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Prevent Air Bubbles and Bug Holes in Concrete When Casting Cement Stone Molds
After more than nineteen years in the concrete stone mold business, some of our DIY stone, paver and tile making customers and homeowners and homeowners using our molds still have air bubble problems or insect holes in the cast concrete products they make. Almost one hundred percent of the time it’s because they don’t follow the simple, free instructions that come with every purchase. So here are the instructions and techniques again in the form of a Home Improvement DIY article.
Is mold release really necessary when pouring concrete? – We always suggest using a mold release of some sort, even when using rubber moulds. Mold release will help extend the life of concrete, cement or plaster molds. Using a release agent will also make removing the stone, tile, cobblestone or other items you are duplicating an easier and faster task.
Make a homemade liquid mold release for use with plaster of paris, molding plaster and other plasters. When working with plaster, a simple mixture of a tablespoon of liquid dish detergent in a cup of water is a good mold release agent. Keep in mind that different plasters provide different shrinkage properties. The less a plaster shrinks, the more difficult it may be to release the plaster article from a plastic mold or other semi-rigid mold. Be sure to read the instructions and properties on the packaging of all plasters before choosing one for your project. We also recommend using a soapy release agent when working with rubber molds and plaster. It allows for a cleaner release and a smoother finished part, while helping to prevent plaster from sticking to rubber molds—saving cleanup time and effort.
How to make a concrete release for use with concrete and cement – There are a number of commercially prepared concrete releases on the market. We offer our customers two types—water based release and oil based release. We market it as a convenience for our customers. A light vegetable oil works about as well as a commercial blend. Commercial versions may contain a wax suspension or other agents to provide ease of use or other benefits.
Regular vegetable oil is fine, with a “light” vegetable oil being even better. But don’t worry about that. The problem with air bubbles in concrete castings is rarely the type of release used—it’s usually the amount left before pouring. This is usually over-release, or too much vibration used to dislodge any air attached to the surface of the mold—or should I say between the mold and the freshly poured concrete. Have you heard the old adage about “too much of a good thing”? This is normally the problem. With too much vibration, you can actually introduce air bubbles into the mix. And excessive vibration—particularly with only half the batch of concrete poured into the mold first, can definitely cause excess air.
How much oil should be left to cover the mold? – For best results, be sure to wipe most of the oil from your molds before filling them with concrete. You should be especially aware of low crevices in the mold where oil can puddle. You should barely be able to see that there is a coating on the mold. Then fill your mold about half to three-quarters full with your concrete mix. On a flat, level surface, lift each side of the mold about half an inch and let it fall flat on the table or whatever surface you are using. If it is a larger mold, say over 12″ in diameter, lift it higher so that the center also benefits from the vibration. Do this about four or five times on all four sides. Then fill the mold to the finished depth which This time lift the four corners one by one four or five times, letting them fall back in. Now shake the whole mold a few times in each direction to make sure the concrete is level Cover with a sheet of plastic and wait for it to harden. This technique allows you to dislodge any air bubbles from what will be the surface of your stone.
Why is there air in my concrete mix? – Yes, having some amount of air in your mix is indeed desirable…especially if the stone is intended for exterior application. This is called air entrainment. It allows any moisture in the concrete to expand and contract in a freezing environment. This is called freeze-thaw. When you use our mixing additives, there is actually an air-entraining agent in the additive to put air in the concrete! Normally, however, the air entrainment in concrete and cement should only be about 5%. This air really has nothing to do with the “bubbles” or what are called “bug holes” in the industry that appear on the surface of your stone casting.
Think how happy your arms are going to be now that they don’t have to vibrate that heavy concrete!
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