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As we look back on yet another year of architectural excellence and the incorporation of cement mix blends in some of the most pioneering interior décor designs, Sephaku Cement explores the benefits of fitting concrete countertops. Versatile, affordable and today an artistic statement piece that can be fitted almost anywhere in your home or place of business, concrete sees the installation of the most durable interior décor to take centre stage on leading home design and architectural vision boards.

With its heritage steeped in a history of Melamine and Formica, household countertops have evolved from artificial, manmade fittings to (more costly) marble, granite and granite copycats, slate, tile and even beam wood installations. With a colourful journey in tow, interior decor specialists and next-generation architects are today incorporating the seamless installation and somewhat of an extension to the blueprint, innovative, elegant and versatile concrete countertops.

Whether browsing through some of South Africa’s most mainstream design publications in print or touring through the homes of the affluent and influential, prepare to discover a new world of concrete design and innovation that’s taking place next level to some of the more traditional and old school counter top fittings. Showing off a resume of various benefits and features Sephaku Cement highlights various benefits to fitting concrete countertops, why we love them and why you should too!

  • Cost Effectiveness
    Pre-cast or made to fit, cement based fittings offer some of the most cost effective solutions to even the thriftiest interior decor or domestic remodelling projects. Readily available and accessible to the full scope of construction, building and interior design service providers; there is no shortage of stock and product variants in the Portland Cement market. Available in a variety of blends that each offer different characteristics, from early strength to cost efficiencies, varying durability and some with different water volume requirements, concrete offers an ideal answer to the cost component to installing new countertops

  • Durability

    Known for its lasting strength, durability and steadfast installation, concrete countertops can carry the load of even the most demanding kitchen, bathroom and desktop demands. Where today we see centuries built by concrete, there are not many other materials that can compete with the strength and long lasting performance that cement offers.

  • Design, Texture and Finish
    Ranging from colour to texture, finish, polish, decals, inlays, etching, stamping and so much more, never underestimate the versatility and variety that concrete fittings can offer. Whether you are remodelling or building from scratch, the design of concrete countertops should be factored at the onset of your build ensuring that the best theme and match is made to enhance aesthetics of the end result.

  • Versatility
    Made to fit, seamlessly incorporated in to the construct of the architecture, or free standing, concrete countertops offer a versatile solution to kitchens, bathrooms or even home office spaces. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, from contemporary to classic, carved, curved or angular, concrete caters to an abundance of decor desires. What’s more, concrete fittings don’t just create for staggering focal features and aesthetics, but based on the design and the incorporation of innovative fittings, lighting and fixtures, concrete installations can be moulded to fit around almost all next generation technology offering state-or-the-art features.

Responsible for increasing the over value of almost every property that it’s fitted in, cement based countertops showcase immeasurable benefits and features, built to last a lifetime!

Tis the season to get gifting and what better way to do so on a tight budget than by making your own Sephaku Cement homemade concrete Christmas Gifts and décor! Incorporated with high-grade cement extenders Sephaku 32 is versatile, consistent and a cost effective general purpose cement. Perfectly suited to your Festive Season DIY gifting and home improvement projects, Sephaku 32 offers a normal strength blended cement based product that requires less water to produce a cohesive, easy to work with mix.

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to unique concrete gifting and one of a kind festive season home decor ideas, let’s take our DIY gifting beyond the typical concrete planters and candle holders and get a little more creative.

Geometric Jewellery Boxes, Cute Concrete Caskets and Boxes

Using any shape, size and dimension to mould your concrete vessel, as long as it’s easy enough to remove once the concrete is set and sturdy enough to maintain its shape while the concrete is curing; single use plastic containers, tubs and baskets are recycled to create gorgeous gifting trinkets made to be marvelled at for a lifetime. Once cured depending on the desired finish, your concrete container can be gently sanded to smooth out rough surfaces and detailed with a metallic stencil or muted tones in pastel paints to add dimension to the design.

Concrete coasters branded by Natures Design

Using shells, dried leaves, textured bark or even different shaped pebbles, transform tedious concrete coasters by branding them with nature’s most gorgeous stamps. Splashed over with gold leaf paints, rusty coppers or a striking silver wash, a gift best given as six or eight, make one of a kind unique designs to be admired with every sip.

Concrete Christmas Cone

This décor concept is essentially wool that has been dipped in mixed cement, wrapped around a cone shape that will later reveal a Christmas tree concrete creation. Begin by covering a cardboard cone in cling wrap (snug fitted plastic) and prepare the wool (yarn) by steeping it in water and wringing it out. Mix Sephaku 32 with the correct water ratios as indicated on the product packaging but for best results let the mix be a little more fluid than the typical slump. Soak a continuous strand of wool in the cement mix making sure that the wool absorbs as much cement as possible before winding the wool around the plastic covered cone. Once an adequate amount of overlapping strands of wool are covering the cone, clip excess wool away, tucking the end underneath the cone mould. If too much concrete has absorbed into the wool, using a small paintbrush smooth over more cement to create a more uniform finish. Once the cement wool strands have cured, carefully remove the card cone and finish the look with a spray of glistening spray paint for a more festive feel.

