Introduction: Outdoor Kitchen With Concrete Countertops

My project involved creating an outdoor cooking area.  This involved constructing bases of steel studs, hardipanel, synthetic stucco  and poured concrete countertops that would hold a natural gas grill and provide storage and space for food layout.  

Step 1: Framing

The first step in creating these were to create the frames with steel studs.  You really need all of your components on site to begin this framework, as grill dimensions and door openings must be exact to have a good fit and finish.  All screw penetrations and cut edges of studs were spot primed with galvanized primer to deter rust and corrosion.

Step 2: HardiPanel Substrate

Hardipanel was selected as the substrate of the finished surface.  This cuts easily and mounts with screws.  Joints are taped with mesh tape and finished with thinset.  I also did the bottom to  help with rigidity and also to keep critters out of the finished units.  

Step 3: Synthetic Stucco

I used a product called DryVit as the finished surface.  This is applied by troweling or spraying with a hopper - just like drywall texture.  I sprayed this product.  DryVit looks like traditional stucco, but has some elastic qualities that allow it to expand and contract with temperature changes without cracking.

Step 4: Countertop Template

Strips of luan were cut from a 4'x8' sheet and these were used to create the countertop template.  This works pretty slick, as you can make a perfect template without really measuring anything.  These are glued together during the process.  This makes easy work of odd shaped counter shapes.  You can get the proper overhang and perfectly placed cutouts.

Step 5: Countertop Forming

Melamine was used for the countertop forming.  4'x8' sheets are readily available.  This counter was poured upside down.  The melamine is a super smooth surface which produces a very smooth concrete surface.  I built some very robust saw horses to hold the main counter at a comfortable working level.  Strips of melamine were cut for the edges and screwed down to the form base.  One important thing here, is that you need to fill the screw heads with wax or caulking before you pour.  Otherwise, the screw heads will be filled with concrete and will be not be very much fun to remove when it comes time to break down the forming.After the initial forming is anchored into place, I assembled the reinforcing rod mesh.  I used #3 rod.   If there are any holes or seams, they can befilled with wax and scraped level.  The seam where the form edges meet the large flat area of the form can be filled with a bead of silicone caulking, running a finger down the seam to create a nice radius on the counter edge.  If you need any holes, it is is best to put them in now.  I put in a couple of holes for lights that I wanted to mount.  I used a piece of dowel, drilled a hole in the center of the dowel for a screw, and screwed them onto the bottom form.  I also coated them with a little silicone so that they could be punched out easily.  Putting these in now instead of drilling the countertop later eliminates the chance of drilling into some of the re-rod later.

Step 6: Glass Inlay

I used tempered glass pieces as an interesting inlay.  These are red and clear.  They were sprinkled over the form and will be exposed during the grinding/polishing process

Step 7: Concrete Pour, Grinding and Polishing

Not many pictures were taken during the pour.  I was pretty busy :).  I used Quikrete countertop mix along with liquid color.  Charcoal / Black was the color of the tint.  I used a large electric mixer from a neighbor, and we mixed 3 bags at a time.  It was quite a process but it went very well.  AFter allowing for a 7 day cure, the side forms were removed and the counter was flipped to begin grinding.  I used a angle grinder that has a water port that shoots water into the center of the grinding pad.  This keeps the area flushed.  I started with a rough grinding wheel for rapid material removal to expose the aggregate, and progressed up to 3000 grit with diamond pads.  The finished product looks like glass.  I found Cheng products late in the project and used Cheng spot filler, sealer, and concrete wax.  Their stuff is top notch, and I will be using their products in my next home adventure.

Step 8: Installation

This stuff is heavy, make no mistake about that.  And of course, I had to do the largest piece in one pour.  I gathered up about 6 of the strongest guys in my neighborhood, and we carried the counters out to the bases, which I had previously moved onto the deck.  Silicone was used as the adhesive , and after the counters were put in place, I installed the remaining components.  The grill and side burner are Calflame units.  The doors were purchased online, these are pretty easy to find.  The mushroom lights are low voltage, and we wanted red so I had to disassemble them and paint them.  Rustoleum is a great outdoor paint.  We have enjoyed this very much, and use it almost daily - even in the winter as we are in MIchigan.  Concrete was pretty much our only option for survival in our climate, with the freeze that cycles.  With proper care, these will last for many years.  Sadly, we will be relocating soon and will be leaving this great setup for the next owner, but I really need to win that Grand Prize of the mixer, because I will be doing this at the next house!

Concrete and Casting Contest

First Prize in the
Concrete and Casting Contest