DIY Lightweight Cement Side Tables

DIY cement side tablesAfter working on the concrete counter tops in our HFHS project house, we were itching to get a little more of that beautiful concrete finish in the space. We thought it might be fun to try to create a few simple, concrete side tables that could be used in the living room or bedrooms. We quickly realized that pouring that amount of concrete could get fairly costly, quick. Plus the side tables would likely end up very heavy. If you don't want to move them around much, then this might be a good thing, but if you'd like to easily move them yourself, it could become problematic. Thinking through this project idea I had a light-bulb moment.

DIY cement side tables What if I tried using the same skim coating technique as we did on the counter tops? Could I create a different shape this way? And it worked even better than we were hoping! So of course, we had to share the results with you all in case you'd like to make something similar or use this technique for a different kind of project.

Here are the supplies needed to make one side table the same size as ours.

SuppliesNote that you can scale this up our down to your liking. Our tables cost less than $50 to make and the shape options are virtually limitless! 

-4' x 8' x 1" insulation foam board (about $15)
-box of HENRY 549 FeatherFinish (about $15)
-can of 3M Super 77 (about $7 online)
-hand saw
-sandpaper (grits ranging from 36 to 120)
-different size trowels
-disposable paint buckets (pack of five is around $3)
-couple of measuring cups
-utility knife
-straight edge
-sander (optional)
-dust mask

Step one: Cut down the foam board. From the 4 by 8 sheet, you can get 18, 16" x 16" squares. The easiest way to cut the board is to measure, mark, then score using a straight edge. After you score the foam, it'll snap cleanly. Once all the squares are cut and stacked, you'll have a cube that's 16"x16"x18".

Foam center for side tableStep two: It's time to get tacky. Super 77 is perfect for this. You'll probably want to do this part outside. Wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt if it's breezy. It can get become a sticky situation. Take the first square, spray an even coat over one entire side. Take a second square and repeat. Wait about 15 seconds, then carefully press the two sprayed sides together, making sure that all the edges line up. Now spray one side of the combined squares and one side of another square. Wait 15 seconds and press the sides together. You're going to repeat this until you've bonded all the squares together. Take your time, make sure all the edges line up. After every three or four squares, I pressed down on the cube with my whole body weight to ensure a good bond. Once you have all of the squares bonded together, wait about 30 minutes before proceeding to Step 3.

Carve the foamStep three: Now for the fun part…shaping the foam. Since this was experimental, I went with a simple tapered cylinder shape. You can do any shape you want, even leave it as a block. Cutting and shaping the foam is easy and fun (and a bit messy). Mark out a rough outline with a Sharpie, and start cutting with your hand saw. Sawing will leave the foam rough and gnarly looking, but don't worry! After you have the shape cut out, it's time to sand. Using the 36 grit will smooth things out quickly. Once you have the overall shape sanded, move to a higher grit and smooth the foam out even more. Don't worry about getting it super smooth, the rough texture is good for bonding the feather finish. At this point you'll want to clean up the waste and foam dust that is everywhere.

Carve and sand the foamStep four: Alright, we are getting somewhere! The foam is shaped and sanded. it's time to apply the cement. Follow the directions for mixing. For the size I worked with, very little was needed per coat. I would only mix about 8oz of water (which calls for 16oz of powder). The first coat is going to fill voids and texture in the foam. Apply a thin coat over the entire foam shape. I found that starting on the side and getting that close to done, and then doing the top works best. Make sure to cover your work surface as this process can get messy. I placed the foam on an old bucket, making it easy to work all the way around. You only have about 20 minutes of working time, so be sure to have all your tools ready, and apply quickly, so you have time to smooth. If you've ever iced a cake, it's pretty similar to that. Depending on how smooth you want the surface dictates how much you'll have to play around with the coats. The smoother you get the surface before it dries, the less sanding you'll have to do! As soon as a coat dries, you can apply another. Each coat makes the surface smoother and smoother. I would apply four or five coats.

Skim coat the foamStep Five: After the last coat dries, you can call it done or get your sanding on. I wanted to achieve a glossy finish, at least for the top part. So I started sanding with about a 100 grit, using a sander, getting rid of nibs, nubs, and bumps. I moved on up, eventually using 2000 grit, which produced an almost mirror-like finish. It was awesome seeing the gray muted surface evolve into a reflective gloss surface! If you plan on sanding, wear a face mask, as dust will be flying, and your lungs don't like being coated with cement particles. Let's keep our lungs happy!

DIY cement side tables  I love that the finished product is durable and sturdy, yet weighs only a couple pounds. Next I'm wanting to experiment with different shapes! -Josh

Credits // Author: Josh Rhodes, Photography: Janae Hardy and Josh Rhodes. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.