It’s grilling time! Concrete is a great choice for outdoor countertops, as you can see in this project we completed in Frisco, TX. We built a mold on site and created knockouts (open areas created in the mold) for a grill, trash receptacle, and beverage cooler. After pouring we applied an acid stain over the entire countertop to create a more mottled finish. Outdoor countertops are almost always more challenging than interior ones, mostly because we are usually building them on stone or brick bases (which are never level no matter how much the masons try) instead of wood cabinets (which usually are). It requires a fine touch to properly install these outdoor countertops. The other key issue is dealing with weather, from errant rainstorms, to extreme heat or cold.
As with floors, acid staining concrete countertops will create a very unique look, we just kind of direct it to where we want it to go. We can’t ever get an exact idea of the final result because acid stain “does what it does.” As the color is generated through a chemical reaction between the stain and the concrete it can be hard to control. Another technique we prefer to use is a dye stain. Because a dye stain isn’t reactive, instead it’s a pigment that is wicked into the concrete, it doesn’t create quite as much “mottling” as an acid stain, but it’s faster and most importantly the final color is much more controllable. With an acid stain you are always sweating about the final color, it just does what it wants to do, with dye stains everyone breathes easier.
After molding, leveling, and pouring these cast in place outdoor countertops, we gave them a few days to cure before applying the acid stain. We don’t usually acid/dye stain all of our concrete countertops, but here it works very well with the stone base theme. An acid/dye stain can be applied by either spraying or sponging it on, each method creates its own unique look even when using the same stain.
On these outdoor countertops, we chose to spray the acid stain on them, two coats with a little time between each to allow the acid to react and create the mottling the client was asking for. After cleaning up residue from the final application (a step you can avoid with a dye stain) we sealed them. Sealing is a critical part of the process. It can dramatically enhance the look of the acid/dye stain and reduces the possibility of the countertops being stained from stuff that gets spilled on them such as wine, lemon juice, cooking oils, etc. However, there are different levels of protection, which all depends on the type of sealer you choose. Books have been written about this topic, and in the next project, we’ll try to give you a quick primer so that you can decide which will work best for your project.