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Concrete countertops: trendy but expensive and heavy

Like granite countertops, concrete countertops have become increasingly popular over the last few years as prices have fallen and installation has become easier. It used to be that concrete countertops needed to be poured and shaped directly on the counters; now they can be preformed in a factory or warehouse and shipped for installation, like granite or quartz surfaces. High-quality, precast concrete countertops cost about $75 to $100 per square foot installed.

According to BobVila.com's Joyce Carrol, the advantage of concrete countertops is that this material "boasts texture and detailing unlike any other solid product." Concrete comes with a price, though; this material is extremely porous and will easily absorb stains unless it's resealed at regular intervals. Color choice, once limited to variations of grey and tan, is now virtually unlimited. In addition, Robert Levesque of HomeStyleChoices.com notes that unlike other materials, you can have features built right into the surface of concrete countertops. These could include drainboards, trivets or inlaid objects of personal interest.

Installation seems to be the one factor that gives people pause about concrete countertops. Prefabricated concrete slabs are usually 1.5 inches thick and extremely heavy, which may limit the maximum single-piece size that can be transported into your house. If you have the money to spare, you can consider having the concrete poured directly onto your counters, but experts say the mixing, curing and drying time required can add weeks to the process. Needless to say, DIY enthusiasts should proceed with caution when working with concrete.

Another issue with concrete countertops is their vulnerability to cracking after years of use. According to the Kitchen Countertops website, hairline fractures "are hardly noticeable and do not affect the overall structure of the countertops." However, over a long period of time, hairline fractures can grow deeper and become larger cracks. In extreme cases, the cracks can even break a concrete countertop completely. Fortunately, cracking is less of an issue than it used to be, thanks to improved formulations and casting techniques. Even so, this is an issue you may want to discuss with your contractor before having a concrete countertop installed. If you can't find a concrete countertop maker near you, some well-known fabricators include Buddy Rhodes, Cheng Design, Sonoma Cast Stone and Soupcan Inc.

If you're one of those lucky few who live in a climate allowing for an outdoor kitchen, we found an interesting article by home-improvement expert Tim Carter about the best outdoor countertop surfaces. Carter says concrete is the most weather-resistant and durable, but he also recommends ceramic or stone tile.

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