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Sephaku Cement explains the difference between cement based concrete and Polymer based concrete and where polymer based products are better put to use than other cement constructs. While cement based concrete is considered one of the most widely used  construction materials in the world, as technology, knowledge and processes improve, cement based innovations continue to forge new means to methodology and improved end results. 

While cement based products offer a number of advantages over various other building materials, as with all things in the world of construction, certain materials are better put to use for specific projects than others. Where normal cement based concrete may be subject to variable strength results, freeze-thaw vulnerabilities and susceptible to chemical corrosion, polymer based concrete products offer additional reinforcement, may be used in the repair of damaged mineral concrete as well as construction projects that require a speedier hydration process as well as added durability and reduced permeability.

So what is Polymer Concrete?

Polymer-modified concrete comes in various polymer derivatives including latex polymer concrete, ideally put to use as a patching material, tile grouting and plaster additives to name a few.

Over and above latex polymer concrete mixes, other commonly used polymers include the likes of:

  • Acrylic
  • Vinyl Acetate Ethylene
  • Styrene-Acrylics
  • PVA Or Polyvinyl Acetate
  • Styrene-Butadiene Resin

Polymer Concrete is made from standard Portland concrete that is injected with a Liquid or Gaseous monomer that is polymerised by gamma radiation or influenced using a thermal catalytic method. Further prompted by drying the concrete at higher temperatures than normal, polymerised concrete products:

  • Offer greater compressive or load bearing strength
  • Extremely resistant to freeze-thaw cycles that can typically result in cracking, scaling, and crumbling of standard Portland cement
  • Resilient against chemical erosion and other abrasive action
  • Produce a less permeable compound especially useful for chemical, hazardous and contaminated substances

Characterised by different strengths and weaknesses, Polymer concrete combinations are known to offer improved adhesive capabilities to variable surfaces and with its added strength and potency against abrasion, even wafer-thin Polymer concrete installations offer unique benefits that cement based concrete may not be able to compete with.

Although a more costly option to make use of, especially in large scale construction projects Polymer concrete offers an effective solution when put to use in the following concrete structures:

  • Marine and underwater concrete constructs
  • Prefabricated structures
  • Pre-stressed concrete in need of significant repair or refurbishment
  • Nuclear power plants and compounds
  • Sewage construction, repairs and installations
  • Desalination plants
  • Constructs that require resilient waterproofing

Polymer Concrete cures as a result of a chemical reaction, unlike traditional concrete, Polymer composite will set regardless of whether the mix is agitated or not. What this means is that once the Polymer concrete has been integrated with water and aggregate, the mixture will need to be poured or put to use shortly thereafter, with this in mind it is ideally suited for small precast projects, also ensure that those handling the mixture are protected with masks, gloves and protective clothing given the number of chemicals used in its construct.

Although somewhat more complex to make use of, Polymer concrete products offer unique and extremely beneficial advantages to specialised and complicated construction projects.

Sephaku Cement discusses concrete temperature considerations, how surrounding air temperature influences cement hydration and offers a guide on how to ensure cold weather doesn’t impacts negatively on your concrete projects in winter.

Fortunately most parts of South Africa don’t experience extreme weather in winter, however it is not uncommon for a number of areas throughout the country to encounter short bursts of below freezing temperatures during cold snaps brought on by cyclical cold fronts.

So what do we define as “Cold Weather” for concreting?

Weather considered to be “cold” for concreting is characterised by the following conditions:

  • Where cold weather conditions lasts for a period of three consecutive days or more
  • Average daily temperatures are lower than five degrees Celsius
  • Where the ambient air temperature is lower than ten degrees Celsius and falling for longer than a twelve hour period (day or night)

Concrete freezes at zero degrees Celsius and the effects of early freezing can be detrimental to any interior or exterior concrete project, early freezing of concrete can lead to the following results:

  •  Adversely affects the strength of the concrete by interrupting its matrix and make up
  • Slows the curing time which negatively impacts the hydration reaction required by the cement to gain strength (Cracking and or drying out before sufficient strength is gained)

So how can we prevent concreting projects from being unfavorably impacted by below freezing weather conditions during winter? 

The answer? Influence the concrete mix to encourage early hydration and heat gain. 

Once concrete has gained about 5MPa compressive strength (load bearing per square mm), the hydration reaction during this time has absorbed enough moisture into the mix not to cause any damage to the cement’s construct should it freeze after this point. To speed up the rate at which cement cures (Hydration Reaction) in cold weather the following approaches can be applied.(take care to protect drying out of retarded concrete)

  • Mix the concrete using hot water in cold weather conditions. Aim for a temperature between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius to encourage a more swift heat gain and hydration reaction in cold weather.
  • Hugely effective and relatively affordable, add an accelerator such as calcium chloride to speed up the hydration reaction of cement during cold winter months. The accelerating admixture reduces the setting time and speeds up early strength development of the concrete which is typically slowed down by cold weather (CACL can only be used where there is no steel and or reinforcing involved)
  • Non-chloride accelerators can also be effectively used to speed up the setting time of cement and will not result in the corrosion of embedded steel reinforcement such as entrenched rebar. These accelerators, while more costly than calcium chloride are also effective for decorative concrete projects in that they won’t mottle or discolour the setting cement.
  • Make sure that when placing the concrete, the bed and subgrade that it’s poured onto is not frozen. Frozen subgrades impede setting times which as we have already discussed, slows the concrete’s rate at which it gains strength with the risk of freezing to take place before hydration is successfully achieved.
  • Start concreting early in the morning to attain a set and strength gain before the onset of colder night temperatures.
  • Change type or content of cement per cubic meter to improve the set time by lowering the unit water content. By adding concrete, preferably high-early strength concrete, by doing so this helps to hydrate more rapidly, generally with a rule of 1 bag for 1 hour.
  • Cover concrete with plastic sheeting/ polystyrene sheeting after setting to keep heat of hydration temperatures inside for as long as possible. (Significantly retarded concrete by low temperatures can easily dry out before complete hydration can take place, very much effecting final strength of the concrete)

Overcoming cold weather concreting is both possible and effective by following these simple solutions. With the objective being to prevent curing concrete from freezing for up to 48 hours even the most elaborate concrete construct will cure before cold weather can get the better of your concreting project.

From enclosed wood burning traditional fireplace settings to concrete fire pits, free standing or built to fit features, the installation of an outdoor fireplace adds functionality and elegance to any outdoor entertainment area.

What’s more is unlike building a Do It Yourself indoor fireplace, outdoor fireplace features are fairly simple to construct when following Sephaku Cement’s Simple DIY Steps.

Sephaku Cement reveals easy to follow steps to building an outdoor fireplace feature to create an eye catching garden centrepiece and a cosy meeting ground to gather at during chilly days and winter nights.

  • Step One: Excavate The Construction Area and Lay a Solid Concrete Foundation.

    Once having selected the ideal location to erect your freestanding or built to fit DIY outdoor fireplace, excavate the land and prepare an appropriate foundation. Keep in mind that your concrete fireplace will be a heavy loadbearing installation and thus requires a sturdy and level foundation to support its structure. We recommend a foundation up to 20cm’s deep and if possible reinforced with rebar rods placed at up to 5cm intervals. Allow for your concrete foundation to cure for at least 24 hours, where a period of 48 hours or more would be ideal. 

  • Step Two: Build a Base and Fire Box

    Next up, on top of your level and cured foundation build a base ideally using a four inch (10 centimetres) concrete slab on which you can brick up a fire box. Making use of firebrick and refractory cement your fire box will be of the desired dimensions of your outdoor fire place with the utmost care taken to ensure that each brick placed is level and square to the concrete slab base. 

  • Step Three: Building the Throat of the Fire Place

    For enclosed fire place features (step three and step four can be omitted in the construction of fire pits) now it is time to build the throat of the fire place. The Throat is characterised by masonry that tapers the fire box to meet the flue of the fireplace. Although the trickiest step to building a DIY fireplace, using a technique referred to as "corbeling", overhang bricks so that they create a step at each course as they taper inward. Further reinforced by a steel angle iron to carry the weight of the masonry over the firebox, as you step each row of brick in over the fire box, continue to reduce the opening to eventually match the desired size of the flue.