Regardless of your concrete gifting concept, be sure to make use of only the best quality cement available. Influencing the workability, strength, curing time and overall finish the better the quality the more consistent the finish and quality of your DIY Concrete Christmas Gift.

Where each bag is sealed with the Sephaku stamp of approval, Sephaku Cement products assure fit for use compliance, leading standards certification and controlled performance and quality. Whether making use of Sephaku Cement for general purpose home DIY use or in more specialised construction, alongside its lasting durability and strength, quality is never a compromise!

With a world of emphasis stressed on the importance of water/binder ratios when mixing concrete, Sephaku Cement elaborates on the correct concrete mix and water/binder ratios. Blended with a variety of additives, aggregates, sand, gravel, course aggregates, waterproofing agents and even pigments, depending on its use, mixing concrete is a science and somewhat of an art when it comes to combining all the various materials and then the most important to have the correct ratios of water to binder. Characterised by definite properties and where the strength of the concrete is influenced by the additives properties, too much or too little water can have a grave and detrimental impact on the concretes strength and compactability.

As a result of concrete’s adhesive and cohesive properties, Portland Cement is one of the most extensively unutilised materials in construction. Synonymous with strength and lasting durability, if accidentally mixed with the incorrect amount of water, the chemical reaction that takes place when cement become hydrated will be interrupted and have a negative impact on the bond that forms in the materials used as the concrete cures.

Understanding Water/Binder Ratio

Water/binder ratio refers to the ratio of the weight of water to the weight of the cement that is mixed together. Where water to cement ratios in adherence to IS 10262 (2009) for the concrete mix differs from 0.4 to 0.6. 0.7, the same water to cement ratios applies to pumped or industrial scale concrete mixing. A 0.5 w/c (water to cement) ratio indicates that for each 100 kg of cement, 50 litres of water must be added.

Deciphering water/binder ratio might be further understood by explaining in technical terms that for adequate curing, mixed concrete should contain the correct amount of water per mass of cement/binder. A performance curve graph for the correct water/ binder ratio can be obtained from the Sephaku Laboratory at Delmas, which can also assist you to make the correct cement choice as well as using the correct water/binder ratio for your particular required strength result for your project. There are limits to how low water/binder ratio should be used and generally it is professed to not go much lower than 0.30 but lowest 0.28 for full hydration of the binder.

For all home use and DIY concrete projects Sephaku Cement recommends following the manufacturer instructions catered for on the various product bags. While following these instructions, it’s also recommended to measure out water volumes before mixing (as opposed to adding water by measuring its volume by eye) as this will allow for greater control and easier mixing that requires far less elbow grease.

To see if your concrete mix is too wet or too dry by exercising a slump test

This can be done by observing the height of your concrete mix slump after mixing it with water.  Simply measure the height at which your concrete slump stands after making a “sand castle” with your mix. The ideal water/binder ratio will see your concrete slump to about half the height of the original mould used to make your “Sandcastle”.

Sephaku Cement explains why incorporating concrete control joints in the placement of concrete can assist in preventing cracks, fissures and unsightly flaws in concrete applications.

While durable, steadfast and one of the strongest and most commonly used materials in construction today, concrete and the placement of Portland cement concrete requires intricate attention to detail, precision and planning. From the overall quality to additives and other ingredients blended with Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), to the water mix ratio, curing and curing conditions as well as concrete compaction, there are various factors that will influence the conclusive strength and lasting durability of cured concrete, with that said however even when prepared and poured to perfection, concrete installations are prone to crack and weather over time and especially under extreme conditions.

A sure way to prevent concrete installations from cracking is by placing concrete in conjunction with crack control joints. These are especially effective in applications including concrete slabs, flooring and large concrete flatwork which helps prevent these large-scale flat surfaces from cracking.

Why Does Concrete Crack?

Concrete cracks happens mainly due to a few conditions: 

  • Dry windy conditions when casting floors or any concrete with a large open surface. The water evaporates faster than bleeding water comes to the surface. This can be prevented by shading your cast, timing your casting not to happen on the warmest time of the day and by proper mix designing limiting the amount of mixing water needed to place and finish your concrete.
  • Secondly the concrete are prone to cracking if the concrete is not consolidated/compacted properly and you have plastic settlement cracks where the concrete settle and is not able to settle where reinforcing steel is installed or where large aggregates are used which prevents settlement of the concrete directly above the aggregate/steel the result is that concrete settle adjacent and break its back over the aggregate or steel
  • When too much water is used for mixing and placing, when the water evaporates and leaves pores where the water was and then the concrete is prone to shrinkage cracks as it wants to fill the “empty spots”.

