15 November 2013

Kitchen planning: countertops

In a world where I don't have to worry about things as bourgeois as money, my ideal countertop would be soapstone. It's matte, silky smooth, heat-tolerant, chemically non-reactive, and positively gorgeous. But we're not quite in that world, so the dollar signs matter.

I got the idea to use the slate from an old pool table while perusing Craigslist one evening. I saw pool tables being offered for $100-150 each. Since slate has a lot of the same properties as soapstone, I was intrigued at the idea of getting the soapstone look for a fraction of the price. A few searches later, I discovered that I was not the first to have thought of this idea. Here are a couple of reclaimed pool tables used as countertops:

I'd probably need about 3 pool tables for my kitchen countertops, but I was worried about matching colors. Pool table slate can come in gray, green, purple, or black, and there's no way to know what you're getting unless the felt is already off the table. And relying on a Craigslist photo for an accurate color depiction? Yeah, right.

But then I saw old chalkboard slate being offered for $25 each for a 4'x5' board and the frugal hamsters in my brain started on their wheels. Thanks to Google, I was able to find a couple of examples of people repurposing chalkboards for countertops, too. Basically they treated the chalkboards as giant tiles, mortaring them to a cement-board substrate. The picture isn't great, but this was a DIY installation:

This one looks to be a professional installation, but the countertops still began as chalkboards:

Less than $100 for countertops sounded pretty appealing. But then a miracle happened. I found an auction for a school that is being demolished. They were auctioning off the contents of entire rooms at a time. And as luck would have it, those classrooms had giant expanses of chalkboard.

There's an additional chalkboard not pictured that is included

I took a gamble that it was slate and not a modern chalkboard substitute. I bid - and won! - an auction for about 40 linear feet of chalkboard. For less than $50. Yes, fabrication will take time and a little more money (since the chalkboard will have to rest on cement board and not the cabinets directly), but it's DIY-able and I think it will be worth the hassle. (Did I mention that these chalkboards are still attached to the classroom walls, and we are responsible for their removal? More on that later!) And since I'm getting way more material than I can use in my kitchen, there's always the possibility of recouping some of that money on Craigslist.

The main concern is, of course, how it will perform as a countertop. There isn't a whole lot of information about the long-term longevity of thin sheets of slate in that situation (though thicker slate slabs have been used as worktops for centuries), so it's a little bit of a gamble. The owner of that DIY installation above says that she still loves her counters two years later, so there's hope. Even if they only last 5 years, that still gives us five years to save for the soapstone I really want.

Exit question: I already know I'm off my rocker. The question is, how far?

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