How To Guide For Making and Coloring Your Own Concrete Paver, Veneers and Retaining Wall Blocks
By creating your own landscaping materials, you really can achieve professional results – for the individuual homeowner wanting to improve their property they can save a ton of money, be creative and work at their own pace! Our concrete molds are also great revenue generators, for existing concrete businesses; and also make the perfect low investment for new start-ups.
After reviewing this instruction guide, you will have all the information necessary to successfully make patio pavers, retaining wall blocks, stone veneers and more. No project is too big or too small, just make certain that you begin with quality molds.
How To Mix or Make Your Own Concrete:
1. You can buy pre-mixed bags of ready-to-mix concrete. These simply require water and mixing; the measuring is already done for you. An 80 lb bag will, on average, will make 4 sq. feet x 2.5″ thick. A more economical method is to make your own concrete, using this simple time-tested formula as a guide – 1:2:3 parts by dry volume – one part Portland cement, two parts sand three parts coarse aggregate. For molds under 2″ in thickness, use aggregate that is no more that 1/4″ in size. Concrete can take anywhere from 15 min to 24 hrs to set; it all depends on what concrete mix is used, weather conditions, the size of the mold, and the amount of water used. The cycle time can be reduced further by using only enough water in the mix as is absolutely needed, or using a faster setting concrete mix, professional concrete casting companies will use between 5 to 15 percent water, using the minimum amount of water will aid in hardening the mix as fast as possible.
2. A light weight concrete mix can be used for a wall veneer stone, or patio applications to make light weight concrete, substitute some of the aggregate with pumas stone, styro-foam beads, or perlite – even wood chips.
3. Coloring and texture can be done several ways, there are many types of powders and liquid color additives available; you can even purchase colored concrete. For the look of real stone, color the concrete first then use one or two different colors (of the powder type) sprinkled and smudged around in the mold before pouring in the concrete; this will give a very random look from one stone to the next. Also, there are many types of concrete stains that can be applied to the finished stone. If you prefer, a rougher texture to the finish stone, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda in the mold before pouring. See our detailed how to color Guide below.
4. Using a shovel mix these ingredients into a wheelbarrow, a bucket or onto large tarp, if you plan to make large volumes of stone, a cement mixer is always the best choice. It is wise to start with a moderate amount of dry mix, as it gets exponentially harder to mix as water is added. Be sure it is evenly and completely mixed. Use the minimum amount of water possible while still keeping the mixture workable. The less water used, the stronger the dried, finished product will be, and will cure faster.
5. Try to be consistant from one batch to the next, use the same amount of water and dry concrete mix, for all additional batches to be mixed, and work fast to keep dry lines from forming. This is where the concrete is already drying and the transition to the new, wetter mix will be clearly visible and create a weak point, it’s best to mix enough concrete to completly fill the mold in one pour,
6, AirCrete / Air Crete is becoming a popular choice for concrete mix, this is a process where foam solution is mixed in with the concrete which creates a mix which has internal small pockets of air, to give you lighter finished part, making aircrete is great for parts like wall veneer, any of our molds work great with Aircrete
Using a mold release agent is not required for most of our molds, but deciding on using some sort of mold release spray wax or caster oil will help to release deeper castings, and give more life to the molds,
1. , After pouring, shaking side to side and tapping the sides will draw most air and water away from the surface of the mold helping to avoid surface voids. and air bubbles. This is a important step and should not be missed, you will see tiny air bubbles as they are released from the mold, also poking around into the wet mix with a small stick will, will also help to release tiny air bubbles from the mold surface.
- During pouring, most of our molds do not require backing – though we do recommend that, to achieve the best results when pouring molds over 3″ thick, like our retaining wall molds. they can be packed into sand, or make a wooden frame for support, this will hold our flexible molds to the proper shape, you should also use a flat level surface, for shapes like patio stones.
3. When a thinner part is needed it is perfectly fine to use less concrete fill, but it also should be noted that it is important to be a consistent height, so that all your pavers or stones are the same thickness,
4. When only half or a partial part is required, simply insert a divider wall into the wet mix. this will enable you to make any shape without breaking the finished stone after it is already cured, this is extremely helpful for veneers if you need a special shape to fill a gap,
5. If, when pouring concrete into the mold, you come up short you can add some additional gravel to the wet concrete to raise the level.
