DIY concrete bench top
with woodfire pizza oven

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This post is in collaboration with

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing this section of our outdoor living space had been on our to-do list for a while, and we're so happy to now have it complete so we can enjoy long summer days here with family and friends. This entertaining area is made for these warmer months, eating, relaxing and hanging out with the ones we love.

 

Down in this sunken lounge area, we have our firepit, and when we were designing this build, we decided to add in a woodfire pizza oven here as well. Being that both the fire pit and the pizza oven uses wood, it made sense to link these together close to the wood box. For the benchtop for this pizza oven space, we went with concrete as it's durable for all seasons and is an inexpensive option for our large and custom-size build area. Aaron has worked with concrete before, but not with bespoke mouldings, so it took a little researching to figure out a game plan. It turned out to be an easy than expected project, and Aaron believes that even a novice DIY'er can achieve great results. It could be used on a much smaller scale too, like creating a coffee or side table- top also. We picked up all of the benchtop materials we needed for the benchtop from our local Bunnings and we also got the Matador pizza oven and Matador pizza spatula from there too. To see our 'how too' video on Instagram, you can view part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.




HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CONCRETE BENCHTOP


Tools needed:

  • Hammer, tape measure and pencil 

  • Skill saw 

  • Drill 

  • Grinder or wire cutters 

  • Trowel and/or off-cut of melamine for smoothing concrete

  • Something to vibrate the concrete with - a rubber mallet or we used our massaging gun
     

Material list with cost: 
For our 3000mm x 800mm benchtop, which we made in two parts, we used...

Total cost for our benchtop and pizza oven = $1,195.13

Important tips before you begin 

  • If your shape is not symmetrical (like our bench which had a pointed corner) your mould needs to be made in reverse, so when you flip the mould over, the benchtop is in the correct orientation.

  • The bottom of your mould becomes the TOP of your bench. It gets flipped out, upside-down when de-moulding. The smooth surface of melamine is what makes the concrete smooth.

  • You need to use gloss melamine sheets for your mould as this will result in a gloss finish on your concrete for a great end result.


How to make the concrete benchtop mould 

  1. Cut the melamine to the size needed (see tips above) and cut the strips for the sides also. This will define the thickness of the benchtop. Screw these on. We made two moulds for the benchtop, because the bench was longer than a sheet of melamine, and also to make the weight manageable when turning the concrete out of the mould. 

  2. Silicone the internal corners of the mould - this will give the benchtop a slightly rounded edge. Once the silicone is completely dry, you are ready for the concrete phase.

  3. While you are waiting for the silence to dry, cut your reinforcing mesh to size to fit inside the mould, allowing an inch gap around the perimeter. You will need to have this precut, so it’s ready to go for the concrete stage. Set this aside for now

  4. When you are ready to pour the concrete, make sure the mould is on a strong and flat base. We took our mould once built to the benchtop frame for pouring.

  5. If you want to change the colour of the concrete for your end result, you can add pigment during the mixing step, making sure you add the exact same amount of pigment to every mix you do for a consistent result. 


How to pour the concrete 

  1. Spray mould with cooking oil (we used canola) to act as a releasing agent

  2. Mix MaxCrete concrete with water according to package instructions. We have a small concrete mixer, so we used this, but Aaron suggests mixing this with a spade in a wheelbarrow as an alternative. 

  3. Add a layer of concrete into the mould, halfway up the sides

  4. Add the reinforcing mesh, slightly pushing down on it, and then cover with more concrete.

  5. Take your time to make sure the surface is even and smooth. You can use a trowel and/or a straight edge off cut of Melamine to screed off any excess concrete. 

  6. Vibrate the mould to remove any air and bubbles. We used our massaging gun for this step which worked perfectly, but you can also use something like a rubber mallet to tap the mould. The more you vibrate, the better the result of the bench will be, so be sure to take your time and do this step thoroughly. 

  7. Leave the concrete to cure for 3-4 days. We covered ours by draping an old sheet over (without touching it) to keep out of sunlight and stop debris from nearby trees from falling on the concrete.
     

How to de-mould and finish the concrete 

  1. Unscrew the sides and remove the mould.

  2. Flip the concrete benchtops and set them into place. 

  3. Wet and dry sand the top and side surfaces with 1200 grit sandpaper, until you remove any imperfections, then leave to dry

  4. IMPORTANT STEP - leave the concrete to cure for 28 days. This phase allows the product to gas off and for the colour to settle. Next, you want to seal the concrete with Cemix concrete sealer. This finishes the benchtop and adds a protective layer.

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MY favourite pizza dough recipe
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This is my homemade pizza dough recipe that I mentioned in my video about this project on Instagram. I have been making this recipe for years now, so it's a well and truly family favourite. It makes enough for 4 bases, it canbe made a day in advance and kept in the fridge (bring back to room temperature before using) and any leftover dough can be frozen. 
 
Makes: 4 medium-sized base
Preparation time: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours for proofing

Ingredients
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
5 ½ - 6 cups all-purpose flour (or Italian 00 flour) 

Method
In a large bowl add the water, yeast and sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside somewhere warm until it's foamy on top, around 15-30 minutes, depending on the temperature (in wintertime, when it's cooler, it always takes a little longer). Next, add the olive oil and salt and mix well, then the flour, about 4 cups, to begin with, mixing with clean dry hands. Keep adding more flour a little at a time until it just comes together to form a rough ball. At this stage, if it’s a little sticky that’s ok. Turn out onto a floured bench and kneed for 8 minutes. When the dough gets sticky, dust with a little extra flour. You want to resist the urge to dump a whole lot of flour on the dough. If you add too much flour it will be stiff and hard to work and will make the cooked pizza bases dry and tough. To test the dough is done, when you push a finger into it, the dough should push back showing it is elastic. Wash and dry your mixing bowl, then drizzle the bottom of the bowl with a little olive oil and put in the dough and flip the dough in the oil so that it is oiled top and bottom. Cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in a warm spot until it has doubled in size. I usually leave for about 1 ½ hour. If it’s a warm day though, it can prove quicker. Once proved divide into 4 portions and shape into 4 circles. At this stage, you can use the dough immediately or you can let it prove again for another 20 minutes before topping and using.