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DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops

A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do when installing DIY feather finish concrete countertops.

There are days I wish DIY had an undo button. Last week, we had one of those days.

At the beginning stages of our kitchen makeover planning, when I showed my amazing I-don’t-even-deserve-him hubs my plans to put in DIY feather finish concrete countertops, he was just as excited as I was.

Maybe too excited. Because so often we have this “let’s jump in & kick this project’s butt” mentality and are ready to rock a DIY like nobody’s business. #HandyHusband4TheWin

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

But then we learned… DIY concrete countertops are not the type of project that you can dive into with that kind of heart pumping energy. They take time and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

UPDATE: See our full kitchen makeover reveal here!

UPDATE: See how they’ve been holding up in this post!

Before I tell you about our “oopsie” moment though, I’ll give you the low down on the supplies and steps that you DO need.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

There are a million and one tutorials out there for DIY concrete countertops, some are poured and others are with a skim coat. Since we already had formica countertops in place, we went with the skim coat route. They’re so much cheaper and simpler than the poured kind but are still durable.

I researched all over the place to find as many of the best tips for this method as I could. (And if only I’d communicated all of them to my partner in crime, we probably wouldn’t have ended up in a pickle.)

Supplies Used:  (Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information, see my full disclosure here.)

Our existing formica countertops had a very glossy finish to them, so I roughed them up as best as I could with the my Mouse sander using the 50 grit pads. It felt like I was barely making a dent at all in these things, but it gave them just a little “tooth”.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

For mixing the concrete, we just followed the directions on the back of the Feather Finish box and measured using two of the buckets with a 1:1 ratio of concrete powder to water. We only mixed a small batch at a time because this stuff dries fast. REALLY fast. I mixed about a quart at a time and that was the perfect amount for me to have about a 10-15 minute window to work with it before it set.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

But before I get any further, here’s where we messed up. We started this whole huge project on Mother’s Day weekend, which also fell on my birthday. And my super sweet best-hubby-ever said, “I’ve got this. You go have a fun mani/pedi. I’ll take care of the kiddo and put on the first coat of these countertops.” Like straight out of a Ryan Gosling meme, I tell ya.

So then I went skipping out the door before he could wise up and change his mind because HALLELUJAH! TREAT YO SELF!

But when I got home, and it was time for the sanding step, here’s what we were faced with.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

It turned out, I didn’t inform Robert that we needed to apply the concrete in a thin even coat and follow it with another coat or two after that. He just slapped the stuff on there, spread it out, and laid it on really THICK. Oops.

And he used this trowel at first thinking it was the best tool for the job, but we later figured out that was a little part of the problem.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

So the whole countertop was crazily uneven and super rough to the point of no return, and I sanded for 2 days to try to fix it. Nope. It was bad. And I felt terrible for not communicating the whole process better to Robert.

Big important tip:  Wear safety glasses and a mask as that sanding dust is not so fun to get in your eyes and lungs. Use a vacuum to remove the dust from the countertop after each sanding session too.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

After the big sand-a-thon, it ended up looking like this. Ew.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

No bueno on the splotchy countertops. All of those dark spots were the humps in the concrete that my sander wore down over time.

So to fix the problem, I got the first humpy bumpy layer as smooth as I could manage and applied 3 MORE COATS the right way over the course of the NEXT 3 DAYS, sanding each layer to help level the counters in between as I worked. (And I’m type-screaming that because I was to the point of don’t-mess-with-momma-she’s-gonna-snap frustrated.)

So as for the right way to do the concrete coat, here’s the skinny-

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I emptied the majority of the contents of my bucket (about 1 quart of concrete) into the middle of the space where I was working.

And this time, instead of a trowel, I used a 12″ taping knife to smooth it all out. It was so much faster and smoother that way. For any of the smaller areas, I used the 6″ knife. And for the sides, I used the putty knife. It was better to wait about an hour or two after the coat on the countertop was dry before applying it to the sides so that I wouldn’t remove any from the top that I’d already smoothed out.

This video from Young House Love was a big help in seeing the best way to apply it (and made me really wish I’d seen it before we’d created this big mess.)

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I discovered it was best to start sanding about 3 hours after applying a coat of concrete since it wasn’t completely dried but still dry enough to make it easy to work with.

I started out after each concrete coat by sanding with the 50 grit and worked my way to the 120 grit and 220 grit as I smoothed everything. I went back over it by hand on a few places too that needed extra TLC.

After applying the concrete, waiting for it to dry, and sanding, sanding, sanding for days, our kitchen was nothing but a giant cloud of concrete dust. Behold, the final smooth concrete coat!

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

And this was the aftermath.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

Everything in our house had a layer of concrete dust on it, so we had to take a day to recollect ourselves and get everything back to a dust-free zone. Because seriously, I felt like this kid from The Sandlot when the vacuum exploded in “The Beast’s” backyard.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

This was certainly the messiest projects we’ve ever done to date.

So then to seal this baby!

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I attempted a sealer at first called Cheng Concrete Sealer, but after three coats and it still not finishing the job and being a big ordeal to apply, I wasn’t really a fan. Plus, it was on the pricey side. Maybe it would work for someone else, but I found a Plan B that worked out better for me.

