“Everything and the Sink” – An outdoor kitchen concrete countertop
We usually build our outdoor kitchen concrete countertops on stone bases, while indoor countertops are typically built atop of wooden cabinets. In either situation, before we start building the countertop, we check to see if the wooden or stone base is level or out-of-level. Wooden cabinets tend to be level, while stone are difficult to level while being built. The stone base at this Denton, Texas home was no exception; in fact, it was out-of-level by over an inch. The homeowner contracted us to add an outdoor kitchen concrete countertop to his deck. He was looking for a split-level countertop with a few knockouts and a concrete sink. Before we could start building, however, we had to discuss the unlevel stone base.
We have a couple of options in this sort of situation. The first option is to ground the top of the stone base until it is level, but this can take a long time. The second option is to simply build the outdoor kitchen concrete countertop on the unlevel base. This is easily done, since one of the advantages is that it can be poured into molds of any shape. The countertop would be thicker in some places than others because of the unlevel base, but the surface of the countertop would be level.
The homeowner chose the second option. He wanted a cast-in-place countertop, so we built the mold on-site atop the stone base and poured the concrete into the mold. To hide the countertop’s changing thickness, we dropped down the countertop’s lip. Special lips and edges are possible with concrete, but the downside is that special edges can make the entire countertop appear thicker than it is. Thicker edges also cost more.
The homeowner wanted several knockouts, or voids, in the countertop. Before we poured the concrete into the mold, we placed foam in the spaces where the voids would be and poured the concrete around those foam pieces. After the concrete hardened, we removed the foam. Sometimes, foam can be pushed out, while other times, we cut it out. The alternative to using foam would be to wait for the concrete and then drill it, which is more difficult.
The split-level countertop also included a concrete apron sink. Instead of building the sink on-site with the rest of the countertop, we built a precast sink off-site at our facility. We prefer to make precast sinks over cast-in-place concrete sinks simply because sinks are tricky to build to the correct size and shape. If we build them on-site and run into problems, we may have to tear it out and start over, which takes time and expense. Meanwhile, if we build the sink at our facility and have problems, we don’t have to waste time tearing it out. We decided to be careful at the Denton home, so we poured the concrete into a prefabricated fiberglass mold at our facility and then transported the finished sink to the site.
Because the sink was built separately, it’s possible to see a seam along the top of the apron sink in the photographs. When we installed the sink in the outdoor kitchen concrete countertop, we used caulk to fill the seam. We stained the outdoor kitchen concrete countertop and sink with brown and tan color stains. The surface of the countertop was hand-troweled to smooth it out. The trowel-down also created swirls and other variations in the color stain. We also included a backsplash but left it plain, and later on, the client added stainless steel tiles to the backsplash. The resulting split-level countertop looked great on top of the stone base.