LC Concrete Benchtops FAQ’s
1. Why consider concrete as a material for interior applications, like my kitchen or bathroom benchtops?
Concrete is an extraordinary material that is practical, expressive and aesthetic all at once. Due to its evolving nature, concrete over the decades will slowly patina and continue to express its beauty in subtle ways. It has moved beyond the cracked footpath and dirty driveway and is now seen by designers as the “new black” because it is possible to use it in interior and exterior contexts. Also because of its fluidity, concrete is able to be transformed into virtually any shape that becomes a solid mass therefore the design possibilities for creative expression are endless.
2. What type of concrete do you use for benchtops?
LOVE Concrete offers both traditional Wet Cast and Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete (known as GFRC or GRC). There are benefits to both methods and the selection of the material will be driven by the design of the benchtop. We use GFRC for most pre fabricated bench tops due to its superior strength, durability and ability to make it lighter in weight and fabricate more complex designs. Wet Cast concrete is used in all cast in-situ benchtops and its main advantage is its absence of restrictions on size and shape as it is formed up and poured in a single piece which gets rid of the need for joins or grout lines. Both methods can be used to cantilever and span long distances without the need for support structures and both offer a wide range of customisable finishes and colours. Contact us with any design ideas and questions you may have.
3. What are the advantages of concrete benchtops over marble or granite? How does concrete compare to granite in terms of both cost (per square metre) and surface texture?
The biggest advantage of concrete over natural stones like marble or granite is that it is completely customisable; you can sculpt, mould, and texturise it to your desire; from a high-gloss sheen to a non-reflective satin finish. It can be ground and polished to expose stones, glass and sand. If you have a concrete kitchen or bathroom benchtop made for you, the cost will be based on the complexity of the form, the mould-making process and the desired finish, rather than the size.
4. How resistant are concrete benchtops to staining?
When it comes to benchtops this is the million-dollar question. Concrete if untreated is a porous material, much like marble and limestone. This means it is susceptible to staining. Concrete sealers have come a long way over the years and the focus is on making sealers specific to kitchen benchtops. LOVE Concrete uses and recommends different sealers depending on the context in which it is used and the desired look. Our high-end sealers are extremely resistant to staining, heat, outdoor weather conditions and abrasions.
Sealers can be divided into two general categories: densifiers or penetrating sealers and topical sealers (though there are hybrids of the two available). Penetrating sealers or densifiers, as the name suggests, penetrate into the concrete closing the pores and strengthening it. They offer some stain resistance but greater scratch and abrasion resistance. These sealers are preferred by people who want to retain the natural beauty and feel of concrete and aren’t afraid of some staining or etching over the years. They welcome the patina of concrete in much the same way a wooden chopping board changes over time.
Topical sealers are a protective layer that sits over the concrete. Topical sealers, such as acrylics, epoxies and polyurethanes offer varying degrees of stain protection depending on price, but if not cared for properly are susceptible to scratching and chipping.
5. Would polished concrete benchtops be good for outside use—as in an outdoor barbecue benchtop? How will a coloured concrete benchtop hold up in the sunshine?
Concrete is perhaps the most common building material for exterior use on the planet however polished and coloured concrete require special consideration when placing outdoors. The right sealer must be used. It must be U.V. resistant and must be able to withstand changes in temperature and direct sunlight. LOVE Concrete uses sealers that are suitable for external applications though more frequent maintenance may be required. Colours are being constantly enhanced in order to resist fading in the sun. Good quality colours along with a high quality sealer will help minimise any fading over the years.
6. Can I use concrete benchtops as a cutting surface?
As with marble or granite, we do not recommend cutting directly on a concrete surface; it could result in scratches and gouges in the finish of your countertop as well as damage the blades of your knives.
7. Can I put a hot pot directly onto a polished concrete kitchen bench?
Concrete is heat-resistant but is subject to thermal shock if a red-hot object is placed directly upon it. Like granite, the exposed area may flake or chip away if too much heat is applied. We use sealers that are heat resistant but highly recommend using trivets for hot cookware.
