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How to Install Cabinet Hardware Without a Jig

Posted by on October 27th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

- a simple method for installing cabinet hardware

It seems that the closer I get to finishing this home office project, more small tasks keep popping up and they’re taking much longer than I anticipated.  Case in point: the cabinet hardware.  It took me a good two and a half hours to get two cabinets done.  Killer.  Still have to add the hardware to the filing cabinet.  At this rate, our office should be completely done by the time our 3 year old heads to college.

Let’s talk cabinet hardware for a second.  Lisa picked our gear out.  I was completely hands off on this one, although I let her know which ones I definitely didn’t like.  It’s pretty much the exact same conversation we have when we’re trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, except slightly more expensive.  Although.. you can return hardware if you don’t like it even after you’ve taken it home.  Can’t do that at a restaurant.

We were originally thinking some shell pulls, but we didn’t see any we liked.  We ended up with a basic 3.5″ nickel pull from Lowes.  Instead of using a jig for this job, like the one I made for our Large Built-in cabinet, I went old-school and just drew some lines and drilled some holes.  Not quite as fast, but just as effective.  Here’s how it went.

How to Install Cabinet Hardware without a Jig

Here’s the cabinet before we got started.

built in cabinet

I started by applying some blue painters tape across the drawer front.  I roughly aimed for the middle, but it wasn’t terribly important at this point.  Once the tape was on, I measured down from the top of the drawer edge to the middle of the drawer front.  I did that on both sides of the drawer front and used a straight edge to connect the dots.  I now had a straight line across the drawer front that marked the center line.

I also applied some painters tape vertically to coincide with the center of the doors below.  I marked those vertical tape pieces at the same dimension as half the width of the door.

painters tape on cabinet

Now I was ready to use my hardware for the next step.

I lined up the hardware on the center line of the drawer front and positioned it over the mark for the door centers.  That way the screw holes will both be in the same line and the middle of the piece will be directly over the middle of the door.  If this sounds confusing, just take a look at the pictures, it’s a bit cumbersome to describe.

cabinet hardware install

While I was holding the hardware in place, I traced around the hardware where it sat against the drawer front.

Now I had my drill marks.

tape cabinet

The first hole I drilled was a small pilot hole just to get through the drawer.  I then went up to a drill bit diameter that was slightly larger than the screw for the drawer pull.  I repeated this same basic process for the door pulls.  Just tape it, draw a center line and then position it where you want it.  Drill twice and you’re done.  The painters tape helps keep the wood from tearing and you can draw right on it without having to worry about touching up your cabinet’s paint job.

cabinet hardware installed

We were originally going to go with just one pull on the drawer fronts, but I think it looks more substantial with the two.

Here’s what’s left for this room:

1.  Paint the new baseboards, window sills and inside of the door.

2.  Install quarter round trim

3.  Clean up and touch up

4.  New window shades

5.  Drill some access holes for computer power cord, printer cable, etc.

6.   Finish decor and wall hangings
Oh and I’m also repairing a few nail pops, because you know… I didn’t have enough to do in here already.

 

Later this week I’m going to be starting to configure our new forum section.  Keep your fingers crossed!  Hoping to setup an area on our site where everyone can share their own projects, show off their results and ask for help with home projects!  I’ve also commissioned a new blog theme, so our look is going to dramatically change.  Hoping to get that in place before the holidays.  I won’t be coding it myself this time, so it should go fairly quick.  We have some big, big changes headed your way over the next few months… if this office doesn’t kill me first.

Posted in DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , ,

Toddler Proofing Again

Posted by on February 21st, 2013

Hey guys!  Hope you all had a great week.  I’m still making progress with our built-ins.  I’m working on the doors for the bottom cabinet at the moment.  Hoping I can pull off a quick how-to video on the door construction.  It’s not terribly hard, but writing an understandable procedure is probably a bigger challenge.  This weekend I may back burner the built-in project for a few hours to work on the Pinterest Challenge next week.  One of our favorite bloggers, Michelle from Decor and the Dog, is co-hosting it.  Today, I wanted to show you a couple homemade toddler proofing fixes we’ve added.

