As a native Californian, I’ve come to accept that home exteriors are almost always constructing using either siding or stucco. Bricks are used sparingly, if at all, and stonework is generally confined to indoor tiles and outdoor patio stones, river rock set in gardens, and exposed aggregate patios. More often than not, though, walkways, patios, and driveways are simply poured concrete.
Personally, I’ve always been attracted to stonework of all kinds. Whether it’s a cobblestone driveway, a fireplace made from river rock, or a ledge stone wall, I think that stonework adds beauty and interest to a home. Given that stonework can cost upwards of twelve dollars a square foot, however, I’ve never been able to afford to remodel my home using the stones, rocks, and tiles that so attract me.
Then I ran across an article about concrete paver molds, and discovered that there’s a new trend in home improvement: making your own, custom colored, concrete stones, rocks, tiles, and bricks. I’ve tried it, and with the right preparation and instructions, have found that I can make my own building materials for just pennies. In a nutshell, here’s how it works….
First, you need to start with high quality concrete molds (although some people call them cement molds or plaster molds). There are companies that make concrete stone molds, patio molds, concrete paver molds, stone veneer molds, and brick veneer molds. Depending on the type of stone or tile, the mold may cover an area ranging from about four square feet to about seven square feet. A ledge stone mold, for example, may produce 16 ledge stones, while a river rock mold may produce 12 river rocks. Ideally, you should buy several molds so that you have a rocks or stones with a variety of appearances. Keep in mind, though, that you can use different colors or turn stones in different direction so that it doesn’t look like you’re using duplicate stone or rock shapes.
Preparing Concrete Molds
Once you have your concrete molds and are ready to begin your project, you need to apply a mold release product so you can easily take out the stones, tiles, or bricks when they’re finished. While some companies recommend using motor oil, the run off is bad for the environment. Some of the newer mold release products can be sprayed into the concrete molds with a spray bottle – a much preferable method.
The artistry in making your own concrete rocks, tiles, and bricks is in finding and mixing the colors you like. Initially, you mix a base color into a concrete and sand mixture. Once you have this base color, you can add additional amounts and combinations of color to give you the variety you seek. Indeed, you can create an infinite variety of colors simply by adjusting the color densities. The best colors are made from synthetic iron oxides, although some people have had success with natural oxides, ceramic stains, and even latex paint.
Concrete Pouring and Curing
Your concrete mixture should be relatively stiff and not soupy. Using a scoop, you pour the concrete mixture into the concrete paver molds and fill the mold to the top. If you simply want a veneer stone or tile, you can partially fill the mold.
If you’ve ever worked with concrete, you know that it’s important to get all of the air bubbles out after a pour. This can be accomplished by bouncing the concrete stone molds up and down, or by purchasing and using a vibrating table. Next, cover the mold in plastic and let it rest out of the direct sunlight.
The longer you let the concrete cure, the stronger it will be. The concrete molds and be unmolded after 24 hours, but it’s best to wait longer. Once you release the stones, tiles, or bricks, you should rewrap them in plastic to preserve the moisture and let them cure for an additional two weeks. Then, you simply have to apply sealant to your creations, and they’ll be ready to install.
I’ve discovered that able to create a beautiful stone pathway, tile entryway, or river rock fireplace is incredibly rewarding. And to think that it all started when I read an article about concrete paver molds.