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www.greenbuildermag.com 08.2012


~ How-to ~ 10


As an alternative to granite, site-built concrete countertops off er a much lighter environmental footprint than imports. They’re also relatively easy to create and customize.


BUILD A CONCRETE COUNTERTOP


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CCORDING TO STUDIES by the Australian gov- ernment, imported granite has an embodied energy of up to 13 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg). That fi gure takes into account cutting,


polishing and moving the heavy rock overseas. That’s why building a countertop out of concrete instead of buying imported stone can be considered a green option. Of course, cement as a material is no lightweight on the environment, so its viability depends on the material you’re replacing. At about 5.6 MJ/kg, it has about the same footprint as domes- tic granite. Concrete countertops, built right and sealed with a good waterproofer, can last for many years. You might also experiment with adding color or, if you’re more advanced, introducing some unusual recycled aggregate—such as ceramics, glass or quartz.


Made by hand, The fi nished top featured here measures 74” x 37,” at 2” thick. With its varied color patterns and slightly rough lines, it adds a rustic complement to the dark cabinetry.


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Build the form. The 2” vertical perimeter can be ripped from a single sheet of melamine, with plenty left over for the form base.


Predrill and screw. Use 3” drywall screws for economy. Screw the form to itself, and attach to the main sheet every few inches. Otherwise, it will bow when the concrete is poured.


Seal it. Run a line of painter’s tape down either side of each seam, then apply caulk (use a color visible against the melamine). You can remove the tape immediately after application and get a nice clean line.


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