The Nugget: Refinishing The Countertops

Dudes!  We are overhauling a 1972 Bell Travel Trailer!  Follow the entire series from the beginning here!

Hooray!! The little Nugs that could is chugging along!

One of the elements that just couldn’t survive the overhaul (besides the blue carpet) was the lime green Formica countertops.  In the right place they are AMAZING but the conclusion came about that there could only be a few design stars, and the countertops just didn’t make the cut.

Working within the confines of a trailer makes things different.  One of the biggest factors that needs to be considered is adding weight.  I knew that I wanted to save my added weight allowance and use it elsewhere (like the floors!!) so I needed something lightweight that had major transformation powers.

A concrete overlay countertop was just the ticket.  Now, I know what you might be thinking.  Yes it is concrete, but it is only about 1/8” thick.  And yes it is durable.  (We will get into that in another post!)

VIntage Trailer Renovation Concrete Overlay Countertops

For the last year or so blogland has been abuzz with talk of Ardex Feather Finish and its magnificent countertop transforming powers.   After doing a little internet sleuthing I found out that Ardex Feather Finish is made by a company called Henry.  Do you know what else they make (among other things)? Henry Feather Finish that is sold at Home Depot.

I couldn’t find an exact yes or no answer to if they were the same, so I called Henry and asked.  This was their response:

“  Technically, no, they are not the same.  As far as using them, and their performance, they are the same.  In a blind test, the manufacturer wouldn’t be able to tell you which is which.  “

YESSSSS!  Best news ever!!  While Ardex Feather Finish and Henry Feather Finish aren’t exactly the same their performance is! (You can find it in the flooring isle at HD!)

Ardex Feather Finish Henry Feather Finish

The process I used is from the original concrete wonder, Miss Kara Paslay. (She has a great FAQ here if you are attempting this project!)

When we bought it, The Nugs had 2 faucets.  The one on the left went to the outside water hook up, and the one on the right was connected to the water tank inside the trailer.

They had to go. It was like a faucet fiesta. The blue switch box powers the small electrical pump that pumps water from the tank…that had to go too.

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Taking them out left 2 holes that needed to be patched.  After securing a piece of wood on the underside of the countertops, we filled the holes with wooden dowel and screwed them down.

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We sanded the edges to make sure that they were flush with the countertops.

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And drilled a hole for the single handle faucet that we were planning on installing.  (This one)  The faucet saga is a whole different blog post, so we will just leave it at …To Be Continued.

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The biggest warning that Kara gives when installing concrete overlay countertops is that the surface needs to be SOLID.  The situation with our countertops was that they were totally solid, but the top layer that was the actual Formica was loose in a few spots.  We used our staple gun to secure it nice and tight.

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The countertops also need to be roughed up a lot.  I used 40 grit sandpaper and obviously went to town.  Making sure to get all of the smooth finish off of them.

After all of the dust is cleaned off the real fun begins.  The Feather Finish has the consistency of firm pudding.  It was at this point that I tried to do a Bill Cosby impression and Court just gave me a blank stare…so there is that.

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We spread the first layer with a trowel and then switched to a plastic putty knife.  We liked the putty knife better.

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Lay down a few thin layers, sanding down the high spots in between.  Get as much of the dust cleaned up as you can between layers.

We found that the more layers we added, the more color variation we got.  I am not sure why, but if you want something that isn’t mottled with different shades of gray, you will want to keep that in mind.

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Here is the third layer going on:

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When it was all said and done I gave it a good sanding with 400 grit sandpaper.  It is so smooth, it feels like glass.

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Sealing concrete is different than sealing concrete countertops.  The most important thing to take into consideration is that because it is countertops, where food will be prepped, the sealer needs to be food safe.  Forever ago when I was planning this for my kitchen, (don’t worry, I haven’t left you guys in the dark,  I am still rocking the beige) I ordered Cheng Concrete Sealer and have just been hanging onto it since.

Concrete Countertop Sealer

While sealing, I learned a few things.  1.  Southern Utah heat + the need to keep the concrete wet the entire time is definitely a 2 person job.  One that I didn’t do so well.  I can tell where the concrete absorbed the sealer differently in a few spots.  Next time I will make sure that Court can help me. Also, the sealer made the concrete significantly darker.  Which is fine, but I sort of loved the lighter color better.  So keep that in mind too.

All in all, new updated countertops for less than $50 is a huge win!!

