Frequently Asked Questions
Why consider concrete as a material for interior applications, for instance kitchen or bathroom benchtops?
Concrete is an extraordinary material that is practical, expressive, and aesthetic all at once. Due to its evolving nature, concrete over the decades will slowly patina and continue to express its beauty in subtle ways. It has moved beyond the cracked footpath and dirty driveway and is now seen by designers as the “new black” because it is possible to be used in interior and exterior contexts. Also because of its fluidity, concrete is able to be transformed into virtually any shape that becomes a solid mass therefore the design possibilities for creative expression are endless. All you have to do is check out the PopConcrete projects to see what can be achieved with concrete.
What type of concrete do you use for benchtops?
PopConcrete offers both traditional Wet Cast and Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (known as GFRC or GRC). We use and recommend GFRC for most benchtop applications due to its superior strength, durability and ability to make it lighter in weight and fabricate more complex designs. Both options offer a wide range of customisable finishes and colours. GFRC is less susceptible to cracking and can be used to cantilever and span long distances without the need for support structures. Contact PopConcrete with any design ideas and questions you may have.
What are the advantages of concrete benchtops over marble or granite? How does concrete compare to granite in terms of both cost (per square metre) and surface texture?
The biggest advantage of concrete over natural stones like marble or granite is that it is completely customisable; you can sculpt, mold, and texturise it to your desire; from a high-gloss sheen to a non-reflective satin finish. It can be ground and polished to expose stones, glass and sand. You can even embed meaningful objects within it. If you have a concrete kitchen or bathroom benchtop made for you, the cost will be based on the complexity of the form, the mold-making process, and the desired finish, rather than the size.
How resistant are concrete benchtops to staining?
When it comes to benchtops this is the million-dollar question. Concrete if untreated is a porous material, much like marble and limestone. This means it is susceptible to staining. Concrete sealers have come a long way over the years and the focus is on making sealers specific to kitchen benchtops. PopConcrete uses and recommends different sealers depending on the context it is used and the desired look. Our high-end sealers are extremely resistant to staining, heat, outdoor weather conditions and abrasions.
Sealers can be divided into two general categories: densifyers or penetrating sealers and topical sealers (though there are hybrids of the two available). Penetrating sealers or densifyers, as the name suggests, penetrates into the concrete closing the pores and strengthening it. They offer some stain resistance but greater scratch and abrasion resistance. These sealers are preferred by people who want to retain the natural beauty and feel of concrete and aren’t afraid of some staining or etching over the years. They welcome the patina of concrete much the same way a chopping board changes over time.
Topical sealers are a protective layer that sits over the concrete. Topical sealers, such as acrylics, epoxies and polyurethanes offer varying degrees of stain protection depending on price, but if not cared for and applied properly are susceptible to scratching and chipping.
Would polished concrete benchtops be good for outside use—as in an outdoor barbecue benchtop? How will a coloured concrete benchtop hold up in the sunshine?
Concrete is perhaps the most common building material for exterior use on the planet however polished and coloured concrete require special consideration when placing outdoors. The right sealer must be used. It must be U.V. resistant and must be able to withstand changes in temperature and direct sunlight. PopConcrete uses sealers that are suitable for external applications though more frequent maintenance may be required.
Colours are being constantly enhanced in order to resist fading in the sun. Good quality colours along with a high quality sealer will help minimise any fading over the years.
Can I use concrete benchtops as a cutting surface?
As with marble or granite, we do not recommend cutting directly on a concrete surface; it could result in scratches and gouges in the finish of your countertop as well as damage the blades of your knives.
Can I put a hot pot directly onto a polished concrete kitchen bench?
Concrete is heat-resistant but is subject to thermal shock if a red-hot object is placed directly upon it. Like granite, the exposed area may flake or chip away if too much heat is applied. We use sealers that are heat resistant but highly recommend using trivets for hot cookware.
Can polished concrete benchtops chip, flake, or crack?
Like marble or granite, concrete corners and edges can chip if struck by a hard object. Creating a rounded concrete edge is much less likely to chip or flake than a sharp edge. Concrete, like all stone products, is susceptible to cracking around thin sections near voids and cutouts like sinks and cooktops. Due to the reinforcing used these cracks, if they occur, are not structural.
How thick can I make my benchtop?
Because concrete is such a versatile product it can be made as thin as 20mm to any thickness you want. Weight does not become a major issue as GFRC allows the weight to be kept at a minimum.
Does my cabinetry need any extra support?
The short answer is, generally no. One square metre of Wet Cast concrete at 40mm thickness weighs approximately 95kgs and GFRC can weigh as little as 45kg. This weight is usually spread over various points so it does not become an issue. Structural issues are discussed with the kitchen makers and designers to ensure the best result.
Can I get an integral concrete basin and/or drain board in my benchtop?
Absolutely. PopConcrete is developing a range of sink sizes and can also custom design sinks, hand basins and drain boards so they provide a seamless look that matches your benchtop. Though you do need to consider the context and application of your basin or sink. If it is in your kitchen it is more likely be exposed to ongoing heavy use and will require more regular maintenance. Yet, polished concrete hand basins make a beautiful addition to any bathroom.
How can I get more information?
If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can arrange for an appointment to visit our showroom at 10 Shoebury Street, Rocklea.