We’ve been keeping busy around here this winter with tons of home renovation projects. I’ve posted pictures of the progress on IG from time to time, and it was requested that I break my blogging fast in order to show how Mike and I made the concrete vanity top for our downstairs bathroom.
Most of the changes being made in that room were things we didn’t know how to do well enough ourselves (tile work, mudding, plumbing, electrical), so we hired people who know what they’re doing. But the one thing we did feel comfortable tackling was the vanity.
Concrete is cheap and extremely versatile. You can make it literally any color you want by mixing in powdered pigment. It can be perfectly opaque and smooth for a modern look, or you can sand it down to reveal the aggregate for a more organic/rustic look. I have even heard of people pouring agates or sea glass into the concrete for a colorful, mosaic-like look. The sky is really the limit with this material, and if you mess up you’re only out the cost of a bag of cement and sand. Besides that, it is extremely hard and durable after it’s cured and sealed, making it a practical choice for kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
We had concrete countertops made by concrete professionals for our kitchen this summer, replacing the speckled blue laminate ones that had been there since the 90’s. Boy, do we love how they look and feel!…Butter smooth with beautiful dove gray mottling. That built-in drain-board was a genius move, too.
So it was an easy decision to go with concrete for the bathroom vanity as well, and in the interest of staying within our budget we decided to try doing it ourselves.
Mike made the base out of cedar and then we poured our own concrete top for it. The whole process only took an afternoon, not including buying/gathering the supplies and setting up the mold (we did that the day before. You want to have everything set up ahead of time because once you pour the wet concrete, you have to work fast.)
Mixing the gravel, sand, concrete and pigment together is very similar to baking. You have to pay attention to the texture and moisture of the mixture. Too watery and it won’t set up in the mold very well. Too thick and it will be hard to spread it and get it really smooth. The general guideline is 3 parts gravel, two parts sand, one part concrete, and one part water. And then pigment is added “to taste” until you achieve the opacity and color you want.
Pro Tip: We heard that if you ad a little anti-freeze into the mix, it will help keep air bubbles to a minimum! We tried it and it worked! We had very few air bubbles in the finished product!
Keep in mind that if your sand is red, your concrete will be tinged a light pink color naturally if you don’t ad any pigment. If your sand is more yellow in color, the concrete will be a light beige naturally. We have red sand and added white pigment- a lot of it- because we wanted a very opaque, creamy white color. The natural color was really pretty too, but just didn’t quite “fit” with the gray and white limestone tile in the bathroom.
I made two short videos showing us pouring the mixture into the mold and spreading it. IG won’t let me embed them here but if you click here and here you can watch them. As you’ll see, we laid metal mesh into the mold and then poured another layer of the concrete mixture over the top of the mesh. This is a way to strengthen the countertop and make it durable enough to withstand us picking it up and moving it into the bathroom. Without some sort of reinforcement like this, whether you use mesh or re-bar, you risk cracking.
We let the mixture sit for a few minutes and then scraped off the excess water that rose to the top. After that, it was time to wait. And wait. It really should sit and cure for a week before you attempt to move it at all, but we were having a New Year’s Eve party in two days and needed to have a functional bathroom for our guests, so we held our breathes and asked a strong friend to help us move it. It worked, miraculously!
We didn’t have time to seal it before the party, so we covered it with a sheet of plastic to keep it safe and quickly installed the sink. Even with cutting some corners and never having done this before, it turned out looking exactly how we wanted it to! It’s a pretty forgiving material.
Let me know if you have any questions. There are many awesome Youtube videos that explain this process really well, which is how we educated ourselves ahead of time. I know a few of you are doing some remodeling projects of your own…good luck with everything! I love seeing your progress so keep posting to IG/your blogs. Those of you trying concrete, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!