I’m going to start this story by saying up front that this tutorial is meant to supplement other more in-depth how to videos and articles. (See https://leavingourtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/how-to-pour-and-install-concrete-countertops-in-your-kitchen/ for greater detail). The kitchen countertops were a learn as you go type of project. It was the first time we had delved into the world of power tools, melamine, templates, and the medium of concrete. The bathroom vanities, on the other hand, were a “we kind of think we know what we’re doing” kind of project. We jumped in with all the confidence that finishing the kitchen countertops could bring…
The ugly green cultured marble tub surround and vanity top in the master bathroom were reason enough to start the bathroom concrete. Sadly, it was I who picked the hunter green, mauve, and baby pink cultured marble tops back in 1991. (Who could have known those colors wouldn’t make it to ’98?) We had originally only planned on doing the master bath, but my thought process was, if we were going to do one bath, why not do the guest bath, Hannah’s bath and a half powder bath while we were at it. What’s one, two, three more molds while we we’re already here. The demolition was therapeutic to say the least. Getting the marble out in one piece was not an option weight, shear size, or strength wise. We opted for brute force and a sledgehammer. Actually, a regular hammer an old towel to cover flying pieces and safety goggles were enough to do the trick. Only one narrow tub surround piece was stubborn enough to only be removed by the sheer strength of our handyman, Hiram. Otherwise we were able to break the marble into small enough pieces and haul it downstairs.
The next step required making precise templates of the tub surround. The marble was laid in five different pieces so that’s what we did with the concrete. We made sure the templates matched the exact dimensions prior to cutting the melamine. The templates were made using 3 inch strips of luan and our trusty glue gun.
After the templates were flipped, laid on the melamine, and traced, we cut the melamine to size using our circular saw, table saw, and jigsaw. We fit the melamine pieces back in around the tub prior to building the sides of our molds to ensure a nice fit. I’ll admit this did require some up and down and back and forth to the saw to get it right. We were not as concerned at the wall because backsplash would cover any imperfections. The seams, however, needed to be snug. The master vanity was nearly 98 inches long. We decided to build two molds and make a seam straight down the middle. I would do it all over again the same way. The templates were still prepared on site to ensure that all wall imperfections were met. Again, the templates are flipped on the melamine, traced out, and the melamine cut. We had wiggle room again, though, because backsplash would cover the wall edges.
We made the vanities 2 inches thick therefore our sides were made with 2 3/4 inch strips of melamine. The tub surround finished concrete was 3/4 of an inch thick, therefore those side pieces were cut 1 1/2 inches to accommodate the 3/4 inch base of melamine. All sides were built using 1 1/2 inch screws and pre drilling. The sides were caulked using 100% silicone in black to see it well. The templates were done in the same manner for the guest bath, Hannah’s bath, and powder bath. If you’ll notice in the powder bath, the template was built to accommodate the angle of the wall. Why not customize it if you’re building a template. No backsplash here…..our measurements had to be right on!
We purchased over mount copper sinks and cut the foam knockouts a 1/2 inch smaller in diameter. So lovely not to worry about getting that foam cut to perfection. Our sink edges hid all tiny imperfections! The faucet knockouts were built using a foam swimming noodle (great idea, Hannah!) cut at 1 1/2 inches and a wooden dowel cut at 1/2 inch. This gave us our 2 inch depth of the concrete plus ample room to maneuver tools to reconnect the plumbing.
After all the molds were built, we established a pouring day, rented a two bag cement mixer, bought powder grout stain, bought 10 bags of Quickrete countertop concrete mix, and set forth. We used Solomon brand for the grout stain. We purchased deep brown and dark buff. One cup grout was used per 1 80 pound bag of concrete. We mixed the powder with hot water prior to adding it to the dry concrete. A pudding consistency was established prior to pouring into the mold. The molds were covered with plastic and allowed to dry for two days. Another 5 days completed the drying time.
Hannah and I slurried the holes in the concrete with Portland cement stained the same color. We then sealed with a product called Z SiACRYL 14 which we purchased from Z countertops online. 2 light coats and the matte finish we were going for was achieved.
The countertops can look wet when water gets on them, but they dry nicely. No stains thus far! We applied clear silicone to the base of our cabinets prior to installing the concrete. The clear silicone was also used as our seam in the master bath vanity and at the seams of the tub surround. I like the look.
I credit Hannah with doing all the plumbing reconnections. We both get credit for fixing leaks by learning the value of a nice fitting wall tail pipe! Finesse is definitely more important than strength in plumbing!
So there you have it….4 bathrooms for the price of one 2 bag cement mixer. FYI, I have since bought my very own Kobalt cement mixer. Love it!