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Considering Concrete?  7 Lessons I Learned Consulting an Expert

I happen to have some very handy individuals in my life, and there’s so much I’m learning from them.  A few of them happen to be concrete masons!


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This particular group of masons have worked on a wide range of projects, so teaching me to make concrete countertops was small potatoes.  They literally executed the largest concrete pour in Montana history to build 3 large scale, experimental sculptures for Tippet Rise Art Center.

When you’re working on large-scale concrete projects, masons use rebar to make the concrete solid and strong.  So, what happens when you scale down a concrete project to the size of something that will fit in my bathroom?  As this was my first rodeo, concrete was an entirely new animal to me.  Here’s what I learned in the process of building my first concrete countertops.

1. This is going to take some elbow grease

When you’re combining your sand and your cement, you use a tool that works similarly to a mixer you’d use in your kitchen.  It’s called a paddle mixer. The mixer paddle attaches to the mechanism, and you pull a trigger to make it spin. The process starts out easy, but then the mixture starts to get thicker- and that’s when your workout begins.

2. It takes 2 to tango

Although a concrete mason can handle this job alone, it’s much easier with 2 people!  You’re more likely to be able to mix the cement and the sand best if 1 person can add a little bit at a time while the other person uses the paddle mixer to combine the components. Pinterest makes the process look easy, but sometimes Pinterest lies… this is a project for at least 2 people, and it sure helps if 1 of them knows what they’re doing!  

3. It’s all about instinct

Creating your concrete is based on a very specific formula, but at the end of the day there’s an element that can only be learned through practice- getting the texture just right takes some amount of instinct.  For instance, creating concrete takes water, but too much water will leave you with a countertop that won’t cure. There’s a fluid called super plasticizer that can be used in place of water, but that piece of the puzzle is a bit of a guess if you’re not a pro.

4. It’s better to be prepared!

This process is all about timing!  If you’re not ready to go ahead of time, it’s likely things will go awry.  Make sure you have your tools prepared in advance.

Before you begin, build a mold on a melamine particleboard and add caulk to the corners, so you don’t end up with harsh angles on the finished product.  

5. Concrete countertops can be any color

When we made our countertops, we added black dye.  This created an almost black finished product after we sealed the concrete.  It looked a little like lava rock!

You can make concrete in any color!  I want to try white concrete next!

6. Rome wasn’t built in a day

After you pour your concrete, you need to leave it in the mold for a couple days.  After you break it out of the mold, you use an electronic polisher to smooth out the concrete.  After that, you seal it, and then you let it dry.  Don’t plan to finish this project within a few hours!

7. Concrete is an art

When you build anything from concrete, you’re starting out with nothing.  You can create a countertop, or wall tiles, or a bathtub… or a giant sculpture from scratch!  It’s not as simple as nailing a couple of boards together- you’re making magic!



Taylor Fraser is the Marketing Coordinator at of The Gilbert Group.  She is a creative explorer with a passion for all things real estate from architecture, to construction, to interior design, to DIY projects.




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