  • Step Four: Erect the Flue

    Set in a bed of mortar, slide the flue block selected to fit, plumb to the throat that tapers the fire box. The flue is responsible for channelling exhaust gases from a fireplace, completing the basic construct of your outdoor fireplace feature.

  • Step Five:  Decorative Stonework and Finishes

    Attributing to the aesthetics and theme of the fireplace, select desired stonework, cladding and finish to complete the look of your fireplace. Set in a bed of mortar place the stone work to form the desired look making sure to use materials that can withstand the residual heat from the fire.

    Adding to the aesthetics of outdoor patios, keeping family and friends warm when entertaining during winter or offering a mesmerising view set against the backdrop of the night sky, an outdoor fireplace is one of the most rewarding and functional installations to any outdoor entertainment area.

Although tough and hardwearing, resin based concrete coatings do require a certain degree of care and maintenance to ensure their longevity and durability throughout their lifetime.  Durable, decorative and available in a number of colour variants and finishes, resin coated concrete floors continue to gain popularity amongst interior décor specialists as well as industrial contractors.   

Manufactured from a number of different formulations, resin flooring is typically produced using epoxy, cementitious urethane and MMA.

Each with their own pros and cons, resin concrete coatings offers a functional, hygienic and easy-to-maintain flooring surface.

Unlike other sealers, resin coated concrete floors won’t scratch or scrape off creating the ideal surface for high foot traffic zones, heavy equipment and other factors with corrosive characteristics that can damage concrete flooring. 

To follow, Sephaku Cement shares ten fast facts on how best to maintain resin coated concrete flooring to ensure their resilience and long-lasting appeal.

  • Fact 1: Where logic leads, the more dense the coating the more durable the finish whereby cementitious urethane is considered to be the thickest. While this may be so, resin based coatings each respond differently to heat, chemicals and abrasive factors which each need to be carefully considered before applying this rule.  
  • Fact 2: Durability of the coating is dependent on the bond between the coating and the concrete surface. Each resin type responds differently to the concrete surface and cleaning, maintenance and long-term care needs to be carefully selected so as not to interfere with this cross-linked bonded matrix.
  • Fact 3: Most commonly used in disinfectants and antibacterial cleaning agents, epoxies and cementitious urethanes are vulnerable to phenol which should be avoided when cleaning resin based concrete flooring.
  • Fact 4: Be careful of odourless stripping solutions that contain methylpyrrolidone. Just because these are without an overpowering smell does not mean that they are not causing irreversible damage to all three types of resin based coatings.
  • Fact 5: While resin coated concrete floors should be dry mopped every day to ensure the removal of grit, fine sand and other abrasive materials, these floors regardless of the resin make up should never be waxed.
  • Fact 6: Only make use of pH-Neutral cleaning agents allowing time for the solution to loosen built up dirt and debris but do not let any cleaning materials dry on the surface as this can cause discoloration, peeling and other negative effects to resin coated floors.
  • Fact 7: Clean high traffic zones more frequently, removing oil and grease with water-based alkaline detergents be sure to rinse the surface well to avoid build-up of cleaning agents that might result in slippery surfaces.
  • Fact 8: Never steam clean or use extremely hot water to clean resin coated flooring. The high temperatures may crack and de-laminate the surface as well as discolour white pigments.
  • Fact 9: Acrylic (MMA's) is not as sensitive as other resin coatings such as epoxies and urethanes, making use of alkaline cleaning agents on methyl methacrylate coatings will not damage these acrylic based resins as they would other concrete resin surfaces.
  • Fact 10: Discolouration, pigment leaching and staining can indicate that the resin coating has been compromised through the incorrect chemical application. This could lead to irreversible damage, peeling and cracking which is why it is critical to only make use of the appropriate chemicals and cleaning agents on the surface of resin coated concrete floors.(Speak to the cleaning material manufacturer/dealer to ascertain the pH of any cleaning chemicals before use)

Johannesburg, 27 June 2018 – The successful Load Up and Win promotion by Sephaku Cement reached a high point last Friday, as the keys to a brand new Toyota Hi-lux Single Cab were handed to the grand prize winner, Amanda Johnson. The handover took place at the Builders Warehouse in Cedar Square in Johannesburg, where she had entered the promotion with a purchase of 13 bags of Sephaku Cement.

Amanda Johnson

With daily loads of between 20 to 40 bags of Sephaku Cement, the paving business run by Ms. Johnson and her husband reached a crossroad as its bakkie broke down around a week before this winning announcement. “I still can’t believe it. Only now has it sunk in. It’s tears of joy,” she said. “I believe in Sephaku. It’s the best brand. It’s quality so we can supply good quality to our customers. If they ask about quality we say, It’s Sephaku.”

The Load Up and Win promotion by Sephaku Cement - powered by Dangote Cement - ran from 1 February until 31 May 2018. There were five monthly prizes of hardware vouchers for consumers and five monthly lucky draws of 80 bags of cement for the retailers. The entry mechanisms allowed for entries in urban and rural areas.

Amanda Johnson

Sephaku Cement General Manager Sales and Marketing, Steve Swanepoel said, “Thank you for supporting Sephaku. We could not have a more deserving winner! The Load Up and Win promotion was a great success for everyone involved. Through it we could rally with our retailers to drive sales volumes and in the process, we were all able to help put a deserving small business back in the driver’s seat.”

Sephaku Cement investigates DIY Concrete Garden Edging and how best to fit this flattering and functional installation. 

Some of the simplest garden ideas to enhance the charm and appeal of your garden can be found in concrete fittings. From concrete garden statues, to ornaments or concrete edging, in a few simple steps install your own concrete garden edging with the help of Sephaku Cement.

Concrete garden edging can be used to define walkways, flower beds or lawn outlines, creating a border around any desired and designated area. Available in a variety of textures, finishes, colour stains and sizes concrete garden borders offer an aesthetic appeal, are fairly simple to install and when fitted accurately will remain in place, durable and sturdy for many years to come.

For this simple Do It Yourself home improvement project you will need;

  • Water
  • Garden flags and Masons twine / string
  • Protective gloves
  • A dust mask
  • Protective clothing
  • Tamping tool
  • Small Spade
  • A Bucket
  • A trowel
  • Plastic sheeting
  • A circular saw
  • Pressure treated precast moulds or lumber to demarcate the area of installation
  • 30cm Stakes
  • Ready Mix Concrete and a pigment or stain if desired

Using stakes, garden flags and string, demarcate the area where you plan to place the concrete garden edging. Using a mason’s line, when curved lines are needed try and use the garden hose and drive stakes on the line once satisfied with the line/curve of the hosepipe. Excavate the area exposing a level and compacted trench to form the foundation for your DIY concrete garden edging. The dugout will need to be at least 20 centimetres wide and 10 centimetres deep to ensure a sturdy and durable installation.

Using precast moulds or lumber, install these guides along the sides of the prepared trench being very careful to place these in a precise position. The guides will steer the placement of the concrete that will form the outline of the concrete edging.

With the precast moulds or lumber guides in place spread the surface of the trench with a 2.5cm layer of river sand, patting it down as you go to prepare a compacted and level surface. 

Following the manufacturer’s instructions mix the cement with the recommended aggregate and add the desired pigment if necessary, be careful to follow the recommended water volumes closely, ensuring that the concrete mix is of the exact consistency but not too sloppy.

Pour the cement mix into the predefined precast moulds or lumber guides, smoothing this over evenly using your trowel. Be careful not to spill the concrete mix onto your skin or let it come in contact with your eyes, because of the caustic nature of cement/concrete of cement, when mixed with water the wet concrete mix can burn your skin and will need to be washed off immediately in order to avoid unnecessary injury a good barrier cream is recommended when working with cement and concrete products. 

Once poured and level, cover the uncured cement with plastic in order to protect it from scouring or drying out that will result in a low strength material, marks and unwanted imprints as it cures. The curing process can take up to 1 week so be sure to keep the area clear of pets and inquisitive little fingers looking to press a lasting impression into the pliable cement. 

