Where can I use concrete in my home?
- Future Concrete makes concrete kitchen benchtops, splash backs, bathroom vanity tops, concrete sinks, showers, bath surrounds, fireplaces, tables, desks, chairs and more.
- Concrete benchtops can be straight, curved, notched, multi-level, etc. Unlike granite and quartz, which would drastically increase in cost for curved shapes, creating curved concrete shapes simply involves some extra complexity and labor in forming.
- Concrete can also be used in vertical applications such as splash backs, shower surrounds and fireplace surrounds.
- Integral and vessel sinks are possible. See the section on sinks for more information.
- Concrete can be used both indoors and outdoors.
- Concrete floors are a different application. Future Concrete can recommend companies who specialize in various types of concrete floors.
Who would want concrete benchtops?
Concrete benchtops are the most unique, personal benchtop option because they are made from scratch for each client. To determine whether concrete is right for you, think about whether you believe that:
- You want something unique and personalized
- You want something that looks natural and has character
- You appreciate high-quality, hand-crafted items
- You think granite and quartz are too shiny, too formal, too common
- You think synthetic solid surface materials look and feel like plastic
- You need a colour or visual texture that’s not available with other materials
If so, concrete benchtops may be right for you.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of concrete compared to other benchtop materials?
- Custom: Concrete’s biggest advantage is that it is completely custom. Your benchtop will be unique to you and highly personalized.
- Versatile: Concrete is extremely versatile. It can enhance any style, from French Country to Contemporary. From Arts and Crafts to Industrial. From Traditional to Modern. The possibilities are endless.
- Practical: Future Concrete uses a sealer that is extremely stain-resistant and low-maintenance. Common food items will not stain it when wiped up quickly. The sealer does not degrade, and therefore does not need to be reapplied every year like many other sealers. The sealer also exhibits great heat resistance.
- Imperfections: We believe that this is an advantage. Concrete benchtops are hand made and hand finished. Since concrete is a heterogeneous mixture of many different ingredients, subtle variations in colour, shade, texture and overall appearance should be expected. All concrete is susceptible to harmless hairline cracks. They will sometimes appear months or years after installation, and are generally a result of seasonal movement of the cabinets and the house itself. These should be considered part of the aesthetic charm of concrete, and not a defect. Concrete exhibits natural beauty rather than plastic perfection.
- Staining: Concrete benchtops actually behave similar to granite in this regard. Granite benchtops are also porous and have to be sealed and maintained. Most people don’t realize this, because granite is usually too dark and patterned to show stains. Food, acids and oil will not stain your countertop if wiped up immediately, and if left on for a longer period of time, they will cause only a light spot whose appearance can be minimized with a touch-up kit.
- Scratching: While the sealer is very durable, it is possible to scratch it. For example, in kitchens, you should use cutting boards and not cut directly on your benchtops.
- Lead time: Because concrete benchtops are completely hand made from scratch for each client, they take longer than sheet goods that are simply cut by a machine. See the section on lead time for more details.
How much do they cost?
What colours are available?
What is the process for custom colours?
How much colour variation can occur?
Concrete is a natural, handmade material. Many factors such as humidity, sand lot and cement lot can affect the final appearance of the concrete. All of our colour formulas record the type of sand, type of cement, and exact measurements of pigments to 1/10th of a gram, and we use specially developed software to calculate mix design. However, colours can still vary because of the aforementioned factors.
Another factor that contributes to perceived variation is simply the size of samples. A 150x150mm sample will look different than a whole benchtop simply because the small sample does not capture all of the natural, random variations that will occur over a large surface. The colour in a 150x150mm sample may appear completely uniform, but a whole benchtop in that exact same colour will not appear as uniform. The same situation occurs with other natural materials such as granite. If you are looking for perfect uniformity, you might not be right for concrete, and you should choose solid surface instead.
What edges are available?
What kind of sinks can be used with concrete benchtops?
Future Concrete benchtops can accommodate all types of sinks including drop-in, undermount and apron front.
The minimum lip of concrete around all sides of sinks is 75mm. Concrete can also accommodate drop-in cooktops. The minimum lip of concrete in the front of a cooktop is 75mm. We recommend 75mm for the back also, but 50mm will suffice.
Future Concrete can make integral concrete sinks of almost any shape. Bathroom vanity tops are an excellent application of integral concrete sinks.
We do not recommend integral concrete kitchen sinks for engineering reasons. Kitchen sinks are deep and have angles that would put large stresses on the concrete and have high potential for cracking. Also, the size of kitchen sinks generally dictates a very thick concrete bottom that would be a problem with standard plumbing and cabinetry.
Concrete vessel sinks are also possible, and concrete’s versatility means that the sink can be any colour and shape.
What about splash backs?
Will concrete benchtops stain?
