We had an old apricot tree that died a few years ago that I finally got around to cutting down. I left the stump about 3 feet tall because I knew that I wanted to make some kind of table or chair from it. The tree was not quite as old as our home, so a bit less than a hundred years but huge for an apricot in this area. The stump was about four feet in circumference where I cut it off. The tree ended up being mostly hollow, but it was not a total loss. I flattened off the top as best I could with the chainsaw and then used my small electric planer to flatten a couple of high spots.
As I researched different types of tabletops, I quickly focused on concrete. It is very durable, a good thing since this table will be outside all of the time. Concrete can also be colored thru the use of tints and dyes added to the concrete when it is mixed. It can also be colored by using acid washes after the concrete is removed from the forms.
There are tons of websites and videos on Youtube that can help you find a design that you like. It was during this research that i found DIY Pete. This is a great web site and a Youtube channel with tons of information that was instrumental in helping me end up with a beautiful creation.
This really is an easy project to do over a weekend. You will only need a few basic tools.
- Skill Saw
- Drill with bit to pre-drill holes
- Measuring Tape
- Paper Towels
- 5 gallon bucket
- Paint Brush
You will need the following materials:
- Melamine – 4 x 8 sheet
- Concrete – one or two bags
- Concrete reinforcement wire
- Acid Stain
All of the materials can be purchased at your local big box or local hardware store. The sheet of melamine was plenty for me to make the forms for the table and for the two stools. You will also need something to cut the reinforcing wire to the correct shape. I used my angle grinder with a cutoff disc. A hacksaw would also work, but is slow.
The first step is to cut the melamine to the size for your tabletop. In the pictures below I will be showing the steps I used for the chair seats. I found the chairs I wanted to use at a yard sale. The tops were ok for use inside, but I wanted them for the metal frame. I removed the chair seats and used them to get my measurements to cut the melamine.
I made the decision to make the seats thicker than the originals, partly for the added stability and to have a bit more material for the wire to reinforce. Whatever thickness you use, don’t forget to add 3/4″ for the thickness of the melamine form.
Secure the sides of the form to the bottom of the seat form by first pre-drilling all of the holes. The melamine can sometimes split when you screw directly into it. Attach the sides, making sure to keep everything as flat as possible.
Use the paper towels to clean out the form. Apply the silicone caulk around the inside corners. You can use a caulk tool to smooth out any uneven spots or just use your finger. Be careful to clean up any spills in the form. Let the caulk set up while you mix up your concrete.
Follow the directions for your concrete. Add the water first to your 5 gallon bucket. This will help ensure that all of the concrete is fully mixed. Slowly add the concrete, mixing it until you have about 1/2 of a bucket. The concrete may seem a bit dry, but don’t add any water.
Pour about half of this mix into your form. If you haven’t done so already, put your gloves on. Press the wet concrete evenly around the form.
Cut your reinforcement wire to size. It should be an inch or two smaller on all sides when placed into the form. Press it lightly into the concrete. Pour the rest of your mixed concrete on top of the wire. Spread it around evenly. Use a scrap piece of wood to level your concrete in the form. When doing this, it is critical that your form is sitting level otherwise your concrete will flow to one side. Once everything is level, shake the form to vibrate any bubbles out of the wet concrete. If you used a drill to mix your concrete, you will be surprised how much air will rise out of it.
That is all for now. Let your form sit at least a day before you try to remove it.
It is always surprising to me how fast the concrete will begin to set up. After you have let it cure for a day or two, flip it carefully over. Start taking out the screws. Carefully pry the sides away. At this point the concrete will still be quite soft. If there are any blemishes or rough edges, use a sanding block to smooth things out.
I opted to stain the concrete with an acid stain instead of the dyes mixed into the concrete directly. For staining the concrete, you will definitely want to be outside and wear some old clothes, gloves and safety glasses. Wet the concrete with a cup or two of water. Apply the stain according to the directions supplied. For the stain that I used, I put it in a spray bottle to apply it. Pouring the stain into a smaller container and using a cheap paint brush also works fine. I used a couple of 2″ chip brushes from Harbor Freight to apply heavier coats in spots. Also, remember that this is an acid. Use the appropriate safety gear at all times.
When you first apply the stain, it will foam and fizz. The colors will not look at all like what you are expecting. Don’t worry, the final color will not appear until nearly the end. I found with this stain that I got a darker final color if I added a couple of additional coats of stain.
To rinse off the concrete I mixed a bucket of water and a small amount of ammonia to neutralize any remaining acid. I lightly brushed this mixture onto the surface. Follow the directions for whatever stain you end up using.
To seal the concrete I used a concrete sealer that I picked up at the local big box hardware store. Just brush on a couple of coats and let dry between applications.
For the table I did everything the same as for the seats. Although, for the umbrella hole, I sealed a small piece of pvc pipe in the center of the form. I hope you agree that the final result ended up quite nice. The table has been a great addition to our backyard.