Once fully cured, carefully remove the plastic covering as well as the precast moulds or lumber guides. Smooth out any undesirable rough edges, fill in the sides with garden soil and pat down to finish the installation.

It’s no secret that the key to any durable construction project is the proper and sturdy installation of a concrete foundation. A concrete foundation lays the base for a lasting installation whether it is an onsite cast construction project or fitting a precast installation like a water feature or fountain.

John Keats once said that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever” and while we agree, especially when it comes to the installation of tranquil water features and garden fountains, durability depends on the concrete foundation these stunning outdoor features are positioned on. 

Creating attractive focal points to vast garden landscapes, adding a tranquil bubble to the urban backyard or simply enhancing the aesthetics of an already established estate, installing a water feature to your garden takes the calculated construction of a sturdy outdoor concrete foundation before its placement. 

Water features, ponds and garden fountains are typically made of ceramic, stone or concrete and can be extremely heavy to start with, add water to the mix and if not installed properly, it can tilt, sink or crack as a result of an inadequate concrete foundation. 

Installing any type of garden feature to your outdoor décor will require the concerted installation of an outdoor concrete foundation. The depth of the foundation required is dependent on the type of structure and soil quality. Installations placed on firm level surfaces will only require a shallow foundation to form an appropriate base and a more deep foundation will be required when placing the garden feature on a slope or under poor soil conditions.

Once the scope of your concrete foundation project has been determined, see to follow Sephaku Cements steps to laying an outdoor concrete foundation.

      • Step 1:
      • Guided by mason’s string, measure the length and width of the desired foundation making sure that these measurements are larger than the base of the actual water feature. The border of the foundation needs to be as sturdy as the centre to prevent attrition and the chipping away of the frame over time.
      • Step 2:
      • After determining the depth required, excavate the area removing soil, rocks, roots and other debris from the base of the foundation. Once excavated place a level on top of the cleared area to ensure that the surface is smooth from any bumps, slopes and crevices.
      • Step 3: 
      • Making use of lumber boards shape the concrete foundation along the measured length and breadth of the area. Press the wood firmly against the sides to create a straight and solid wall for the cement to rest against once poured. 
      • Step 4:
      • Before preparing to pour the concrete, spread a layer of river sand on the surface of the foundation once again being careful to smooth over evenly, creating a uniform surface.
      • Step 5:
      • Using ready to mix concrete, slowly combine the cement with the correct quantities of water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully making sure not to add too much or too little water. Concrete mix that is either too thick (resulting in improper consolidation) or too thin (dilution with water) will adversely affect the strength and durability of the foundation, compromising the lasting installation of your water feature.
      • Step 6:
      • Pour the concrete mix into the foundation guides, filling the framework and smoothing the surface over. Remove any unwanted air pockets by hitting the lumber framework with a hammer or rubber mallet, use a rake or broom stick on the rest on the concrete to consolidate and to get rid of all unwanted entrapped air, once satisfied that the surface is as level as possible, leave to cure between 1 to 3 days depending on the depth of the foundation.

Once cured the lumber framework can be carefully removed and the installation of your garden fountain can now proceed. 

Resulting in beautiful designs, focal points and artistic accents, carving into concrete adds decorative features to various indoor and outdoor installations. From fireplaces, to concrete archways, feature walls and doorway entrances, carving into concrete offers aesthetic enhancements to what can be seemingly stark, dull and lacklustre fittings.

The practice of carving into cement has also become a popular expression of art, with various artists and sculptors specialising in cement forms.

From capturing feelings to expressing emotions; carving, modelling, assembling and casting can all be exercised using concrete, because of its durability and strength upon drying, it’s best to carve on concrete that is still wet.

From decorative concrete carving, simple designs, abstract creations or realistic forms, concrete offers a pliable foundation to create beautiful designs and decals. 

Basic tools that you will need in order to carve decorative designs into concrete include;

Serrated knives in various sizes:

  • A metal awl
  • A nut pick
  • A melon baller
  • A hack saw blade
  • A rotary tool
  • A small trowel

Other supplies that will come in handy include, surgical gloves to protect you skin and a dust mask to prevent the inhalation of silica, a key component in cement. Also gather together a few small buckets, towels, measuring cups and spoons a spray bottle with water, stencils, moulds and design patterns where desired.

The best concrete mixture for carving is combined with fine sand aggregate. This creates a smooth carving palette free from stone gouges and unnecessary scoring during the carving process. Mix one part of sifted Portland Cement with three parts of sifted, fine sand and around half of the total mix of water. The more lightweight the mixture the easier it is to carve.

After combining your cement and the fine sand aggregate mix, allow the concrete to become firm, this is also known as curing and can take between 2 and 3 hours depending on the volume used. Keep in mind the more firm the concrete mix becomes, the more challenging it will be to carve and mould, so be sure not to let the mixture cure for too long (allowing concrete to stand between 4 and 12 hours may result in undesirable conditions for carving and sculpture).

Using stencils, moulds, and design patterns, transfer desired markings onto the concrete form by pressing an awl or nut pick along the lines of the design. You can also carve the outlines of the desired pattern using a lino cutter, rotary tool or oscillating tool.

While carving your concrete creation, prevent the casting from drying too quickly by shielding the uncured mixture from the elements including direct sunlight or a persistent breeze and continue to mist the surface of the concrete with a water spray gun to keep the mixture moist.

Whether a stand-alone décor project or a new favoured pastime, carving concrete offers rewarding results, creates for a relaxing hobby and a creative outlet that, regardless of your experience will improve with each project. Plan your design ahead of time and be sure to get the water, cement and aggregate mix just right and keep in mind that for load bearing projects or those on a broader scope, you may need to call in the help of a trained contractor to consult on the project.

Revive a drab and tired looking pool and entertainment area with a coloured concrete pool deck. Making a big splash when it comes to decorative outdoor decals, enhancing pool decks, patios and entertainment areas by applying coloured concrete enhancements offers some of the most gorgeous finishes to perfect the look of your outdoor pool and entertainment area.

Coupled with concrete stamping, decorative concrete engraving and other ornamental trimmings, coloured concrete adds a sophisticated, durable and polished appearance to a seemingly plain and wearisome exterior.

Available in a variety of versatile shades hues and tones, coloured concrete pool decks can create a one of a kind look perfectly paired to enhance the appearance of your pool area and home. Because of the various methods used to colour concrete, each colouring technique results in a unique, multi-tonal finish and coloured effect.

Colour staining concrete methods include:

  • Chemical staining by making use of water-based or solvent-based staining products
  • Dry-shake hardeners hand spread onto freshly placed concrete resulting in more intense hues
  • Integral pigments that are combined with the concrete mix before being placed
  • A combination of all of the above colouring methods may also be used resulting in a one of a kind colour effect

While concrete may be custom coloured to match a specific tone of paint, paired to enhance exterior landscaping or to compliment other aesthetic highlights of your entertainment area, to follow find some of the more popular concrete colour options used in and around pool decks.
  • Sandy White and Light Beige Variants
    HWith the intent to reflect the sandy white beaches of a tropical paradise or that of the trademarked Greek Cycladic islands, white, when combined with the cool blue of crisp clear water creates and inviting allure to any concrete pool deck. Lighter pool decks also reflect the heat from the sun, keeping surfaces cool to the touch and comfortable to walk on.
  • Earth-toned Tans and Terracotta
    Much darker than white and sandy hues, earth tones, tans, browns and terracotta create a striking effect to any outdoor entertainment area. Depending on how these colours are styled against other exterior décor, decorative concrete and landscaping, effects may mirror a Moroccan courtyard, a rustic Tuscan terracotta patio or an earthy African themed pool.
  • Modern Greys and Granite
    Dark sultry, dramatic and modern, concrete colour effects that create slate-like, granite or weathered flagstone effects can modernise dated exteriors adding drama and richness to typical pool deck décor. Using charcoals, blue and light grey tones are a popular choice amongst more modern decorative concrete pools and entertainment areas. Paired with Asian inspired décor, darker coloured concrete can create some of the most tranquil spaces in and around your home.

