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Making Concrete Bar Tops

post #1 of 189
Thread Starter 
I wanted to start a thread to talk about building concrete counter tops in my home theater bar area and I'll be going step by step in the process of how I went about doing it. So why concrete? Well for me I like the look and durability, also there is a number of possibilities as far as color,shape and whats added to the mix and exposed during the grinding and polishing process. Its also very much a DIY project if your willing to do a little labor work.

I started my project on a small scale. I needed a top for my popcorn machine to sit on and after looking at granite and laminates I came across concrete. The cost for concrete tops however made for you runs about the same as granite so I went home and searched the web and read books, watched the videos and so on until I had a good idea what was needed. Again, I think this is a very doable project for most people with only a few thing you will probably need to buy. The first top I made for the popcorn machine is only about 18"X25" and needed only one 80# bag of concrete to make.(more on this later) OK enough talk for now on with the pictures!!

More to come. Any questions please ask, Thanks.
post #2 of 189
Keep the documentation coming. I've been thinking of trying my hand at vanity top for my basement bathroom. Needs to hold a vessel sink. Saw a show on TV where they built a melamine covered panel mold for the tops and pored the tops upside down. Looked pretty simple.
post #3 of 189
Very interested in reading more from your experience of doing it yourself.
post #4 of 189
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. The next rounds of pics will cover mold making, whats needed material wise and including how to make holes in the concrete to accept vessel sink drains, faucet holes, tap openings for keg-fridges, under-mount sinks and so on.

I forgot to mention the example top above is 2.5" thick. This is done to emphasize the mass of concrete. You could go as thin as 1.5" but I wouldn't because I think it takes away from the look that sets concrete apart from the rest and adds a "wow" factor.
post #5 of 189
Thread Starter 
OK so it's time to make the molds. The method I choose to use was to pour the concrete in a mold which will mean that it's upside down and backwards. I'm using 3/4" melamine cut down to the sizes that I needed ( I had the big box store do this to save time and hassle). I then screwed the 3" wide strips to what will be the top of the counter using 1 1/4" drywall screw, predrilling first to avoid stripping out the holes. This will give me a finished overall thickness of 2 1/4".
The next step was to caulk all seams with black silicone to make a waterproof area inside the mold. Using black simply makes it easy to see where you put the silicone and as your smoothing the seams you can easily see if you left any behind. Anything and I do mean anything left on the melamine surface will show up on the finished surface. You may want some things to show up on purpose that you added (fossils, coins, etc.) so just keep that in mind before you pour.

For the sink and faucet I used 1" rigid foam. For the sink opening I took my bar sink and put it upside down on the foam, reached inside the drain opening and traced the shape. Then it was a simple matter of cutting this out and repeating two more times to give me an overall thickness of 3". The faucet was made using a hole saw. Both were then wrapped with clear packing tape to make them easier to come out later.

More to come
post #6 of 189
Looking forward to this. I have liked this idea for a long time but wasn't sure how to do it. The mention of the coins and fossils is interesting as well.
post #7 of 189
This is really cool... I am trying to figure out how the foam blocks supporting the rebar don't affect the top of the counter... I can't stand it

This is really cool, super unique and also very gutsy to try. I am impressed!
post #8 of 189
Thread Starter 
This is a work in progress Home Theater. I wish I would have found this great forum before I started, it would have saved me sooo many headaches!!

This is the bar area where the concrete is going. I still have some finish work to do, but you get the general idea of the layout.

Looking toward the stairs going up.

Standing on the stairs.

Looking into the Home Theater.

Finally, one shot of the theater itself with the temporary couch and table until I can find a close match to the theater chairs in a sectional.

Thanks for looking!
post #9 of 189
Can you provide a few more details on the steel rebar and wiring that you showed in your pictures.
post #10 of 189
Thread Starter 
The re-bar that I used is 1/2" thick around the sink area and 3/8" everywhere else. If I did it all again I'd use 3/8" only because it's thin enough to be able to bend it using black iron pipe as a sleeve and then bending the 90's. Around here Home Depot only sells 1/2" where Lowe's sells both sizes.

