Concrete offers many creative uses for the home By Amy Burger • Special to the Post-Dispatch
You may think it odd to hear someone declare, "What a gorgeous concrete floor!" After all, when most folks think of concrete, they envision industrial spaces, parking garages, driveways and patios. But concrete has found a solid place (pun intended) as a design element inside people's homes, and the results can be surprisingly stunning.
Designers and homeowners are finding new and creative ways to use concrete as a durable and often more-cost-effective alternative for everything from floors to countertops, vanities, sinks, fireplaces and more. In modern spaces, it can be left looking more "raw," and in more formal or traditional homes, stained and polished concrete can be made to look nearly identical to granite or marble.
"Concrete is not new; we're not reinventing it. We're just putting a creative spin on it," says Grant Pointer, co-owner of CustomCrete Inc. in St. Peters. "There is a lot of money being reinvested in homes right now. When people are remodeling, they want the most bang for their buck. So, on a floor, for example, if you can get the look of marble or travertine at the cost of carpet or low-grade tile, concrete is a great option."
Stained concrete floors are truly cost-effective in finished basements or ranch houses built on an existing concrete slab. "Your floor is 80 percent done when your house is built," Pointer says. "We take what has been down and treat or refurbish it, then stain it. The end result is both beautiful and durable — you could literally park your car on it. And it's great for basements here in rainy St. Louis because these floors can literally be underwater and not be damaged."
If the existing concrete subfloor is in good condition, it will cost around $3-$5 per square foot for the staining. If the floors need resurfacing first, that cost is around $2-$3 per square foot. The stain can be used to create patterns, such as diamonds or squares, or it can be more "natural" with veining similar to marble. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
CustomCrete recently completed a stained concrete floor and bar countertop in the home of local interior designer Ellen Kurtz. After Kurtz and her husband got married a year and a half ago, the first thing they did was remodel their home's unfinished walkout basement for entertaining. They added a bar, billiards and a comfortable seating area.
"With people going in and outside from the lower level walkout and having dogs, we really wanted something that was easy to keep clean. The concrete option offered that and also fit the Western motif we had in mind," says Kurtz.
For visual interest, Kurtz had CustomCrete add a diamond pattern to the main pathway at the bottom of the stairs.
"The floor is great because you just mop up after the parties are over," she says.
For the bar countertops, Kurtz had them combine two colors (that of her walls and sink) for a truly custom look.
Concrete countertops and bathroom vanities are growing in popularity for both their appearance and the fact that they can be "molded" into any shape or configuration desired, making them a favorite of designers such as Kurtz. Granite, while still the most popular option for countertops, must be purchased in an entire slab, so there is always some waste when it is cut to the correct size and shape. With concrete, Pointer notes, you are only buying exactly what is needed. And the end result is truly one-of-a-kind.
"Concrete countertops have an earthiness to them," says Pointer. "People want to touch them. It's a very natural finish."
As for durability, they can be nearly identical to granite. You can place a hot pot on them, and they are highly stain-resistant. With concrete countertops there is a bit more labor involved, so they tend to run around $75-$95 per square foot installed.
Because she was so pleased with the results in her own home, Kurtz has been recommending the concrete option to many of her design clients as well.
"I'm really getting into more custom made concrete furniture — buying a metal base and putting a concrete top on it. You can design almost anything you want, and I love that you can personalize with embedded objects," she says.