DIY Concrete Desktop: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Concrete is one of the hottest materials right now in interior design. It’s used everywhere, including countertops and tabletops. If you love the contemporary look and industrial vibe of concrete but are a little intimidated about incorporating it into your space via DIY, this tutorial is for you.

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We transform an old wood desk into a contemporary workstation, complete with a (faux) concrete work surface. This is a fairly easy DIY project, and you’ll love the results.Ready to get started? Let’s do it.

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DIY Level: Intermediate!

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Materials Needed:

  • Ardex Feather Finish
  • Putty knife
  • Bucket (for mixing feather finish concrete)
  • Old rags
  • Concrete sealant

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Step 1: In a well-ventilated area (e.g., garage, outside, ventilated basement), place your desk on some drop cloths.Tip: If you are painting or treating other parts of the desk, do that before starting on the concrete desktop DIY.

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Step 2: Prepare surface by filling in significant holes, lightly sanding, and then cleaning the surface to be covered in feather finish.

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Step 3: Mix feather finish as per package instructions. Modify slightly the ratio of water to powder as needed to achieve a consistency somewhere between pudding and putty. Tip: You want the substance thick enough to stay in place but runny enough to be easily spread.

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Step 4: Starting with the sides of your desktop, spread the feather finish on in a thin, smooth layer. Although you don’t want huge chunks, don’t worry so much if it’s not exactly smooth at this point. You’ll sand it down before you apply more. Tip: Put a little extra concrete on the corners, wherever one plane meets another, because this is where most of the sanding happens. That tiny extra gives you some sanding wiggle room.

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Step 5: Continue with your putty knife to spread a thin, even layer across the entire surface. Because feather finish is fairly quick-drying, work in about one-foot square sections so as to get that section smooth and even before moving on. The exact smoothness is up to your preference; I wanted a definite feel of concrete, so I left in plenty of swipe marks.

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Step 6: Sand down the entire rough surface using a medium- to fine-grit sandpaper. Tip: While sanding will smooth out the surface tactically, it will not necessarily make the surface appear uniform. Putty knife marks and swipe lines will still show up, so make sure you’re happy with each coat visually while it’s still wet.

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Step 7: Let feather finish dry completely, at the very least 24 hours. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Reapply a second coat, keeping it thin and even as you fill in any existing gaps in the first coat. Tip: The wider the putty knife, the easier it is to smooth the feather finish.

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Step 8: Let this coat dry completely, another 24+ hours. Repeat the sanding and reapplication process for three to five layers. Tip: When doing a layer, do the entire surface. Even if half the desktop looks perfect after three layers but you want to touch up the other half, do the entire thing so it looks uniform. Each batch of feather finish will have its own tint that will be slightly varied from the others and would look odd on only half the surface.

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Step 9: When you’ve completed and sanded your feather finish layers, and they have dried thoroughly and completely, it’s time to seal the surface. Use a concrete sealant (available at hardware stores), and follow the application directions. Do at least two coats of sealant for a desktop; do more than that for a surface that will come into contact with water more often.

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Step 10: Let the sealant coats dry, and viola! Sit back and enjoy your new chic, contemporary desktop.

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Tip: Although the sealed concrete surface may appear rough in parts (depending upon your preferences and how you layered and sanded it), it will be perfectly smooth to the touch if you’ve sanded it well after each layer.

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The best part is: even if your computer itself is outdated…your desk won’t be!

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Doing a DIY concrete desktop really isn’t hard; it’s actually kind of a therapeutic project. Factor in plenty of drying time, though. Good luck! Happy concrete-surfacing!