How Do Concrete Control Joints Work

Concrete control joins allows concrete to shrink during curing, as well as expand and contract when exposed to moisture/heat/cold. Although in the presence of installed control joints this is not to say that the concrete will not crack, However instead of the concrete cracking causing unsightly blemishes at random intervals, the control joins steers the crack to take place at predetermined areas. This results in the crack occurring beneath the surface of the concrete slab or floor and thus maintaining the consistent appearance and an unblemished concrete surface.

With three different types of control joints available, these include:

  • Isolation joints
  • Contraction joints
  • Construction joints
  • Isolation Joints

    Also known as expansion joints, isolation joints offer a solution to tensile stresses that cause cracks in concrete by allowing the concrete to move as it expands and contracts, installing expansion joints allows for movement between adjoining structures either horizontally or vertically by separating or isolating the concrete from other parts of the construct.

  • Contraction Joints

    Installed with the intention to create areas of “weakness” beneath the surface of the concrete (as explained above) concrete contraction joints create predetermined cracks or fissures in the concrete installation by saw cutting a joint in the concrete. In doing so this prevents random cracking by channelling the expansion and contraction to take place in the pre-planned “crack”. 

  • Construction joints

    Effectively used when flooring or when the placement of concrete slabs take place at different intervals. Construction joints are installed at pre-planned locations in-between phases of pouring cement slabs, allowing each slab to shrink while curing at different intervals minimises the likelihood of random cracking taking place.

In discussing the importance and benefits of waterproofing concrete including walls and floors, foundations and more, Sephaku Cement explains why this step is a critical consideration when completing a concrete build.

Protecting a construct from water damage, heat, exposure to solar and UV damage and other conditions that contribute to wear and tear including rain, wind, extreme cold and even acid rain, concrete waterproofing is a must when completing any project using cement based materials especially in harsh environments..

In complying with health and safety standards, there is a lot more than one would assume that goes into erecting a new building and getting it ready for occupancy. Whether it is a place of residence or for business, ensuring that a buildings finishes, fittings, materials and furnishings offer a safe space for people to occupy, an essential consideration when erecting a building with concrete is to waterproof the installation.

Once cured, concrete and cement based installations such as concrete are a porous and permeable material, absorbing almost anything but especially liquid based matter as soon as it comes into contact. Almost like a sponge, concrete installations hold onto liquid matter which can cause unsightly staining and marks. While one may not think this to be too much of a problem as architecture and design incorporates decorative cement installations into various homes and businesses, once stained or damaged by water it is near impossible to repair water damage in concrete without removing the full installation or applying a purposeful stain to disguise water marks and blemishes. Not only can water damage to concrete applications create an unappealing appearance, but severe water damage can also be harmful to health in the presence of mould, spores and bacteria. 

Preserving the concrete structure, protecting installations from wear and tear while maintaining strength and durability by preventing unnecessary cracking are just a few of the benefits to waterproofing concrete.

To follow see how to waterproof concrete in three different ways.

Crystalline  Waterproofing

Through a reaction that takes place between the concrete and water, Crystalline concrete waterproofing offers a permanent solution to waterproofing whereby tiny crystals grow in the porous gaps of the concrete filling hairline cracks, gaps and apertures.

Concrete Sealers

Whether selecting a penetrable sealant or a “top coat”, applying a surface sealant to concrete installations is probably the more common application when waterproofing concrete. Where a penetrable sealer will sink into the pores of the concrete, this creates a permanent appearance to the concrete which is very difficult to alter should you wish to change the colour or appearance of the concrete at a later stage.

A coating sealer creates a protective film on the surface of the concrete preventing water from seeping into the sponge like pores of concrete. This application will need to be maintained offering only temporary solution that will gradually wear away due to traffic and other abrasions.  

Cementitious Concrete Waterproofing

Using a more dense concrete or by incorporating cement based non-porous materials and bonding agents along with low water ratios, results in minimal air bubbles in the concrete matrix or bond and reduces the innately porous characteristic of Portland cement. With fewer air pockets, sponge like pores are eliminated which inhibits the concrete ability to absorb liquid matter and ultimately results in a more water resistant application.

For more information and the best advice related to working with Portland cement, follow the Sephaku Blog for insights, product reviews, “how to” and more.

Taking the number of variables and unexpected cost considerations of construction, Sephaku Cement helps to calculate the real cost of concrete when building with Portland cement. With a blueprint in hand, and your vision in sight, whether you are planning a small scale DIY home improvement project or implementing large scale construction plans, calculating concrete costs can be influenced by a number of factors. While considered to be the most cost effective and the most widely used building material in construction, when computing concrete cost estimates there are a number of additional and often unassuming cost calculations to be accounted for. 

With different variables at play, to follow, see a detailed list of additional costs that should be accounted for depending on your project.

Preparing the Construction Surfaces

From excavation to surface preparation, clearing away debris, resurfacing cobbles or smoothing surfaces over with river sand, preparing the area where you plan to place foundations or pour wet concrete will need to be adequately prepared ahead of time. Where small scale projects may only need minimal preparation, large scale construction sites may require significant “ground work” before beginning construction. Consider costs associated with bulldozing, digging out, compacting, levelling out and rubble removal. These are all critical requirements when placing steadfast and sturdy concrete installations.

