Jul 5, 2017

Kitchen Makeover : Project Kitchen Pt 1

It has been 12 years since we moved into our apartment/condo, and when we moved in we fitted our kitchen with the standard particle board kitchen units because they were inexpensive and quick to install. I remember my contractor telling me that the kitchen would last us about 10 years and it will be time to change. Well, it lasted for 12 :) And I must add that the top cabinets are still in pristine condition, not so much the floor cabinets especially around the sink area. So last month I decided to change our floor cabinets, but I wanted something different and I also didn't have a lot of money to spend. Luckily I only have 3 cabinets to change.

I decided to go with the industrial look. I've always wanted concrete countertops and I love anything to do with metal and mesh. So I seeked out a welder and designed 3 cabinets for him to make. But first I had to gut the old units and dang ... it was gross.

Altho the cabinets still looked pretty ok on the front, but I can feel the sink collapsing more each time I used it, and I was right. When we removed the sink, the countertop was moldy all round. And with a light tug, the whole cabinet shell fell apart! And I had to clean up all this gunk behind the sink! EWWWWW!!
The welders came with my new industrial cabinets and installed them in a day. These guys make a lot of the standard gates and grills for houses, but seldom have the opportunity to make the more creative stuff.

DMD Maju Welders

I took the chance and gave them my drawings and the result was fabulous! I was utterly delighted with the units! I love the mesh and black metal. Some people may be worried about dust, but being high up, we are relatively dust free in the apartment.

I had 1 inch plywood placed on the top of the cabinets because I have further plans for them. I was going to embark on a quest of pouring my own concrete countertops! But before that, I bought myself a jigsaw and constructed 3 crate-inspired drawers.

I got hold of some pinewood and began constructing my crate-inspired drawers. The jigsaw really helped a lot. I don't think I could have survived sawing all these wood by hand!

I made 3 of these, 2 large 1 small and added a piece of plywood for the base. I also image transferred some numbers onto the front to give them the industrial vintage twist. All in all I was delighted with the results!

Next up will be my biggest DIY endeavor. I researched for months on Youtube on how to make your own concrete countertops. I've learned a lot. I think with the amount of videos I've watched, I can pour concrete sleeping. But I've also learned that in Malaysia, there is no such thing as concrete premixes like Quikrete and the likes, no tools like X-forms to make your concrete work easier, no additives and no placticizers for better flow, no pigments for creative colors, no glass fibre for strength ... zlitch, none, nada.

What we do have are cement, sand and gravel in their original form and as such we still make concrete like our grandfathers did. WOW!

Well ... that didn't deter me. I shall make concrete like the men before me!!
And so I began with buying all the basic materials needed for concrete. I found an online shop called ATKC eHardware. I was in cloud nine! I never imagined that we have something like this here. This place is brilliant. I bought these online midnight and in less than 48 hours all of these stuff were delivered to my apartment on the 8th floor for free!

There are 2 main ways to pour a concrete countertop. You can set up everything and pour it on site, or you can make forms (like molds) and make concrete slabs to be then transferred onto the cabinetry. I opted for the latter. I also decided on the 1:1:2 alternating with the 1:1:1.5 ratio for the concrete mix. 1 Cement : 1 Sand : 2 Gravel. Although I have been reading everywhere that the basic concrete mix is 1:2:3, it was impossible for me to mix at this ratio, perhaps because my slab was not thick enough or the gravel we have here is bigger than what it's suppose to be.

Step 1 is to make the forms.

As the photo shows, first I had to make the templates according to the area I wanted the slab to be, in my case they are the cabinet tops. I made the templates with some art boards. And then I placed the templates onto a block board (or you can use melamine, but they aren't easily available here). Notice that I placed the templates on their flip side. This is because the under surface will become the top of the slab later. The block board is used so that the final surface of the concrete will come out smooth.

And then I constructed the forms with wood. Ideally it would have been better to use the same material as the base (block board) but I didn't have a saw that can cut long lengths of straight lines. So I opted for the simpler method of purchasing some planks and using them for the sides. These planks are 1 and 3/4 inch thick, as such the thickness of my slabs will be 1 and 3/4 inch.

After I'm satisfied with the wooden forms, I tried on the precut 10mm rebars. And then it's time to stabilize the form. The wood is screwed together but the whole form is secured onto the block board, on the outside, with the use of a glue gun. And on the inside a line of silicone seals the joining edges. The silicone will also create a round edge for the concrete slab.

Step 2 is mixing the concrete ... old school

I think the photo says it all. Might I add that my arms were aching like hell that night. It's like I've been lifting weights!

To get rid of the trapped air bubbles, I tried to tap on the side of the forms with a rubber mallet, but I had a bit of trouble there because at one point the forms were in danger of lifting off the block board. So I stopped and you will see that I had quite a few bugholes as a result of trapped air bubbles.

And then it is the waiting phase. I misted the concrete constantly for 2 days. The plastic cover is to keep the concrete wet as much as possible. Concrete needs water to cure. Water becomes the catalyst for the cement to form crystals and bond with the other aggregates in the mix. I learned so much in the research process! 

I allowed the concrete to stay in its form for the first 2 days and I removed the wood. And then I continue to let it sit for another 3 days before flipping it over and lifting it to its place.

The wooden sidings left some stains on the sides of the slab but after some sanding the stains were not noticeable any more. You can see that there are quite a bit of bugholes on the sides as a result of not being able to release the trapped air when the concrete was wet.

After 5 days of just staring at the slab, I am finally able to convince a couple of muscular men (my husband and my brother) to help me flip the slab and set it in it on the cabinet.

The slab turned out really smooth and shiny due to the block board's smooth surface. I also put some expired coconut oil as mold release. Perhaps that helped too!Needed no polishing.

Can you see the bugholes? In fact I really liked the look of them and was contemplating to keep them. But my practical self said that food would be caught in the holes and that would be BAD! So I sighed and made up some cement slurry (watery cement) and proceeded to fill the holes up. ALtho ... I did leave some holes on the sides on the slab ;)

And the final result!!
My first concrete slab! 
1 down 2 to go ...

This is my 2nd slab, just poured last night.
But this will be a story for Part 2 :)


  1. Impressive. You never stop amazing me.
    Linda King

  2. I am amazed you did all this on the eighth floor of an apartment building. I think you could rule the world. 😊👏

  3. Impressive!! WOW!! All on the 8th floor!! Love all your projects! Seen the deck post on Hometalk so had to look further!!

  4. Awesome! Your blog exactly tells what I need to know.. Have you ever source for premix cement by googling them? I have randomly Google 'premix cement' and apparently there are online merchant selling them, of course not as low as RM18 as what you bought but the price ranging from RM25 to 100 depending the packaging sizes.

    1. hi Francis :) Glad you found this informative! I did google for premixes but all I found were imported ones and they were really expensive. Couldn't afford them then. Also shipping would be another big cost. Maybe after a year there are more reasonably priced ones now.

      I did not do anything specific to hold the cement slab. They really are very heavy and have not moved a cm since I placed them on. But I reckon you can add some silicone or liquid nails for a better grip underneath.


thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post :) it makes my day!!
Luthien :)