This will be the third time we’ve posted on our baby or toddler proofing measures.  The last post was just a couple weeks ago.  We actually had more items to post about, but we figured we’d break it up into more than one post.

One thing that stinks about kitchen cabinet locks is they’re a real PIA to install.  The screws they give you are crappy.  All the cabinets need to be pre-drilled too because they’re a hardwood.  Oh and all the work needs to be done while you’re sitting on the floor holding a 7lb drill over your head for 20 minutes.  No fun.  To add insult to injury, it’s pretty much impossible to add the door locks to top drawers.

drawer child lock

Cabinet door locks have one part that goes on the door or drawer and one part that goes  on the cabinet.  The photo above show the receptacle piece that gets mounted to the cabinet.  It’s easier to install these for cabinet doors since you have the entire space below it to install it.  Most top drawers, however, are only 4″-5″ wide and you just can’t fit a normal drill in there.  You could go out and buy a $100 right angle DeWalt drill that you’ll use once.  Could do that.

Or, you could do what we did.  I took a small piece of wood I had left over from our sliding drawer project and pre-mounted the receptable to it, pre-drilled a couple holes into it and then mounted the block into the cabinet from inside the cabinet.  So I was able to move my drill from an impossible angle to a spot that was much easier to get to.

child lock extension

top drawer child lock

top drawer kitchen cabinet

How’s it work?  It works great.  It’s actually a little harder to open these drawers, even for “non-toddlers”, but it beats our daughter opening this drawer up every five minutes.

Other child proofing measures we added are topple restraints to the dressers and night stand in her bedroom.  Kids like to climb.  Any piece of furniture that can be knocked over by a child climbing it or touching it, needs to be secured to the wall.  Ikea provides small kits to attach their products to the wall and so do a lot of furniture manufacturers.  These restraint kits literally save lives everyday.

We came up with our own version of these with some zip ties and a couple angle brackets.  We used long screws and made sure they were fastened to the meaty part of the Hemnes dresser.  We’re not recommending anyone DIY this safety like we did, we’re just showing you how easy it is generally to keep the furniture attached to the wall.  In fact, you shouldn’t DIY this.  Use the appropriate hardware that came with your furniture.

90 degree bracket

metal bracket on hemnes

zip tie behind hemnes

dresser with zip tie

Last item on our list: keeping the electrical cord slack away from our daughter.  Cords are a known strangulation hazard so, we used a zip tie to keep the slack up and out of the way.  If the zip tie is tight enough, she won’t be able to pull the slack out.

zip tie on power cord

The things ya gotta do to keep kids from hurting themselves.  Ridiculous.

Any exciting weekend plans?

Posted in Baby Stuff,DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,,

How We Toddler Proof our Home

Posted by on February 5th, 2013

I promised more than a couple posts this week and I aim to deliver.  Lately, we’ve been re-evaluating some of our child proofing measures.  Child proofing or toddler proofing is a moving target, at least for us anyway.  As soon as our daughter started walking last year, I went around the house and added padding to the table corners and locks to the kitchen cabinets.  At first I only needed to add a lock to the lowest drawer or door.  As she’s gotten older and more mobile, obviously her reach grew.  Now she can reach items on the countertop!  Oh and she ripped off all the corner pads from the tables.  So we’re at the point where I need to add a few more things to keep up with her.  I’ll be showing you a couple ideas I have for custom solutions in a later post, but for now, here’s a list of safety items we have around the house that work for us.. so far.

