The finishing.com Hotline: Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing. Ted Mooney, Webmaster
Q. I am interested in having a zinc metal countertop put in my kitchen and would like an antique finish applied (distressed). Is zinc metal safe to have as a countertop, is it expensive to install and what is the upkeep on them. Any info is helpful.Kelly C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Interior decorator and faux finisher - Marietta, Georgia
Q. I am considering using galvanized sheet metal for my kitchen countertops and backsplash and need to learn about caring for the surface. What sort of sealants, oils, or waxes will prevent staining from foods and spills?Nancy B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
home owner - Austin, Texas
A. Hi Kelly & Nancy: Zinc is an essential nutrient, not a toxin or poison, but zinc is not actually considered "food safe" for pots and utensils because enough can theoretically dissolve into acidic foods to comprise an overdose. I think solid zinc metal is considered safe enough, but wet or acidic foods like cut vegetables might pick up a metallic taste.
However, I do not think galvanized metal is necessarily safe unless you are confident of its origin. Galvanized metal is steel sheet (which is magnetic) that has been dipped in molten zinc and sometimes has a chromate conversion coating (read that as toxic hexavalent chromium). Although it's a very very small amount of hexavalent chromium, I wouldn't choose it for a food surface.
Although it's probably possible to apply a two-component automobile clearcoat to either material, to prevent food from touching the metal surface, I don't really think "paint", even clear paint, belongs on countertops. So Kelly yes, zinc is okay; and Nancy no, galvanized is not okay (although I've seen it in restaurants on top of divider walls and as kick plates at bars). Remember, these are just personal opinions and there are probably no government epidemiologists studying the question.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Q. We are so very interested in anyone having any information about zinc countertops. How to get them,
who will fabricate them, and how to age them! We have a Tudor style 1917 home, we want the old sinks and appliances back, and aren't the least bit interested in granite. We are grateful for any info.
(P.S. I believe there are zinc countertops with brads on the edges in the movie "Meet the Fockers" [link is to product info at Amazon]-- these are what we want and believe belong in certain areas of our kitchen.)
Happy to share any serious restoration resources we have accumulated!
Thank you, Maggie and MattMaggie J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Omaha, Nebraska
Ed. note: Suppliers are welcome to advertise on our site, or not, or anywhere they like instead. Suppliers can also be found on Google or Bing. But this forum is for camaraderie and technical discussions, not for sourcing info. Sorry.
Q. I am looking for a new zinc countertop, having had one in a rental house years ago and liked it very much. I used Vim/Ajax/Comet to clean it; although it probably is not recommended, it did not damage it in any way.
Hope this is helpful to someone.Theresa B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kamuela, Hawaii
Q. To Maggie J (and all others!)
Wondering if you ever located a source for zinc countertops? I, too, am on the search - was first looking for pewter, but have only found one supplier - in Normandy France! 5X the cost of granite, before shipping and installation (gulp!) So now I'm on the hunt for zinc... seems to be very hard to come by in the NW, which is OK, if I can find a reliable source somewhere in the US.
- Portland, Oregon
Ed. note: Sorry that we can't be all things to all people, Toni, but we had to go back and remove all supplier names as we got buried under spam, had suppliers insulting other suppliers, sales people pretending to be satisfied customers, etc. This forum is essentially anonymous and allowing commercial benefit from self-serving postings just didn't work.
Q. I tried to find an answer to the various questions on how to distress a zinc metal countertop.
I am very interested in knowing how I can accomplish this myself. The zinc sheet is a blue grey currently. I want to distress/age it - very much so. I understand various acids, i.e. vinegar, etc. will do this.
I would like to know and would greatly appreciate any food safe suggestions you may have.
Thank you,Mona F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Homeowner - Brampton, Ontario, CANADA
A. Mona: The blue-grey color, and some miscellaneous scratches that your zinc may suffer, probably already comprises the distressed look for zinc. You could try 'painting' it with a strong solution of table salt & vinegar and see what darkness that adds, but zinc doesn't turn green & brown like, for example, copper or brass.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
A. Through experimenting on a piece of zinc for a countertop, using different types of food safe acids, i.e., vinegar, lemon, I have so far found, tomatoes (from a can) to be the most distressing.
- Brampton, Ontario, CANADA
! You can make your own zinc countertops. There are several sources of zinc sheeting on the Internet. My wife and I made our own huge zinc-covered kitchen island and backsplashes. Make the substrate from MDF or particleboard like you would for any laminate. Cut the zinc sheet to approximate size by scoring with a utility knife like you would laminate or use shears for little pieces. Glue it with contact cement, same as for laminate and roll it down really good with a J roller. The edges are then trimmed with your router and a laminate blade. This makes a big mess just like laminate! Soldering is tricky but the supplier sells zinc solder and flux. You will need to use a really big soldering iron! Use a sander to grind the welds, to remove the mill oxide and to achieve the level of finish you want.
