Talking with people about my line of work has always been interesting to me. There are some common misconceptions when it comes to concrete countertops. Many people see concrete bridges, foundations, sidewalks etc. and imagine our countertops as cheap and durable cement blocks. And once in a while a few people bring up reading about someone having had a bad experience with concrete countertops that had problems with staining or durability.
Lets look at the truth in these perceptions. For one thing, concrete is pretty dang tough. A YouTube search for something like “concrete countertop test”, will probably dazzle you. As impressive as some concrete panels can be, those tests can be extreme and out of context for concrete that you are considering in your home. The reality is a bit of a different story. At RockMill, we care about durability as far as how well a countertop holds up. What matters is the every day use where stain, chip, and scratch resistance are the big players.
I’ll be honest here: concrete is not the most durable surface you can use in you home. I said it; it’s true. If that’s what your going for there are some quartz products that are incredibly durable, perhaps even a heavy gauge stainless steel or even zinc might be your choice. Each surface comes with it’s pros and cons. Metal countertops will likely handle blunt force trauma the best; they will scratch and can be refinished but they might be number one if your worried about slamming heavy pots on them or their corners.
If scratch resistance is your number one then look at engineered stone (one popular type is quartz) or even some exotic (and extremely expensive) ceramic options. And, let’s not forget laminate. Laminate comes in some very nice finishes today and is quite durable, and much more affordable. Concrete is a reasonably durable surface that is well suited for typical wear and tear in a kitchen. Concrete will last and look great for many years. It is reasonable in that you can choose it for it’s other characteristics and not obsess about chips, cracks, scratches, leaving water rings, stains etc. The durability is due in large part to the sealers that we have today.
The truth behind the “bad experience” stories often lies in countertops that were “sealed” with beeswax and polished which, was much more common years ago. Wax is not really a sealer. It can look really cool and sometimes there’s a place for it but that place is not likely your kitchen. Another product that became popularly used as a sealer on concrete is acrylic resin. It has roots as a floor sealer and then migrated to concrete countertops. Acrylic can be another “bad experience” sealer because it does not hold up to many staining agents. Acrylic also requires periodic re-application and upkeep. Luckily for RockMill, the industry has come a long way in its evolution of sealers.
RockMill uses a top-of-the-line newly developed sealer that has stellar performance. Our sealer is a Buddy Rhodes product which combines two styles of sealers in one. Its called a Reactive Polyurethane Sealer (RPS). One part is the reactive component which interacts with the top surface of concrete, penetrating into the cement paste strengthening the bond to the aggregate particles. In layman’s terms it hardens and strengthens the top layer of your counter. The other component is a polyurethane resin. Polyurethane is a pretty hard and tough polymer. This polymer sits atop the concrete and forms a film. Films can get a bad rap, mostly because if your interested in concrete countertops, you are likely not excited about a thick layer of plastic on top of them. Here’s the real story: if you don’t put some type of layer in between concrete and your life you will not have the best protection available. While the new system does provide a resin film, it’s pretty thin. This thinness is key to producing usable surfaces that still uphold important and beautiful characteristics of concrete. Texture can also be preserved. We want the concrete to feel the way it looks.
Although our countertops are not sledgehammer proof nor the most durable on the market, we standby our durability for everyday kitchen use. The sealers available today are miles above where they used to be and we could not be happier with their performance. The beauty of the concrete is maintained by the sealer not masked. Here at RockMill we like to have our cake and eat it too. And hopefully…little by little..we can be part of changing people’s perceptions about concrete countertop- one countertop at a time 🙂