How We Toddler Proof our Home

child proof door knob

1.  Toddler Proof Door Knobs.  Yes.  Totally necessary.  Especially if your kid is smart like a Velociraptor.  We have one on all the bathroom doors and on the inside of her bedroom so she can’t walk out after we put her down to bed.  We need to add one to our pantry door now as she opens it every time she wants a snack, which is around 30 times a day.

cabinet locks for kids

child cabinet locks

2.  Cabinet Locks.  If you need these locks, buy the bottom ones.  We installed a set of the locks in the first photo and a few of them broke the rest wouldn’t latch very well.  Every drawer and cabinet door in our kitchen needs one of these.  They are a snap to install, but I haven’t been able to add any to our top drawers yet.  The drawer space is too small for my DeWalt drill.  I have an idea on this though, so stay tuned.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.

ikea bed rail

3.  Bed Rails.  We added these Vikare bed rails from Ikea that are designed to work with Ikea beds, like this Hemnes.  Even though it’s not a far drop, better safe than sorry.  There is one on each side of the bed.  They don’t run the entire length of the bed, but they should still catch her.  I love the fact that they clamp on and don’t mar the finish.

toddler gate

baby gate

baby gate for stairs

4.  Baby Gates.  These things are great.  We actually installed the first two several months before our daughter was even born to keep our dog from wandering around ripping up the place.  The first gate photo is a Munchkin and is by far our favorite.  It’s rigid, tall and nearly impossible for a child to open since the handle is high up.  You need to lift the handle pretty high while swinging open the door.  Even an adult can’t open it terribly fast.

The other hall gate is from Summer and it’s okay.  Not nearly as sturdy.  The gate action is fairly weak.  It could probably stand to be tightened up on our end though.  So far so good though.

The bottom photo is the gate at the top of our stairs.  What I love about this unit is it doesn’t need to be screwed into the wooden newel posts on either side.  It gets strapped and taped on.  The gate has a bottom and a top catch for added rigidity.  We got it at Babies R Us, where we bought the other two.

5.  Strapping furniture to the wall.  Hugely important.  Apparently there have been hundreds of kids killed by furniture falling on them.  We’ll show you how we prevent this in a later post.  If you tether the furniture to the wall, you can easily prevent this sort of accident.

Since I don’t want to end this post on a somber note, how about a picture to encourage everyone to switch to round knobs…

Raptor

Posted in Baby Stuff,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, ,

My Favorite Cleaning Products

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

Hey guys!  I hope you all had a great week so far.  It’s almost Friday, so I thought I would share some of my favorite cleaning items!

Cleaning for the most part is a chore for John and I – I do like organizing so that counts as cleaning, right? I have tried keeping up with a daily cleaning list but after a first few days I get so proud that I cleaned for three days straight that I reward myself with some days off… haha!  Two places that are always clean are my kitchen and bathrooms.  Most of the cleaning products help me with those daily chores.

My favorite cleaning product by far is Dr. Bronners.  There is about 29,763 uses for this cleaner.  I love it for making my own counter top spray, foaming hand soap, and to remove stains from fabrics.  It’s extremely safe – you can even brush your teeth with it! – and that’s why I love using it, especially around the little one.  Dr. Bronner’s also comes in different scents.  I currently have the scent-free (labeled as Baby Mild), Tea Tree (good for disinfecting), and peppermint.  Seriously, you can make anything with this stuff – laundry detergent, shampoo, soaps, sprays, and disinfectants.

Another product I like is anything from the Method line, which is sold in a variety of stores, but I buy mine at Target.  I really like their Grapefruit counter top spray.  I usually make my own, but when the Method grapefruit is on sale, I usually pick up a bottle or two.  The smell is a great grapefruit scent and I love everything citrus, especially in the kitchen!  If you have granite counter tops, Method has a great daily granite cleaner as well.  It makes our faux granite/laminate super shiny and smells great too!

Nature’s Miracle is the product I use when there are stains from either animals or humans on the carpet.  If you have pets, you know they sometimes have accidents and they’re just too cute to be mad at.  Nature’s miracle helps kill the odor and removes the stains of whatever you pet has left on the carpet.

Dusting and polishing is super easy with Murphy’s Oil Soap wipes.  I like the wipes since they let me dust and polish in one step, which makes this dreaded chore done a lot quicker. When I have the time, I also use the original Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water to clean my cabinets – I love the way they look after they’ve been washed.