  • When selecting the hue and finish of your concrete pool deck and outdoor entertainment area, be certain to talk to your contractor about the various concrete colour options available.
    With such a vast variety of colour options, textures and effects, be sure to research each choice carefully and pair your ideal result with the overall theme of your home.

Durable, versatile and one of the most affordable building materials in the construction industry, Sephaku Cement shares Concrete Design Ideas on a Budget..

Said to be the most commonly used materials in an array of construction projects, concrete features twice as many times as the various other materials used inclulding, aluminum, wood, plastic, and steel.

Characterised by its strength and durability, its versatility, low maintenance and affordability to name but a few, concrete is one of the most accessible materials to make use of when working on a more rigid budget. Offering the ultimate in decorative versatility, concrete can be put to use in a number of ornamental and aesthetical enhancing features in your home or workplace. Given its affordability, with low material and labour costs, not to mention low maintenance and upkeep requirements, concrete is one of the most economical options to make use of in any structure, treatment or decorative decal added to your building project.

To follow, wet your décor appetite with Sephaku Cement’s Concrete Design Ideas on a Budget.

  • Design Idea #1: Decorative Concrete Countertops
    Hardwearing, aesthetically pleasing, modern and functional, concrete countertops are available in a variety of pre-cast or built-in designs. Apply various textures, colours and finishes to the installation and create a one-of-a-kind look to your kitchen, bathroom and indoor or outdoor entertainment area.

  • Design Idea #2: Precast or Built to Fit Concrete Fireplace Installations
    Both through function and design, precast or built to fit concrete fireplace installations create one of the most elegant finishes to any lounge, dining room or even bedroom. Available in classic or modern designs, featuring sharp lines or curved edges and mantelpieces, whether a one-of-a-kind design or catalogue selected, a concrete fireplace creates a striking centrepiece to any room.

  • Design Idea #3: Polished Concrete Flooring
    Reflecting the same elegance and drama created by marble and granite options, polished concrete floors are a low maintenance, high quality and durable flooring option that maintains its decorative characteristics for an inordinate length of time. Exposing the natural beauty of the various layers of the concrete slab, depending on the desired look, through grinding and polishing, the layers of the concrete floor are “revealed” resulting in a marbled, salt and pepper or exposed aggregate appeal.

  • Design Idea #4: Stencil or Engraved Concrete Driveways and Paving
    With endless design options and decorative decals available, concrete engraving offers an affordable and easy to apply decorative enhancement to dated and dull concrete installations. Creating a permanent finish to unmarked concrete driveways, patio’s, garden paths and entrance courtyards, engraved concrete is created using etching equipment and tools. or even sandblasting can give an interesting texture to a floor, to carefully carve details into set concrete.

  • Design Idea #5: Water-based Staining
    An economical alternative to the other, more labour intensive solvent based staining; enhancing the aesthetics of decorative concrete installations using a water-based stain will not require any labor-intensive cleaning and stripping of solvent-based or previous acid staining. Transforming a dull slab of concrete in to an artistic expression of your desired finish, water based staining is also a more eco-friendly option to make use of.
    No matter what your budget or the extent of your decorative project, concrete designs options and features offer an affordable option to interior and exterior décor projects planned on a shoestring budget.

With process, manufacturing and technological advancements is constantly being made in the production of cement, Sephaku Cement looks at the process of making cement.

Said to be one of the most common materials used in various building projects around the world, cement and by default concrete is versatile, low maintenance, affordable, durable and with an excellent thermal mass. Used in the construction of homes, buildings, schools, hospitals, bridges, tunnels, dam walls, sewage systems and various other modern day constructs, it’s difficult to find a building or structure that exists without the support of cement.

To follow, find the various steps taken during the production of cement from excavation of raw materials to the final bagged product.

  • Step one – Excavating Raw Materials
    Made predominantly from Limestone, Clay or Marl, raw materials are mined from mineral rich quarries by blasting or ripping using heavy machinery to excavate the site. Extracted materials are then transported by wheel loaders and dumper trucks or conveyor belts to crushing installations for processing, where the raw material is later broken up into smaller pieces.

  • Step Two - Storage and Blending
    Once crushed the raw materials are transported by conveyer belts and warehoused in blending beds where they are further homogenized, blended together, to form a uniform bed of material.

  • Step Three – Drying and grinding
    Once the type of cement required has been determined, production begins with preparing the raw materials through drying and raw grinding. Roller grinding mills and ball mills grind the homogenised raw material into a finer product, while simultaneously drying it out during the grinding process. ( either heat from grinding or induced heat)

  • Step Four – Burning to form Clinker
    Using preheater kilns or using traveling grates (Lepol) the raw material, now crushed and dried is “burnt” at extremely high temperatures. As a result of the burning process a chemical conversion takes place also referred to as sintering that results in the production of clinker.

  • Step Five – Fine Grinding
    Once the clinker has sufficiently cooled after the burning process, the stony residue is once again conveyed to ball mills or roller presses where it is finely ground into powdery dust also referred to as cement. Depending on the desired use of the cement it is also during this process that additives such as Anhydrite, Gypsum, Limestone or Blast-furnace Slag and other additions like grinding aid are combined with the ground, powdery material in the production of the finished cement product.
Given the scope of development that cities and towns locally and across the globe continue to undergo, finding new and innovative ways to complete construction projects in the most durable, energy efficient and eco-friendly manner is critical.

Estimated as being used twice as much in comparison to a combined use of other building supplies such as wood, steel and aluminium etc., concrete is said to be the most commonly used man made material in the world.

Produced predominantly from raw materials, efforts in the production of cement are now focussed on reducing CO2 emissions during the process of making cement. Considered to be one of the most eco-friendly materials used in constructions compared to other materials commonly consumed, the use of concrete plays a key role in maintaining internal temperatures amongst other sustainable benefits.

While a tall order and not something most contractors seek to do for business (or for pleasure), removing concrete sealers can be a challenging and messy task. Sephaku Cement discusses the intricacies and what you need to know about removing concrete sealers with as little fuss, mess and mishap as possible.

Before proceeding with removing a concrete sealer your contractor will want to establish what type of sealer was originally applied to the concrete surface, in doing so this will determine the best suited approach to tackle this undesirable task. Determining if the concrete was sealed with water based or solvent based product is key to successfully removing the coating by applying the most relevant and appropriate methods.

  • How to tell if the concrete sealant is water or solvent based
    To understand what type of concrete sealant was initially applied to the cement surface, test this by pouring a small amount of Xylene to the area. After allowing the product to sit on the concrete surface for about 30 seconds, remove the excess Xylene and with clean hands, touch the area to feel if the surface is tacky to the touch. If the surface is sticky it’s likely that the concrete floor was sealed with a water based coating.
  • How to avoid having to remove a concrete sealants where possible
    The typical rule of thumb sees a like to like approach when re-applying sealants and thus avoiding having to remove the original coating. A solvent based sealer can be re-applied to a concrete surface originally sealed with a solvent based product and a water based product reapplied to original water based coatings. Conversely so, one cannot stress enough that a solvent based sealant cannot be applied to a surface previously sealed with water based application and vice versa.
The reason why one can only re-seal concrete surfaces with a like: like approach is because of the chemical reaction that takes pace when solvent and water based products come into contact – even once they have dried. When applying a solvent based sealant to water based coatings, the solvent solution “eats away” at the water based sealant creating an unsmooth and blistered or flaky surface. This result in a flawed application and one that fails to adhere to the surface it is applied to.

If a water based sealant formed the base coat to any concrete surface that you now wish to seal with a solvent based coating the water based sealant will need to be removed by way of chemical etching, high pressure washing or mechanical abrasion.

If a solvent based sealant was originally applied that you now wish to coat with a water based product, the solvent based sealant must be removed using a Xylene stripper or a high pressure wash.

Smelly, messy and hazardous, stripping off cement sealants can leave your equipment soiled, your skin burnt and the condition of the area that you are working on damaged and marred.