1. Concrete can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours to set it all depends on what concrete mix is used, weather conditions, and the size of the mold. After release, additional drying can be done out of the molds – the cycle time can be reduced further by using only enough water in the mix as absolutely needed, or using a faster setting concrete mix, another tip for faster set times is the use of using warm water in the mix.
2. Our molds are custom-made from a semi flexible type of plastic HDPE that allows the concrete castings to be released quite easily. You may find deeper castings may require a little more effort, if a mold release is needed you can simply smear a very small amount of motor or castor oil in a clean mold before pouring.
3. Make sure that the concrete has dried and hardened before you try to release it from the mold, concrete will shrink slightly, during the hardening process, and will be easier to remove, just turn the mold over and pull with even pressure from the edges, do not use tools to pry the part out, as this can damage the part and mold,
4. Your freshly released stone, should give you all the details of the mold shape, allow some extra time for drying the surface of the stone after release, always clean the mold after each cast with water, you can also lightly brush any area’s if needed, it’s also best to dry the mold before pouring another cast.
There are several proven methods and a variety of quality products available to help you create a natural appearance.
Dry pigment colorant:
Dry pigment, made from iron oxide, is a common colorant used for dyeing concrete; they come in a variety of tones – brick reds, brown, ocher, umber, etc. During the mixing process, these powders can be added, a small amount at a time until the desired color is achieved. For a mottled look, a small amount of dry pigment can be sprinkled and smudged into the mold, prior to pouring the concrete. Try using 2 or 3 complimentary colors, this will give a random appearance to the stone. For a rougher finish, sprinkle baking soda into the mold, before you add the concrete, baking soda will slightly react on the surface, and give a more textured finish.
To get a marbled effect, mix the concrete, then separate a small portion from the larger batch and add the dye. Return the mixture to the larger batch and stir it – just enough to create swirls. You can repeat this procedure, using different colors each time. Make sure that you keep a record of the quantities, colors and techniques used, in order to duplicate
You can take advantage of the porous nature of concrete, by using a concrete stain. These masonry stains act just like wood stains and are absorbed into the top one-sixteenth inch of the concrete. The pigment is highly colorized and available in a multitude of earth tone hues.
Concrete Color Wash:
A color wash is a technique that allows an accent color to be absorbed into the nooks and crannies of the stone. It can be achieved by mixing iron oxide pigment and water. This procedure should be applied to the castings after demolding, To apply the wash, brush the entire surface, especially into all the recesses. Once this is done, take a clean, moist cloth and wipe only the very top surface. Rinsing the cloth in between, it should take only a few passes for the results to become evident – a depth of color that highlights the natural look of the casting.
Concrete Acid Staining:
There are many different acid type products on the market, Acid washing and or Acid staining, involves using a muriatic acid to add coloring to the concrete, mainly in the brownish color range, staining is done after the concrete has cured.
There are 2 types of concrete sealers: penetrants and film formers. Penetrant sealers react chemically with the concrete to protect from moisture penetration. They are usually invisible and do not alter the surface appearance. They are effective at increasing the durability of concrete surfaces, and adding protection from corrosion and freeze-thaw damage.
There are 3 primary types of film-forming sealers: acrylics, polyurethanes and epoxies. But they are all most often used to add a protective film on the surface of concrete. And they usually leave a sheen or glossy finish on the concrete.
-Acrylics: There are both water-based and solvent-based formulas. They are easy to apply, and generally the most economical. They protect against UV, water penetration, and are non-yellowing. But, they are thinner than the polyurethanes and epoxies, so they will wear more quickly.
-Polyurethanes: Also available in water-based and solvent-based formulas. They are thick, so they provide excellent protection against wear, water and chemicals. You do have to ensure that the concrete is completely dry, before application as they are moisture intolerant until they cure.
-Epoxies: They provide a hard, durable finish and bond well to cement. However, because they do not protect against UV exposure. So, they are not a good choice for exterior applications.
- Crusher Run Gravel:Main bed paving material – aka pit run, crushed gravel.Particle sizes range from dust to ¾”.
- Screenings:Not a good construction material, used for setting beds – aka stone dust, blue stone.Particle sizes range from dust up to ¼”.
- Clear Gravel:All the dust has been sifted out by washing the stone – aka washed stone.Particle sizes are uniform, eg. ¾” clear = all ¾” particles.Not for driveway use, as it will never compact.