My favorite two items to clean the floors in our home are the Haan and my Dirt Devils (yes that is plural, I will explain).  I use the Haan floor steamer and sweeper on the hardwood floors and tiles.  I love using the Haan because it sanitizes the floors without any harsh chemicals.  Also, you reuse the cleaning pads and they can be washed in the washing machine.  In the kitchen I use the super lightweight Dirt Devil to clean under the cabinets and under the table every couple of days to pick up crumbs.  I also use it on our area rug in the living room.  On the stairs, I use a small handheld Dirt Devil to vacuum the carpets.  Upstairs, I use the traditional Dirt Devil vacuum for the bedrooms and closets.

So that’s it – just a few of my favorite cleaning products that help me get cleaning done quicker.  I do want to mention that I am not being compensated for any of these products, they’re really just my favorites!

Have any cleaning products you love and want to share!?

Posted in Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Fix a Leaking Sink

Posted by on September 10th, 2012

So, last week as you may recall, we added a reverse osmosis system (ROS) to our kitchen sink.  How do we like it so far?  We love it.  The water tastes great and we don’t have anymore plastic water bottles collecting dust all over the house.  Wasn’t terribly difficult either, although there were a few tricky steps, like drilling through the stainless steel sink and adding a section of pipe for the drain.

Now, I’m generally a cautious guy.  Whenever I mess with plumbing, I usually keep an eye on it for a little while to make sure it doesn’t leak.  With the water supply lines, you usually don’t need to do that.  They are pressurized and they’ll either leak immediately when the water is turned on or not at all.  They CAN have a slow drip, but even those usually materialize sooner than later.

The drain pipes on the other hand, can take a while.  They aren’t under any pressure and leaks can be painfully slow to develop.  The photo above is our kitchen sink the day after I installed the ROS.  See that paper towel and the water pail?  Yep.  We sprung a leak.  The entire left side under our sink had a nice puddle of water in it.  The culprit?  The right side p-trap.  What’s weird about that?  I modified the left side p-trap in our ROS install and didn’t even touch the right one.  Apparently, I must have bumped it or something when I was messing around with the left side.

How to Fix a Leaking Sink

After a close inspection, I was able to feel a lot of water around the topmost p-trap fitting.  So, the first thing I did to remedy this whole situation was to just put some muscle into that fitting and crank it down tight to see if that helped.  Since this is a slow drip, I put a dry piece of paper towel under the p-trap and left it alone for a couple minutes.  After a little while, I noticed the paper towel had some wet spots.  Crap.

The only real option I have at this point is to replace the p-trap and the maybe the tall pipe that has the dishwasher port on it.  They readily sell these at home supply stores and they’re very inexpensive.  I paid under $10 for both of these parts.

I started the fix by removing the old p-trap.  It comes out very easy.  You just loosen the two nuts that hold it in place.  They’re almost always hand tight.  You don’t really need to use a wrench for any of this.

That long pipe came out next.  Same deal as the p-trap.  Once it was out, I laid it next to the new one and marked the new one so it had the same length.  To cut it, I just used a pair of tubing cutters, but you can also use a hack saw.

With the straight pipe cut to the correct length, it gets installed the same way the old one came out.

With the straight pipe in place, the new p-trap is up next.  Very simply installation.

So our finished photo looks identical to our first photo.  Only difference is this one doesn’t leak.  To be sure we corrected the problem, I left another piece of paper towel underneath the sink.  This time, I left it under there for a couple days.  No drips!

What was wrong with the old one?  Hard to tell.  It’s possible it got bumped and then maybe messed up one of the seals.  Who knows?  I’m not losing sleep over it.

So, that wasn’t very exciting, but hopefully you learned something about your sink!!  Fix ay problems at your place lately?

