Monday, February 14, 2011

Easier Said Than Done

This countertop is being a butt, to say the least. Yes, I did screw it up with a bad initial finishing job, so I can't really say much! Unlike many bloggers that only show their successes, I will show you when I bomb something and I have no problem admitting mistakes or screw-ups. I believe I mentioned earlier that the surface did not come out well, but I don't believe I posted any pics of it. Basically, what happened is that the surface cement, after it had cured, was becoming powdery and flaking up, exposing the sand and aggregate below. I am a bit confused on this one though. I know the mix was a little wet when I first poured but I've seen mud poured almost like soup and still get a hard finish on it. Also, after this countertop, I poured the little slab in the basement, and just to be safe, I mixed that slab rather dry using the same mix. It is doing the same thing. Now, initially I thought the mix was too wet and this water sat on the surface too long, causing the surface to weaken. But this really doesn't make sense. I've seen concrete slabs totally submerged by sudden rain, with the water standing on the slabs for hours, and they still finish fine. Now, maybe I'm just that poor a finisher, but I have finished many yards of concrete with no problems. I don't know if the mix was old or what. It came from a place that stores theirs outside and they may not move much of it, meaning it will sit there for a while, but the bags appeared fine when I bought them. No holes, no water stains.
Now, the photo above was taken AFTER I had applied a topping coat to correct the problem. Tearing a slab out is a major pain and I really don't want to do that. Besides, the rest of the countertop, below, seems fine. I applied one coat of topping mix (which is basically portland and sand with bonding agents) very thinly, and it adhered well, but it made a very rough surface. So, I applied another, thicker coat, using additional bonding agent, and troweled a smoother finish on it. Now, it is nowhere near smooth enough but it is better than what was there. I have ordered a pack of diamond sanding/ polishing pads to put the final finish on with. I think most countertop contractors finish their product this way anyway, rather than rely totally on a troweled finish. So, we will see. It's an experiment anyway. Who knows? it might come out with a much more beautiful surface this way.

After I finished with the countertop and was letting that cure, I decided to start the gate for the garden. The weather has been beautiful the past couple of days and promises to stay that way for about a week. I couldn't resist getting out my welding gear. I've been meaning to build this gate for some time and my desire to have a truly fruitful (no pun intended) garden this year means I've got to to get the fence and gate up to par to keep the deer and 'coons and rabbits out. I am truly embarrassed to show you all what I use for a gate now. Plus, it's a pain to go in and out of. This new gate is going to be awesome, if I must say so myself! I am building two, 3 foot wide panels, so you can open one side or both to get larger things, like a lawn tractor, through. It's cool! I can't wait to be finished. Oh, and I am building it solely from scrap metal that I have laying around here. I am not going to purchase anything, except maybe the hinges, if I can't make those.


Ed said...

My guess would be something to do with the mix or perhaps humidity. If you ever figure out what went wrong, I would like to hear the answer. I've done a fair amount of concrete work and have seen nice hard surface finished on both really wet and really dry concrete. When I see the flaking top like what you describe, I usually think over working but I know with your experience that wasn't the case.

Fortunately it is the pantry and not say the kitchen counter where everyone would see it. Every house needs a few of those imperfections to remind the home owner that they don't live in a fantasy world.

JoJo said...

Good luck on that counter top. Can't wait to see your garden gate.
The weather here has been wonderful so I cleaned up the porch put some flowers in pots and sat out there for a few hours reading yesterday. It sure was the cure for all that fustration over the water problem which is finally fixed.

HermitJim said...

I don't know anything about concrete work, but I have no doubts that you'll get it figured out!

Looking forward to the gate pictures!

Happy Valentine's Day, my friend!

edifice rex said...

Hey Ed! yeah, I think it must be something about the mix. I think next time I'm going to go with a higher strength mix. From what I've been reading most counter top people use a 5-6,000 lb. mix. That seems excessive but I guess it works better.
It wasn't a flaking like spalling, which would indicate over-working a dry surface, but just it turning powdery. Something I've never seen before.
Hopefully it will still turn out nice enough that you can't tell anything is wrong; it just probably won't match the rest. But that's okay, like you say, it's in the pantry.

Hey Jojo! glad you got your water fixed! yeah, this kinda weather does so much to help one's feelings about things.

Hey Jim! thanks! Happy Valentine's to you too sweetie!

Floridacracker said...

Well, if you did everything just right, we might begin to doubt you.
Good to see you get challenged sometimes too!

Happy Valentines Day!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

How disappointing to have your concrete fail. I have seen concrete fail similar to that when it got frozen. There must have been a problem to the materials.

Jenn said...

Can't wait to see the gate!

edifice rex said...

Hey FC! oh, I get challenged all the time! lol!!
Happy late Valentine's Day to you!!

Hey Philip! yeah, it's disappointing and it was similar to what happens when concrete freezes but I know that wasn't it! haha! I think some problem with materials though.

Hey Jenn! yeah, I am so excited; it's going to look great!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hi annie, don't know anything about concrete, but appreciate reading about your successes, failure and work-arounds and know you will get this one figured out. It's going to be a nice warm end of week here too so working outdoors on your fence may take your mind off the concrete dilemna. Hope you and Jack had a nice hearts Day (we did too).

Anonymous said...

Well like the others i've never done a concrete top. Wood, formica, and once helped with a granite (nervous wreck that day). I'm guessing with some careful sanding you'll get the finish you want. Just take your time. As an old shop teacher always said "its all in the sanding". Good Luck.

edifice rex said...

Hey Beatrice! yes, the weather is so nice here it's hard to think anything but happy thoughts! Jack and I did have a nice V-Day. I'm not much on the holiday myself but he apparently gets into it! lol!

Hey Grenville! yeah, I think it can all be remedied now with the right sanding, like you say.