Little did I know, that my dream of having poured in place concrete counter tops would be so difficult! For future reference, I would advice building your own cabinet units to Ikea specifications. Purchase all the Ikea hardware: drawer slides, door hinges, and handles. The hardware is really well designed. The cabinets, however, are just pressed sawdust held together with glue and a very thin layer of veneer. They look great, but you cannot plane or sand, or modify the fit in any way.
What we have ended up doing, because we decided to use Ikea cabinets, is building an exo-skeleton of plywood to house the cabinets. As we researched the specifications for concrete countertops, we realized they need extra support. We would not be able to pour the countertops in place as if they were ready made countertops.
The job has dragged on for months now. It is very difficult because no matter how you try to build things square, in a renovation of an old house, with a polished concrete floor and posts sitting in the way, there is going to have to be some shaping to get everything to LOOK square, even though it is all fitting on a floor, against walls, and with posts in the middle, that are not actually square.
Ikea cabinets are precisely square and unforgiving. Thus, the exo-skeleton has to not only fit the square Ikea cabinets inside the unsquare structure, but it also has to accommodate the Ikea cladding, which is also no forgiving of minor shaping.
On top of all that, the countertop itself is made of plywood, angle iron and oak trim. These all have to be fit seamlessly to the Ikea cabinet/exo-skeleton structure. The oak trim serves a functional purpose, it holds the concrete in place as it sets up. So the corner joints of the oak trim have to be very secure, so they don’t blow out with the force of the wet concrete.
Okay, now that we have gotten that far, times this project by three countertops: bathroom vanity, kitchen counter, and kitchen island.
Oh, don’t forget to add the base of the kitchen island, which was build with a torsion box base so that it wouldn’t bend and crack the concrete countertop as it was rolled around the room. Yes, we built it on casters so it can be positioned for different functions.
This part of the building project has been going on since the end of June, coinciding with the moment we ran out of money. We struggled through July and into August and then Matt took a landscaping job to tied us over.
I think the worst part about this situation for me is that I cannot build these cabinets and countertop structures. Once it is in place, I am going to pour the concrete and trowel out the countertops. But until they are ready, I have to bide my time, while Matt works two jobs and tackles this PhD level of carpentry and joinery as his first cabinetry job.
As in all phases of this renovation, fingers crossed for good luck.
Here is the picture of the kitchen island as it stands this morning, and one of the two Ikea cabinets that will sit, side by side, inside it when it is done. You have to imagine the hand-troweled concrete countertop trimmed in oak.
The island is bar height, so it comes out tall.