Concrete is becoming an increasingly popular material for home DIY projects. Thanks to its versatility and clean modern look, concrete is used in a wide variety of home projects from countertops and flooring to small decorations. However, as great as the concrete aesthetic maybe, if you have little knowledge or no experience in working with concrete, you may struggle to get the look you want. If you have ever tried to replicate a cool concrete DIY you saw on the internet and it just didn’t go according to plan this guide is for you.
The Difference Between Concrete and Cement
Before you start to work with concrete it’s important to know the difference between concrete and cement. Both words are often used interchangeably, however, they are each completely different materials. Cement is an ingredient in concrete when combined with water is what creates concrete. Cement is a dry powder and acts as a binder in the concrete mixture. Cement is a product of manufacturing and does not occur naturally, however it is made up of natural materials. These usually include limestone, chalk and clay among others.
Mixing Concrete at Home
There are two ways to mix concrete at home: you can either use a ready mix solution or create your own cement from scratch. For smaller projects, we recommend using a just add water mix concrete solution or a ready mixed concrete. For larger home projects, mixing your own cement can be more cost-effective.
Choosing the Right Concrete Mix
Just add Water Mixes
Just add water cement mixes are convenient, easy to use and come in a variety of mix types. For smaller home crafts and DIYs, we recommend this type of mix.
The packaging of the mix should give clear instructions on exactly how much water to add to the cement to create concrete. It should also advise on setting time.
Ready Mixed Concrete
Ready-mixed concrete is designed to be used instantly and requires no mixing. Ready-mixed concrete is ideal if you want a fast and easy concrete solution for your project.
On the bag/container of cement mix you should find the following information, this will help you to choose the correct cement for your project:
- How much concrete one full bag of cement mix will make (for larger projects you may need several bags or more)
- The intended purpose of the mix (e.g. for indoor or outdoor use)
- The strength of the mix: this is not always shown however high strength mixes will typically show the strength of the concrete mix in ‘psi’ (pounds per square inch) or ‘N/mm2’ (Newton’s per square millimetre). High strength mixes are usually used for larger outdoor home projects such as driveways, walls or patios.
Tips for Mixing Concrete
Know the Correct Consistency
Your concrete mixture should have a uniform consistency. You can get to know the correct consistency by first working with ready mixed cement. Sometimes a little more or less water is needed than directed on the package so be sure to measure put the water first and add it slowly to the dry cement, as you would when making a cake!
Prepare Your Mould
When using concrete for craft projects, a great tip is to spray the inside of your mould with an oil-based lubricant such as cooking spray. This will make it easier to remove the set concrete when it’s ready.
Tap for Air Bubbles
Prevent air bubbles from ruining the look of your sculpture by tapping the mould once your concrete has been poured. Tapping will help to pop the air bubbles. If your concrete is still setting with a lot of air bubbles you may not be tapping the mould firmly enough.
Sand the Concrete
Concrete can be both sanded and polished to produce a smooth result. If your mix is too course, you may not be able to get the smooth result you want by polishing alone. A finer cement mix will product smoother concrete, so be sure to look for this if you aren’t getting the results you want.