- Coarse:Mixed with gravel to make concrete – aka builder’s sand, concrete sand.Particle sizes range from dust to 1/8”.
- Fine:Mixed with cement to make mortar – aka sandbox sand, brick sand.Particle sizes range from dust to large dust.
- Silica Sand:Pure quartz with the dust washed out.It is used in sandblasting, and in landscaping to fill in between interlocking paving stones.
- Round Washed Pebble:Used in paths, ponds, landscape beds, and driveways – aka beach stone, potato stone.Sizes range from ¾” to 8”.The stones sized 6” – 8” are also known as Algonquin pebble or gabion stone.The most common sizes are 1” – 4”.
- Crushed Tile:Comes in crusher run, screening and clear gravel.Sizes range from ½” – 1”.
- Volcanic Stone:It is very light weight and is ideal for retaining moisture and is ideal for use around shrubs and flowers.
- Quartz or White Marble:A pure white stone.
- Also known as Bitumen and is used in the construction of roads and driveways.
- Poured concrete:Can be plain, colored or patterned with exposed aggregates.
- Concrete pavers:Comes in various sizes
- Patio and Sidewalk Pavers
- Interlocking Stone
- Flagstone Pavers
PAVING AREA SIZES
Residential:minimum of 4’ wide, to accommodate 2 people walking side by side, except
when leading to a door – opening should be as wide as the entire entry way (including exterior lights).
Utility Area:wide enough to accommodate garden equipment – approx. 30”.
Garden Path:narrow – approximately 24”
Commercial:minimum of 6’ wide.
INTERLOCKING STONE INSTALLATION
Note:The most important aspect of installing paving materials is base preparation.
:Before digging, contact utility companies to find out where buried lines are located.
LIGHT USE – WALKWAYS, PATIOS
- Excavation:Dig out approximately 8” of soil (approximately, as it will depend on the thickness of the paving stones).Then dig out 6” beyond the excavation site.
- Remove any rocks and organic matter, and fill any holes with gravel.
- Compact the base soil with a plate tamper.
- Install ¾” crusher run – approximately 6 1/4” deep, so that when the material is compacted, it will be 5” thick.
- Level to the same grade as desired for the paved area – must be close to perfect, within ½” either way.
- Install next layer of aggregate – this is the setting bed.1” coarse sand or limestone screening.
- Screed the area, to obtain the proper grade.Lay a pair of 1” pipe across the surface area, then drag a board over the pipes (4’ -6’ at a time).
- Install install interlocking stone – for straight pattern lines use, string lines.
- start at one end and work your way in
- set stones “hand” tight (use your hands to set stones in place)
- circular patterns, included in the design, must be installed first and from the center out (in this step you will have to step on your compacted surface)
- Cut and fit – use either a power saw, with a diamond blade, to cut stones to fit, or for a quick cut use a guillotine breaker.
- Put sand in between the joints (across the stones). Then use the plate tamper to set the stones firmly in place. Use water and a broom to move the sand between the stones.
HEAVY USE – ROADWAYS, DRIVEWAYS
- Excavation: dig out approximately 8” of soil (approximately, as it will depend on the thickness of the paving stones).Then dig out 6” beyond the excavation site.
- Remove any rocks and organic matter, and fill any holes with gravel.
- Compact the base soil with a plate tamper.
- Lay the first layer of gravel – 6” of heavy, 2” crusher run (after compaction).Use a large, industrial roller.
- this 6” layer should go down in 2 lifts (4” at a time)
- keep gravel moist to bind the layers together
- Lay the second layer of gravel – 5” layer of ¾” crusher run (after compaction with roller).
SEALING CONCRETE PAVERS
Note: Allow the concrete to cure and the pavers to settle for 60 days, before applying sealant.
- Sweep the paved area clean
- Using a mixture of water and household cleaner, scrub the pavers clean.
- Any stubborn stains can be treated with concrete stain remover.
- Rinse throughly, preferably with a pressure washer.
Note: Sand and stone must be completely dry, before applying sealant.
- Using a paint roller with an extended handle, begin sealing pavers by applying the sealant to the surface.
- Start in a corner and work out from there to prevent getting trapped.
- Avoid using too much sealant, as it will result in an uneven appearance.
- Allow the paver sealant to dry for a couple of hours and reapply if necessary.