The dynamic sealer duo.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I brushed on 2 coats of the 511 Impregnator Sealer first, which penetrates the concrete and helps ward off stains. I just followed the directions on the back and waited 24 hours between each coat.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

After the 511 Impregnator had set in for 24 hours, I brushed on 3 coats of the Safecoat Acrylacq 24 hours apart and followed the directions on the back for applying it. I just brushed it on evenly and let it cure to a hard, glossy topcoat. I didn’t think I would like a gloss finish originally but I absolutely love how this final step looks. Our countertops almost feel like granite.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

Normally, I’m all about the distressed look, but it really took me a day or two to get used to the character in the concrete. Considering the week-long ordeal in getting the snafu straightened out, they came out amazing. All in all, the final cost was about $250 for all 60 square feet of our countertops.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

We still have a good bit to do in here like going back and sealing around our kitchen sink and painting the bajillion cabinets we have in here (Which are currently in the middle of a priming treatment as I type this. Eek!), but there’s one other little change I may not have mentioned.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

We have a whitewashed brick backsplash! I’ll be explaining more about that later, but I’m so glad we went this route instead of with subway tile. It’s really surprising to me since I’d wanted subway tile since Day 1, but the charm of the brick with the concrete countertops seems to be a great match without being too sterile.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I can’t wait to show the next step of this space, but it’s coming along much more quickly now that the messy countertops are out of the way.

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

I’ve never been SO glad to be finished with a project! Whew!

Have you ever put concrete countertops in your house before? Or had your heart set on them? Even though they are messy and exhausting, they’re completely worth it.

In case you missed any of the other kitchen makeover adventures in here, you can check out these previous posts and projects:

 

And if you want to save this post for future reference, you can pin it here:

DIY Feather Finish Concrete Countertops and How to Avoid a Huge Mistake | blesserhouse.com - A thorough step-by-step tutorial with useful tips and advice on what not to do.

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154 Comments

  1. I learned that same lesson when I did our bathroom countertop this way. I knew to apply it thin, but I still applied the first a bit thick. We stained ours with charcoal colored concrete stain and then sealed them and I loved them once they were finished, but man, it was an ordeal. It took me about 5 days to finish it all and the mess? I kept the door closed but it was still all over the house. Fine layer of dust in all the rooms near the bathroom (which was in the center of the open floor plan, so everywhere). And then we moved to Alabama, so I only got to enjoy them for a summer. I miss them, but have no where to do them in our new house. Maybe when my husband and I make my “she shed” art shed I’ll make a concrete table top on a cheap table. 🙂

    1. Ugh! Yes! I feel your pain! We probably should have turned off our HVAC to contain the dust a little better, but no A/C in May in South Carolina? Not happening. They are definitely worth it though. I think it’d be perfect in a she shed for a studio! I LOVE your work, Sara! I’m trying to think of where in our house we could fit in some blueprint art. I need more walls! Haha

  2. Looks great! We went back and forth trying to decide if we could attempt concrete counters ourselves… I chickened out!

  3. It is hard to grasp at the ordeal you had to go through because the end product is sooo fabulous!!! Way to stick with a project and seeing it through!!!

  4. The countertop looks great. Thanks for warning all of us what not to do. I really, really, really like the new backsplash, which surprises me. Can’t wait to see more pictures! Congrats on your progress.

  5. Great job….they look good. I would love to replace ours and even put a layer or so over our tile floors so that my I-robot can vacuum again instead of me, but my hubby unlike yours is not even remotely excited about it….lol, even after I showed him your post. (The pattern in the floor tile that came with the house messes with the scanner in the I-robot.)

    1. Haha! I can imagine. If he’s not excited about it now, he definitely would not be happy in the middle of the whole process. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it done on a floor before! That’d be interesting to see.

  6. The counters look amazing! Sorry about the initial problem, but looks great now! I was wondering what paint you are using on your cabinets. I’m just about ready to start mine and I’m using Fusion Mineral Paint. I have to sand mine due to a really crummy prior paint job and am dreading it, but I know it will be worth it. I can’t wait to see yours finished!
    FYI I only had one popup on each of the first 9 photos this evening, but had multiple ones on nearly every image earlier today! weird!

    1. Thanks, Karen! Whoever said, “If you want to test your marriage, try putting up wallpaper together” obviously never did concrete countertops. 😉 Haha! No, but really it was worth the determination. I JUST posted about our cabinet painting experience today, so here’s my full tutorial about it: https://www.blesserhouse.com/2016/06/paint-kitchen-cabinets-like-pro.html That’s so weird about the ads! I notified my ad network, so hopefully that’s resolved now. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  7. I think the concrete looks great. I love the character of it, granted it is not for everyone. And I really love the whitewashed bricks Lauren. I’ve been trying to add texture to my house as well and was even considering faux painting some of these on the wall. Of course, yours are even better and they make a nice contrast to the countertops. I am really looking forward to your kitchen updates.