Because Zinc is a reactive metal it cannot be permanently painted, (except maybe with epoxy), but after you sand it, it will take clear Krylon, for example. Coatings will not work in a wet area. Clear wax is OK but must be laboriously reapplied periodically. Zinc will be very affected by kitchen liquids including water. Discolorations can be rubbed away with a scotchbrite pad and some powdered cleanser. Because zinc sheets only come one meter wide, when making your countertop you may encounter a need for a butt joint. You can leave a hairline seam, which looks OK, or devise some kind of solder joint with a recessed backing strip. Another cool thing about zinc is that you can very easily make attractive patterns in it with a sanding block, for example if you want to make inserts for your appliance front panels, before you clear coat it.James M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Chicago, Illinois
- Cleveland, Ohio
April 10, 2008
A. Yes, I applied the edges, routed them, then applied a piece to the top, routed the edges,and filled in the gap with solder. For simple shapes you could brake the edges like you describe, that works OK too. My island had some radiuses so braking wouldn't work. If you brake two edges 90 degrees to each other then you'll only have to solder where they fold together edge to edge.James M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Chicago, Illinois
Flux for Soldering Zinc Sheet
I had zinc countertops installed last year. I want to tell anyone considering this product it is very difficult to use. There are stains surrounding the sink area from the water that gathers while washing dishes. It scratches very easy and various foods and products leave blackish gray stains on it that will not polish out. I am very disappointed as the countertops look like I haven't wiped them. Yes, they are "old world" which is what I wanted but the look of not clean doesn't go well with a kitchen. The expense prohibits me from changing them too soon but I will in another 12 months or so.SANDY SMITH
- Dallas, Texas
April 10, 2008
A. This is a good point. Anyone wishing to use decorative zinc in a a home should be aware of what they're getting into. Zinc is a very active metal and will react with the environment constantly. In no time at all it will develop a tenacious patina of black or dark grayish oxides that is by no means even in appearance and shows the history of everything it came into contact with. You can try to stave off the inevitable by applying clear coats or waxes but be ready for their eventual failure. Or you can do what they do in restaurants and bars which is clean it every day (better start with some thick stock!)!James M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Chicago, Illinois
A. I recently installed a zinc countertop in my home for my kitchen. I am very pleased with how it turned out. We had a local sheet metal shop do the bend for the corner and soldered the seams. I found this company [sorry, deleted by editor] . They were very helpful with my questions and purchasing the zinc from.They are the only ones I found that you can order right on website. I had the metal ship directly to my sheet metal guy. I strongly recommend them for a source to get zinc sheets and the best prices even with shipping them.Dana Potter
- new York, new York
Ed. note: We appreciate your suggesting a source, Dana, and are glad you were happy; but with the anonymity of internet forums, testimonials aren't of much value anyway as shills post with fictitious names, and claim greater satisfaction with another company (their own), and the race to the bottom is on :-)
Suppliers are welcome to advertise on our site, or not, or anywhere they like instead. Suppliers can also be found on Google or Bing. But this forum is for camaraderie and technical discussions, not for sourcing; we had to delete many posts, but they keep coming back if we don't remove all supplier names :-(
July 17, 2008
Q. I am a do-it-yourself homeowner interested in a zinc countertop. Your site has some really good information on this topic. There is a local roofing company who has zinc sheets (28"x120")for a very reasonable price. They are .020 thick. I am covering my existing laminated countertop with zinc. Will this thickness be ample? I am not doing any welding (as I don't know how)!
Thanks very much.
hobbyist - Louisville, Kentucky
September 25, 2008
I just had Zinc countertops installed today and they are wonderful. I purchased the zinc a few years ago with this in mind and found a sheet metal company that makes stainless countertops to fit them for me. I also bought the sheets that look like pressed ceiling tins to use for the backsplash.
The zinc was around $60.00 and the backsplash was about the same. I don't know what the cost for installing is yet, they are billing me.
Has anyone heard of using zinc for a shower surround? I am looking for a thrifty way to make a new surround and I think I would like the ping noise the water would make. Please advise if anyone has any ideas on this.
home owner - Des Moines, Iowa
A. Hi, Andi. Please search the site and you will find other threads like letter 13388 about zinc for shower surrounds. Zinc must freely "breathe" lots of carbon dioxide to resist white corrosion in a wet environment so it may not be a good idea.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 6, 2008
A. This is for Andi in Des Moines. I went on the may house tour in Dubuque, Iowa a couple of years ago and one of the houses was a mine foreman's house with addition. Fantastic job in keeping to the spirit of the original. Used concrete countertops, etc., but the master shower was concrete bottom sloped to the drain, no lip that way, and was made out of corrugated metal on the top and sides above a 2 or 3 inch lip around the other 3 sides. it fit into a sloped ceiling and looked fantastic. The architect did the labor as he was just out of school and friends with the owners. He said that he used a couple of coats of a really good auto wax about twice a year to keep the shower from rusting and with the wax being a really good brand that you just sprayed it down with the shower head after using it. No chemicals to cut the wax finish. It had been in for a couple of years and hadn't started rusting as yet with 2 people using it every day. Hope this helps you.Lois Gross
- Clinton, Missouri
November 20, 2011
I have installed solid zinc benchtops in my period home in France and it looks fantastic. Be aware that zinc tops are a 'working' surface it will be effected by various foods (acids and alkalis) causing light and dark discolourations - I personally love this characteristic as the hues are usually rich and the look changes constantly. You can however periodically buff the surface back with a buffer or very light graphite paper if you want to get it back to a uniform finish or apply a metal sealer if you don't want the finish to change.
The treatment or aging of zinc is called patination. The zinc reacts to various chemicals. You can artificially age the zinc with different effects depending on the chemical and pattern of sanding / buffing and application of the chemical. The effect I used on my benches was achieved with copper sulphate (you can usually buy it from a chemist) which give the zinc a rich dark patina (the more you use the darker it is) - just buff it in with small circles - and if you don't like the effect you can always buff back and try again.
- Toulouse France
September 21, 2014
Q. A client of mine has allowed lemon juice to bleach a new zinc table top. It is splodgy, and she wants the marks removed. This is outside my comfort zone, so HELP please!George Judd
Antique Restoration - Salisbury Wiltshire U.K.