In the pictures you can see cross pieces which are stainless steel. They are really used for support in glass block windows but work very well here. They sell wire ties in bulk bags of maybe 100. These are used to secure the the different metals together as well as secure the re-bar to the mold (drywall screws on top). I used small pieces of rigid foam to hold the re-bar up off the melamine temporarily until the wire is in place, then the foam can be removed and the re-bar will "float" above the melamine.

After the cement is poured and sets up for a few I'll cut those wires to the top of the mold as close to the cement as I can and tuck them in the still wet cement if needed. Keep the questions about the bar or theater coming!(I'll talk about cement mix/ratio/additives next)

Someone asked about the letters for the theater.


I primed and painted them. Glued 1/2" wood plugs to the back so they stand out from the wall(cant see that in the pic). Then using my brad nailer I secured them in place after measuring and drawing out the spacing. Hope that helps
post #11 of 189
How about shot of your screen wall? everything looks great.
post #12 of 189
Thread Starter 
Some screenshots I took real quick. Pics are slightly blurred because I just hand held the camera. The screen wall measures 120" and was done with four coats of Behr Silverscreen sanded to achieve a smooth surface. If your on a budget I think this is a great first screen but I'll end up getting some sample screen swatches and trying out others in the future. Projector is an Epson 6100.

I left the main lights in the bar on for the pictures, but they are normally off or low for movies.

Side note-I added granite dust to the paint in the bar. It's very subtle and you may not pick it up at first but it adds a little spark to the area.
post #13 of 189
Years back we had to do a few concrete tops for a commercial job I was doing. They wanted a rubbed finish though so it did not have the aggregate exposed like yours, which looks cool as heck.

Did you just pour it, then clear coat it or did you hone or sand the surface first. It is hard to tell of the aggregate just settled on a flat side or if you had to do something to get that look.
post #14 of 189
Thread Starter 

To get the look that I have you need diamond grinding pads and a polisher. An angle grinder will not work because of it's high rpm's. Harbor Freight is your friend for this tool as well as the hole saw if needed.


This is the one I used. It's nice because it has a dial for speed control and it maxes out at 3000rpm's and you don't want to go over 4k when polishing concrete. The pads can be found on ebay at a good price also.

The more you grind with say your 50 grit pad the more stuff will show. This is optional and some people may just want a nice rock free look. I went for a happy medium on my first one. It's like a box of chocolate, you never know what your going to get

I'll take lots of pics during these steps. I plan on pouring the beginning of the week when I can get my buddies over to help- it's at least a two man job, three is better!
post #15 of 189
Sweet project. Total cost?
post #16 of 189
looking forward to the mix and pour installment!
post #17 of 189
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by msmCutter View Post

Sweet project. Total cost?

For just the concrete tops? If you include the polisher and diamond pads $130 Add in the sink and faucet to that and I'm at about $230.

The entire HT project is at just over 8k for everything you see. The only thing I didn't do myself was the carpet and it was the most expensive single thing down there at $2500- I've just never tried installing it before

Once I replace the front row couch with something more fitting the price will go up...oh and bar stools too. Trying to find something a little modern/art deco'ish.


Light switch covers still to be ordered in silver.
post #18 of 189
Thread Starter 
Detail of the re-bar in case there was any confusion. If anyone needs anything explained further at this stage of the game please ask!!

The fun is about to begin.....

post #19 of 189
I'm ready for the show.

post #20 of 189
You should put curtains along the wall left of the screen. The glare off the screen reflecting off the wall is pretty strong. Awesome looking basement though!
post #21 of 189
Thread Starter 
I see what you mean, The camera over exposed the shot a little so it's not as bad as the photo shows. The walls are flat paint. Originally my plan was to have a small curtain along the top, say 4-6" and small sized curtains along the side but after seeing it maxed out in size it's hard to go smaller. This stuff was all done before I found this great forum so I didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off of. Now after finding this place I'm already thinking about HT 2.0!

Thanks to everyone for following along!
post #22 of 189
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

I'm ready for the show.