8. Can polished concrete benchtops chip, flake, or crack?
Like marble or granite, concrete corners and edges can chip if struck by a hard object. A rounded concrete edge is much less likely to chip or flake than a sharp edge. Concrete, like all stone products, is susceptible to cracking around thin sections near voids and cutouts like sinks and cooktops. Hairline cracks may appear months or years after installation, and are generally a result of seasonal movement of the cabinets and the house itself. Due to the reinforcing we use though, these cracks, if they occur, are not structural. Since concrete is a heterogeneous mixture of many different ingredients, subtle variations in colour, shade, texture and overall appearance should be expected. Imperfections should be considered part of the aesthetic charm of concrete and not a defect.
9. How thick can I make my benchtop?
Because concrete is such a versatile product it can be made as thin as 25mm up to any thickness you want. Weight does not become a major issue as GFRC allows the weight to be kept at a minimum.
10. Does my cabinetry need any extra support?
The short answer is, generally no. One square metre of Wet Cast concrete at 40mm thickness weighs approximately 95kgs and GFRC can weigh as little as 45kg. This weight is usually spread over various points so it does not become an issue. Structural issues are discussed with the kitchen makers and designers to ensure the best result.
11. Can I get an integral concrete basin and/or drain board in my benchtop?
Absolutely. Here at LOVE concrete, we have developed a range of sink sizes and can also custom design sinks, hand basins and drain boards so they provide a seamless look that match your benchtop. Though you do need to consider the context and application of your basin or sink. If it is in your kitchen it is more likely to be exposed to ongoing heavy use and will require more regular maintenance. Yet, polished concrete hand basins make a beautiful addition to any bathroom.
12. How long will my concrete bench top take?
On average a concrete benchtop will take 2 to 4 weeks to complete from templating (GFRC) or forming up (Cast In-situ). More complicated designs such as custom made sinks may take longer. Note that the actual creation process may not start immediately after templating depending on how full the production schedule is. A good guideline is to contact us at the beginning of the project, or at the latest one month before cabinetry is scheduled to be installed, both to allow time for colour and finish selection and to secure a spot on the production schedule. GFRC benchtops are pre-finished so installation generally takes less than one day.
13. Will cast in situ benchtops damage my floor or be a messy or noisy process?
Our guys will take great care in protecting the job site and great precision in building the forms and preparing the reinforcement. Pouring and troweling the form does require wet concrete to be manually brought from the concrete truck to the benchtop which may mean we travel through your home or yard with wheel barrows, buckets or in some cases, a concrete pump. This process can be messy and noisy but we will assess the best method of entry to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding area and clean up will happen as soon as possible. The majority of the grinding and polishing is done dry with dust extraction however there will be dust produced when grinding edges and corners. We occasionally use a small amount of water to aid in cutting but not enough to cause water damage.
14. What colour and finish options are there and can you match a sample?
GFRC comes in a large range of earthy colours from almost white to almost black as well as more colourful options for the more adventurous clients. Aggregate (stones) is not part of the base ingredients but can be sprinkled over the surface for effect as can glass, sand or other materials.
Cast in Situ benchtops generally consist of the traditional ingredients being cement, sand, water & aggregate. Concrete comes in a variety of base colours and aggregate colours and sizes. Next to our display at The Home Ideas Centre, Adelaide, Premix concrete have the majority of their concrete options on display. We will not, however, guarantee that your benchtop will match a sample perfectly as variation in shade, colour or pattern is highly likely. Factors such as humidity, sand batch and cement batch can effect the final appearance of the concrete and a small sample will simply not capture all of the natural, random variations that will occur over a large surface. Cast in situ polished concrete can be burnished or polished with minimal aggregate, salt and pepper (random aggregate exposure) or full aggregate.
15. How can I get more information?
If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.
Please browse our site, Instagram and Facebook pages for more information and inspiration.
Alternately, you can view examples at our showroom at 274 Pulteney St, Adelaide.