Concrete on your countertop or kitchen peninsula can add a touch of contemporary freshness, but people often wonder if they’re as sturdy as they sound.
So, are they durable?
- Concrete Countertop Durability
- Why Are Concrete Countertops Durable?
- 5 Common Problems to Expect with Concrete Countertops
Concrete Countertop Durability
Sealed concrete countertops have enough mechanical strength to handle moderate wear and tear. They’re also heat-resistant and can last a lifetime. However, concrete is prone to cracking with shrinkage and requires sealants to resist stains.
Let’s now see what makes concrete a good fit for kitchens and the problems you need to watch out for.
Why Are Concrete Countertops Durable?
Before you judge concrete countertops, it’s good to remind ourselves of what goes into making those beasts of kitchen slabs: sand, stone, and cement.
This blend (with varying ratios, of course) is so sturdy that people could depend on it to support skyscrapers’ frameworks.
So, it’s easy to see why it would take on your average kitchen wear and tear without any significant trouble.
Add to this the fact that concrete is particularly good at handling high temperatures.
That means that it won’t mind heat from an oven or even direct heat (with a trivet buffer) on the countertop.
Plus, concrete is highly customizable to fit any slab cut without seams, even if you need to prop an island on legs.
All in all, you’d expect your concurrent countertop to last for about 50 long years!
But all of this is based on skilled installment, a high-quality sealant, and proper maintenance.
5 Common Problems to Expect with Concrete Countertops
In theory, concrete might sound like one of the most durable materials to make a countertop, and it’s actually scoring some points in terms of aesthetics and durability.
However, much like other materials, there are a few hiccups to expect.
Let’s take a look at the five common problems that take away from a concrete countertop’s durability.
1. Unsealed Concrete Stains Like Crazy
Concrete is a highly porous material—you can tell that by looking at it.
It’s full of pores and grooves for spills and crumbs to hide, making it a suitable breeding ground for stains and microbial growth.
To tackle this issue, most owners resort to transparent sealants that cover up this porous surface without compromising the sleek aesthetic of the concrete countertop.
So, as long as your countertop is sealed correctly, it’s going to be stain-resistant.
However, that doesn’t really equate to stain-proof since a slab of sealed concrete can show slight discoloration every once in a while.
Ideally, you’ll need to re-seal the countertop periodically to make sure that the porosity and absorbance levels are always as low as possible.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule to how often that should be, though. It all depends on the sealant material.
For instance, some high-end brands use sealers lasting up to ten years, while other common alternatives might require touch-ups annually.
If you’re DIY-ing the countertop at home, make sure you check that the sealer you’re using is heat-resistant too.
Otherwise, you’ll compromise the concrete’s heat tolerance.
2. All Concrete Is Prone to Hairline Cracking
Hairline cracking is just an unfortunate side effect of dealing with concrete.
It doesn’t really indicate any structural damage, but it can be unsightly and ruin the sleek aesthetic you’re looking for in your kitchen.
These tiny slits are usually the result of something called plastic shrinkage.
Without digging too deep into the technical jargon, it basically means that concrete cracks when it loses moisture a bit too fast.
However, cracking isn’t only something to expect with fresh concrete slabs.
Sometimes, they could happen over time, especially if you tend to lay uneven loads on the countertop.
To keep this issue to a minimum, some manufacturers play around with the concrete mixture and its constituents.
Here are a few additives that might help reduce the cracking:
- Fiber reinforcement,
- Wire meshes, and
- Shrinkage-reducing admixtures (SRA).
If you end up with minor cracks on your countertop, they’ll mostly be minimal.
You can let them be and try to work them into the kitchen theme.
Alternatively, you can opt to have them repaired either by a professional service or with a DIY project at home.
All you need is to clean the crack out and seal it with a highly fluid sealant to keep kitchen debris from filling the slit and rotting inside.
3. Concrete Countertops Might Show Scuffs and Scratches
Scratching is a relative concept—harder surfaces can “dent” the surface of a softer one.
The issue here is that it’s a bit tricky to predict what can actually scratch your concrete countertop.
There’s no universal value for all concrete on the Mohs’ hardness scale.
Depending on the blend’s composition and the surrounding conditions, it could range from a mediocre three to an impressive seven.
The good news is that most minor scratches won’t even show up on the rugged concrete texture.
The bad news is that they can get worse with time and collect food particles, especially once the sealer is compromised.
So, once again, it’s all going to come down to the sealer’s quality and freshness.
An even layer of a scratch-resistant sealing agent can help reduce the scuff marks on your countertop significantly.
On the other hand, leaving exposed concrete to sharp knives and utensils might not be a smart move in terms of durability.
That’s yet another reason why it would be a bad idea to lag behind your scheduled re-seal maintenance!
4. In-Process Flaws with DIY Countertops
The fact that concrete countertops are suitable for DIY projects can be a double-edged sword.
For one, you can cut expenses by making it at home.
All you’ll need is some cement, sand, stones, and a mold to fit your countertop measurements.
You can even take the customization potential up a notch to accommodate sinks, islands, or small side tables to match the contemporary countertop!
However, the main downside is that the technical aspects aren’t always as straightforward as many expect them to be.
To get a durable, structurally sound, and decent-looking slab of concrete for your countertop, you need a bit of skill to go along with your enthusiasm.
Otherwise, you’ll be left with a ton of possibly irreparable damage, including:
- Air bubbles or pinholes,
- Curling, and
- Segregation (especially if you use a superplasticizer).
So, while you’ll be saving some money, you might be taking a risk on the quality.
5. The Countertop’s Color and Texture Might Change with Age
While concrete can last a lifetime, people often notice that their countertops slightly change with time.
Wet concrete is definitely going to be a lot darker than the dry result, but over time the change in color might be unpredictable.
The color itself might get a bit deeper.
Yet, if the countertop is exposed to a lot of sunlight, then it’s possible actually to turn a shade lighter.
It’s not just the color that’s subject to change either.
Sometimes, the sand might seem more protruding outward.
This change significantly affects the texture, almost replicating sandpaper.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.
For some people, this effect is a lot like a leather patina that shows that the countertop aged well with time.
Meanwhile, others might find it less than ideal.