You might not have heard of the relatively new countertop choice; of all things, concrete! The first image that comes to mind is a sidewalk or a driveway. Not very appealing, as something to put in the kitchen. But as they say, “Wait, that’s not all!”

Concrete is giving granite a “run for the money”. Granite has been the epitome of luxury, uniqueness and long-lasting kitchen countertop materials. But concrete has been increasing in popularity, as it compares favorably to most of the qualities that make granite popular.

How is that? When it comes to appearance, there is no way to match concrete in terms of variability. Blue pigment and broken glass can be mixed into the concrete to create a luminescent, sea-like look. Neutral pigments and river stones can turn a kitchen counter into a sleek dry riverbed. Irregular pigment mixes can mimic granite, marble or any other type of stone. The possibilities are endless.

A concrete countertop can have all sorts of curves and all sorts of built-ins and embedded objects, such as drain boards, sinks, trivets, knife slots, and more. Colored concrete can be created by one of three processes:

  • Integral pigment is a colored powder that’s mixed into the wet concrete, resulting in a color that penetrates the full depth of the slab. Color choices are unlimited.
  • Acid staining is done on hardened slabs and results in a permanent color change, but offers a reduced number of color options. Metallic salts react with the concrete, creating the color.
  • Dye is a liquid available in a wide range of colors, is applied to cured slabs and penetrates only the top layer of the concrete. Some dyes are not UV stable.

Acidic products like lemon juice might eat through a concrete sealer over time, but it can also damage a granite finish. Both granite and concrete countertops are strong enough and hard enough to handle whatever culinary activities you can throw at them. The main issue distinguishing the two materials has to do with maintenance. Concrete is a porous material, so it will require re-sealing more often than granite to prevent staining.

There are two types of sealers for concrete countertops; penetrating and topical. Penetrating sealer soaks into the concrete and is barely detectable once dry. This sealer keeps stains from penetrating, but stains can occur on the surface. Topical sealers are made of wax, urethane, acrylic or epoxy. They coat the surface and vary in appearance and performance. Epoxy and urethane are thick and glossy; wax performs poorly as a sealer. Acrylic coating look and perform fairly well but scratch easily. So the conclusion is that while concrete countertops are nearly indestructible, the sealers should be selected with care – they can be scratched and damaged, requiring re-application.

Granite and concrete countertops weigh about the same, for equivalent thicknesses. They both weigh about 20 lbs per square foot for a 1.5 inch thickness (BobVila.com)

Both materials are not “green:; some granite has been found to emit possibly unhealthy levels of radon, and concrete could contain heavy metals that are present in some pigments and finishing materials.

Granite and concrete are both high-quality options. Cost estimates per square foot vary, due to the variety of options available in concrete, as well as the variety of granite finishes – edges, source, etc, but a rough estimate runs $100 to $150 per square foot installed.