How to Make a Concrete Coffee Table

Concrete tables will transform your home and add a high end look to any room. In this article I will show you the process of creating a concrete table with an old world look. To get this effect, I use a trowel finish technique and acid stains to color the concrete.

In this tutorial I will explain how the concrete top is made. The wood base for the top is made out of pine and I made it similar to the coffee table tutorial on the site. The big difference is that 4×4’s are used in this project and the size is much larger.

Tools Needed:

Orbital Sander – Dewalt makes a great orbital sander for around $50.
Drill – I use a Dewalt Drill
Circular Saw
Table Saw – Optional (can use a circular saw instead)
Concrete Trowel 
Flathead screwdriver or chisel
Sanding Block with 100 Grit sandpaper (or a diamond pad).
Small Shovel (To mix Concrete)
Bolt Cutters (To cut wire re-enforcement)


  • 3 to 4 bags of concrete (depending on size of table) – I use a 5000 PSI mix made by Quikrete which is commonly available at Lowes ($5/bag).
  • Portland cement – You may have to buy a full bag for $10.00. It will last for a long time as you only need a pint or so per table.
  • Wire Mesh – Pictured to right of concrete  (Available in 4×8 Sheets) – $8.00 – You can also use Diamond Mesh
  • Melamine wood or plywood – (Cut to the size you want your table. You’ll cut strips to use on the sides of the mold as well. Available in 4×8 Sheets or smaller project size pieces.
  • Concrete Bonder – Optional for using to mix with the portland cement slurry (can also use water)
  • Rubber gloves
  • A couple plastic cups to mix cement paste
  • Tub to Mix Concrete in – (You can also use a big 5 gallon bucket)
  • 1 5/8″ Drywall Screws to attach sides of mold
  • 120 and 220 grit sandpaper for orbital sander

Let’s get started!

1. Determine the size of table you’d like to make.

The table top Dustin and I made was 48 inches by 36 inches. The concrete thickness is 1.5 inches and the overall height of the table with the base is 18 inches.

2. Cut the bottom of the mold out of melamine or plywood.

This piece should be the exact width and length you’d like the concrete table to be. After cutting the base you’ll need to cut the strips. For a 1.5 inch thick top the strips will need to be 2 1/4 inches tall. This accommodates for the 3/4 inch base.

Concrete table3. Assemble the sidewalls to the mold

Attach the sidewalls using 1 5/8 inch drywall screws. Pre-drill to ensure the wood does not split. Use screws about every 6-8 inches.

how to make concrete table moldsI used 3/4 inch melamine for the base and 3/4 inch plywood for the sidewalls. You can use any type of 3/4 inch plywood when doing a trowel finish on the concrete top. I’d recommend using all melamine when building a concrete top using the reverse cast technique. Check out my reverse cast table top video here.

Pour in place concrete counter mold4. Cut Re-enforcement to size

Use a bolt cutters to cut the re-enforcement down to size. You can buy 4×8 sheets of re-enforcement at Home Depot for about $9. Cut the re-enforcement about 2 inches shorter than the overall dimensions of the mold. Since my concrete mold is 48 x 36 I cut the re-enforcment to 46 x 34. This ensures you will not have metal sticking out of your finished piece.

Re-enforcement for concrete table5. Mix up the concrete!

Mix your concrete in a large plastic tub. Mix the concrete to about a peanut butter consistency. Simply add water to the mix as noted in the manufacturers instructions. If the mix gets to runny you can always add more concrete to dry it out. I mix a max of two bags at a time.

*If you are wanting to integrally color the concrete, now is the time. Quikrete stocks a few standard colors at the box stores. You can also find many more colors available from Cheng Concrete. I used acid stains to color the concrete after the table cured. (Instructions below)

6. Fill the mold

Add concrete to the mold. An ice cream bucket works great for this process.

pour-in-place-concrete-tableWhen creating a concrete table using the “pour in place” / right side up technique you’ll want to fill it up about half way full or a little less than halfway full before adding the re-enforcement. Pack the concrete into all corners using your hands.

diy-pete-concrete-table7. Add the re-enforcement

Place the re-enforcement in the mold. Make sure it is centered and flat so metal does not stick out of your finished piece. You’ll also want to place it in the concrete when the mold is half filled to prevent shadowing from occurring.

re-enforcement-concrete-table8. Fill the mold and then screed

Continue packing concrete into the mold until it is about level with the top. Then use a 2×4 to level off or screed the concrete. Move it back and forth in a saw like motion. Do this multiple times until the concrete is perfectly level. Fill in low spots as needed.

