By Fu-Tung Cheng
Design, Form and Finishes for Creating Concrete Countertops for
Kitchens and Concrete Countertops for Baths
book re-invents the kitchen or bathroom countertop with a single
material: concrete. Although this method of building kitchen
concrete countertops and bathroom concrete countertops is currently very popular, not one
book on the subject existed -– until now.
Enter Fu-Tung Cheng, master of design of
concrete countertops and
concrete construction and author of Concrete Countertops. Here at last
is a complete, start-to-finish book on creating concrete
counter tops for professionals, homeowners or do-it-yourselfers (diy). Cheng takes you step-by-step through the process of
making a concrete countertop -- from building the mold and mixing
and pouring concrete to curing, grinding, polishing, and installing
the concrete countertop.
You’ll be inspired by the 350 color photographs of
concrete countertops that bring the
exciting medium of concrete countertops to life. And you’ll discover that the possibilities
for creative expression with concrete
countertops are endless. Concrete countertops made
of custom-formed, colored and finished concrete can look like
marble, granite, glass or sculpture -– the look of your concrete
countertop is limited only by your imagination.
Throughout the Concrete Countertops book, Cheng offers valuable
concrete countertops troubleshooting advice
and useful tips on maintaining a concrete countertop.
"Concrete Countertops will give architects and builders the
know-how and confidence to draw and/or build what discerning
homeowners are requesting in work surfaces these days. This is the
tool they've been looking for to help bring their clients' concrete
dreams into concrete reality!"
-- Sarah Susanka, author, The Not So Big House
“Over the past decade, the most requested article from our
back issues has been about making concrete countertops. And more
than anybody, Fu-Tung Cheng has been the innovator calling the
public’s attention to concrete as a material worthy of the finest
interior detailing. This is the kind of book that will make you see
a common material in a whole new way, and maybe even make you want
to roll up your sleeves and play with it. “
-- Chuck Miller, editor,
My palms sweat. A fresh-finished, curing concrete sidewalk
beckons me. I sense the damp, smooth surface tempting me to leave my
handprint or to scratch the initials of my first love. How many
times before have I abandoned myself to the temptation and gotten
away with it? I stand, poised, ready with stick in hand to scratch
in her name . . . only to be thwarted by a grown-up shouting: "Hey,
kid! Get away from that concrete!" I run.
Years later, here I am again, tempted. There isn't a soul around.
I pick up the perfect stick . . . but now no one stops me. No longer
the delinquent, I can carve, scratch, stamp, mold, and grind all the
concrete I can get my hands on -- and play to my heart's content.
Rather than being shooed away, now I'm invited to stay.
Concrete is a wondrous material. From a primal and formless
slurry, it can transform itself into solid form taking on any shape.
The possibilities for creative expression are endless. You can
grind, polish, stamp, and stain it. You can embed objects in it. It
has substance and mass, permanence and warmth. It feels earthy. It
assumes forms that irrevocably touch our daily lives: bridges,
highways, floors, walls, and now even countertops.
It first occurred to me to make a countertop out of concrete in
1985, when a friend and I were hired to design and renovate a
professor's house in the Berkeley hills. He gave us a modest budget
and announced, "This is all I can afford to spend, do whatever you
want." Armed with this rare creative license, and plenty of youthful
exuberance, everything was targeted to be as innovative as possible.
Nothing, we decided, would be "out of the box," including the
kitchen sink. In fact, the sink is of special interest here since it
was the first step in a process that has led to this book.
We decided to make our own sink and countertop with granite and
ceramic tiles. The tiles would create a palpable sense of
massiveness, we reasoned, and their complex surface texture would
give the piece a comfortable, human scale. Basically, we were
working toward an aesthetic that has informed much of our work
Rather than build a conventional grouted plywood base for the
tile sink and countertop, however, my friend and I decided to cast a
concrete base. We had already done plenty of kitchen remodels by
that time, and we'd seen our share of dry-rotted wood underlayments.
Concrete never rots.
So we simply built a mold of two wooden boxes, one nested inside
the other. We filled the gap between them with concrete out of a
bag. It was a simple process that yielded quite surprising results.
When we stripped the mold, we were amazed. The raw concrete was
beautiful. It looked like sculpture: There was all that massiveness
we liked, and the surface -- gray, pitted, crazed, and textured by
the mold -- had all the complexity we'd envisioned . . . without the
We agreed that it was a shame to hide the concrete, and we
resolved that on our next job we'd explore concrete's potential as a
medium for creative expression.
And so we did, in my own kitchen. It was a single piece
containing 11 cu. ft. of concrete. It weighed nearly 1,500 lb. It
took 10 of us, using two engine hoists, to turn it over once it had
cured. We barely managed it, but the concrete countertops came out intact and
beautiful, and to this day is still being put to good use.
It was beginner's luck, we quickly discovered.
As we designed and built more of these "working sculptures" for
our clients, problems came up: efflorescence, cracks, honeycombing,
more efflorescence, stains, and then more efflorescence -- but each
setback led to new insights and new inspirations for creating
concrete countertops. With each
experience, we learned to simplify the process and control the
variables that affect the finished product. And the more we worked
with the material, the more encouraged we became.
Concrete has become my material of choice for design expression,
simply because its utility and durability are matched by its
sculptural sensuality in creating concrete countertops. My approach to concrete countertops is thus design
driven, and this book is as much about design and art as it is about
the practical aspects of working with concrete.
In Concrete Countertops, we discuss the tools, materials,
and methods we've developed that contribute to consistently
satisfactory results. And most important, we offer a gallery of
design ideas culled from projects by Cheng Design and others.
It's my hope that this book will inspire more homeowners,
artists, designers, architects, and concrete professionals to get
their hands dirty and play. I invite you to take the techniques
presented here as a springboard to explore the creative
possibilities of this age-old material. I want everyone to see that
concrete not only has an ancient history as a durable, lasting
material but that it has proved its efficacy as a medium of
aesthetic expression as well. And that today, with improvements in
our understanding of its basic properties, science and industry have
provided us with materials and methods that enable us to expand the
potential of this amazing material.
So come on, surrender to the impulse to carve those initials in
your own concrete countertops.
Concrete Countertops Table of Contents:
1 DESIGN AND PLANNING CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS
Why a concrete countertop?
Before you begin
Break out of the mold
Complements and supplements
2 BUILDING THE MOLD
Tools and materials
Laying out the mold for your concrete countertop
Assembling the mold for the concrete countertop
3 MIX DESIGN
A basic mix
Calculating and proportioning ingredients
4 MIXING AND POURING THE CONCRETE COUNTERTOP
Tools and materials
The work environment
Mixing the concrete
Placing the concrete
5 CURING, FINISHING, AND TROUBLESHOOTING
Curing concrete countertops
Releasing the concrete
Grinding and polishing concrete countertops
Placing inlays in concrete countertops
Sealing the concrete countertop
Troubleshooting concrete countertops
6 INSTALLING THE CONCRETE COUNTERTOP
Preparing the cabinets for concrete countertops
Installing concrete countertops
Installing the backsplash on concrete countertops
Appendix 1. Building a Curved Form for Concrete Countertops
Appendix 2. Forming a Drop-Down Front Edge
Appendix 3. Pouring a Concrete Countertop in Place
Appendix 4. Maintaining a Concrete Countertop
Soft-cover, 9 x 11 in., 208 pages, with
over 350 color photos and drawings of concrete countertops