Whether making use of caustic chemicals or attempting to sandblast or grind away at concrete floor sealers, the original surface can be left disfigured, the aggregate exposed and a mucky mess remaining behind to have to clean up after. Where possible try to avoid this unwelcomed job but where no other choice is available be sure to make use of high quality products, contract only the best in the business, don’t cut corners and keep the clean up as environmentally friendly as possible.

Sephaku Cement investigates how best to design a DIY concrete fireplace and how precast or built-to-fit concrete installations create the ideal fireplace features for every home. With winter fast approaching nothing quite beats the appeal of the roar of a raging fire, stacked with crackling wood as it burns. To follow find top tips to designing a DIY concrete fireplace including aesthetics, function, form, placement and safety considerations.

1. Consider the prime placement of your concrete fireplace
Taking into account safety, traffic, interior décor and the desired design, finding the perfect placement and positioning for your DIY fireplace requires mindful consideration. To understand how the placement of your fireplace will impact the room, place a cardboard box to scale in the correct position to demonstrate how the placement will fit in with the natural traffic flow, safety and clearance as well as the overall feel it creates in the room.

2. Consider the desired design and surrounding decor
Selecting a design that complements your home or the room’s theme and genre is critical when installing a DIY concrete fireplace. With so many design variants available, it goes without saying that your concrete fireplace will become the centrepiece to the room and will define the desired décor theme. Whether intended to create a new theme or complement an existing one, consider the room’s finishes, furniture and current centrepieces that will be influenced by the fireplace design and installation once mounted.

3. Research, investigate and explore all of your options
With an overwhelming number of design options, colour variants, decals, finishes and fittings, have your contractor prepare a mock up design, supply colour samples and showcase a portfolio of previous installations to help with the selection of your ideal DIY concrete fireplace. Research interior décor magazines for inspiration, visit trade show exhibitions and discuss the various installation options with industry experts and manufactures, gaining as many leading opinions and advice as possible. By doing extensive research ahead of your DIY project this will ensure that your final installation is one that offers optimal function and fulfils your décor objectives.

4. Pre-cast or Cast-in-Place
While having the option to have your DIY fireplace pre-cast or cast on-site, as a matter of preference, your contractor may or may not be equipped to cater to your liking. Each offers a number of pros and cons, pre-cast options can be prepared in a controlled environment allowing manufactures to monitor the overall process and curing, while on-site installations needn’t be transported avoiding the potential for additional costs and possible damage in transit. Consider both installation options carefully by weighing up what best suits your project goals as well as the intricacies of the design and overall build.

5. Selecting the perfect finish
With endless variations of colours, textures, imprints, engravings, decals and finishes, precast or cast-on-site fireplace options are available to create almost any look and finish. From bold stains to muted tones, hard-trowelled, polished or ground, decals can range from natural stone to cladding, themed imprints, cobbled or symmetric designs. The benefit of installing concrete fireplace designs is the variety and selection available to create the ideal finish.

No matter what your objectives are, desired design, the ideal finish and the available budget for your fireplace build, selecting concrete as your material of choice when designing a DIY concrete fireplace opens up endless options each offering a variety of features, customisable to perfectly complement your home.

As the popularity of various concrete installations continues to grow, we investigate a few myths and misconceptions about concrete floors, walls, precast installations, paving and other concrete features. Understanding how to care for concrete, ensuring that it’s optimally installed and guaranteeing that durability and strength is maintained throughout its lifespan, we debunk six common misconceptions about concrete and cement installations.

Myth 1: Concrete flooring, walls and paving is expensive.
Fact: Cement and concrete installations are, on the contrary a cost effective solution to decorative flooring, walls, precast wall installations and paving solutions. Not only is the installation of concrete cost effective, materials are affordable and the lasting benefit of its durability and permanency makes cement the ideal composite used in beautifying your home.

Myth 2: All concrete installations will eventually crack.
Fact: Provided that the cement, sand, aggregate and water ratio is prepared correctly, placement and the pouring process is expertly adhered to and the inclusion of control joints and curing are used during and after placement, various concrete installations and features should remain crack free throughout their lifetime and serviceable for their intended purpose. The incorrect installation of any flooring, walling, paving or other home improvements can lead to adverse defects, blemishes and imperfections, but when prepared and fitted correctly, shortcomings are avoided and a durable, resilient installation can be enjoyed.

Myth 3: Concrete cannot be placed in cold or under extreme weather conditions.
Fact: Decorative cement and concrete placements can now be installed in below freezing conditions given advancements made to cement/concrete mix constituents, engineering techniques and other technological innovations made in the cement and concrete industry. While extremely cold conditions are uncommon in South Africa, where colder weather used to have a negative impact on the placement concrete, today extreme conditions have a minimal bearing on the outcome on the successful placement of concrete.

Myth 4: Concrete floors, wall installations and paving solutions do not require any maintenance.
Fact: Although renowned for its lasting durability, hard wearing and resilient makeup, concrete installations are optimally preserved with routine maintenance, upkeep and cleaning, and intermittent sealing. Preserving stained effects, stamps and embellishments, crack repairs and the regular application of sealants will see various concrete installations last and remain aesthetically appealing for longer. Extend the life of concrete features in your home with regular cleaning to remove oil stains and grime, apply a good quality concrete sealant at regular intervals, beautify them with a colour stain and repair cracks with concrete patching.(preferably purpose made repair materials from preferred suppliers).

Myth 5: Cement to water ratios is inconsequential.
Fact: Concrete mixing is both an art and science with expert care needed to ensure that the water to cement ratio is of optimal proportions as well as the correct aggregate is used where necessary. While adding more water may make pouring and placing easier, a concrete mix that is too wet will compromise the durability and strength of cured concrete and potentially lead to spalling and surface cracks.

Myth 6: Cement is not environmentally friendly.
Fact:While prepared using man-made methods in a plant, cement is made of mostly natural elements, including lime, ash and natural compounds. Concrete installations also contribute to various “green” home improvements indirectly supporting a number of eco-friendly lifestyle installations.

Enhancing concrete walls and vertical concrete surfaces with vertical concrete overlays offers an easy and effective way to add decorative detail to various vertical surfaces. Similar to how decorative stamping, carving and concrete engraving enhances the features of concrete paving, driveways, pool decks and other horizontal surfaces, the same effect can be applied to vertical concrete surfaces when looking to beautify the exteriors and interiors of your home or place of work.

Offering versatility with various decorative designs and decals both structured or themed, vertical surface areas can now be stamped or hand carved to look like stone, brick, slate, custom detailed and so much more, adding accents and drama to the exterior and interior of any vertical surface, vertical concrete overlays are almost a third of the weight of conventional cementitious materials and when applied to primed surfaces, they create a thick overlay available in various textures, depending on the desired finish.

When detailed on to newly applied vertical surfaces of older pre-existing concrete walls, vertical concrete overlays are lightweight cement based applications that can adhere to virtually any vertical surface provided they have been appropriately prepared and primed for the overlay.

Vertical concrete overlays and decals can be applied to a number of pre-existing surfaces, these include:

  • Concrete (Old or new)
  • Masonry
  • Wood
  • Cement boards
  • Plaster
  • Drywall
  • ICF’s (Insulating Concrete Forms)
  • Precast Concrete Walls
Hand carved or stamped, vertical overlays are available in a variety of textures, designs and one-of-a-kind decorative features. Where designs and details are vertically applied, concrete overlay variants including stone-walled textures or sleeper wood and other wood-grain designs. Cobblestone, brick, engraved, stamped or even more sculptured centrepieces are available along with other more unique designs that may include fossilized rock, botanical imprints, cut coral, lava rock or themed sculptures.

The cement based material is lightweight and because of this, decals won’t sag or slump when applied to various vertical surfaces, what’s more, vertical overlays can be easily stained and coloured further adding to the decorative highlights these vertical features bring to ordinary interior and exterior walling. The depth of the design can also vary, customised to suit personal preference and various wall dimensions while the overlays also work extremely well around curved corners and rounded archways, bows and bends.

