Budget Kitchen Remodel: An Experiment in Concrete

This post is about a month late, but work has progressed on the kitchen! And this stage was done by my deadline-ish of end of Sept to have most of the major work done. As work progressed on the walls, we still needed to decide what to do with the floor. This was an area where I wanted to save some $ because long term, I’d rather the entire upstairs-including the kitchen- be the same flooring, but that is a more expensive undertaking for down the road a ways. We needed a “for a few years” floor that wasn’t worth dropping much moolah into. But even lineoleum would cost $150-200 in materials, we didn’t want stick down tiles again- couldn’t WAIT to get rid of the grimey ones we had. At any rate, any cheap flooring would just look like… well, cheap flooring and would still cost a couple hundred bucks in the end. Call me crazy, but I kept coming back to skim coated concrete. People use it for countertops, and other Pinterest-y DIY projects and it seems like a cool, industrial, natural/non-plastic looking finish that was worth experimenting with. For example, this kitchen looks pretty cool I think: 

I had to convince Chad on this one, but he came around and I quickly bought the supplies before he could change his mind 🙂  (Kind of like I quickly starting painting cabinets to start this whole journey off before anything else could happen to delay!) The Feather Finish (Ardex/Henry) material is actually a polymer based concrete mixture, so this is NOT pouring exterior concrete in your house. It’s using a patching/repair compound to just coat your surface to give a concrete looking finish.

However, before any of that could start, step 1 was repairing the flooring under the weirdo floating cabinet between the kitchen and dining room, which miraculous was a simple task. The flooring just extended under the cab so we had to cut some away, as opposed to trying to patch it with leftover pieces. Chad got a new multi tool so this was actually pretty easy. Bummer we discovered some old wall damage that wasn’t repaired properly when someone put that weird cabinet there years ago. So more drywall work for me later, yippee 🙂

floor cutout

Next was moving everything out to the dining room (no oven until this was done!) and tearing up the vinyl sticky tiles. So our dining room/kitchen looked like this the week we were working on this. Eek.

dining room living

And STICKY was the name of the game removing the existing tiles. Modern day conveniences (ie, peel and stick flooring) = disgusting messes for whoever gets ‘stuck’ with it down the road (pun intended). We used the multitool Chad got for cutting the floor to work up the edges and this floor scraping pole we found (!) in our garage from the previous. It had mud on it like they used it for edging the lawn or something. Lucky find for us! And scrape, scrape, scrape we did, for two layers of sticky tile for a few hours. Here’s what this process looked like…

floor removal

The next conundrum was how the heck to work on the floor when it was too stick to actually step on. Solution- sprinkle and scrape out the concrete mix we would be using to soak up the stickiness a bit. From there we sacrificed a $3 tarp from Harbor Fright to cut up and lay out on the semi-sticky powdered surface to work around the room. The tarps were key! But cardboard or anything else you’re willing to pitch later would work fine. And you could do this same technique to prep any sticky subfloor by sprinkling another kind of powder (corn starch?) or sand down to help you move around and even try to scrape up the adhesive if you need to.

floor powder

Next we started mixing our skim coat according to package directions in small double batches. You have to work in small amounts because it sets up in minutes. The first coats I scraped on very thin with a metal trowel, scooting around with my sticky tarp.

floor first coat

When it was dry after about half an hour, so you could walk on it again and we did these layers late at night after dinner so it wasn’t as inconvenient as it looks. It was also much easier after the first coat covered all the sticky gunk. Chad handled the mixing station and I scraped on the layers each night. This stuff sets up fast so I had to keep scraping my trowel clean so the drying bits didn’t crumble into my next batch.

mixing stationAfter the first two very thin layers, thick spots of the tacky dirty gunk still showed through slightly, mostly where the vinyl tile seams were so you could still see the square shapes in certain areas.

floor 2 coats

So, fearing we’d be doing a dozen layers with  this technique, we decided to smooth it on a little thicker for the third coat instead of the scraped thin coats, assuming we’d sand it all smooth in the end which gave us this.

finished concrete

Next I kind of stopped to think. I hated the idea of fine concrete polymer dust spread everywhere using an electric sander and hand sanding was practically pointless on this once it hardened up. So after a couple days, I scraped down the ridges and little bumps here and there with a putty knife and I really loved all the depth and texture it had. Kind of like slate has a lot of natural imperfections. So we decided to just seal it and live with it and see how we liked it. Much simpler proposition! So out when the sanding plan, and on went the concrete sealer to this third and final coat. The sealer was a breeze!

floor sealing applI did a coat one night, again the next morning, the next night, and a fourth coat the third morning. So it was four coats of Behr low luster concrete sealer, each about 12 hours apart to avoid having to scuff in between. You can see here the variations in the overall final look.

floor finish

Sealing really put the final touch on and left us with a reasonably durable, polished looking industrial floor. floor sealer

There are certainly imperfections so if that’s not your thing, this might not be the project for you. But for $100 in feather finish and sealer, we have a new one-of-a-kind floor with a lot of personality. We’ve dropped things on it since finishing it in Sept and it seems like a sharp object (dropping a fork, tines down) might chip or dent the surface a bit, but it’s not noticeable in this type of rugged floor finish and it’s nothing that recoating the sealer once a year or so wouldn’t fix. The beauty of it too is that when we do change all the upstairs flooring, we have a nice subfloor all ready to go too 😉 K, now on to upper cabinets!

List update:

Redo backwards plumbing to sink and dishwasher (currently reversed and feeds only cold water to dishwasher!)

Remove floating cabinet, repair dining room floor

Remove upper cabinets

Remove backsplash tile

Replace countertops

Install new sink and faucet

Replace hood with over the range microwave (Done- coming soon!)

Added: Finish painting cabinetry, install upper cabs

Sell current hood and microwave (added: and dishwasher) on CL (bonus! sold extra washing machine to couple at HD! +$180)

Install backboard to backsplash wall to ceiling

Install open shelving

Install backboard on island, bar attachment?

New ceiling light

Install undercabinet light

Paint inside pantry, new door knob

Install hutch to dining wall, paint, move light switch

Paint remaining kitchen walls (working on it!)

Replace flooring

Added: Install new quarter round, floor transitions

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