Cement Countertops: Hard to Ignore

by Jon Nunan

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From benches to bridges and foundations to floors, cement really brings together a wide variety of applications. It can be found in one capacity or another virtually everywhere Americans live. Its recent popularity in high profile living spaces has prompted the use of cement in ways that were generally thought out of its reach. The cement countertop is one of cement's contemporary uses that is just beginning to be fully appreciated.

Concrete or Cement Countertop?
Okay, cement countertop is a misnomer. Anyone looking for a cement countertop is actually looking for a concrete countertop. If you were to actually purchase a true cement countertop, it would look quite a bit like baby powder and would function about as well (as a countertop, not on a baby).

Concrete would be nothing but mud without cement, but cement on its own will never be concrete. Concrete is the hard substance that sidewalks are made of. Cement is the ingredient in concrete that holds it together (even though it is probably the most important ingredient, it is still a part, rather than the whole).

Characteristics of Concrete Countertops
Well, first off, they're hard. Though not quite as hard as granite, they are still very hard. They are also heavy. Though the weight is very similar, they are actually slightly heavier than granite.

Concrete countertops are very versatile in both their form and their color. Almost every place that makes concrete countertops will do a custom job for every job. Since concrete is formed rather than cut, any imaginable shape is possible, and since it can be chemically stained, concrete countertops can literally be any color of the rainbow.

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Advantages of Concrete Countertops
The biggest advantage of using concrete over other common countertop materials is the flexibility of design that concrete allows. Precast concrete can come in any shape, size, or thickness you like (though, for countertops, there is a minimum recommended thickness, and anything exceeding common thickness will require some extra support).

In the past, concrete's naturally porous make up was a considerable drawback in places like kitchens and bathrooms. Great improvements have come about in the products available to seal concrete, making it about as porous as granite in some cases.

The Look and the Price
Concrete countertops look like nothing else, and many different effects are possible with different treatments. Needless to say, if you're interested, you should check out many different samples of what concrete countertops look like, as not all are made the same.

Individual craftsmen, each of whom will have his or her own special methods and techniques, often make these pieces. Some of these craftsmen are far superior in skill and much more experienced than others. Which brings us to price: concrete countertops of high quality will cost as much, if not more than, granite of the same thickness. Make sure that you develop a rapport with the person doing the work because a project as pricey as this should be exactly what you want in the end. A little tip, though: try not to call it a cement countertop in front of your designer.

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.