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DIY concrete countertops over laminate surfaces using Henrys Feather Finish is a fast, budget route to upgrade your countertops. Click through for a step-by-step tutorial, inluding links for a great food-grade sealer option.

DIY Concrete Countertops Over Laminate Surfaces

Hellooo DIY Concrete Countertops! Where have you been?…

My lifelong relationship with laminate countertops is finally over. Gracing the kitchen in which I grew up, laminate seemed to me the workhorse of countertops—most homes seemed to have them. For better or for worse, many rentals in my adult life continued my kitchen kinship with laminate. But from afar I envied elegant marble, beautiful soapstone, natural butcher block, metals like stainless steel and copper, and most of all, modern and easy quartz.

pin concrete counters

So of course, it was no surprise that when I bought my home, the countertops were laminate. I tried to embrace them. But the coffee, red wine and Campari stains took a lot of scrubbing to get out. And I kept on having to glue back down the strips along the sides of the counter and the top of the backsplash. The time had come for a change.

kitchen counters before

Earlier this year I resolved to upgrade the kitchen–essentially with little or no budget. Some paint on the cabinets did wonders to lighten the space, so the countertops were next on the list. I wanted something durable, attractive, easy, inexpensive, maintenance-free, and stain-proof. My needs were great, and my budget small. I figured concrete counters would fit those constraints.

From what I’ve read, a concrete skim-coat would transform my laminate without having to remove or rebuild the counters. It’s applied straight on top of the laminate in troweled-on layers. And it is inexpensive. Perfect! Easy peasy DIY concrete countertops over my laminate counters. I have about 25 sq. ft. of surface area, so I figured it wasn’t too large for me to take on. I was up for the challenge.

The product I used is Henry brand Feather Finish concrete Underlayment Patch and Skimcoat. I got mine from Home Depot in a 7lb. box for around $17, but you can also get it now through Amazon Prime under the Ardex brand name (10lbs is around $33). The 7lb. box covers about 24sq. ft. to 1/8″, which I gambled would be just about enough.

The entire process (in concept) is simple, summarized below.

DIY Concrete Countertops

Step 1: Prep. Clean and rough up your laminate to create a surface to which concrete can bond.

Step 2: Application. Skim on the concrete (I applied four layers).

Step 3: Seal (covered in the next post).

Step 4: Cure (and apply silicone at sink if needed).

I finally had a window to start the project. It was still warm enough so that we could grill most of our meals, and we had a weekend out of town approaching during which the sealer could cure.

Supplies for DIY concrete countertops over laminate

Tools:

  • Bucket for mixing. I was able to get by with a small one-gallon tub.
  • Trowels. I ended up using a plastic putty knife, but also experimented with a drywall taping knife.
  • Orbital sander and sandpaper in a range of grits.
  • Sponge
  • Concrete
  • Painters Tape
  • Vinyl gloves, safety glasses, mask
  • At first I used the drill and paddle for mixing, but as I went along it was easier to mix by hand.

Step 1: Prep

First, clean your surfaces. Get everything out of the way, clear everything off, take down anything on the wall right over the counter. It’s time to rough it up and prep the surface. I started by using 40 grit pads on an orbital sander but it didn’t quite have the effect I was looking for. It just seemed to smooth the surface.

roughing up the laminate counters for the concrete

So I took the pad off the sander and started using it with my own elbow grease.

sanding laminate counters for concrete application

This worked much better. You can see the scratches in the surface. I have to admit it was a little satisfying—cathartic almost—to scratch up that laminate.

scratched laminate counters

Next, I removed all the loose strips that came off easily (one of my big gripes with the laminate), to ensure they wouldn’t be peeling off with the concrete on top of them.  I gave the glue-laden surface underneath a quick sand with the orbital sander.

removing laminate strips

Here is the counter in the midst of prep work.

prepping laminate surfaces for the Feather Finish concrete

Finally, I taped around the whole area with painters tape. I don’t have an image of the painters tape, but you can see it in the photos of the application process.