Posted in Fixes,Kitchen,Plumbing. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Adding a Reverse Osmosis System

Posted by on September 5th, 2012

It’s time to say goodbye.  It’s been a long time coming.  This relationship is wasteful.  There are better options out there.  It’s true.  We’re finally kicking the bottled water habit and switching to a reverse osmosis system (ROS).  At any given time over the past year, you could find 5-10 empty bottles of Dasani or Aquafina lying around the house.  On our dressers, on the kitchen counters, on the bathroom sinks.  Everywhere.  On top of our water bottle consumption, we own a Brita filter.  It’s okay, but it’s not as good as bottled.  We’re getting rid of Brita.  I’ll let Vaughn take it from here…

Now, since this is a commercially available product (we bought it at Lowes a while back) with its own set of instructions, I’m not going to get to detailed with the how-to instructions.  I thought it would be helpful if we showed you what’s involved.

reverse-osmosis-installed

Adding a Reverse Osmosis System

Since these units are installed either in a basement or underneath a kitchen sink, we’ll start there.  We picked our sink instead of the basement.

Then we cleaned out underneath our sink.  I’ll need the room.

The ROS takes up a good amount of space.  We’ll reorganize it once we’ve finished.  I’ll also need to turn off the water supply valves.

The ROS takes the water right from the cold water line under the sink.  I added a tee between the water supply hose and the faucet pipe.

To add the actual ROS faucet we have the option of either using the existing hole for the sprayer or drilling another hole.  Since we do actually use the sprayer once in a while, we drilled another hole.

It’s not easy to drill a hole through 1/16″ thick stainless steel, but if you go slow and use the right bit, it’s doable.

ROS’s also cycle out the waste that gets removed from the water and actually drains it into the p-trap.  The existing drain piping needs to get modified to accept it.  That’s not too hard though.

You can see the added pipe in the photo below along with the filter assembly and the reservoir tank.  It’s all a part of the system.  Not exactly sure how it works.  Just trust it.

The water lines are just flexible tubes that basically get pressed into connections.  It’s really, really easy to make those connections.

The faucet gets bolted to the sink top.  We picked a chrome unit, despite the fact that our sink is stainless steel and our main faucet is brushed nickel.  Weird right?  Well, we’re probably going to be getting granite or some other solid surface in the next few years and we’re going to be switching the sink and maybe the faucet too.  Besides, the main faucet doesn’t even match the sink anyway.  We don’t mind the clashing in the meantime.

How’s it taste?  Great!  Well… as great as water can taste.  It doesn’t have any odor or chlorine taste whatsoever.  Good stuff.

How do you drink your water?  Do you take it bottled or filtered?

Posted in Kitchen,Plumbing. Tagged in ,, ,

Quick Kitchen Cabinet Repair

Posted by on August 24th, 2012

So things have slowed down a little bit around here since we knocked dragged out our dining room wainscoting and gussied up our front door.  It’s going to pick up again soon though.  Plus, in the fall I’ll be taking another grad school course.  Before we know it, we’ll be busy like crazy.  We do have a couple more projects that we already finished and we’ll probably post about those next week.  Since it’s Friday, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick post on a kitchen cabinet repair we did a few days ago.  You’d think owning a new home would negate the need for annoying repairs.  Nope.  Apparently the cabinet door on our lazy susan decided it had enough and busted out from the hinge.

Crap.

Double crap.

It looks bad, but in reality, this is an easy fix.  Now, if you think you can just re-screw in the old screws and it will hold you’d be wrong.  You need to step it up.

The door is 3/4″ thick.  The screws that were in there are 1/2″ long.  That means I can use a longer screw.

Here’s the screw that popped out next to the screw I’m going to use.  The screw on the left is the 1/2″ fastener.  The screw on the right is 3/4″ long.  I also decided to go with a beefier screw.  The 1/2″ screw is a size 6.  The 3/4″ screw is a size 8 (they only come in even sizes).  So, I’m using a longer and a wider fastener to make the repair.  There are a ton of “that’s what she said” jokes here, so I’m being careful with my word choice.  :)

The larger screw went into the old holes like butter and seem to be holding very well.

That wasn’t too bad.  Fastest. repair. ever.

