This probably won’t come as a surprise, but WE LOVE CONCRETE. We’ll be the first to admit that concrete isn’t the perfect surface, but having lived with it in our own kitchen for the past four years, we would choose it again and again over anything else. So what’s so great about concrete?
The concrete countertop industry puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that concrete is highly customizable. It can be formed into just about any shape or colour. You can embed personal accents and unique aggregates into your counters. You can pour them in one piece to avoid seams (which aren’t really as hideous as some people make them out to be). In the hands of a skilled craftsman, the greatest limitation is your imagination…that, and your budget. Custom work, whether in concrete, wood or some other material, is expensive, and rightly so. Like it or not, people’s time and skill is worth something – often more than the materials they are working with.
Like everyone else, we are excited by the endless possibilities of concrete, and have visions for an artisan line that will allow us to unleash our creativity and that of our customers who have the means to pay for it. However, we believe that concrete doesn’t have to be highly customized to be beautiful. Here are five reasons why WE love concrete, custom-made or otherwise.
Look and feel. Let’s face it. While our kitchen and bathroom surfaces play a very practical role in our lives, for most of us, it’s the look and feel that gets us excited. If practicality always won out, nobody would be paying a premium for marble.
It’s hard to find the right words to describe the look and feel of concrete. Natural, organic, earthy come close, but these words can also be applied to granite and wood (which pairs very well with concrete, FYI). So we were excited when we came across the Japanese concept of ‘wabi-sabi’ (not to be confused with wasabi) the other day, which is all about finding beauty in imperfection. Think antique furniture, children’s artwork on the fridge (or, if your children are like ours, on the wall), a banged-up kitchen table.
The fall 2019 edition of Magnolia Journal talks about wabi-sabi as an antidote to the picture-perfect homes that we see in magazines and on home reno channels on TV. Of course, Magnolia’s version of ‘imperfection’ is a little more curated than ours, but still. The point is, while we strive for consistency and predictability in our product, there is an inevitable, natural variation in each piece that comes from the fact that concrete countertops are not only man-made, but handmade. Call it imperfection, call it unique, call it character. It is one of the biggest draws of concrete for many of our customers.
That, and the feel. There is something about polished concrete that just begs you to stroke it. Perhaps it’s the contrast between our anticipation of cold, hard concrete and the reality beneath our fingers of a smooth, warm surface. Of course, the feel depends somewhat on the sealer you choose. A polyurethane, for example, will feel a bit more plasticky in exchange for better protection against stains and etching. While we are happy to offer this option for those who want to keep their counters looking new for years to come, for us personally, nothing beats the feel (or the look and simplicity) of highly polished concrete sealed with beeswax.
Versatile design. Contrary to popular belief, concrete countertops are not limited to industrial design applications (nor do they resemble sidewalks). Concrete is versatile and timeless as a design feature, and can be equally at home in a country kitchen or an industrial-style loft apartment. Good thing, too, because your concrete countertop will last much longer than the trends that were popular when you first had it installed.
Durability. Concrete is highly durable, and gets stronger over time. If well taken care of, your counters will last the life of your home.
Depending on the sealer chosen (we offer several options), concrete countertops can handle hot pots and will not scratch easily. Many people are in the habit of using hot plates to protect their counters, and it never hurts to play it safe, but if you tend to cook using multiple saucepans or have had tile counters in the past, being able to put hot pots directly on the counter can be a real advantage. When it comes to cutting, we would recommend that you always use a cutting board – to protect your knives as much as anything. If you don’t like cutting boards, consider including a section of butcher block in your countertop design. Of course, like stone, the edges will chip if you hit them hard enough, but – as per the next point – those chips are relatively easy to repair.
Easy to repair. As a rule, concrete countertops are easier to repair than natural stone because they can be repaired using the same materials that they were originally made from. Stubborn stains or etches can be removed through spot repairs (using hand polishing pads), or if you want a full refresh – if you’re selling your house, for example - the entire counter can be sanded down and refinished for a brand-new surface. We firmly believe that it is always better to repair than to replace.
Sustainable. This is a case of last, but not least. We keep hearing that people care about sustainability, but that ultimately, it isn’t what sells. Well, it is what sold us on concrete above all else. Sustainability is a tricky concept, as it can be defined and evaluated in so many different ways. Based on our experience with things like laminate countertops, kitchen appliances, electronics and even kids’ toys, we place high value on how long-lasting products are, what they’re made of and where the come from.
We embrace concrete as an eco-friendly countertop solution because it is:
And if you’re the technical type, concrete countertops have lower embodied energy than many other popular countertop options (see https://www.buildwithrise.com/stories/sustainable-countertops-face-off).
So there you have it, folks. In a nutshell, concrete, for us, represents the art of transforming something simple – sand, cement, rocks and water – into something beautiful and durable, and really quite practical.
If you’d like to know more about how our fascination with concrete countertops began, or how we make them, check out this video on Youtube: https://youtu.be/q8s9LiqnCK4 (also on our homepage).
Now it’s your turn. What is it about concrete countertops that captures your imagination? Tell us in the comments below! We really (really) want to know.