Love Your Guts

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Comments

  1. Good morning! It’s gorgeous! I have a question: what about the edges along the front and sides? Any tricks for making those transitions look smooth and even? It seems like gravity would present some challenges. Please tell me I’m wrong…?

    • Such a good question!! We are reinstalling the original aluminum trim so we didn’t have to worry about that part, but check out Kara’s tutorial (I linked to it in the post) she talks about edges!

      xo
      m

  2. Wonderful! Love all of the ambitious updates you are taking on in The Nugget! The grey grout and concrete countertops are so fabulous together!

  3. So excited that you are doing a Glamper! It’s on my list of things I desperately want, but do not yet have. One question, with the road vibrations that a trailer goes through are you worried about the tile or concrete eventually cracking? Hope not, because they are so beautiful :-)

  4. Love them! Are you concerned with the movement from traveling?. I have been considering the Ardex finish for our kitchen counters but we live only a block from the train tracks and get some decent movement in our house. I think I remember the product not being recomended for heavy movement surfaces? Beautiful job as usual:)

  5. Hey, I read your blog on Feedly and lately half of the pictures in every article appear squashed to about an inch height. I can see them fine here on the site though. Just an FYI!

  6. I’m so glad you found and shared this alternative product! I’ve been wanting to try the Ardex feather finish but the thought of running all over town or ordering it online was holding me back. Home Depot, here I come!

  7. Wow. Great idea! Few questions,,,,,could you do this over plain old plywood?? Could you add some recycled glass to get the look of Vetrazzo or Ice Stone countertops?? I was just thinking that this could be a good substitute for the more expensive, labor intensive concrete countertops. I have done the real stuff on a smaller scale (using the recycled glass. Although it goes in upside down in the mold and gets flipped over and sanded when dry). Your thoughts??

  8. This is great. Pictures and steps are helpful. We actually ordered Ardex feather finish already. But I wanted to know if anyone’s tried to apply this on to an existing bathroom vanity sink? I’m not sure if it’ll work the same way or even possible.

  9. Wow! You really inspire me! I can’t wait to do home DIY’s like this!
    http://www.fashionablyspeakn.com/2014/08/meet-cast-stylish-comfort.html

  10. Thank you for being so in depth with your tutorials! Could you please post a picture of the countertops in the camper? I’d love to see the entire project!

    • Hey Abigail! I will pe posting one really soon, I didn’t get an after shot before I installed the faucet and that sucker gets a post all it’s own! Thanks so much for following along!

      xo
      m

  11. Such a great blog post. I didn’t think about a skim coat of concrete as a durable open for counter tops. Stellar idea…cost effective too. I have to say your post from yesterday, re: your little one cracked me up. As a mom of 3, I’ve had many moments where I laughed through my tears. Hang in there. Cheers!

  12. It’s looking good!!! I love concrete countertops, but am really scared to do them myself. This makes me want to try!

  13. Thanks for doing the leg work for me! I’ve wanted to tackle refinishing the counters but if I can’t find something easily then I ain’t gonna do it! I know, lazy but hey, I am what I am!

    I’m loving the progress you’re making, you’ve inspired me to get to work!

  14. Next time try an actual floor covering supply place for the Ardex. We own a flooring store and hubby uses Ardex all the time for floor prep on concrete.

    • Michelle which Ardex product are you suggesting for a countertop? is the Ardex product to replace what Mandi used or to prep the surface?

  15. Can’t wait to see this all come together!

  16. Im so glad you chose concrete for the countertop! Im dying to see it all together, so hurry up already!!! Muah;)

  17. Angelique says:

    Maybe next time try laying a wet towel or piece of burlap over the parts you aren’t working on – that’s what they do to cure concrete slabs, etc.. Then you can roll it back as you progress.

    • GENIUS!!!

    • why use the wet towel/burlap on the surfaces your not covering? is this like using the “blue tape”?

      Also, Mandi can you explain what the (pre-existing?) glazed surface is? The one in the last and second to last photo — cream dots on grey background? was that a pre-existing tile? I can’t visualize a tile that large .
      Also, I was doing some research online about the concrete countertops. one professional said it tends to stain and get pricked easily. I can’t find the website right now. But i found this instead which has a lot of info on sealing to make it: food safe, acid-proof, scratch proof etc.
      http://www.concretecountertopinstitute.com/blog/tag/sealer/

      • Oh, I see you have a whole post on the “glazed surface” it is the backsplash mosaic tile. sorry, I don’t know how to edit my earlier post.

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