Concrete Calculator

A critical calculation for every contractor, accounting for accurate volumes of cement required for the project will have a significant impact on costs. Where too much cement will prove wasteful and too little will negatively impair effective placement and durability let alone leave you with an un-useable structure, be sure to make use of an accurate concrete mix calculator to compute the exact amount of cement required. Another important consideration that will influence cost when calculating cement volumes is the type of project and strength requirements of the end result. From plaster to foundations, to foot paths and driveways, mortar, slabs, flooring and screeds, each concrete installation accounts for a different calculation by way of volume, product type, aggregates and additives.

Aggregates and Additives

As mentioned above, depending on the intended use, concrete based projects have variable aggregate requirements which also play a part in the price of concrete construction. Taking into account aggregates, consider the cost of sand and or stone along with water costs that the project depends on and how it will influence concrete costs. Along with aggregates, also consider the cost of various additives that may be required. Additives may include (but are not limited to) bonding agents, curing chemicals, waterproofing materials and even pigments added to the mix depending on the desired finish.

Stains, Sealants and Finishing Touches

Gone are the days that concrete installations are dull, drab and lacking in character. Decorative and contemporary concrete fittings, including walls and floors, ceilings, feature installations, finishes and table tops have begun to play a significant role in architectural design and interior décor. From acid stains and water based pigmentation, polished, etched, stamped and custom designed, finishing touches to complete the concrete installation will also need to be accounted for in budgets depending on the desired decal or décor.

Offering a superior range of cement based products as well as an effective cement/concrete calculator; visit Sephaku Cement for industry leading, expert advice and guidance when calculating the cost of your next construction project.

With various methods to ensuring the appropriate curing of concrete, Sephaku Cement shares the different types of concrete curing  and how to select the option best suited to your project.

In cooking, curing sees the preservation of food by drawing moisture out of meat, fish, chicken and other items by way of osmosis/induced evaporation. In construction, the curing of cement shares a similar explanation whereby moisture / water must not evaporate from the concrete in order for it to gain strength. With that said however, the process of curing in concrete and construction is a delicate one that must be closely administered so as to ensure this process does not happen in some places and not in other sections of the concrete. Maintaining the appropriate amount of water along with the temperature. Curing concrete especially in the early phases of this process will see the desired strength and durability as the end result. While the curing process begins almost immediately after pouring concrete, it’s important to maintain moisture for a specified period of time to prevent the concrete from drying out too fast resulting in flaky and crack prone concrete with a soft sandy/dusty surface.

Based on the type of construction work, curing can be done by the following methods. Each offering their own unique benefits, Sephaku Cement shares these methods of curing when working with concrete.

  • Covering

    Making use of hessian or wet gunny bags or plastic sheeting are an effective method in ensuring that recently placed concrete does not dry out too quickly by covering up the wet concrete mix. Ideally practiced on horizontal and vertical installations, covering the wet concrete helps to regulate surface moisture and is especially effective in windy and hot climates.

  • Ponding

    Protecting the concrete from losing moisture too quickly, curing concrete by way of ponding sees poured concrete segregated into squares or rectangular ponds by using clay or sand to create a pond that can be filled with water.  The ponds are filled with water daily keeping the curing concrete continually wet. This curing method is ideally applied to flat horizontal concrete installations.

  • Submerging

    As the name suggests concrete can also be cured by submerging pre-cast concrete into water at a temperature above 20oC but not much more than 30oC.

  • Steam Curing

    Steam curing concrete sees wet steam distributed over, and underneath if precast concrete, various concrete or cement based surfaces. Ideal when looking to achieve early strength as well as on prefabricated concrete installations and frameworks, steam curing is also especially effective in cold weather conditions. (ensure to follow the rules for steam curing)
  • Sprinkling

    Ensuring that moisture levels of curing concrete is maintained as it sets, by repeatedly sprinkling all concrete surfaces with water on an ongoing bases will ensure maximum strength and durability is achieved, allowing a complete and comprehensive curing process to take place. This process must go on for as long as possible but not less than three days.
  • Chemical Curing

    Curing cement by way of chemical inclusions sees the application of a specified volume of hygroscopic salt such as NaCI-, CaCl- etc. added to the surface of the concrete. As soon as this is applied the cement is sprayed over with water helping to engross moisture from the surrounding environment. This method is however not recommended where the concrete are in contact with any steel, reinforcing steel, columns and girders.
  • Membrane Curing

    By wrapping the surface of curing concrete in a waterproof membrane or with a spray on membrane such as a wax or bitumen emulsion, this process hinders the loss of moisture through evaporation ensuring that the surface and internally of the concrete remains moist and able to adequately cure and gain its designed strength and durability.

Offering a wide selection of general purpose and more specialised cement products and mixes contact Sephaku Cement or view our range of products online.