Vertical resurfacing and concrete wall overlays can be applied to create unique features and finishes, embellished in a number of designs, some of these finishes may include highlights such as:
  • Hand-carved fireplace fronts and decorative mantel pieces
  • Centrepiece wall features to interiors
  • Exterior accent walls
  • Arched entrance halls
  • Overhung walkways
  • Retaining walls
  • Privacy walls both interior and exterior
  • Wine cellar walls and ceilings
  • Interior or exterior chimney features and decals
  • Children’s themed rooms
  • Themed exteriors and entertainment areas
  • Pool decks and ornamental highlights
  • Vertical water features and fountains
Vertical overlays are not only available in variety of designs, but also offer versatility in terms of texture and finish. From heavy stone to coarse stone textures, rock salt, brick or tiles, decorative borders, slate and so many other options, vertical overlay textures add to the finish and overall design of any desired wall feature.

Regardless of the desired outcome, vertical concrete overlays make for a versatile and accessible way to accentuate vertical walls throughout your home or business.

Concrete walling technology has evolved to include both innovative techniques and stunning design options that have not always been available in the concrete walling industry. While concrete walling solutions have always been a popular option, today these enclosures offer even more versatility and flexibility than ever before. Having refined processes, technologies and decal techniques, concrete walls now offer much to be admired with decorative wall options.

What was once an uninteresting and monotonous walling solution, today features texture variants, decorative patterns and even colour stains far more resourceful to traditional precast walls.

Offering a popular alternative to other walling techniques, concrete walls are affordable, durable, easy to maintain and simple to install. Having evolved from more traditional fencing options such as wood, brick, vinyl and wrought iron, precast concrete fencing continues to grow in popularity as a result of their many benefits.

Offering a versatile walling solution, benefits and features of concrete walls include:

  • Little to no upkeep - minimal maintenance required
  • Concrete walls are both stable and durable
  • Unlike wood and other wall installations, these are not affected by insects, extreme weather and other climate conditions.
  • An economical walling solution – great value for money and affordability
  • Highly customisable by way of design, texture colour and finish
  • Erected with unique and customised engineering techniques accommodating for complex installation conditions
Given the technological improvements applied to production techniques, installation and design, precast concrete walls are available as an economical installation to any home or business. It has become increasingly difficult to discriminate between more traditional walling options to precast wall installations with a growing number of residences, office complexes, apartment buildings and many other locations making use of precast concrete walls as decorative fencing. Landscape architecture has become captivated by the use of decorative concrete wall installations given their aesthetics and versatility along with the already listed benefits attributed to making use of precast concrete walls. One of the main reasons why concrete walling options have begun to overtake traditional fencing materials is attributed to the various designs, textures and colour variants this pioneering walling solution now offers.

A few examples of designs and imprints now available as precast concrete wall options include:
  • Natural Stone
  • Split face brick
  • Large Brick
  • Small smooth brick
  • Louvered
  • Palisade
  • Stucco
  • River Rock
Considered a superior walling solution, there are a number of new and innovative ways that precast concrete walls can now be installed, these methods include:

Option 1: Embedding concrete or steel posts into caisson footings fitted to the height of the wall which then supports the stacked concrete panels.

Option 2: Using grouted cell connections placed over the caisson footings which, once the columns or posts are in place, grouting is later poured into the grooves securing the columns in place.

Option 3: Making use of posts that have been manufactured with mechanical fasteners. The fasteners on each column are attached to the caisson footings for reinforced stability and the stacked concrete panels are lowered into place.

Decorative concrete walls and fencing options offer homes, complex units and business parks advanced engineering that can be customised to suit any installation. With updated techniques and an evolved approach, precast concrete fencing creates various looks and finishes while satisfying the need to an affordable walling solution.

Bring life to existing concrete driveways, pavements, or patio paving; transform basic grey concrete flooring into stunning works of art with the elegance and flair of concrete engraving. While there are a number of decals, effects and finishes available for freshly placed concrete flooring and paving, to follow we share how to convert pre-existing concrete floors and paving with decorative designs using concrete etching.

From brick to cobblestones, custom enhancements and ornamental decals, engraving on concrete surfaces offers an abundance of design options when looking to add elegance and flair to tedious concrete floors, driveways and paving. Carved into set concrete using etching equipment and tools, concrete engraving creates a permanent finish to originally unmarked concrete. This means that the design won’t fade, wear away or weather over time. Also referred to as routing, decorative concrete engravings can be further enhanced by adding a stain and colour to decals, transforming walkways, paths, entrance halls or decks with attractive centrepieces and designs.

Suitable for both interior and exterior concrete floors, driveways and other paving features, both newly set concrete or older, hardened concrete can be detailed using concrete engraving and with virtually hundreds of design options available almost anything can be etched into pre-existing concrete, for example:

  • Cobblestone
  • Uneven earth and “cracks”
  • Uniform Brick Paving
  • Stamps and Ornamental Designs
  • Logo’s
  • Tiling effects
  • Sleeper Wood
  • Stepping Stones
  • Marbled Effects
  • Boarders
  • Flagstone
  • Celtic Knot Centrepieces
Depending on the size of the area, the number of repairs and the degree of restoration required on older placed floors will determine the length of time taken to complete an engraving process. The desired depth of the etching and details, along with the amount of cleaning required before the etching process will also influence the complexity of the job and time taken to complete the engraving process. Ranging anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks, the process to engrave pre-set concrete is simple and pragmatic.
  • Step One: The concrete is thoroughly cleaned and acid etched depending on whether a bond is required for colour staining.
  • Step Two: The concrete will be assessed for cracks and required restoration where necessary where natural cracks and blemishes do not form part of the desired finish. Where necessary, cracks will be sealed and blemishes repaired creating an unmarked and intact surface for the concrete engraver to work on.
  • Step Three: Where applicable and where the entire surface of the concrete flooring is to receive a uniform finish, desired staining will take place prior to the routing of the concrete. However should the stain be defined by the engraved effect, staining will only take place following the carving of the concrete.
  • Step Four: Using special concrete etching equipment and engraving tools, the desired pattern or design is routed into interior or exterior concrete pavements, driveways, entrance halls and walkways.
  • Step Five: The concrete flooring is cleaned after the desired pattern has been engraved into the concrete, stains are applied where applicable (as detailed in step four) and a sealant coating is applied to the etched surface to conclude the process.
Whether you are laying new concrete flooring on the interior or exterior of your home or business or wish to enhance the existing features of concrete flooring, concrete engraving offers a simple and effective method to add decorative decals and highlights to drab and dreary concrete surfaces.

Offering state-of-the-art engineering and the latest in fabrication techniques, unique design ideas for concrete bath tubs creates for exclusively themed bathrooms for every remodelling project. Where the bathtub makes for the centrepiece to any bathroom, choosing the best concrete tub design idea to suit the theme of your bathroom is a critical consideration for the aesthetics of your remodelling project.

Shaped by a number of factors, before remodelling your bathroom and selecting the type of concrete tub you plan on installing consider the following;

  • What are your budget constraints
  • How much space do you have to work
  • Are there any layout and plumbing restrictions
  • What is your desired theme
Recent bathroom renovations have seen an increase in the installation of concrete bathtubs creating for unique aesthetics and gorgeous finishes. With a number of design ideas available, installing a concrete bathtub is growing in popularity with current, modern and traditional bathroom installations.

For a customised, natural and unique look for your bathroom, concrete tubs add character, colour and excellent durability to your remodelling project. Where factory-made fibreglass bathtubs fail to create an exclusive feel, concrete tubs are available in distinctive designs, colour stains, textures, shapes and sizes.

Concrete bath tubs offer versatility, durability and unique design features to every bathroom remodelling project and are available in almost any shape, size, and finish. Concrete bathtubs are also available as free standing tubs or built-in options allowing for any theme to take shape to your bathroom design idea. To follow find various design ideas for concrete bathtub installations:

Option 1: Shape and Size

Often forming a focal point to various bathroom designs, concrete bathtubs can be custom designed to create the perfect look to match your bathroom theme. Modern, classic, curved or cornered, concrete tubs are available in various shapes and sizes catering to just about any look you’re hoping to achieve. Common shapes include;
  • Egg or oval
  • Round or kidney shaped
  • Tear drop design
  • Box, square or rectangular
  • Contoured base to fit the shape your body


Option 2: Stain and Colour

Any concrete installation is available in a variety of colour finishes. From rich, deep and bold colour schemes to mottled and marbled staining, concrete colouring contributes to the finished and appearance of texture that your tub installation will create. From cooler colour schemes such as greys, charcoal, blue or back to warmer colour palettes such as beige, cream, nudes and rich browns, including a colour stain to your concrete bathtub creates a look of elegance to the installation, adds character to the theme and a temperature by the tone selected.