Step 2: Application

Mix your concrete. Follow the directions. Mine required two parts mix to one part water. I mixed a lot the first time and it started drying on me pretty quickly. The temps were in the mid-70s, but it’s very arid here. I started to mix smaller batches (one-half to one cup concrete mix) after that first one to keep it wet enough to apply easily.

mixing the Feather Finish concrete to apply to the DIY Concrete Countertops

Now you’re ready to start spreading it on. I tried a few different tools for application, but ultimately chose the plastic one you see here. My first coat was quite thin, I wanted to be sure I had flat, level finished surface to I kept the layers thin. You can still see the laminate through the first layer.

Applying the Feather Finish concrete skim-coat to the laminate countertop

Spreading on the Henry Feather Finish concrete on my DIY Concrete Counters Over Laminate

Be sure to get the sides, too. You can see the tape in these pics as well, I found I only needed it along the top and against the stove, I didn’t apply it along the bottom where the drawers were. If I did happen to get a glob on them, I could sponge it off very easily and quickly.

Applying the concrete to the sides of the countertops

 

Applying the Feather Finish concrete to the laminate

Let the first layer dry. In my semi-desert area, that meant only a half hour to fully dry. Lightly sand in between the layers. I mostly focused on the uneven areas. Then wipe off the surface with a dry rag to prep for your second layer.

sanding the concrete layers

Next, I got right to applying the second coat. (I must have forgotten the side—see, I needed the reminder!)

Applying the second layer of the Feather Finish concrete to the countertop

The second layer left a few thin areas and a third layer seemed to cover well. I decided to sand it smooth for the sealer. First I started with an 80 grit, then 120 grit, then 220. Besides making a dusty mess in the house, I probably took off almost an entire layer doing this. PLUS, when I read the instructions for the sealer, it warned to not sand the surface with a grit finer than 200. Lesson learned. So I decided to rebuild it with a fourth coat. This was a painful decision ONLY because I had to order another box of concrete and I had to wait a few days to finish the application. In the meantime, we were doing our best not to destroy the surface with food stains.

Another advantage of a fourth layer was that I could focus on a few thin spots on the edges, and to beef up and smooth out some of the corners. I used my fingers to literally sculpt a layer of the mix onto the edges and corners.

concrete counter edging

 

concrete counter corners

Finally, it’s time to clean up everything before the sealer. I sanded some of the globs that formed under the sides and cleaned up around the sink.

 

Now the DIY concrete countertops will dry overnight and they will be ready for the sealer! More on the sealer in the next post (completion photos posted here as well).

 

 

 

 

Most of all, I love the industrial look the DIY Concrete Countertops add to the kitchen and especially the variation and imperfections in the surface (of course!). In fact, the areas where the concrete is smooth and even are the least interesting parts of the counter.

In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t sanded those areas so much. Think about the aesthetic you would like for your surface–smooth and even, or a little imperfect? You know what gets my vote!

I’m so excited to add the sealer and start using these babies! More pics of the “after” counters and the sealer process next!

Also, want to color your countertops? Here’s one option to try: The Easy Way To Stain Concrete

 

Interested in the whole kitchen? See other posts about renovating my kitchen on a $500 budget:

DIY Concrete Counters over Laminate using Feather Finish concrete skim coat

Prepping and Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Installing and Straightening Cabinet Hardware and Filling Old Hardware Holes

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51 Comments

  • Reply aab

    Awesome! Is there any chance of the laminate coming loose and wrecking your cement?

    October 26, 2015 at 7:22 am
    • Reply Michelle

      I imagine the concrete is only as good as the substrate to which it’s applied. That’s why I peeled off anything that was loose and now I’m hoping time is kind to the rest of the laminate!