    1. Thanks, Mary! Ours is brick paneling and it’s really convincing as the real thing. They have a great texture that are hard to see in pictures. Not sure if they have them where you are but you can get them here for $25 per panel. The whole backsplash only cost about $75. 🙂

    1. You’re getting 14 pop-up ads?! There should be nowhere near that many! So sorry, Ellen. I’ll look into the ad issue because that would annoy me too. Something isn’t right if that’s happening.

  8. Hi, Lauren,
    Your counters are beautiful! We were planning on replacing a island countertop with the poured version this summer, as the butcher block has warped (sigh). Do you think that your method would work over a plywood built island top? Thanks for any insight 🙂

    1. Hi, Pat! You know since I haven’t personally worked with the plywood, I can’t really recommend it, but I think I would be worried about the plywood warping and swelling because of the moisture in the concrete. You could probably do plywood with tile backerboard on top though to act as a barrier.

  9. I’ve been waiting for your post as we’re getting ready to do ours (getting subway tile installed first this weekend) and boy, am I ever glad I waited! Thanks for taking one for the team but so sorry you had to endure the glitches! One question—since our kitchen is rather small, I was thinking of going with a smoother finish for the concrete. Should I look for something other than the feather finish? Also gotta say, the thought of all that dust made my heart hurt for you all 🙁

    1. Haha! Glad to be the guinea pig. 😉 As for the concrete, if you wanted to get it as smooth as possible, the poured kind might be best. But they’re more labor intensive and more expensive. I think if you stuck with very thin coats (unlike what we did at first) you could still get it very smooth. We’re very happy with ours now.

  10. I contemplated concrete when we remodeled our kitchen, but ultimately ended up with a grey caesarstone in a honed finish.

    However, I did mess up screeding the entrance hall (while prepping to put down marble!) and decided to sand it flat because it was all uneven. It was a nightmare, there was dust EVERYWHERE for ages. It was then one project that husband dearest sternly warned me never to even think of doing again.

    1. There’s always that one DIY where you’re thinking, “My husband is going to kill me.” Haha! Definitely been there. So sorry you had such a bad experience!

  11. Hi Lauren! The hubs and I may be doing this project to our new house. We bought a Lowe’s display kitchen and I’m not liking the counters very much at all. I’d really love to have granite but we need to do something more affordable and I’m really liking the concrete counter tops! Thanks for the do’s and the do not do’s! Love your style and blog!!

    1. If you can handle the chaos for about a week, you will love them. 🙂 Now that the sealer is on, it almost feels like granite. I’ll have to share how they hold up over time in a few months maybe. Thanks so much for the love, Sherry!

  12. I love how it came out in the end! I’m sorry for how painful the process was, but also grateful that you’ve shared it with the rest of us! 🙂

    {Side note – My birthday was on Mothers Day weekend too! Do we share a birthday?! Was yours on the 7th or 8th?!}

    {Another side note – My husband’s name is also Robert… I love finding little connections like this, even if they are kind of random 🙂 }

    1. Thanks, Angel! Glad to be the guinea pig. Haha! Happy late birthday! Mine is the 10th, but I celebrated it a couple days early this year since mine fell on a Tuesday. I do the same thing. Love finding things I have in common with other people. 🙂

      1. did you ever think of staining the concrete ? or maybe applying by hand to the concrete after it was spread on ?

        1. Hi, Barbara! I liked the raw look of the concrete. However, I have seen where others have added stain or a color.

  13. Wow way to persevere! I’m gritting my teeth reading this. Breathe I keep thinking breath…. When you want to cry but can’t, you just gotta keep working! Great job, absolutely beautiful!

    1. Haha! Sympathy pain, right? It was really tough. I knew it would be messy but wow! I’d still do it all over again, just maybe with a little more following directions next time. 😉

  14. Oh. My. Goodness! Thank you for this Lauren! I am so excited to try this and can’t wait to see how you did the backsplash. Perhaps I will do that I instead of subway tile. Love your style and tips! ?

  15. Oh. My. Goodness! Thank you for this Lauren! I am so excited to try this and can’t wait to see how you did the backsplash. Perhaps I will do that I instead of subway tile. Love your blog!

  16. Haha sorry I shouldn’t laugh but it does sound like something my husband and I would do! I am confused though when it said feathered finish, I thought you were going to do something to the tops with a feather…duhh, I was thinking perhaps this is an Americanism that I hadn’t heard of…sorry I was having a menopause moment! Great job though doing this without a form and for taking on what is a grand project!

    1. Ohh no feather finish is just the type of concrete. Sorry. Maybe I should have explained that better. I think a lot of us have those moments in marriage when you just look at each other and say, “What were we thinking?” What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? After this, Robert and I are ready to run a marathon I think. 🙂

  17. Oh my goodness, what an ordeal! I probably would have given up! They turned out amazing, as your projects always do! Thanks for sharing the good, bad and ugly of the whole process. It helps to know others experience difficult moments in DIY, but the end is worth it!

    1. Thank you, Karen! I honestly wanted to give up, but I mean… I would have been stuck with no countertops so I just had to keep on pressing on. 🙂 I’m so glad we persevered because they were definitely worth it. I keep saying I need to post a Bless’er House blunders because we’ve had so many mess ups before.

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