Depending on the contractor's artistry and skill, the choices for concrete countertops are limitless. Seven contractors share information about cast-in-place countertops, their finishes, durability, sealers, and costs.

Concrete provides more choices than other materials do. The selection of a contractor is important because creativity is a strong part of the finished product. Embedded shells and copper, sandblasted silky finishes, colors, and dyes produce a variety of creative finishes. Acid-etch staining on concrete countertops is currently very popular, sometimes in combination with other decorative effects.

Contractors agree on few guidelines for building countertops. The challenge is to cast concrete with maximum resistance to cracking and a hard nonporous top.

For indoor counters and tables, the contractors interviewed provide either hard-troweled or diamond polished finishes.

Owners must decide whether to use penetrating sealers, which leave little evidence of their presence, or coatings that give a high-gloss to medium-sheen appearance. Most penetrating sealers are silicone-based. Coatings include acrylic sealers, epoxies, urethanes, and lacquers. These materials can be either solvent- or water-based.

The region of the country has much to do with the pricing of countertops.