DIY Concrete Countertops, Part III – Sealing

If I’ve learned anything about DIY in the last 5.5 years of writing this blog, it’s that it’s all about the sealer. You could do the most awesome job ever on a project, and if you don’t seal it correctly it’s all for naught.

What to do and what not to do when sealing concrete countertops

I knew I needed an amazing sealer for my concrete countertops, for three reasons….

  1. Concrete is a porous material, so it’s susceptible to stains
  2. Not only are our countertops concrete, but they are also white
  3. I’m messy

So even though Z Counterform sent me a sealer along with the countertop supplies (which has awesome reviews), I still researched sealers on my own to find the best one ever. My research lead me to a very complicated, very expensive, three-part epoxy sealer called Stonelok. This is supposed to be THE ONE, which I believed mainly because of the word “epoxy” in the description. I covered my penny countertop in epoxy, and my painted shower used epoxy paint, and both of those things were bulletproof…I couldn’t believe the abuse they held up to. And so, I bought a kit from a website called V-Seal for about $160 total.

I let the countertops cure for about a week before putting on the sealer. They were extremely chalky to the touch, so I wiped them down with a dry cloth and then gathered up my supplies. Like I said, this sealer was really complicated…just looking at all the steps and instructions made me anxious.

StoneLok E3 2K2

In addition to the sealer you will also need a small low nap roller and tray. Here is a brief overview of the steps…I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here since that’s would make for a crazy long (not to mention boring) post.

Step One – Concrete Conditioner

StoneLok conditioner

This one was easy, just mix with water and roll it on. Not scary.

Step Two – “E3″

StoneLok E3

For this one you mix the two bottles and wait a certain amount of time for the reaction, then roll on. The instructions made the rolling part sound a little scary (they made me worried about roller marks and lines), but it went on just like anything else and there are no roller marks. Also, each step in the process looks like a milky substance.

Concrete sealer

After the E3 was dry it felt smooth…but I knew it could be smoother, so I sanded it.

sand between coats for a smooth finish

The instructions didn’t say anything about sanding between coats, but it was definitely much smoother after I sanded and I’m glad I did. Just make sure you use a fine grit sandpaper (like 400) and sand very lightly.

Step Three – “2K2″

StoneLok 2k2 concrete sealer

This one was like the previous step in that you mix multiple bottles together. I followed the instructions perfectly – mixing the first two bottles, shaking for five minutes, and then letting it sit for 15 minutes before adding the water and rolling on. Except that I didn’t even make it to the “let it sit” part before things went awry.  Near the end of my shaking the bottle started to get very hot, and very hard. I put it down to let it sit thinking it was just part of the reaction, but then decided to remove the lid and see what was going on in there.

And what was going on was the final coat of my sealer was busy exploding into a rock hard foam inside the bottle…

StoneLok problems

…which left me both confused and disappointed. First, I had followed the instructions perfectly. Second, I was on a tight timeline and need the countertops sealed that day so that it could cure for a week before we installed sinks and moved in.

So I got on the phone and called the company to ask what happened. They were very helpful and came to the conclusion that it was too hot in my house and the heat had caused the reaction. The instructions said to make sure the sealer was kept between 60-80 degrees and my AC was set at 78, so I don’t know…but either way they sent me another set of the 2K2 to try again.

So when it arrived a few days later I set out for try #2. I set my AC for about 74 to make sure it wasn’t too hot, and had my mom and Adam carefully read the instructions to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding anything. Then I mixed…and it worked.

How to seal concrete countertops

(Here I am looking like a magnificent pumpkin at 30 weeks pregnant in my husbands oversized shirt)

I sealed all three sections of my kitchen countertop, then I went to pour more mix into my tray to seal the small countertop we poured in the laundry room. I went to dump out the rest of the bottle, and….foam.

StoneLok concrete sealer review

It was wet sloppy foam (unlike the last time) but still foam and still unusable. Pot life is supposed to be 45 minutes after you mix it, but it had only taken me about ten to roll all the kitchen. My only guess is that it was hotter in the bottle than out and I should have poured it all into my tray at once…but DANG, this stuff is fickle.