Screed  Concrete9. Vibrate the concrete

Vibrating the concrete will release many of the air bubbles. One method of doing so is to shake the table rapidly for a few minutes. I’d also recommend using a rubber mallet to tap the sides of the mold. The tapping action will remove additional air pockets. You could run an orbital sander around the perimeter as well and use the vibration in the tool to knock air bubbles out.

screed-concrete-counter10. Smooth the Concrete

Use a trowel to smooth out the concrete. You could also use a float to help bring more of the concrete cream (portland cement) to the top.

trowel-concrete-counter11. Let the concrete sit

Let the concrete cure for an hour or so before you start troweling. The time really varies depending on the temperature and humidity. You’ll know the concrete is firm enough to do your first round of troweling when you can touch the concrete and no concrete stays on your finger. I typically trowel the concrete at this time.

Pour in place concrete counter tutorialUse a steel trowel to “hard trowel the concrete.” I wanted to have a lot of texture and trowel marks and so I simply troweled it the one time. If you want it to be really smooth you can do 2 to 4 rounds of troweling. Getting really good at hard troweling does take a lot of practice. The technique I used is much simpler because you only need to trowel once and we are not going for a super smooth top. I simply wanted a trowel texture.

trowel-concrete-table12. Let the Concrete Cure

Let the concrete cure for at least 48 hours. You can then remove the concrete from the mold. My buddy Dustin is removing the screws from the mold to release the sidewalls. They will pop off pretty easily. If they are a little tough to get off you can always use a chisel or flathead screwdriver to help out. Make sure to never pry against the concrete though. Pry against the wood.

Removing concrete mold13. Lightly sand the concrete

Use 120 or 220 grit sandpaper to remove the rough edges from the table. I also lightly sanded the top surface using 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the table out a bit.

How to sand a concrete table14.  Flip

Find someone to help you remove the base of the mold. Put some padding on the ground (a couple towels will work) and slowly rotate the counter to a vertical position. The mold will pop off. Slowly lower the concrete back to the ground. Provide plenty of support by evenly dispersing the weight between you and the helper when lowering back to the ground. After lowering, sand any rough edges you have not gotten yet.

Concrete table mold15. Fill in side air pockets

Mix portland cement with either water or a bonding adhesive to a putty like consistency.

mixing-concrete-counter-slurryRub the slurry mixture into the bug holes (air pockets). Then let the mixture dry for a few hours.

Filling air holes in concrete counter16. Sand

Use an orbital sander to sand and smooth out the edges. It will smooth out the slurry you added.

sanding-concrete-table-diy-peteI don’t like to remove all the slurry because I think it adds a real rustic touch to the finished piece. The stain takes differently and gives it an antique look.

concrete-table-sanding17. Gather and mix up acid stain

The acid stain I used for this project is from Quikrete. I’d like to thank Chad from Quikrete for supplying all the acid staining products for this project. I used their English Red and Coffee etching stains. Quikrete stains can be found in select Lowe’s and Home Depots across the country. However, many do not stock it and I couldn’t find a link online. So, one other option is to order a brand from Home Depot online. Stains are available on Amazon as well. Local concrete supply and decorative concrete stores also usually carry acid/reactive stains.

concrete-acid-stain-concrete-table18. Dampen the concrete with water

Pour some water over the entire surface prior to staining. The entire surface should be damp but not have puddles. The water will help the stain disperse more evenly and be forgiving in case you get drip marks etc on the concrete.

acid-staining-concrete-table19. Stain the concrete!