Well as you can see I'm getting limbered up and excited about the pour!

post #23 of 189
Thread Starter 
Before I pour, a quick overview as to whats needed to make things run as smooth as possible.

Quikrete 5000- this is the only cement you will want to use. Do not use the 5000 that has air entrapped in it, you do NOT want any more air bubbles in that you will have to remove. The only other mix I wound advice is this for ease of use- a good choice for first timers. I believe you can special order for HD or Lowe's but don't quote me on that!


Sand- I use this to help the mix "flow" a little easier without hurting the psi of the cement. There are chemical products out there you can buy to do this also, but I like to keep it simple. I add about 10% to the cement mix.

Re-bar- I went over this some. Not needed if you are just making a small top or say a top with no holes or little to no overhang. Use it around sinks and overhangs for say a bar top where stools will be tucked under.

Colorant- I use QUIKRETE Liquid Cement Color. The sky is the limit with color. Search the web for cement colorant and you will find a rainbow of colors. I'm using charcoal for mine with several ounces of brown added to push it to the warm grey side.

Anything you want to show on the cement top needed to be added before pour! Broken glass, coins, fossils, old car transmission parts...you get the idea. Use your imagination here. DO NOT use aluminum- this will react badly with the cement and corrode fast. Put a small amount of the silicone on this stuff and "glue" it to the melamine.

Sawzall- This will be used with the blade off. Immediately after pouring take the saw and place the guard against the outside edge of the melamine and pull the trigger. The natural vibration from the saw will move the bubbles to the surface and remove trapped air. Run around the outside and under if you can. A rubber mallet works too, just not as fast. I heard of jigsaws being used or palm sanders also...whatever you got, just beat the snot out of it to get those bubbles out!

More to come!
post #24 of 189
Thread Starter 
Or how to make a mess and break you back in three easy steps...

Mixing the cement by hand. You could also rent a mixer if you want to make things easy, but come on man up!

I added the color to a five gallon bucket of water and added it to the cement. Mixed it till I had the cement the way I wanted it then shoveled it into the molds paying close attention to the corners and what will be the top edges, pushing and feeling with gloved hands. Fill the mold half way, then using a rubber mallet knock the molds on the bottom to release the trapped bubbles for a minute. Once I had the molds filled up I took the sawzaw to it and vibrated out as many bubbles as possible. This was followed up with sharp blows with a hammer on the bottom.

It's not pretty right now and you will get messy but the end results are worth it.

After the cement has had a chance to set up for a few, the wires are cut freeing the re-bar from the mold. Now the re-bar is floating in the middle. After 24 hours the cement will be at about 1000psi and at day 6 I'll flip the mold over and free it from the mold. Cement will be at about 3000psi and ready for grinding and polishing....and more mess.
post #25 of 189

post #26 of 189
did you use a vibrator on the form to get them bubbles out?
post #27 of 189
Originally Posted by HeyNow^ View Post

did you use a vibrator on the form to get them bubbles out?

post #28 of 189
Hasesian, you crack me up. Good thing that popcorn is bottomless, watching concrete dry and all...

I beleive the Sawzall vibrated the mold to release air bubbles. Very novel use of a Sawzall.
post #29 of 189
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by HeyNow^ View Post

did you use a vibrator on the form to get them bubbles out?

Originally Posted by hanesian View Post

I had several beers in me to loosen up the sore muscles and was half taking a drink when I read that.....beer on a laptop from your nose is never a good thing

HEYNOW- I use a sawzall aka reciprocating saw with the blade off. Place the guard against the form and pull the trigger. The vibration that is natural to the saw does a good job of releasing the bubbles from the side and bottom...then I take a hammer( or mallet) and give it some hard thumps on the bottom of the form just to make sure any stubborn bubbles released.
post #30 of 189
Originally Posted by mmeister View Post

HEYNOW- I use a sawzall aka reciprocating saw with the blade off. Place the guard against the form and pull the trigger. The vibration that is natural to the saw does a good job of releasing the bubbles from the side and bottom...then I take a hammer( or mallet) and give it some hard thumps on the bottom of the form just to make sure any stubborn bubbles released.

I knew that. I knew that!

Just testing you ...
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