Powered by Dangote Cement's bold vision to build prosperity in Africa, as a leading cement manufacturer in South Africa, Sephaku Cement explains Concrete Segregation, why it happens and how to avoid it when placing concrete installations. Incorporating the ideal proportions of Portland cement, mixed with sand and course aggregate and later blended together with water is an art and science in one. Making sure that the mix is not too dry is as important as ensuring that not too much water is added which is often the case. The process of segregation in concrete is most commonly caused when cement and its blended aggregates are combined with too much water.

As the law of gravity will surely see ice fall from the sky, when the volume of water in a concrete mix is increased, heavier aggregate will “segregate” from the mix and sink to the bottom of the blend.

Other reasons that have been known to cause the segregation of concrete  include;

  • Prolonged transportation or "carrying" concrete for a long distance.
  • Poorly proportioned concrete contents with insufficient matrix to form a bond between the cement, sand and stone.
  • Pouring or “placing" the concrete mix from too great a height (liquefaction -Inappropriate as Liquefaction is normally used in earthquake conditions rather leave out or describe more clearly).
  • Concrete compaction or vibration that is administered for too long (liquefaction) A cooperative project with the California Geological Survey. About Liquefaction. What Is Liquefaction? Loose sand and silt that is saturated with water can behave like a liquid when shaken by an earthquake.

Segregation can also occur when a concrete mix is too dry causing the course matter to separate from the rest of the mix. However, this is much easier to resolve by simply adding a little more water, little by little and remixing for a short time in order to establish an adequate matrix between the contents of the concrete mix.

There are a few ways in order to prevent the separation or segregation of the various constituents making up a concrete mix, these tips include:

  • Always make use of a good quality Portland cement. Never compromise quality for cost as this almost always results in reduced durability and poor strength in the end result.
  • Be sure to pay close attention to the cement to water ratio. Its best to measure out the cement manufacturers recommended water quantities before mixing the water with the Portland cement. When measuring by eye one can easily misjudge quantities resulting in a mix that is too wet and often very difficult to reverse.
  • Make a slump test. Ensure the mix is not too wet or to dry by tipping a cup of blended concrete mix to form a "sand castle". The ideal blend will see the castle slump to about half the height of the original cup.
  • Never pour wet concrete from great heights. As one would expect, heavier particles will separate from the mix as it falls. Landing first, course material will form the base of the concrete construct, leaving the lighter contents such as the sand and cement following behind.
  • When applying a compaction process, be sure not to over compact as this too will disturb the bonds between the aggregate and cement paste, forcing the heavier particles to sink to the base of the wet

While its normal for mild or slight segregation to take place as one would note when polishing concrete floors through the various different layers, segregation results in what almost resembles a "curdled" appearance whereby the larger aggregate is visibly separated from the rest of the mix. Not only is segregated concrete visibly apparent, strength and durability are consequentially impaired with cracks, flaking and crumbling taking place as a result.

While maths might not be your forte, calculating your cement requirements using reliable cement calculator is a critical consideration for contractors, DIY enthusiasts and home improvement specialists. Too much cement and building budgets become inaccessible where too little supply can compromise a project if you run short in the middle of pouring the concrete installation.

Passionate about our brand and products, our reputation relies on the advocacy of satisfied customers, returning contractors and allegiant clients. As a result and to assist in ensuring the right amount of cement is accounted for in various construction projects, Sephaku Cement has created a convenient  concrete mix calculator to account for the exact amounts  of Portland Cement required to complete your building project. Categorised into various construction projects, the Sephaku Cement building material calculator helps you to compute accurate quantities required for the construction of;

  • Pole Mix
  • Plaster
  • House Foundations
  • Footpaths, House Floors and Domestic Driveways
  • Mortar
  • Reinforced Slabs
  • Heavy Duty Flooring (factorises warehousing and showrooms)
  • Screeds

Calculate how much cement you will need to complete your project using the Sephaku Cement Calculator here.

Not only is it critical to accurately account for the correct amount of Portland Cement required for your home improvement or construction project but equally important is understanding the difference in various cement products. To follow Sephaku Cement unpacks their products range further assisting in ensuring the most success from your build.

Producing a range of products to cater to the various needs of our customers, Sephaku Cement prides itself in offering a versatile choice of superior quality cements suitable for various uses including: 

  • General purpose applications, all round performance and strength for general civil, building and concrete applications
  • Extreme performance products
  • Products with high strength specifications

Sephaku 32 - 32.5N Strength Class Portland Cement

Suitable for general purpose applications and construction projects, Sephaku 32.5N is fully compliant to the South African National Standard (SANS 50197-1:2013). Where the N denotes "Normal Strength Gain" the Sephaku 32,5N cement product ensures professional quality requiring less water to produce a cohesive mix and long term durability.

Available in 50 kg bags or in bulk throughout South Africa, Sephaku 32 is ideally used in concrete, mortars, plasters and screeds making it perfectly suited to ‘home’ concrete projects, versatile in a variety of building and civil construction applications. 