Fill acid resistant plastic spray bottles with the stain. You may want to dilute the stain with water according to the manufacturers directions. I put english red stain in one bottle and a coffee colored stain in the other. It is a good idea to do this in a well ventilated area and to wear gloves and a respirator during the process. I was trying to run the cameras which is why I a was not wearing the protective gear temporarily. I’d also recommend placing a tarp under the concrete to protect your grass or driveway. I had a nice brown ring in my grass for the next few weeks because I did not use a tarp 🙂 Woops!!

how-to-acid-stain-concrete-countersApply stain until you get the desired look you are going for. To highlight areas with a certain color simply spray more of a color. The acid stain reacts with the limestone in the concrete and slowly turns the color of the concrete top.

concrete-table-acid-stainedAfter applying the stain you’ll want to let the stain set for 8 hours or more. This allows it to penetrate into the surface about an 1/8 of an inch. The photo below shows what the stain looked like after completely drying.

how-to-acid-stain-a-concrete-table20. Neutralize the acid stain

Fill a bucket with water and either baking soda or ammonia. Pour the neutralizing mixture on the concrete. This will stop all reactions from continuing.

how-to-acid-stain-concrete-and-neutralize Lightly use a towel or mop to remove leftover residue from the table top. Then rinse one more time with water.

how-to-acid-stain-a-concrete-counter21. Seal the concrete

We used an acrylic based concrete sealer from Quikrete to protect and enhance the colors of the acid stained concrete table. It goes on looking somewhat milky, but will dry clear and look great. Dustin applied 3 thin coats of the concrete sealer.

sealing-a-concrete-counter22. The table base

I’ve built a number of bases out of wood and or steel. Dustin and I built this base out of pine and then stained it using provincial colored stain from MinWax. He based the table base off one of Ana Whites coffee table plans. However, the table base is beefed up with 4×4’s for the legs and is much larger. I have a video and tutorial showing how I made a similar coffee table using Ana’s plans here.

concrete-table-base23. Attach the base to the concrete top

There are a few different methods you can use to attach the concrete to your table. The concrete does weigh about 12 to 15 pounds per square foot so it is heavy and comparable in weight to granite. I do not like to permanently attach concrete tops in case you need to move the furniture. Having the ability to easily remove the top and handle the base and top separately is convenient.

You could use construction adhesive to secure the top to the base, but it is a more permanent option and is hard to remove. Silicon will keep the concrete in place and is simple to pull up to remove. However, it will all have to be scraped off if you remove the top and then decide to re-attach it.

I like to attach wood blocks to the underside. I attach the blocks using construction adhesive.

how-to-attach-concrete-to-a-table-baseNext, place the blocks inside the perimeter of the base. The photo below is of a metal base I made, but the same block process can be used on a wood base as well. The blocks will prevent the concrete from sliding around. I commonly rest my legs on the table when relaxing or watching tv. With the blocks in place the concrete will not move around. The blocks also allow the top to be removed easily for moving the furniture.

how-to-attach-a-concrete-top-to-a-base24. Enjoy your old world style rustic concrete coffee table!

how-to-acide-stain-a-concrete-tableThanks so much for checking out this tutorial. I hope it inspires you to build your own concrete table! If you are interested in learning about the reverse cast technique please check out my other concrete table tutorial. I also have a video and tutorial showing how to embed a metal logo in concrete which can be found here.

For more information about building concrete counters or tables I’d highly recommend books by both Buddy Rhodes and Fu-Tung Cheng. They are experts in concrete projects.

In a future post I will talk about other finishing methods. Below is a photo of what a table looks like if you grind it using a wet polisher and exposing the aggregate (rocks/sand). It can be a neat effect as well, but requires a special polisher found here.

polished-concrete-exposed-aggregatePlease ask questions and comment below! If you enjoyed this tutorial subscribe to my Youtube channel and connect on Facebook for all the latest updates.

  • Shanthi Bala

    Greetings from Toronto. Thanks to your blog and videos, I was able to create my coffee table. Pics enclosed.


      I hope all is well up in Toronto! You did a great job Shanthi, THANK YOU for sharing!

    • Jennifer Wiscovich

      This table looks great with pipes. How did you secure pipes to concrete table?

      • Shanthi

        Thanks Jennifer. I used 1/2″ plywood as base, painted it grey and secured the flanges to it.

        • DIYPETE

          Love it!