Option 3: Dream Theme

Depending on the look you wish to accomplish in your bathroom, concrete bathtubs can make a significant contribution to the theme of the room. Adding character to the finish, the tub can set the tone of your bathroom by coupling it to the overall design of the room. We love the following themes that can be created by selecting the appropriate concrete tub;
  • Create a Korean Bathhouse with a deep-set Asian soaking tub, a deep warm colour palette and low lighting.
  • Install a natural look with an oval or egg shape tub set amidst a forest of indoor plants, light colours and undertones of beige and green.
  • Style a Turkish bath with marbled finishes and a mosaic motif.
  • Model a modern day classic look with sharp lines and corners, cooler colours and minimalist décor.
Regardless of the design and finish you select when remodelling your bathroom, when professionally installed, stained and sealed, concrete tubs also offer irreplaceable durability, ease of maintenance and finishes that don’t fade, scratch or chip, built to last a lifetime.

Sephaku Cement explains the ddifferences between drying and curing and the various phases that concrete sealers go through as they set.

Understanding the differences between drying and curing and the various drying phases that concrete sealers go through as they set can be intricate. While sealers and coatings typically follow the same setting process, some dry while others cure. To follow, we note the differences between concrete sealants that dry and concrete floor sealers that cure and what this means for the application of polyurethane sealants to stained concrete flooring.

To begin, let’s make sure we understand what it means when a sealant cures and how this is different to an application that dries. In the concrete industry we understand that curing is the process by which materials undergo hardening by way of a chemical reaction when various compounds are mixed. Much the same as the chemical reaction that cement undergoes when hydrating, two part sealants will also undergo a hardening phase when different parts of the 2 part sealants mix, this can also be referred to as a catalysed system.

So now that we understand the fundamentals of curing, let’s explore the differences between sealants that dry versus those that cure.

All sealants and concrete coatings contain liquid solvents which are known as carriers. Depending on the type and the volume of solvents present in the concrete coating will determine how the sealant will dry (or cure).

One-part Concrete Sealers One part sealants dry without curing whereby the solvent or liquid carrier evaporates as it becomes exposed to air, which in turn causes the resin or solid compounds of the sealant to dry creating a resin-like membrane on top of the concrete floor.

Two-part Concrete Floor Sealants Two-part sealants or catalyzed systems cure as they dry. When the two parts of the sealant mix, crosslinking occurs which forms a type of bonding that takes place during this chemical process. The bonding results in greater durability which in turn results in the coating being classed as a more high performance application, typically used on high traffic zones and hardworking floors.

While each concrete sealant offers various pros and cons each suited to different uses and needs, each coating follows very similar set of phases when drying, these include:

  • Shelf Life – This is pre-application where the concrete sealant is stored in an airtight container usually for no longer than a period of 1 year before sealant compounds become compromised. It’s important to note that two-part sealants tend to be more sensitive to a lengthy shelf-life and the appropriate storage needs to be adhered to. Every manufacturer can determine a different shelf life for their products, these guidelines must however be followed by the consumer/client.
  • Working Life – also referred to as “pot life” is when the sealant is in the application process. Affected by the environment and conditions under which the coating is applied (hot, cold, moist, dry, windy conditions), warmer conditions speed up drying and curing as well as shorten the shelf life of the product once it has been exposed to air and heat.
  • Open Time – Exposed to air after the initial application this drying phase is hugely affected by exposure to various conditions, depending on the chemistry of the sealant, open time can vary between 15 minutes and a number of hours.
  • Tacky – as the name suggests the tacky phase during the drying and curing of decorative cement sealants is when the coating film is tacky to the touch. While this may be so, it is important not to touch the surface of the sealant as finger marks and blemishes will remain as the coating continues to dry. It is critical that two-part sealants dry beyond this phase before re-applying a second coat to avoid the risk of trapping solvent that is still evaporating.
  • Tack Free - considered the final phase in the drying and curing process, the tack free phase has taken place when the cement sealant is no longer tacky to the touch, it is not that two-part coatings will be re-applied during the recoat window. Allow a period after this final phase before use, to ensure longevity of your chosen floor coating.

Sephaku Cement discusses safety considerations when building a “do it yourself” concrete fire pit and what you need to know to make it a concrete fire pit a “roaring” success.

Not only functional but a gorgeous feature, highlighting the aesthetics of any yard, we discuss safety considerations when building a “do it yourself” concrete fire pit and what you need to know to make it a “roaring” success. Of utmost importance is the choice of shape, size, location and design of your fire pit, below, find five safety considerations that should never be ignored when building a DIY fire pit:

  1. When selecting materials to build a do it yourself fire pit, never neglect to make use of fire safe materials. This is one area where cutting costs should never be pursued, paying critical attention to make use of the finest quality, fire primed materials. From selecting fire ready concrete blocks and bowls, to making use of fire bricks and fire clay mortar to line the fire pit with so that the necessary insulation is provided, ensuring that it is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures is a critical attention to detail when building your own fire pit.

  2. Another safety consideration to apply to your DIY cement fire pit is to be certain of the appropriate placement of the pit, clearance around the circumference and how safely one can pass by. While a concrete fire pit adds value and aesthetics of a patio or pool deck, fire is a dangerous element that can cause serious injury and significant damage to property if the placement is not well thought through. A safe distance from surrounding buildings and roofing as well as a safe clearance to move around the pit is a conscious consideration to make to be sure the outdoor fire pit is well positioned in relation to the area that you are building in.

  3. Consider the clearance between the rim of the bowl and the flames, making sure the flame area doesn’t overhang the border of the rim. Depending on the design of the pit and if the pit has an overhanging lip or border, leave ample space between the flame and border for those sitting or standing close to the fire pit. Once again, fire is considered hazardous and the utmost safety should be adhered to when adding this as a feature to outdoor entertainment areas.

  4. To ensure that the appropriate safety regulations have been adhered to, we recommend that burners are purchased pre-assembled by the manufacturer, keeping in mind that assembly needs to account for the potential of water entering the manifold, while at the same time ensuring even flame distribution, burner installations are placed in an upward position but must allow for water to drain from the tubing should the tubing get wet from rain or condensation. Purchasing your DIY fire pit burner from an accredited manufacturer you can be guaranteed that the appropriate functioning and safety installations have been professionally adhered to.

  5. While selecting a manual or automated control system is made based on preference, manual operation allows for users to take into account environmental factors that automated system cannot. When lighting a fire system manually, the height of the flames can be controlled, while wind factors and the intensity can be considered too. To prevent flames from blowing beyond the rim of the pit, more low set flames can be light and for fire pits that are further away from surrounding guests, higher flames can be set. While automated options offer their own set of pros and cons, when making safety considerations, manual controls allow the operator to appropriately adjust the flame height catering to various entertainment factors.

While basic guidelines will make this DIY job simple enough for even amateur builders to construct, safety guidelines and protocols should always be adhered to not only during the construction phase but during the operation of your cement fire pit ensuring that future use of a concrete fire pit is as safe and secure as possible. The design and layout of a wood burning fire pit could be quite different from gas burning fire pits.

Learn the differences between concrete dyes versus concrete stains and how to tell them apart.

Fairly new to the decorative concrete industry, concrete dyes are currently all the rage, replacing the previously popular concrete staining fad, below we describe the differences between concrete dyes and concrete stains and how to tell them apart.

Concrete staining is a chemical process, whereby the staining agent reacts with the calcium hydroxide present in concrete, but when making use of a concrete dye, the process is rather that of pigmentation; a non-reactive method where colour is mixed with concrete and penetrates the cement particles.

To follow, let’s explore each process in more detail, helping to highlight the differences between these two approaches to colouring concrete.

