Concrete projects

Finished Bathroom

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I finished the bathroom. Finally! Everything but the tub is new: floor tile, toilet, vanity, vanity countertop, mirror, vanity light, vanity mirror, humidity-sensor fan, shower tile (with alcove!), shower faucet hardware and vanity faucet hardware, towel hardware, painting and baseboards. I did all the tile work myself, though the only thing I plan on writing about it is this: tiling hurts. It’s hard on your back, and really physically demanding.

So glad to have it done. Don’t think I’ll be starting on the other bathroom anytime soon.

Bathroom Vanity & Countertop

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Here’s the installed vanity and the counter top I made for it. I made two backsplashes too, which aren’t in this picture. I used metal brackets (that I made in a welding class) to secure the vanity to the wall. I measured how high I wanted the vanity, allowed for an additional 1.5 inches of countertop, and then cut out the sheetrock on the studs to just fit the brackets. I then screwed the brackets (I had drilled holes into them) into the studs with two big ass lag screws each. As it happens, the partial back of the vanity completely covers this up, so I didn’t bother to patch it or anything. I used a “countertop” mix I found at Lowes, which is the first time I’ve strayed away from the Quickcrete 4000. It’s four times as expensive, has smaller rocks, and seemed less heavy than the 4000. The base color is also lighter – more white than grey. It seems more vulnerable to hairline cracks, which I’ve never had a problem with before, but maybe it cured too quickly. At any rate, I didn’t want to spend much time finishing it, and I don’t think this mix is meant to be ground down much, if at all. Probably you could even hand finish it with wet/dry sandpaper. I used a wet grinder on it, though, and the edges are a bit rough, and some grinder marks remain on the surface. I rather like it that way, though, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to get it perfect.



Poured forms

Here’s the poured shapes. The cat shape was for extra concrete, and is now used as a doorstop. You can also see bolts sticking out, which would have worked great for clipping the sink in, had I accounted for the lip of the sink better. I only could use them on one side in the end, and had to saw two of them off. Otherwise they would have made installation of the sink dead simple, and super secure.


Empty mold with knockouts for sink, faucet and leaf shapes for backsplash.

Here are the empty forms, which are nearly ready to pour. You can see they are pretty sloppy – the silicone is messy in places. I don’t think I even masked to caulk these, which I sometimes do. Most of the forms are held together with brads, with a few screws just to be safe. I also didn’t use any sort of reinforcements to the sides of the forms, which Cheng recommends. (I generally use his methods, though, and his products.) You can also see small pieces of carbon fiber that I used instead of wire mesh or rebar. I wanted to try it, as the rebar and mesh really adds a lot of weight – and I managed to score some on Craigslist. In general it’s hard to find, though. The big piece I used isn’t seen in this picture.

I should have sprayed oil on the foam leaves, they were a pain in the ass to get out of the concrete. I used spray adhesive to stick them down, which also was a mistake – I think a think layer of silicone would have worked better. I had a lot of seepage underneath, which messed with the leaf shapes in places.


Concrete Cat Bookends

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Essentially this project was a fail, and a pretty huge one at that, considering the time and money I sunk into it. But we can’t let that stop us, right? My basic idea was to make a concrete cat bookends. First, I would model a clay sculpture of a cat, then make a latex mold, then support it with a fiberglass jacket which would then give me a way to cast multiple concrete castings of the design. Sculpting took me quite a while, but in the end I was pretty satisfied. I used a non-sulphur non-hardening clay. First I tried a dipping method, which according to what i was reading, should have worked. But the latex just slipped off the clay, so either I got the wrong kind of clay, or the wrong kind of latex. Next I tried painting multiple layers of the latex onto the sculpture. That worked, but was super time-consuming, and I didn’t have the patience to make the latex as thick as I should have. Next I had to use fiberglass, and make a supporting jacket, allowing for undercuts, for the shape. I’d never worked with fiberglass before, and what a stinky mess. I eventually got it done – but had to buy a fairly expensive mask to deal with the toxic chemicals (even though I was working outside.) I don’t see myself doing this process ever again – even though I couldn’t smell a thing through the mask, I just don’t like using chemicals this hardcore. After the fiberglass hardened, I had to take it apart and drill some holes in it so that it could be tightly fastened back together with screws and bolts, with the rubber mold inside. I did two castings, each with it’s own problems. On both, my cat ears were too thin, and so broke off then de-molding. On the second casting, the latex was already stretching out a bit, and making folds inside the fiberglass jacket – essentially giving the cat wrinkles. I could live with that, but the ears breaking off was very discouraging, and I felt ruined the piece.

Fiberglass jacket front and shoulders (3 pieces)

Fiberglass jacket front and shoulders (3 pieces)

Fiberglass jacket back half of cat. (Prior to screw holes.)

Fiberglass jacket back half of cat. (Prior to screw holes.)

First casting

First casting

Second casting

Second casting

Postscript: Sadly, my beloved cat Izzy, on whom this sculpture was based, got lost on Feb 13, 2014, and although super human effort was made trying to find her, she tragically died seven weeks later when she jumped into the an unknown yard and was mauled by dogs. She was only four. The black cat I made now serves as her headstone. Miss you every day, Iz.

Concrete Planter Bench

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This turned out to be quite a project, mostly due to the volume of concrete. I was interested in what the concrete would look like if I had to do consecutive pours. My small concrete mixer will only handle about 2 bags of 80lbs concrete at once, so it was an all morning effort. These planters equal about seven consecutive pours (3.5 per planter), with each one taking about 25 minutes to mix. In the end, I think each planter weighed about 300lb pounds. That means I couldn’t really move them by myself, which I don’t like, so in the future I’ll make sure projects like this are more manageable.

What I’d do differently next time:
• make the walls thinner, to use less concrete and make the whole thing lighter
• the foam knockouts were a pain to remove. In spots concrete seeping in between the foam knockout layers made removing the knockout even harder than it already was. Not sure how to improve this except maybe use alternate material.

This was an adaptation on a design from Cheng Concrete.