So I grabbed the sealer from Z Counterform to do the final coat in the laundry room. No mixing, no pot life…just roll it on for as many coats as you want and go ahead and whistle while you work, because it’s not going to explode in your hand.

Z Counterform concrete sealer

It was way more watery than the Stonelok and doesn’t feel like it would hold up as well (pure speculation), but it’s also not a gamble when it come to the application process.

Anyway, here are the finished countertops…

DIY concrete countertops

I ordered the “Extra Low Gloss” Stonelok because I didn’t want shiny countertops, and I have to say I’m pleased with the finish. Here is a (fuzzy) picture of it catching sunlight to show you the sheen.

very matte finish on countertop

We have now been moved into our construction project house for a week now, and the countertops wipe up beautifully. I definitely don’t foresee a problem with stains, the epoxy finish seems pretty bulletproof.

DIY concrete countertops (a three part tutorial)

How to seal white concrete countertops

I would recommend the Stonelok sealer… just be aware that the application process can be kinda a beast and a gamble.  It’s important to follow the instructions perfectly and make sure your house is COLD when doing it. Making sure your house is cold is probably a good idea for both this process and the actual pour, since I think the heat also affected how quickly our concrete dried.

Anyway, that wraps up my series on DIY concrete countertops! Hopefully you found it helpful and interesting, and if you missed anything you can read the other parts by clicking below…

DIY Concrete Countertops, Part 1 – Setting the Forms

DIY Concrete Countertops, Part 2 – The Pour

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Comments

  1. Jan Horwood says:

    What a process! Did the counters cure in time for the sinks to go in? They look gorgeous. I love how thick the edges are.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is it safe doing this with fumes while pregnant?

  3. Do you really love the counter tops, or is it too late now and you are talking yourself into them?? I think they turned out great, but definitely not what you had in mind. From what I have read, if you don’t love it, you rip it out and do it again.

    • Good question. I do really like them and wouldn’t rip them out, but you are right in that they aren’t EXACTLY what I had pictured. But they are close and the more I live in the house and use them the more I like them. That being said, the little laundry room countertop I mentioned turned out really terrible and I would love to go at it with a sledgehammer. We were so concerned with the kitchen countertops and tying to get them smooth before they dried that the laundry room got a bit forgotten, and it shows. I’m honestly not sure how you would even get the concrete countertop off without destroying the cabinet. I aim to find out though when we get around to actually ding the laundry room.
      Ashley recently posted..Designing a KitchenMy Profile

  4. Jesus. ☺

  5. It looks great! That was quite the project :) Not sure if I would be able to pull it off. haha
    tanya recently posted..Six Jobs That Pay Well And Make The World A Better PlaceMy Profile

  6. Your countertops look great! They certainly look like they are bulletproof. I also love, love , love the color of you cabinets. The color is just gorgeous. I think I would have had a full fledged anxiety attack trying to put that epoxy on. I probably would have just turned into a whimpering puddle. You are very brave.

  7. Samantha Pereira says:

    That’s a whole load of faring. But geez that killed then is looking good!

  8. Hi Ashley, maybe you can install tiles on top of your laundry room counter tops?
    It will also be easy to clean and you can choose whatever tiles you like? Also very easy to install.

  9. Jacy Holland says:

    love that sheen. Looks awesome, Ashley.

  10. We just poured our countertops last weekend and I ordered the sealer from z counterform however after reading your post I decided to bite the bullet and order the stonelok kit…Our process went very similar to yours we intended on vibrating the edges with a sander and never got to it and our countertops are not as smooth as I would have liked in some areas so my question is did you fill pinholes after sanding and prior to sealing the countertops? I don’t mind the holes but just wondering if the sealer fills these so bacteria can’t form. By the way kudos on doing this while prego there is no way my body and emotions could have handled this while I was pregnant. 😉

  11. I very much enjoyed reading your countertop adventure and especially appreciate your afterthoughts/recommendations. I love white concrete, and your countertops look fab!

Thank you for your comments!

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