seam. To create the look of marble, you will need to use a titanium-white concrete mix that contains white silica sand. You can also hand sand the surface lightly for a less shiny and more natural look.
Exposed Aggregate Finish
This is where the use of post-consumer products like glass, stones, bricks, even shells can be recycled and added to concrete to make truly unique finished surface. There are 3-4 steps to create this type of finish: first you pour the concrete, then you insert pieces of material of your choice (broken glass, decorative stone, shells etc.) Once the concrete has set you grind the surface to expose the aggregate. Finish with a high gloss sealer to protect your newly created surface.
TIP: for spectacular results it is best to select pieces that will create the most contrast with the concrete color.
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