The Process of using a Concrete Dye As discussed the process of using a colour dye is a non-reactive one whereby colour pigment particles mix with the cement particles. Smaller in size, dye pigment particles are able to penetrate cementitious surfaces, allowing for more intense colour saturation while leaving minimal residue to clean up on the surface of the concrete after the effect has been applied. Available as a water or solvent based formula, concrete dyes can produce a monotone to translucent finish depending on the formula selected to be applied.

Designed to resemble marble, similar to the effect resulting from chemical stains, water based dyes produce a more translucent and uneven effect whereas solvent based dyes create a more solid and uniform colour finish. Other more unique effects may be accomplished by mixing water and solvent based dyes together producing a distinctive blend of colour.

An important note to remember when making use of concrete dyes is that given the rate at which pigment particles in concrete dye are able to penetrate porous cement particles means that even the smallest mishap during the application process can result in an undesirable finish. Another note to be aware of is that concrete dyes are not UV stable making them only suitable for indoor concrete flooring and not concrete flooring surfaces that are exposed to harsh sunlight and any adverse weather conditions throughout the day.

Concrete colour dyes are also available in an extensive colour palette, offering vibrant colour finishes and intensities. Although new to the concrete flooring industry, making use of concrete dye technology creates unique and diverse colour techniques for a striking and distinctive look to decorative cement.

Understanding Concrete Stains Concrete staining can be an intricate process given its translucent and marbled effect. Acid or water based concrete staining is available in a gorgeous variety of colours with end results that guarantee a unique finish well suited to both interior and exterior surfaces. Using a stain to colour concrete is the more popular method to creating a decorative look offering the ability to achieve almost any accent to concrete flooring.

By penetrating the concrete, cement staining agents have a chemical response when coming into contact with the calcium hydroxide present in the concrete mix. This process results in a unique mottling effect that resembles finishes similar to that of marble or granite. Although available in a variety of colours, acid stain tones are typically limited to earthy tans, browns, terracotta and the most exotic or the range, opaque blues and greens. Water based stains are available in a more extravagant colour palette broadening colour options and even allowing colour mixing, two tone blending, the layering of stains or perhaps even the inclusion of stencil decals where desired.

Regardless of the method used to colour decorative concrete flooring, the pigmentation process to adding accents to concrete is both affordable and accessible offering a variety of finishes, intensities, colours hues and effects.

Available in a variety of patterns and colours, stamped concrete floors create a picturesque finish to create gorgeous concrete flooring options.

Together, lets discover the process of creating these decorative finishes and uncover a world of stamped concrete floors and the number of patterns, designs and colours that this flooring option is available in.

Given the number of technological advancements the concrete industry has made over the last decade; concrete floors are available in an almost limitless variety of colours, shapes and textures, what’s more is concrete flooring is available at an affordable cost, making this flooring type a highly desirable and accessible option even for the most rigid budget.

Selecting Stamped Concrete Patterns

Patterned stamped concrete can be created to resemble a variety of finishes based on your desired end result. Ranging from brick to flagstone, cobbled or slate, with natural textures to more structured and modern finishes, stamped concrete floors can create the ideal look to compliment your home, the range of textures and colours is only limited by your imagination.

Stamped Concrete Patterns and Designs Include:

  • Random Interlocking Square Cobble Stone with Rounded Corners
  • Random Interlocking Fractured Slate Cobbles with Square Corners
  • Large Earth Surface Embossing Skins
  • River Stone Skins for Large Surface Areas
  • Uniform Rectangular Ashlar Stone
  • Uniform Sleeper Wood Planking
  • Uniform Pine Wood Planking
  • Natural Garden Rock Finishes
  • Uniform Small Cobblestone
  • Small Lime Stone Squares in a European Fan

Applying Colour Variants to stamped Concrete Floors.

Once the base set up for installing concrete floors has been followed the process of adding a colour variant to concrete floors can occur via two junctures:

The first and least common process sees colour options added to the cement mixer creating a solid colour throughout the concrete. The alternate option is to dry-shake a colour hardener onto the surface of the cement which is then gently worked into the concrete. The colour/hardener dusting process is applied to the concrete a number of times over ensuring that the concrete is pigmented a few inches deep should the set surface chip or scratch throughout its life time.

Colour variants include:
  • Buff
  • Walnut
  • Mahogany
  • Grey and Slate Variants
  • Pinks and Salmon
  • Tan Variants
  • Slate Grey
  • Brick Red or Terracotta
  • Sand and Stone Options

by mixing colour tints with each other, the end results create a one of a kind look that can be perfectly matched to paint variants or to create a never seen before finish, should you wish to create a unique colour blend.

The Process of Stamping Concrete Patterns

Once the concrete has been effectively coloured with the desired end result, the stamping process can commence. An uncomplicated process at best; by simply placing a series of stamping tools reflecting the selected pattern onto the concrete, stamped concrete patterns are carefully pressed into the coloured concrete. Various patterns, textures and finishes may be achieved, depending on the desired design selected.

After curing for 24 hours, the pressed concrete slab is power-washed to ensure excess colour hardener is removed, keep wet and warm for a few days to facilitate curing followed by the process of acid-etching a few days later. A sealant is later applied and for outdoor surfaces a sandy sealer can be used to preserve the surface of the stamped concrete slab and add traction or grip to potentially slippery areas.

With a world of stamped concrete flooring now at your fingertips, we hope to have helped to explain the process of creating beautiful stamped concrete flooring and the various finishes that can be accomplished based on your desired end results. Happy stamping!

To stain or to paint? That is the question. We’ve listed the differences between concrete paint and concrete stain so you can decide for yourself which one is best for your specific project.

You’ve finished renovating or upgrading your home, office or driveway and your concrete floor is looking great. Now you just have to decide how you are going to beautify your floor with one of the above-mentioned concrete floor finishes. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons and what applications the paint or stain finishes are best used for.

Concrete paint

Paint is slightly thicker than stains and covers the top of the concrete. Paints can even help protect the surface of the concrete as it creates a layer on top of the concrete. Concrete paint can be used for indoor and outdoor spaces and is brushed and rolled onto the surface. Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of concrete paint.

Pros

  • Elastomeric paints cover and protect the surface while keeping it from drawing in moisture.
  • There are epoxy concrete flooring products available that do not require sealing or priming the floor before application and are great for areas with heavy traffic.
  • Paints do not require a sealant or coating. There are many colour options with paints and the colours are uniform.


Cons
  • If applied incorrectly, the paint can chip or peel. They can also crack over time.
  • Paint requires a lot of preparation before it can be applied – cleaning, degreasing and acid etc.
  • Paint is more expensive than stains.
  • Paint is difficult to apply and recoat – you need a professional to apply it.
  • Maintenance is difficult and can be expensive.


What is concrete paint best used for?
Concrete paints can be used as a decorative option but are better for spaces where the concrete needs sealing and protection such as a driveway, basement or garage. However, paints can be used for indoor and outdoor spaces to spruce up concrete flooring.

Pros
  • Stains go on quicker, dry faster and are less work than paint.
  • They are a quick and easy décor option.
  • Stains do not crack, chip or peel.
  • You can create unique looks with stains that are impossible to achieve with paint.
  • Stains are less expensive than paint.
  • They are easy to apply and can be recoated very easily.


  • Cons
    • They offer no protection for the concrete flooring.
    • Acid-based stains can be complicated to apply and offer limited colour options.
    • Water-based stains can require more than one application to deepen the colour.
    • Stains can fade over time if they are not sealed.
    • The colour options are limited, and there is no colour uniformity.
    • Water-based stains usually require a sealant to prevent fading.


    What is concrete stain best used for?
    Stains are best for colouring concrete flooring as a décor option, but should not be used in areas with heavy traffic where the concrete can be damaged. Patios or low traffic indoor areas are good examples of where concrete stains will work best.

    How will you decide between these two finishes? We conclude that you will know which finish to use when you know what the purpose of your project is.

    Whether you are looking to stain or paint your concrete or cement floor, contact Sephaku Cement for advice, great cement floor products and excellent service. We will assist you so your flooring will look dashing in no time!