Nice.

Is there anything broken in your place that you need to fix?  Have a great weekend!!

 

Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , ,

Chalkboard Labels

Posted by on July 23rd, 2012

Hope everyone had a great weekend! We sure did – we did some home projects, spent some much needed family time together, and enjoyed the not-too-hot weather!

I wanted to share a tiny project I did.  While my mom and I were shopping for back to school sales at Staples, she stumbled across these amazing chalkboard labels from Martha Stewart!

Don’t they look amazing? We just couldn’t resist. Martha Stewart has an awesome line of office supplies at Staples.  If you haven’t checked them out I suggest you do – that is if you like to organize and label everything.  Her stuff looks great.

I love these canisters hanging out on the counter… but I love my clutter-less counters more, so back to the pantry the canisters went.

So, do you like? How was your weekend??

Posted in Crafts,Home Decor,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Cabinet Pullout Drawers: Done

Posted by on May 9th, 2012

For a while there, I didn’t think I’d ever be writing this post.  Thankfully, this day has arrived and our kitchen cabinet pullout drawers have been successfully installed.  If you recall, I built these drawers over a series of five posts (here, here, here, here aaaaannd here).  In actuality, I think I spent maybe five hours altogether cutting, assembling and finishing them.  I must have spent six weeks trying to get the right hardware for them!!  Yikes is right.  One of my goals for this project is to post some plans with variations for various joint configurations… maybe add a calculator so you can enter your cabinet dimensions and it will spit out dimensions for a sliding drawer.  If you thought the joints looked daunting there are easy joint versions that I’ve got some ideas for.  We’ll see!

The first piece of advice I can give you if you are thinking about building similar sliding drawers:  GET YOUR SLIDE HARDWARE FIRST.

So, long, boring story short… I wanted to get the exact same slide hardware that are in our cabinets.  I think it will look better if it weren’t a hodge podge of parts.  I called a local vendor that carries our cabinet maker’s product line and they gave me a quote of $50 per drawer.  No thanks.  I then proceeded to try to make it work by trying to use what I could from Lowes, Home Depot and every other online slide retailer I could find.  To hell with uniformity.  Bottom line: no dice.  Our cabinets have an interior depth of 23.”  I could only find one set of slides that fit and had to buy the bracket for that separately only to find out that it didn’t play nice with our drawers.  After losing a lot of hair I can’t afford to lose, I capitulated and called another vendor looking to grovel for a lower price.  Luckily, this other vendor was able to get them for around $14 a set.  Jackpot.

The best part of these slides is they install incredibly easy.  The backs of the slides have clips that snap into pre-drilled holes the cabinet maker already has in my cabinets!!  They must put them in there on every cabinet.

This hardware system makes this installation atypical compared to most slide hardware.  If I didn’t have this clip and I had a regular slide and rear bracket like this…

I’d have to install the front of the slide into the front of the cabinet first, level off the rest of the slide by taping a small level to the center of it and then tape my bracket to the back wall, mark the holes for the screw, pre-drill and then fasten the bracket with screws.  Got it?

All I had to do was worry about the front of the cabinets.  A few of the cabinets had long screws that joined one cabinet to the next right in the area where the drawer would be.  They were definitely getting in the way so I had to relocate them.

To relocate it, I just pre-drilled a small hole above the drawer hinge and then drove the screw into it. The holes for the front of the slides needed to be pre-drilled as well. Rule of thumb: If you need to screw into a hardwood (oak, maple, poplar, cherry, etc), you need to drill the hole first.

With the fronts attached, the drawer can slide right in.  Btw, I also attached the slide hardware to the drawers too.  Same deal, pre-drill, insert screw.

With both drawers in…

Glad that’s over. Sure beats rummaging through the bottom of a cabinet!

Overcoming any glitches on your end?

Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen. Tagged in ,,

My Experience with Concrete Countertops

Posted by on April 10th, 2012

Hope everyone had a Happy Easter!!  Ours was filled with great family and great ham!  So great in fact, that we skipped our normal Monday post to sleep in!!  It was worth the wait though, because today we’re going to talk about concrete countertops.