  • Matt

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for your great instructions. I recently removed my concrete table top from the mold and there are a number of bug holes (see attached photo), especially along the border. I actually like the way it looks with the holes so rather than filling them in, I sanded it down and it’s quite smooth. The top (made by a reverse cast technique) has a very smooth texture which is different than the sides which are a bit more rough and have an exposed slurry appearance. Again, I like the contrast.

    My question is whether it is ok to seal the top/sides without filling in the bug holes? Will it seal properly? Any recs on particular sealers to be used that will NOT add a glossy finish? I didn’t stain like the natural look of the concrete, though if it darkened a little with the sealer I’d be ok with that.

    This is my first project and I owe it to you for making such great step-wise instructions. Thanks again!


  • Lorenzo

    I wanted to say thank you for posting such a detailed diy. I was able to use it to make a coffee table for my living room. For the most part I followed your tutorial steps. After a few pours I found it a bit easier to work with the concrete if I added a little bit more water than called for in the instructions. I know this could affect the structural integrity but it’s a coffee table not a bridge. I also skipped the acid staining process because we were going g for a natural look. Here is a link to some pictures I took during the process and the final product:

    I used construction adhesive to glue the smaller slabs to the wooden frame. The top is heavy enough that once we had the base placed in the room where we wanted it we just set the top in place and it doesn’t budge.

    Thanks again for these tutorials, without them I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish this project.

    • Great job Lorenzo and thanks for sharing the project photos! Congrats on the build and keep it up! Cheers – Pete

  • undeadarsenal

    We are in the middle of a coffee table project right now and we just finished flipping and waiting for it to finish drying (we are in FL so humidity is extending the time). We ran into a pretty big problem of having all the aggregate at the top of our table and couldn’t figure out how to pull more of the portland part to the top. Any suggestions on how to accomplish this? We are going to end up using the bottom since there’s no aggregate showing. Thanks in advance though since this will help when we do our dining room table.

    • Thanks for the message. I’m sure you are probably done with your table by now, but if not let me know. Sounds like the mix most likely went down more dry then you’d have liked. Did it get vibrated much? As long as the part against the mold (your original top) — is flat — you can actually fill in all the voids and veins with slurry (same or contrasting color) — and it can have some really neat effects. (google Concrete counter veined technique) -to see some possibilities. So that could work if you’d like. Or simply using the bottom side will work as well. What concrete mix did you use? Hopefully with a little more knowledge of what was used and techniques I can let ya know what to do a bit differently on the dining table project coming up. Cheers – Pete

      • Jeremy

        Hey im from montreal canada and looking to build a concrete table , just wondering what grade cement and sealer i should use as i dont think they have quikeret here.

        • Hi Jeremy!

          Great question. I’d recommend an acrylic / water-based concrete sealer and thinning it a bit with more water to do multiple thin coats. As for concrete — if there is not a high strength Quikrete or Sakrete 5000 type product you could make your own. Here is a pretty standard mix for tables:

          1 Part Cement (the binder)
          2 Parts Rock (aggregate – not to big though – pea gravel)
          3 Parts Sand

          You can add reducers, plasticizers, or fibers (all additives) — if you’d like. But the above recipe will work fine for a basic table.

          • Jeremy

            Thanks for the quick reply you must be busy these days, just another quick question are these tables temperature resistant. It gets very cold up here and very hot, and my intention is to use the table as a out door patio table with wood stand and because of its weight i would have to keave it outside any ideas?

            • Hey Jeremy! The concrete does real well outdoors. I have built these tables and many of them are in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. We have hot summers (90’s sometimes past 100’s (Farhrenheit) — In the winter temperatures down to -20 F. So quite a variation in temperatures. The Concrete LED patio table I built has been up at a mountain home the past year and a half. It’s been covered with feet of snow and been outside all the time. Concrete works well for outdoor applications. I think your table will do well outside!

              • undeadarsenal

                Thanks for the response. What I ended up doing was using the slurry mix like you suggested but instead of using it to just fill in the bug holes I created several “mountain ranges”. I then used an orbital sander to level all of those out turning the original top into recessed areas. Also when I put the acid stain on I had the slab on an decline to get the acid to have a river/flow look. We ended up using 3 colors: rustic, patina, and aquamarine. Thank you so much for the tutorials. With the success of this table we are moving on to a dining room table and a counter with a sink for the bathroom. If you have any suggestions on working with areas that will get wet often and extremely heavy applications it would be greatly appreciated. I did get the books you recommended and they have been helpful as well.