      October 26, 2015 at 8:48 am
  • Reply rmclellan1949

    Wow, I’ve always loved the look of cement counter tops but didn’t want to replace the whole counter top. I didn’t know you could do it over the top of others counter-tops. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Thanks for sharing.

    November 2, 2015 at 10:03 am
  • Reply The Best Sealer for Concrete Countertops | Lovely Imperfection

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    November 16, 2015 at 2:24 pm
  • Reply Leigh Wells

    After three months, how is the concrete holding up? I just bought a place and can’t afford to replace the YELLOW laminate countertops yet. Wondering if you are happy with this as a solution for now.

    February 2, 2016 at 2:25 pm
    • Reply Michelle

      Leigh, I was just asking myself the same question the other day. For the most part they look exactly the same as the day I finished them. The area next to the sink gets the most abuse–lots of standing water (sometimes overnight) and banging of food prep, pots and pans and such. And it has held up well. I did find, however, that a hot cast iron pan taken off the flame and set on the countertop will damage it. Maybe because the concrete layer is so thin? Anyhow, hot items are still OK, just not really hot items. Not sure where we draw the distinction though. Let me know if you end up doing your counters!

      February 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm
      • Reply Leigh Wells

        Thanks for taking the time to write back. I appreciate the vote of confidence for this. I may do it!

        February 5, 2016 at 4:07 pm
        • Reply Michelle

          That’s great! Let me know if you do, and be sure to email with any questions!

          February 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm
        • Reply Laura

          Are you able to add coloring?

          December 19, 2016 at 2:50 pm
          • michelle

            Yes! My neighbor added a pigment on hers that turned out beautifully!

            May 8, 2017 at 7:39 pm
  • Reply Kevin Wagar

    Cool look! I have a friend with a kitchen that this look would be perfect for!

    March 21, 2016 at 10:54 am
    • Reply Michelle

      Thanks Kevin! We love them.

      March 22, 2016 at 7:51 am
  • Reply Peanuts & Thread

    I love the look of concrete countertops! You got me thinking with all kind of possible changes around me home with one single modification.

    May 7, 2016 at 10:49 am
    • Reply michelle

      I think they look great too! Sometimes it doesn’t take that much to make a big difference!

      May 9, 2016 at 8:24 am
  • Reply Chantel

    Hi michelle. Pls advice. To you samd the counter top with a sander or by hand to get it really smooth.

    May 27, 2016 at 11:40 am
    • Reply michelle

      Hi Chantel, if you’re asking about the countertop after it has the concrete applied, I used an orbital sander. I found that you CAN oversand it, and it’s easy to sand off the layer that was just applied! I didn’t want it super smooth either, if you do, maybe start with a finer grain sandpaper? ie, if you start with 60, then 100 then 220, you will sand off the whole layer. For super smooth, maybe start with 100 or higher. So you will probably find yourself playing around a bit to get the surface you like. The best part is that if you sand off a layer, you can just reapply–you haven’t ruined anything. Oh, and if you were asking about sanding the laminate, do it by hand with a 40 grit to really rough it up. Hope that helps! Michelle

      May 30, 2016 at 11:20 am
  • Reply 7 Cheap Renovations That Helped This Writer Boost Her House’s Value by 30% | MoneyFeed

    […] So, for $17, I bought a box of cement patch and skimcoat like this kind here. For less than $20, I made concrete countertops that look modern and sleek. […]

    June 1, 2016 at 7:51 am
  • Reply Chylene

    These look awesome! After all this time, how are they holding up? I’m anxious to get this project started! The previous owners painted over the laminate countertops with wall paint (I’m assuming)…should I try and sand through to the laminate or just rough it up to concrete over? Also, have you had any cracks or chips come off of the corners? I read up on someone saying they had a lot of issues but they also had a lot of factors that I think brought them to the failure of their project (started with wood, mixed grout with the concrete, etc.)

