Countertop Overlay - The Alternative to Solid Concrete

A countertop overlay is an easier and less expensive alternative to solid concrete countertops. A microtopping is applied to the surface of a countertop to give the appearance of solid concrete. Color is added by either putting it into the mix or staining, just as you would concrete. It can be done over existing tops such as laminate or on newly constructed tops.

Advantages of a Countertop Overlay

  • The overlay method is significantly cheaper than solid concrete, especially when done on an existing countertop.
  • It won't be nearly as heavy as solid concrete which can weigh 25lbs per sq ft. Overlaying an existing top adds only a few pounds. This methods eliminates any concerns of the cabinets not being able to support concrete.
  • You can make the entire countertop seamless including the backsplash, which isn't possible with any of the other traditional countertop materials.
  • It makes installation much easier and less messy, especially with the "cast in place" method.

The only disadvantage of a countertop overlay versus solid concrete is less versatility. You can't embed objects such as cutting boards or broken glass like you can in concrete. However, overlays are still very versatile and you are only limited by your imagination.

Overlay Videos

This video is the first of a three part series that we made on how to make concrete countertops. They show the overlay method of making countertops. There are a few advantages to this method versus solid concrete. The biggest advantage is weight. Solid concrete is extremely heavy, while these countertops are camparable in weight to laminate. It's also much easier to make large countertops seamless, backsplashes and all. Also, it can be done over existing laminate.

The process starts with MDF board to build the countertop, which is then overlayed with a polymer concrete topping. The overlay can be integrally colored or stained. Different textures can also be used for different looks. This video series shows the basic smooth texture with acid staining and epoxy sealer.

The second part shows the overlay process after the countertop is built. It's a fairly simple process if you have the right tools which include a magic trowel, steel trowel, corner trowel, and a paint brush. Just be sure the cabinets and floor are well protected with plastic sheeting.

The third part shows the staining and sealing process. You can use acid stain or acrylic stains on polymer overlays. The acid staining in this video creates a natural, rustic appearance. A semitransparent epoxy sealer is used as a sealcoat and to add a high gloss appearance. Most of the time a clear epoxy is used, but there was a special request for some reflector enhancer added to the epoxy for this particular countertop. Epoxy sealers can be tricky, especially 100% solids epoxy. Once it's mixed you want to get it dumped out and work quickly in a dust free atmosphere.

Existing Countertop Overlay

Countertop overlays can be done on your existing tops. Of course it can only be done if the countertop is still in good shape structurally. Unless you want to change the size or shape, then consider an overlay instead of ripping out the tops and replacing with new.

So how do you get an overlay to stick to the countertop? You have to scar, scratch, grind the surface to get rid of the coatings and get down to the raw material. This will allow the primer for the overlay to penetrate the pores for a good bond. Any seems should be taped with mesh tape. This prevents hairline cracks from occurring along seems.

All overlay sytems for countertops will require a primer to be rolled on before applying the topping. Once that dries, the overlay goes down with a trowel. Then you can stain it and seal it just as you would concrete.

Countertop overlays are one of the cheapest but most dramatic ways to spuce up a kitchen or a bathroom. The best part is each one can be unique and customized just for you.

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