This was my first time working with cement on such a big scale. I've done a few projects here and there with cement, but most of them were much smaller. And today, I'll share with you tips and tricks on how to make a cement tabletop.
I made this tabletop for the outdoor console table inspired by the Portside series from West Elm. That console table was in the making for over a month and was supposed to be revealed for the One Room Challenge. I renovated a porch for it and made an outdoor sofa inspired by the same series from West Elm. If you plan to make one for yourself, I wrote a very detailed tutorial with plans here.
I'm not going to lie; I was a bit intimidated to try this project. I've watched so many different YouTube videos on the subject, and there are many great tutorials out there! You can also watch my YouTube video to see how I did it. I tried to explain the best I could how to make this cement tabletop. Watch it and be the judge ;D
Ok, so you are brave enough to take on this project! They're a few steps and rules.
First, make sure that your mold is perfectly aligned. Second, make sure that your mold is perfectly aligned haha but let's start from the beginning.
- Mortar mix
- Galvanized steel stucco netting
- Mixing paddle
- cement trowel
- Melamine white panel ¾"
- Circular saw
1. Get the measurements ready for the tabletop. I left about ¼" from all the sides to ensure that the tabletop would fit the base.
2. Take a melamine panel and create a mold. I used a circular saw to cut the parts for it, but I think you could also use a table saw for it. You also need to figure out the thickness of your tabletop. Since the planks from the base covered mine, the thickness didn't really matter as I went for less - it ended up being 1".
Since the melanin board is ¾" then the strips that I cut were 1 ¾".
3. Put together a melamine mold using self-tapping screws. Make sure that it's even!!! This is probably the most important step. Use your level at all times from all sides!
4. Next step is to seal the edges of the mold. I got the cheapest silicone I could find and went with it on the inside edges. It would help if you did this to prevent cement from escaping and get nice clean edges in the end.
Make sure that you have all the materials ready before you mix cement. Once you do, you'll need to work fast. That being said, make sure that you cut the steel stucco netting to size before you pour cement.
5. When the mold is ready, it's time to mix cement. I chose mortar mix since it's very fast curing and could be done in 1 hour. The problem with it though it's too fast curing, lol
I was recording the video for YouTube, and as soon as I mixed cement with water, I realized that the battery on my camera was almost dead. I didn't want to start the process with the risk of not having a video of it. So I ran out to get a full battery for my camera. I didn't expect that 5 minutes would make mortar mix harden a bit. Oops. I had to work very fast after that.
It wasn't ruined but definitely wasn't as smooth as I'd hope.
Cement mix takes longer to cure so maybe consider that as an option.
6. Let's continue. Mix cement (mortar mix in my case) as per instructions. For the tabletop of my size, I used 22.5pb, which is exactly half of the 55 lb bag.
Reminder: ALWAYS wear a mask while working with cement to protect your lungs!!!
Use the mixing paddle to mix cement. I remember my first cement project last year when I hand mixed cement 🙈 that wasn't fun! So do yourself a favor and get this tool!
I poured cement in two batches. The first was the base, and then I put chicken wire on top. I mixed cement again and poured it over the wire. In this case, the wire is in the middle and wasn't popping out.
7. Take a piece of scrap wood and bring it over the top of the surface. It would take the extra cement off the table, and you won't have a bumpy bottom.
8. Use a trowel to smooth the surface. When it seems good enough, take your sander and tap with it on the edges. This way, all the bubbles that could be in the mold would evaporate. I still had bubbles on the top of my surface when it cured, but I kind of like that look.
Tip: if you end up having small holes and don't like it, mix a little cement batch and apply it on top of the surface. It won't be visible at all.
9. When you leveled cement, cover it with a plastic sheet to protect the moisture from escaping and creating a stronger bond, and let it be for as long as possible. I left it, unintentionally, for over a week!
10. When enough time has passed, detach the mold and uncover your beautiful creation! It took me a bit of an effort to disassemble the whole thing. I think the best way to take it apart would be to cut the silicone with a knife. I forgot about silicone, so the mold didn't want to cooperate for a while. But all good in the end! It turned out so beautiful! I don't even care about the bubbles. I embrace the imperfections!
If you want to know how to make the base for the console table, you can find it all here, including how the cement table top didn't fit at first and what I did to fix it.