Wednesday, August 15, 2012

diy concrete planters

At the cottage I finally did a project I've been itching to do for over a year, and that was to make some concrete planters. After my last visit to Trent University - I fell in love with the campus again and the nod to mid century modern. The concrete buildings, the straight lines. I was inspired. So while at the cottage I took on the project to try to make them, and I LOVED how they turned out. They are super easy. Want to make your own?

Step 1: Find containers
I raided our recycling bin and tried a number of different materials. I'll give you a list of my tips at the bottom, but the hardest part isn't finding containers, it's finding a secondary container to put inside it.

Step 2: Mix Concrete
Be sure you buy concrete that doesn't have rocks in it. (So just ask someone at the hardware store, where you're buying it.) To make it all you do is mix water with the concrete and voila! We did two different batches. Aubrey made a thick batch, which made for a bumpier surface on the planters. I did a second batch and added more water to my mixture and the result was that the surface was extra smooth. Neither is the right way, both just give you different looks and are different to work with. (The runnier the mixture, the longer it will take to dry) Concrete is drying on the hands, so wear gloves. Aubrey didn't and his hands were pretty sore that day.

Step 3: Pour it into the moulds
Once you have the concrete mixed you should start pretty putting the concrete into the moulds. I just put the concrete into the base container and then placed wiggled the inside container into it. This means that the concrete squeezes up a little - so be sure to not fill the container up fully initially - allowing room for it to move when you put the inside container in.

With Aubrey's thick mixture it was a LOT easier to put the container in. Everything just stayed in place. But with my mixture, -that was runnier/smoother - I really needed to weigh the inside mould down with sand. The inside mould was moving everywhere.

Step 4: Remove the inside mould half way through the drying process, and then put it back
After a number of hours of letting the moulds sit - I went and I removed the inner mould to see how it was drying and then placed it gently back in place so that the inner mould still dried around it. This act just made it easier when they were completely dry, to make sure that the inside mould popped out.

Step 5: When Dry....
Depending on how runny your mixture is, drying time will differ. The thicker mixture will take less time than the runnier. The concrete will start to change colour, becoming lighter. When done just gently turn the main mould over, upside down, and let it fall out (do it on the grass, so it has a soft landing). You may have to work some moulds more than others. I had to use scissors to get off the margarine containers, and I almost threw one mould down the road after being so frustrated that it wouldn't come off.

Step 6: Put something inside it
I loved the look of moss around the cottage so put some in my smaller containers. My Mom says that the moss wont last (so sad) but for now it's giving me enjoyment. I picked up some little succulents and I think that they go best with the look of the concrete,

1. Consider that certain plants need a lot of room for base. So small inner moulds don't work really well in most cases.
2. I've read that you should spray the moulds with cooking spay prior to putting the concrete in. I can't tell if it worked or not. I think it's a step that you could perhaps skip.
3. Some moulds are easier to take off than others. Milk containers are the easiest as you can peel off the outer wrapper.
4. Runnier concrete gives you a smoother "top" than a thicker concrete does.
5. Thicker concrete is easier to work with, and dries faster.
6. Put felt pads on the bottom of the plaster when dried. It will save your furniture from scratching.

What about drainage?
If you wanted to add drainage holes Aubrey and I concluded that you could use a drill bit to drill after the fact. We haven't tried that yet - but if I was doing larger planters I may attempt that.

Other reading
My Mom picked this book up at the library that served as a nice guide for inspiration, but there are some other online resources that may be helpful. Apartment Therapy, Centsational Girl, this pinterest board of awesome concrete projects, or make even bigger planters on your own.

PS,. Next week I'll show you some other uses for this project. :) Super fun.


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