Sephaku 42 - 42.5N Strength Class Portland Cement

Where structural concrete applications become a little more specialised, while Sephaku 42 is equally suitable for general purpose applications, as a 42 strength class cement, Sephaku 42 provides good early and late strength combined with quality and consistency to ensure superior all-round performance. Ideally used for a wide range of concrete, mortar and screed applications, due to an addition of cement extenders, concrete produced using Sephaku 42 may require less water to achieve a specified slump or workability when compared to concretes produced with other 42,5 cements.

Sephaku 42,5R

An extreme performance product, the Sephaku 42,5R Portland-fly ash cement is suitable for a wide range of general civil, building and concrete industry applications. A type of CEM II/A (V) 42,5R early strength cement, it fully conforms to the requirements of strength class 42,5R in accordance with SANS 50197-1:2013.

Where the "R" indicates a faster demoulding or striking/ stripping of formwork, Portland-fly ash cement concretes are designed for the same strength as Portland cement concrete and  will continue to gain strength for a very long period provided some moisture is available and adequate curing is given to the concrete at early age.

As a multi-purpose product, Sephaku 42,5R is suited to a wide range of concrete, mortar and screed applications including precast concrete products, ready-mixed concrete, building and civil engineering. It can also be used in conjunction with mineral additives, chemical admixtures and with pigments. It is also recommended for use in concrete where moderately low heat and where enhanced durability is made possible by the use of a certified siliceous fly ash.

Sephaku 52,5N

A professional high strength product, the 52,5 strength class Portland cement is best suited to very specific civil engineering and structural concrete applications that include;

  • High-strength concrete, pre-casting and ready-mix
  • Water-tight, structural and pre-stressed concretes
  • Day-one strength and cold-weather concreting
  • Fast track construction projects to allow early form work stripping/striking
  • Precision grouts, repairs and formulated cement products

A high-performance cement, Sephaku 52 is ideally used with cement extenders such as fly ash, GGBS (Blast Furnace Slag) and Silica Fume to enhance the properties and standard uses of concretes.

Achieved through the operation of high-tech plants and the efficient production of top quality products available at affordable prices,  Sephaku Cement not only promises superior cement products but also supreme customer service and after sales support.


Concrete, the most extensively used material in construction, DIY projects, home improvements and renovations; Sephaku Cement explains the ideal methodology on how to mix concrete. With the objective to maintain quality and durability of the end result, concrete mixes can be made up of various additions that influence the overall strength and wet mix properties e.g. workability, compact ability, finish ability.  At its core concrete is made up of Portland cement, sand, stone and other aggregates mixed together with water and the necessary chemical admixtures.  When mixed with different aggregates, concrete mixes can produce a variety of results.

These include;

  • Mortar mixes -Cement mixed with sharp sand less than 4mm in diameter cement mortar results in a strong and sticky plaster ideally used to glue bricks and cladding in place. The perfect mix will see a consistency that is workable but not sloppy and will not slouch when applied.
  • Plaster mixes – used for smoothing over bricks to create a polished and consistent finish, plaster projects result in the best finishes by making use of river sand that is free from dust, mud and organic materials larger stones and wood chips.
  • Concrete mixes - by using a combination of aggregate for added strength and load bearing durability, mixed to a smooth and plastic consistence; cement for concrete sees a mix of Portland cement, with sand and stone or coarse aggregate / gravel, admixtures and water.


Well mixed concrete forms the basis of a variety of construction and building uses where strength and durability should not be compromised. When assessing the ideal concrete mix, making sure that it has been blended well the perfect concrete mix should take on the following characteristics;

  • The mixture including the incorporation of aggregates, sand and admixtures of both coarse and fine materials should be uniform and consistent. Pay close attention to the colour of the mixture as this will also indicate whether the mix has been properly combined.
  • Ensure that the cement and water paste is pulled through to all of the aggregate and that the segregation of any portion in the mix does not occur.
  • A concrete mix that is too wet will appear sloppy and will result in weak concrete once cured.
  • A concrete mix that does not have enough water added to the mix will be crumbly and unworkable.
  • Check the slump of the concrete mix by pouring some into a plastic cup. Tip the cup out as if you were building a sand castle. The ideal mix will slump to about half the height of the plastic cup. Too wet and the mix will slump much lower and will tend to segregate , too dry, the “castle” will stand tall.


To Follow See Steps and Top Tips To Mixing Cement

Step 1:   Mix the dry ingredients made up of one part cement to two parts sand and four parts stone gravel / course aggregate. Premix concrete options are also available which have the required qualities of sand and aggregate already mixed together.

Tip - Begin with a moderate volume of mix, the greater the quantity the more difficult it is to mix especially by hand.

Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients with wet by slowly adding water, little by little. By doing so slowly makes the (hand) mixing process much easier and ensures that not too much water is added in error.

Tip: When making use of ready mix concrete in bags follow the mixing instructions by measuring out the prescribed amount of water first.