Bare concrete is very porous and will readily stain. Virtually all concrete kitchen benchtops are sealed to prevent staining; however the degree to which these sealers works varies significantly. Commonly used sealers include wax and penetrating acrylic sealer. Both of these are inexpensive and easy to apply. However, neither offer significant stain or heat resistance, and both require frequent reapplication to prevent the formation of a “patina”.
Future Concrete’s sealer is different. We use a high-performance sealer that is exceptionally durable and provides excellent resistance to incidental contact with staining agents such as red wine, lemon juice and olive oil. Complete care instructions are included in your Owner’s Guide. Touch-up of any marks that do occur is simple and easy.
Will they scratch?
Can I put hot pots on the benchtop?
How are concrete benchtops made?
All of the slabs are precast in our shop and fully finished and sealed prior to installation.
When it comes to concrete benchtops, there are two basic processes: cast-in-place and precast. Cast-in-place involves building forms and pouring concrete in place, directly on the cabinets. While this avoids the hassles of transporting heavy slabs, it does tie up the site for many days (or weeks), and it involves a messy process. In addition, cast (or pour) in place provides fewer options and less control over the finished product. Generally the only finish available is a trowelled surface, which is either acid stained or colored with pigments. The quality of the concrete, the finished appearance and ultimate performance of the countertop are all hampered by the fact that it’s all being done on site under a rushed time schedule.
Precast concrete, on the other hand, moves all of the processes off site into a controlled environment. In the structural engineering community, it is well known that precast concrete is superior to cast in place concrete, mainly because tighter quality control can be exercised. Curing, which is a critical step that is commonly misunderstood, can be closely monitored. Moving the process to a shop allows greater flexibilty in terms of the look of the concrete. Glass, stone and other objects can now be embedded; these require extensive wet grinding with diamond power tools to reveal the embedded objects and hone and smooth the resulting surface.
There are 2 methods of precasting: wet cast and glass fibre reinforced concrete (GFRC).
Wet cast uses a more traditional concrete mix of sand, aggregate and cement poured into forms. Our formula uses specialized admixtures to achieve the ultra-high surface quality needed for interior kitchens and bathrooms. We use local ingredients whenever possible.
Because of our education with The Concrete Countertop Institute, we are able to reinforce wet cast concrete properly to prevent cracking. Proper steel reinforcement is essential to combat the large stresses placed on a long, thin slab of concrete such as a benchtop.
GFRC is concrete that is structurally reinforced with a large loading of alkali-resistant glass fibres instead of with steel. It is built up in 2 stages: a thin “mist coat” that is sprayed into the forms and provides the surface appearance, followed by a very fibrous “backer coat”. GFRC is extremely strong, flexible and light compared to wet cast concrete.
Future Concrete will work with you to determine which type of concrete is best for your project, depending on the look and shape you want to achieve.
What is the lead time?
Although benchtops are one of the last items to be installed, concrete benchtops should be selected as early as possible. Here is an outline of the process:
- COLOUR SELECTION
Future Concrete often performs custom colour matching and submits samples for your approval. Allow about 3 weeks for this process. See the section on custom colours for more information.
Templating is done from finished and installed cabinetry, and it takes less than one day.
- The typical time required to fabricate most concrete benchtops, depending on their size and complexity, is 3-4 weeks. Note that the fabrication process may not start immediately after templating depending on how full our production schedule is. A good guideline is to contact Future Concrete at the beginning of the project, or at the latest one month before cabinetry is scheduled to be installed, both to allow time for custom colour samples and to secure a spot on Future Concrete’s production schedule.
- In the case of a residential project such as a complete kitchen remodel, homeowners are usually willing to wait longer for their custom-made, handcrafted concrete benchtops. However, temporary benchtops can be a way to minimize inconvenience. Temporary plywood benchtops are one possible solution. Or, the contractor can preserve parts of the old benchtops to provide some work surfaces.
Because Future Concrete benchtops are precast and prefinished, installation generally takes less than one day.
How are templates made?
Concrete benchtops are templated just like quartz and granite. Templating is done after any existing benchtops are removed, or after new cabinets are fully installed. Your contractor needs to arrange for existing benchtops’ removal. Almost all concrete benchtops require physical templates from the finished and installed cabinetry.
In some cases, such as small or freestanding pieces, we can fabricate from CADD drawings instead of physical templates. We will advise on templating requirements for your project, and we provide your contractor with a templating checklist to help him prepare. All fixtures that penetrate the concrete, such as sinks and faucets, must be available at templating time.
How are the benchtops installed?
Are there any seams?
Often concrete benchtops can be designed without seams. Seams may be located around sinks and cooktops, or wherever required for structural reasons. Or, seams may be necessary due to the logistics of getting the slabs into the house if stairs or corners are involved. Future Concrete will work with you to design seam placement that is both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.
Seams are typically 1.5mm wide, similar to tile grout lines. However, it is important to realize that concrete benchtops are hand made and hand processed; they are not machine cut, so tolerances for seams are more generous than with quartz or granite. Seam appearance is minimized by using colour-matched acrylic caulk.