    June 8, 2016 at 8:15 pm
    • Reply michelle

      Hi Chylene, that’s a good question about the paint. If there is a good bond between the paint and the laminate, then I would just rough up the paint. If it’s peeling, then get it off. But wait a second, paint on your countertops?? Anyway, I haven’t had any cracks or chips on the corners. It’s holding up really well!

      June 20, 2016 at 7:58 am
  • Reply Claudia

    Are they still holding up.?

    June 11, 2016 at 6:16 pm
    • Reply michelle

      They are Claudia! Soon I’m going to do a 1 year follow-up, but the quick answer is that they look very similar to the day I did them.

      June 20, 2016 at 7:39 am
  • Reply melissa stevenson

    Does it have to be a featherfinish concrete? Or will regular concrete mix work as well? Looking to skim coat over an existing wood fireplace hearth. Thanks!

    July 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm
    • Reply michelle

      I’m not sure if the feather finish will stick to wood. Usually wood is used as forms because concrete doesn’t stick to it. You might consider putting backer board over the wood and then use portland cement with lime. Regular concrete mix has a lot of rocks, stones and aggregate mixed in with it making it hard to use as a skim coat. I would research the wood and type of concrete before you proceed.

      July 12, 2016 at 8:15 am
  • Reply Kelly

    Can you tint or add color to the concrete mixture? Anyone know?

    July 21, 2016 at 5:14 pm
    • Reply michelle

      Hi Kelly, you can! I also just used a concrete glaze that gives a beautiful tone. We used it on some pavers and I’m overdue for the post, but they’re super easy to work with and give some nice depth and variety over a pigment. http://www.buddyrhodes.com/glazes-1/.

      July 22, 2016 at 6:12 am
  • Reply Beth

    Will this work if your laminate has rounded or bullnose edges and backsplash?

    August 25, 2016 at 9:30 am
    • Reply michelle

      Yes it will! My neighbor did just that. It just takes a little more time to make sure the rounded edges are covered appropriately.

      August 28, 2016 at 7:55 pm
      • Reply Chelsye

        What about a vertical rounded backsplash? As in, the backsplash and the countertop is one continuous piece of laminent. (I hate it!) looking into the concrete tops but want to make sure it will suit the vertical laminent too!

        April 30, 2017 at 7:58 pm
        • Reply michelle

          Hi Chelsye, I think that would work. I used it on my laminate backsplash. And it wasn’t rounded, but I don’t see why that would change anything.

          May 8, 2017 at 7:21 pm
  • Reply Ivette

    Great job! Just bought a house and this is exactly what I want to do for my counters. Is there any particular cement and sealer to use?

    September 9, 2016 at 7:47 am
    • Reply michelle

      Thanks Ivette:) To answer your question, Yes! You will want to use a skim coat cement product from either Ardex or Henrys. The one I used is available at Home Depot. You can look for Henrys Feather Finish skim coat. It will bond to laminate. And even wood. For a sealer, use one that’s food grade safe. I wrote about my sealer in this post: http://www.lovelyimperfection.com/the-best-sealer-for-concrete-countertops/
      Have fun!

      September 9, 2016 at 5:51 pm
  • Reply Ashley b.

    Hi there! Beautiful kitchen! Looks great! Maybe someone who’s done this can help me:
    I’m in the process of feather finishing my laminate counters as well-though I have rounded edges on my counters. I was wondering how you handle the lip where the counter curls under and meets the plywood underneath? Like if you were sitting on the ground and looking up at the underside of the counter-that space under the lip that faces down, does it have to be covered completely to the base of the cabinet?… I’m worried that it could chip off from underneath or around the spots I couldn’t do and left laminate showing on the inner sides where the stove fits too snugly also. Does clear coat an sealer take care of that or should I do a really thin layer there and just pray the stove fits? I feel like all the parts that show on first glance are fine but I worry about those pesky unseen areas.
    Thank you for your help!