Step 3: Mix the concrete ensuring that all ingredients are combined together and adequately blended with the water. The consistency  should be uniform and with a medium slump

Tip: If available make use of an electric concrete mixer, this will not only ensure that the mix is properly combined but will require less manual effort when hand mixing concrete.

Step 4: Pour your concrete mix at the point where it can be compacted the less you have to move the concrete after placing the better and let it cure. Cover with plastic to ensure that moisture does not evaporate too quickly especially under warmer conditions.

Tip: If you need longer setting times contact a reliable chemical admixture company for product and instructions on how to use the retarders. Only small amounts of admixture are sometimes needed to extend setting time by 1 to 4 hours.

For more about or product range visit Sephaku Cement to view our brochure

A critical consideration when selecting good quality cement for any construction project, Sephaku Cement explains the “Soundness of Cement” and why it’s so important to review before building commences.

A primary ingredient used to mix mortar, concrete, plaster and other construction constituents, cement is an essential part of building, regardless of whether cement is used in a do-it-yourself project, home or business architecture or if it’s utilised on a more significant scale such as civil buildings, the quality of Portland Cement selected in any construction project is a critical consideration.

The Soundness of Cement used in concrete is a term used when assessing the quality of Portland Cement and should not be taken lightly if you intend for the structure to remain steadfast, load bearing and safe for occupancy.

Cement "Soundness" is an indication of the cement’s ability to harden and retain a constant volume after it has been mixed in concrete and cured. To clarify, as concrete cures and particularly in the presence of free lime (CaO) and/or magnesia (MgO) the curing cement in concrete undergoes a significant change in volume either by way of expansion or contraction. Destructive expansion is caused by an excess of free lime (CaO) or magnesia (MgO) which will almost always cause cracks and fissures in set concrete and thus making it become “Unsound”. Unsound concrete presents with questionable durability and an unstable construct making occupancy and use of the structure unsafe.

In converse to this, sound cement does not experience this change in volume and if it does the effect is only very slight and does not compromise the quality of the construct or the concrete’s soundness of strength.

Determining the soundness of cement is done by the “Le chatelier method” or by performing an ‘Autoclave’ test.

  • The Le Chatelier Method
    Placing hardened cement specimens in moulds inside a Le Chatelier water bath, the cement is boiled for a fixed period of approximately 3 hours speeding up the cements propensity to expand through this boiling process. Measuring two control indicators and the degree at which the cement has expanded will determine the soundness of the cement.
  • The Autoclave Test
    An ‘Autoclave’ test measures the expansion of cement by making use of a neat or "fresh" cement specimen. Placed in moulds with reference points indicating the specimen’s original size, the cement is placed in an autoclave exposing the sample to extremely high pressure and temperatures. After around 24 hours the cement is removed and measured whereby the change in size will indicate the change in volume and thus be an indicator of the “Soundness” of the cement hence the soundness of concrete made using this cement.

Adhering to only the highest quality standards as set out by the South African National Standard SANS 50197-1:2013 Sephaku Cement fully complies with the requirements for each strength class across all our products. Based on outcomes by tests conducted in accordance with SANS 50197-1 test methods at a SANAS accredited laboratory, Sephaku Cement prides itself on producing quality Portland Cement / Portland Blended cements. Suited to general purpose applications, a wide range of general civil, building and concrete industry applications as well as offering a high performance professional strength product see the Sephaku Cement product brochures for more.

Equally suitable for general purpose applications Sephaku 42 - 42.5N Strength Class Portland Cement provides good early and late strength curing, ideal for concrete sidewalks, concrete walkways and concrete garden edging. Offering superior quality and consistency Sephaku 42 provides for all round performance and durability, perfectly suited to ‘home’ concrete projects. As the weather gets us outside and into the garden, nothing finishes an outdoor landscaping layout quite like concrete garden edging or a quaint concrete walkway meandering through your perfectly manicured garden. Not only offering aesthetic appeal inside of your property, concrete sidewalks also make for an attractive and maintained appearance outside of your property’s boundary.

Whether placed to provide for additional guest parking or simply as a safe and convenient causeway for pedestrians, concrete sidewalks and pavements contribute to the visual refinement of your homes exterior too.

With a variety of options to install concrete walkways, boundary pavements and garden edging, exterior landscapers will weigh up a number of factors and assist you in selecting the ideal option suited to your project. Where options include either making use of concrete pavers available in an assortment of designs, colours and finishes, or alternatively making use of concrete slabs or even pouring concrete that can be stamped, or later be etched, stained and engraved, based on budgets and the scope of the project, there are various concrete solutions available to the market.

So why select concrete as your product of choice when placing concrete paving, garden walkways, and concrete sidewalks or as garden edging in your home? To follow, see a number of benefits to making use of cement based products when beautifying your homes exterior landscaping.