                • I seriously love how your table turned out Patrick! It almost looks like metal from the photo that has been patina’d. SO COOL. The layered past is cool too. What brand of stains did you use for this project? — As for sealers — Cheng makes a pretty good sealer for high traffic areas like kitchens. Cheers

                  • undeadarsenal

                    I used the brand that Home Depot carries on their website. I think its called Eagle something or another. I just ordered their “onyx” color and am hoping to create a storm cloud look on the counter for our bathroom. I’ll have to take a look at Cheng’s sealer since this counter top will have a sink I’m slightly nervous of maybe the constant water will impact the stain. Maybe thats just my ignorance talking though lol.

                    • Cheng has some sealers meant for high traffic areas and I’ve had good luck with them. I’ve also used an acrylic sealer from quickrete which I dilute with water and do about 6 thin coats. I’ve used this on bathroom vanities and it’s repelled water real well.

  • Melissa Fotheringham

    Hi Pete,

    We are making this “table” as the top for our hearth. We have come across some products that say you must wait a MINIMUM of 28 days before staining. We didn’t find any information to that effect on your site. We are using all the same products and colors because we love your end result.

    Is there a required wait time to stain the concrete? I am thinking that the earlier you stain the more intense the color/reaction.

    Also, we saw your hearth in the concrete furniture ideas section, but didn’t see any instructions. Do we need to worry about heat resistant sealers?

    • Hi Melissa! I think I responded to you on a FB message but if you have any other questions let me know! You don’t need to wait the 28 days to do the acid stain on a table. I always stain a couple days after it is removed from the mold. No issues and they turn out great. — As for heat resistant sealers — I have not used any. Just regular acrylic concrete sealers are what I’ve always used. Good luck!

  • LA

    Hi, Pete

    Thank you for posting this. About how long from start to finish would you say this takes? Could I do this on a weekend? BTW, great job! Thanks, again…Lou

    • Hey Lou! I’d call it a two weekend project because of the time for the concrete to cure. You can easily do the concrete mold and pour on the first day. Then let it sit for a few days to cure. On day 4 or so go ahead and stain it. In the meantime you could be building the base as well. So I’d say 2 weekends is what I’d budget time for. Let me know how it goes and thanks so much for the kind words. Good luck! – Pete

  • Cecilia Yadid

    Hi Pete,

    Thank you for the step by step process. So I have an interesting idea. I want to do a half concrete and half wood table. The concrete will line around the wood table. Much like this link … or the picture attached.

    But as you can see, the top attachments are NOT clean. I want it to be as clean as possible. So would you recommend to attach the concrete to the wood in a cleaner way?
    Thank you so much. Cecilia 🙂

    • Hi Cecilia! First off, that is really a neat idea. I tried something similar a while back and did a slab where the wood was milled down to 3/4 inches thick and simply embedded in the center of a 2 inch thick slab. It turned out pretty neat. However, I do like how the slabs are 2 individual ones. One idea for achieving the clean look you are going for might be to use metal plates underneath that span the width of the table. A rigid and strong piece of metal could hold things together. You might also look at drilling holes a ways into each side of the wood and then inserting a large lag bolt or a piece of rebar into it with half sticking out that could be embedded in the concrete. Hard to explain and I’ve never tried any of these ideas. I’d recommend doing a couple small pieces to test ideas and see ways that might work well. I’d love to hear what you find out! – Pete

  • Rob Penner

    Very nice! Is 1.5″ minimum for thickness? What are the pitfalls for a 1″ thick top?

    • Hey Rob! Thanks! 1.5 is the thickness I generally go, and the minimum really would depend on what I’m making and the overall size. What are you thinking about doing? A big thing is shadowing from the re-enforcement etc. If I was doing thinner (I have done an inch before) — I’d use the diamond mesh re-enforcement (it is basically stucco mesh). Give it plenty of time to cure and just be careful when flipping to make sure the weight is distributed evenly. I’ve done 1 inch projects without a hitch though. (You can always use a mix with fibers mixed in to help add additional strength.)