Industrial farmhouse style desk with concrete top

Today’s post is about a cheap piece of particleboard furniture that I wanted to make over into an industrial farmhouse style desk.

Here’s what I started out with:

cheap particleboard desk before industrial farmhouse style desk makeover

And here’s what I ended up with:

black industrial farmhouse style desk with concrete desktop

Here’s a better view of the desktop, which is now concrete:

industrial farmhouse style desk with concrete top

I spent roughly $15 on paint, $20 on cement, and $15 on a new drawer slide. So for $50, I have (what looks like) a brand new industrial farmhouse style desk.

Chalk painting the desk

I used Rust-Oleum Chalked paint in Charcoal for the paint. I had to do three coats to get full coverage.

Here’s what the desk looked like after the first coat:

particleboard desk after first coat of chalk paint

It doesn’t look bad from a distance, but up close, it was another story.

closeup of desk after first coat of black chalk paint

Here’s the same corner of the desk after the second coat of paint:

closeup of desk after second coat of black chalk paint

Better, but still far from perfect.

Making the concrete desktop

Before I put a third coat of paint on, I decided to apply the cement skim coat to the desktop (since I knew I was probably going to have to touch up the paint afterwards anyway). I used TEC PerfectFinish Skim Coat for the job.

TEC PerfectFinish Skim Coat

Technically, this stuff is meant for patching and repairing subfloors, but I’ve seen other bloggers use similar products for concrete countertops (and I’ve used it on craft projects), so I was reasonably confident I could make it work for my desktop.

Here’s what the product looks like straight out of the bag:

TEC PerfectFinish Skim Coat powder in a blue coffee can

To turn it into cement, you add one part water to two parts powder and mix it with a paint stick.

cement skim coat after the powder was mixed with water

I spread the cement on the desktop with a plastic spatula — which turned out to be a mistake. I used a metal spatula when I did the second coat, and the metal spatula did a much better job.

applying the cement skim coat with a plastic spatula

Here’s what the desktop looked like after I had the first coat smoothed out, to the best of the plastic spatula’s ability:

industrial farmhouse style desk after the first coat of cement had been applied to the desktop

And here’s what the desktop looked like when the cement was dry:

closeup of ridges in the concrete desktop

Yikes. I get twitchy just looking at that photo. The plastic spatula left lots of ridges that didn’t seem all that noticeable when the cement was wet but were really apparent after it dried. I also managed to get quite a bit of cement onto the painted parts of the desk. Grrr.

To remove the ridges and shave down a couple of high spots in the concrete, I sanded it with 80 grit sandpaper.

sanding off the high spots and ridges on the concrete desktop

Second coat of cement

Sadly, after I was done sanding, the desktop looked worse than it did before. The sander successfully flattened out the high spots and ridges, but it left the concrete with a lot of pronounced color striations that I didn’t like.

To cover the striations, I applied a second coat of cement. Below, you can see my application “technique” — which involved plopping glops of cement across the surface of the desktop and then spreading the glops out like I was frosting a cake.

applying a second coat of cement to the desktop

I freaked out a little at the start of every coat because I was always afraid the cement would dry before I had it smoothed out. Fortunately that never happened. I had about 10-15 minutes of working time with the cement, and that was more than sufficient.

applying a second coat of cement to the desktop

I could see the cement getting smoother with every pass of my spatula.

applying a second coat of cement to the desktop

Here’s what the desktop looked like right after I was done applying the second coat:

concrete desktop as the cement is starting to dry

And here’s what it looked like after I had gone outside to rinse my tools off with the hose and then came back in the house:

desktop with the cement partially dry during farmhouse industrial style desk makeover

You can see the color of the cement lightens up as it dries.

You can also see I made an even bigger mess on the painted part of the desk while applying the second coat. I ended up having to chip off a band of concrete that had dried on the bottom of the boards on the hutch portion of the desk.

closeup of the intersection of the desktop and hutch, where a band of concrete has been scraped off the wood

When the second coat of cement was completely dry, I gave the entire surface a light sanding.

farmhouse industrial style desk after second coat of concrete had been sanded

Then I applied a very thin third coat of cement, followed by a minimal amount of hand sanding.

Touchups and top coats

With the concrete top done, I went back to work on the paint. First off, I touched up the bottom of the boards where I had chipped off the dried concrete. Then I gave the entire body of the desk a third coat of paint.

blue painters tape protecting the concrete desktop while the paint was touched up

After letting the paint dry overnight, I brushed on two coats of Rust-Oleum Chalked protective topcoat (matte clear), waiting a couple hours between coats. The protective topcoat has a milky look when it goes on, but it dries clear.

applying Rust-Oleum Chalked protective top coat-matte clear

After the topcoat had dried, I put the drawers back in … and remembered the bottom drawer was crooked.

closeup of the two desk drawers showing a 1/8-inch gap between them on the left and a 1/4-inch gap between them on the right

You can see in the photo above that the right side of the drawer was about 1/8 inch lower than the left side, due to a missing wheel on one of the drawer slides.

inside of drawer where the roller wheel is missing from the drawer slide

So I replaced the drawer slides for the bottom drawer …

inside of drawer with new roller slides attached

… and the problem was fixed.

drawers aligned after new drawer slide was installed

Waxing the desktop

The last thing I did was to wax the concrete to give it a little protection and make it feel smoother.

concrete desktop prior to applying wax

I used Minwax Soft Touch Finishing Wax for the first coat. The wax darkened the concrete initially, but as it soaked in and dried, the color lightened up again .

applying Minwax Soft Touch Finishing Wax to the concrete on industrial farmhouse style desk

After the wax dried, I buffed the surface. The wax left the concrete with a polished feel but a flat sheen. In my book, that’s the best of both worlds. It’s smooth to the touch, so papers will slide across it easily, but it’s still got a matte look to it.

industrial farmhouse style desk with concrete top after clear wax had been applied

I decided to apply a coat of Behr White Wax over the clear wax to mute the grey a little.

applying Behr Decorative Finishes white wax to the concrete on industrial farmhouse style desk

The white wax also settled into the tiny grooves in the concrete so if you look closely you can see flecks of white here and there.

concrete desktop on industrial farmhouse style desk

The effect is subtle, but I’m happy with it.

black industrial farmhouse style desk with concrete desktop

Completed industrial farmhouse style desk

So there you have it: my $50 industrial farmhouse style desk — and the first completed project in my guest room/office makeover.

I’m going to try to blog the entire room makeover, so check back often if you’re interested in following along. 🙂

Thanks for reading! And as always let me know what you think!


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