    September 15, 2016 at 6:23 pm
  • Reply michelle

    Glad you took the plunge Ashley and are covering your laminate! Regarding your stove, I had a similar very tight fit on the stove and I didn’t put concrete in there. But, it IS a weak spot for water intrusion, since we are cooking on that side and always wiping it down. I’d say if you can put concrete on one side and not both, choose the side with the most use. Otherwise get the sealer down the side a little bit and that would likely help. For the rounded corners, you could leave it or go all the way. I didn’t go under and don’t have any issues with chipping. Maybe it’s the sealer I used (the sealer post is linked above) but I’ve been happy with the adhesion. While the feather finish will stick to wood, there will likely form a crack between the laminate and the wood as it ages, since the wood may expand and contract at different rates than the laminate. Hope this helps! I’m sure it’s going to look fantastic! Michelle

    September 16, 2016 at 7:09 am
    • Reply Ashley b.

      Thank you so much Michelle!!!
      Crossing my fingers that it’ll turn out as nice as your project! Have a blessed day.

      September 16, 2016 at 3:57 pm
  • Reply Melissa Bialk

    It’s been awhile now and I am just wondering if it has still held up.

    October 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply michelle

      Pretty well! Some scratches here and there which because of the texture don’t stand out at all. Still looking good:)

      November 9, 2016 at 6:47 am
  • Reply Amy

    I’m lolling to do this in our downstairs bath, my question is that I plan to extend the length of the counter top a bit and am curious as to what you suggest I use? Can I simply use wood, or do you suggest a backer board of some kind? I’m planning to extend it about a foot. Thanks!

    November 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply michelle

      My neighbor used wood and it turned out OK, but the wood has expanded and contracted a bit which leaves cracks. If you can, I would use backer board.

      November 9, 2016 at 6:50 am
  • Reply Sara Larson

    What kind of concrete did you use?

    December 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm
    • Reply michelle

      Henry’s Feather Finish concrete skim coat. You can get it at Home Depot for around $16.

      May 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm
  • Reply Victoria

    I have tile counter tops. Do you think if I ruff the tile the cement will stick? What type of sealer did you use? Thanks!

    January 11, 2017 at 8:13 am
    • Reply michelle

      Victoria, I would take the tile off and sand down the thinset that is under the tiles so that it’s not such a rough surface and will adhere better.

      May 8, 2017 at 7:43 pm
  • Reply CJ

    Hi, the link to the updated, roll on sealer doesn’t work. Can you provide the name and price?

    March 12, 2017 at 9:07 am
  • Reply Linda

    Do you think it would work on a scalloped bathroom sink? It is an all one piece countertop, slick, but I can rough it up. I think it would look cool if possible…

    April 13, 2017 at 10:30 pm
    • Reply michelle

      I’m sure you can rough it up enough. In fact, I saw someone use it in a sink, and remember it started degrading the concrete at the drain–I think they were planning on redoing it with a better focus on sealing that area. Feather finish concrete is not super durable and will dent and scratch easily, creating a weakness where water can penetrate into the concrete, so if you do use it in a sink, be extra careful.

      May 8, 2017 at 7:32 pm
  • Reply sandy

    The countertops you did look like they are stained or have a very cool pattern! Did you do something special to get this and they also seem darker did you put a stain in them? I love the look at would like to replicate yours:)

    May 15, 2017 at 10:01 am
    • Reply michelle

      Thanks Sandy! The only pattern is from the application of the concrete–I wanted it a bit natural so purposely left trowel marks etc in them. The sealer darkened the concrete a little bit. That’s it–just the concrete and the sealer (there’s a link to that post as well;).

      May 15, 2017 at 8:15 pm
  • Reply jen

    hi! your counters look beauitful! quick question: did you remive your sink?

    May 18, 2017 at 11:40 am
    • Reply michelle

      Nope–kept it in place! Wanted the easy option…. thanks for the compliment!!

      May 18, 2017 at 5:56 pm

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