Thankfully, this post isn’t about another project that Lisa and I are starting.  It’s about one we finished quite some time ago.  I’ve been itching to post about concrete countertops since I started blogging, but I finally got around to taking some new photos and digging up some old photos from the project.

Way back in the summer of 2007, my family and I were renovating a new-to-us vacation home a few miles from the Beach in the Jersey Shore.  In retrospect, the whole endeavor may not have been the best idea at the time as my father was very sick with his stomach cancer and the house ended up being a giant burden in those days.  We had hoped it would keep him busy with small projects and for the most part it was a success in that regard.  I’ll post more on the before and afters of the house later this week, but I thought I’d start with the counters.

On top of all the projects, we were trying to stretch out the budget and needed new countertops.  So, granite countertops weren’t exactly in the cards.  I had seen some cheaper options for DIY solid surface counters like soapstone and concrete, but hadn’t had any prior experience.  Then after a discussion with a co-worker who was also considering concrete, he let me borrow a Fu Tung Cheng How-to DVD and I was sold.

My folks were initially reluctant, but then after I told them I’d be able to get the counters in for only a few hundred bucks, they were okay with the project.  I immediately started ordering supplies and got to planning.

For those not familiar with the Fu Tung Cheng method, you basically make reverse molds of the counters out of melamine, pour in the concrete and then install the cured counters like granite.  You use regular store bought concrete bags and add some colorant and strengthener.  The hardest part is building the forms.  I don’t want to rehash the instructions, just share some of my pointers.  The DVD is a necessity if you’re thinking about attempting this and the book is informative as well.

Back in 2007…

Here they are today…

Concrete has a lot of imperfections and it’s prone to some small cracking, but that’s part of the character.  If you’re considering a concrete for your counters, here’s what you need to consider.

1.  Your molds need to be very accurate and dead flat and even.  If your mold is slightly bent or crooked, the concrete will imitate that as it cures.  The molds can bend under the weight of the concrete as well, so it needs to be done on a sturdy table and not two saw horses like I used.  If the mold sags down, when flipped over, the concrete will have a curve upward.

2.  You’ll need some specialty tools: wet grinder, cement mixer, cement vibrator, good quality table saw.  I wouldn’t used a hobby table saw as it’s too hard to cut 4×8 sheets of melamine for the molds.

3.  You will make a huge mess, so either do the project outside or use tarps inside.  Better grind outside though.

4.  When you design your counters, thicker looks better.  We chose ours to be 1.5″ to get the look of a granite counter, but we would’ve probably been better off with a 2″.  The advantage of concrete is that you can get whatever you want.

5.  Your cabinets need to be able to take the weight of the material. You may need to reinforce your cabinets to prevent them from buckling or breaking.

6.  You need to design your counter into sections.  If your countertop is going to have a long section and it’s going to be 2″ thick, you’re going to need more than a few people to help you lift it.  I’ve included a concrete countertop weight estimator here.  That sink section shown above took about four people to lift and install and it was only 1.5″ thick AND was missing the sink hole!!  DO NOT think you can make a huge counter 3″ thick and you’ll be able to throw it on yourself.  The longer the counter, the more prone it is to warpage and cracking.  Small sections are better the thicker you go.

7.  When you transition from one piece to the next, try to make the junction as sharp as possible.  If you use the melamine form method, you caulk all your seams before you pour the concrete.  The thicker the caulk application, the more rounded your edges will be when you add the concrete.  Try to minimize the curvature, i.e., the amount of caulk you use where one counter meets another.  You don’t want to butt two counters up against each other and have two big, rounded corners.  You want a sharp transition.

It won’t turn out perfect, but that’s okay… it’s even part of the look.  It’s not supposed to look like granite or soapstone. Plus, you can save huge $$ and have a great time if you’re up to the task.  Just be warned, it’s not as easy as it looks!!

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