Wednesday, September 19, 2012

how to make a super-sweet countertop

One of the most fun parts of buying your very own home is that you get to do kind of whatever you want.  Although I have moaned and groaned about the extended length of our addition/renovation (which, after talking to some, is really not that long at all), the amazing thing is that it will yield exactly the kind of house we desire. 

When we bonked down half the wall between our kitchen and back bedroom to make an open living-kitchen space, we needed to put a countertop/bar in to offer more workspace and a transition from one room to the next.

The wall behind the stove in this picture is completely gone (and the door-frame and door into what was the second bedroom).  We moved the stove to the opposite wall, completely re-wired the house and moved the breaker box to another wall, tore out those cabinets, knocked down the wall behind them, and that's where we needed some kind of counter.

I looked at the options for counters.  Stainless (yuck - reminds me of nails on chalkboard).  Corian or other composite (sticker-shock).  Granite or marble (quadruple sticker-shock).  Butcher block (hard to take care of?).  What was attractive to me about stainless and butcher block was that, for most foods, you didn't need a cutting board.  Obviously you need one for raw meat, but for fruits and veggies, you can cut right on the counter.  Also, these surfaces are heat proof.  No need to worry about setting hot pots and pans right onto them. 

I was unimpressed by our standard options.  So we decided to do something completely different.  

We nailed a layer of plywood onto the wall stump, after installing the dishwasher underneath (kind of where that slim little cabinet was in the photo above).  Onto the plywood, we placed large squares of mosaic backsplash tile.  In the middle, we put two brass channels and in between we laid out old broken stained glass (some of it from the backyard stockpile).  After everything was in place, we started layering on Glaze-Coat.  This is a product you've most likely seen on bar tops.  It's a high-gloss self-leveling epoxy resin.  It is heat-proof, and nearly indestructible once it sets.  We thought about grouting the tile into place before adding the epoxy, but decided to just go ahead.

It took us about six or seven applications to get a nice thick layer built up.  We were also covering a pretty large area - about four by six feet.

It has been one of the best turn-outs of our projects thus far! 

One unanticipated cool effect is that the Glaze-Coat makes the mosaic tile look dimensional, although it is actually all the same height.  You can't really tell that from the photo.  It also makes the stained glass really brilliant.  We obviously still have a bit of work to do on it:  we need to trim out the counter, and sand off the bits of painting tape left on from the epoxy applications.

Here's a side view with dishwasher and cabinet we moved.  This is the kitchen side, obviously:

You can see the open feel from kitchen to living room here.  Love it.  We have bar stools on the other side.  I also love the tiny nook we created that is the perfect size for the trash can!  No more tripping over that.  We still need to trim around the dishwasher, as well.  And paint the drywall on the upper right wall.  But all of these things will be done, in time.  No pressure.  Not like we're trying to sell in the next twenty years!

So, if you're re-doing your kitchen and feel stymied by the standard array of counter options, consider this little homemade remedy!  Mosaic tile and Glaze-Coat.  Solving the world's problems, one counter at a time. 

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