  • Easy to maintain
    From cleaning to durability, concrete paving and concrete walkway installations are built to last a lifetime. Easy to repair should blemishes appear over time, concrete sidewalks and concrete garden edging can remain in place for years to come with very little maintenance and upkeep required.
  • Defining foot traffic
    Hard to ignore, concrete garden walkways and sidewalks demarcate where foot traffic should follow. Guiding visitors and pedestrians on a desired path, these will help to preserve surrounding areas that one would prefer not to be parked on of damaged under busy foot traffic.
  • Easy on the pocket
    Considered one of the most commonly used materials in construction, landscaping and home improvement projects, concrete and cement based paving products are readily available and accessible on even the most thrifty budget. Not only sparing on immediate budgets but given its durability and strength, concrete installations will last an age, costing very little to maintain and repair should it weather over time.
  • Available in a wide variety
    From various colour stains and pigmentations, to design, placement and decal, concrete based installations are available in a broad range of options that can be matched to an existing theme or colour scheme or alternatively custom designed to create a one of a kind finish.
  • Versatility
    No matter the season or reason, concrete walkways and sidewalks innately finish off the look of any home improvement project and service a variety of functions. From parking to channelling foot traffic or simply offering an aesthetic appeal these concrete and cement based installations offer versatility, durability and a visual appeal that beautify your home regardless of their purpose.

Passionate about our brand, Sephaku Cement is committed to evolving the cement industry through innovative solutions and a superior range of cementitious products. Find out which of our products is a perfect fit for your home improvement project and how Sephaku Cement can concrete your DIY dreams into a reality.

A critical process in the successful placement of cement, concrete compaction influences the overall strength of cured concrete, enhancing the chemical bond and reinforcing the density of the concrete by packing the aggregate particles together. Careful attention should always be paid to recently place concrete and the method used to adequately compact the concrete.

Why is Concrete Compaction an important process in placing cement?

It is as a result of the densely compacted and equispaced particles of cured concrete that ensures its strength and durability which will ultimately be compromised if spacing is interrupted by air pockets and bubbles. By expelling air particles and pockets from recently placed concrete ensures that the matrix of cured concrete is able to take shape without setting around cavities or hollow spaces.  

Through the process of Concrete Compaction the overall  durability of set concrete  is improved as a result of;

  • Concrete compaction improves a concrete installation’s abrasion resistance
  • By ensuring aggregate and particles are more densely packed decreases the permeability of a typical porous material
  • Effective compaction reduces concrete shrinkage that occurs as moisture in the  concrete evaporates

The rule of thumb is for every 1% air in concrete it reduces the strength by 5%

Concrete compaction can be a manual or a mechanical process either by hand or by using a specialised equipment and machinery.

Selecting the ideal method to expel unwanted air bubbles before concrete is set will depend on a number of factors including;

  • The required reinforcement quality for the project
  • The depth at which the concrete has been placed and accessibility to the required processes
  • Positioning and properties of the concrete structure
  • Availability of expertise and necessary equipment required

Manual / Hand Concrete Compaction

Performed manually and by hand through a number of different methods, hand compaction can be performed by way of Roding, Ramming or Tamping. Ideally used for DIY concrete projects and structures that are not load bearing or exposed to extreme conditions, hand compaction expels air out of concrete by the following methods;

  • Roding makes use of a 2 metre long rod that is no more than 16mm in diameter and equipped with a fairly rounded point. By poking the concrete with the rods air pockets are “popped” allowing the concrete to slump back into the space that was occupied by the air pocket.
  • Typically utilised for the compaction of ground floors Ramming is no longer a commonly practiced method in concrete compaction
  • Tamping concrete compaction involves the use of a 10cm by 10cm wooden beam which is used to "beat" or bat the surface of the concrete. Not only effective in removing air bubbles and pockets from concrete but it also assists in levelling the surface of poured concrete and is commonly utilised in paving and sidewalks as well as concrete roofing. 

Mechanical Concrete Compaction

Making using of vibration technology, mechanical concrete compaction employs specialised equipment to remove air pockets in concrete. Through a process that sees the temporary liquefication of concrete that ultimately eliminates air between the aggregate, mechanical compaction can be done by way of;

  • Internal Vibration
  • External Vibration
  • Table Vibration
  • Platform Vibration
  • Surface Vibration

Keep a look out for more from Sephaku Cement on the various methods of concrete compaction and which option is ideally utilised on various construction projects.

Adding to the aesthetics of various indoor and outdoor installations, stamped and stencilled decorative concrete applications continue to feature as a design highlight of choice by interiors decor specialists, architects, home improvement contractors and home owners. Whether adding character to driveways, patios and paving, creating a timeless focal point in entrance halls and on feature walls or adding a delicate touch to concrete countertops, basins and bath tubs, stamped and stencilled concrete designs complete an elegant look to any home improvement project.

Imitating stone, cobbles, pavers, tiles, brickwork and even sleeper wood, concrete stamping and stencilling techniques are available in a broad range of designs, textures, finishes and effects.  What’s more, when adding these highlights to concrete installations, this can be done at an affordable cost making this decorative concrete option accessible to home improvements both large and small.

Selecting a technique best suited to your project will depend on the design and finish you are hoping to achieve as well as if your home improvement project involves the placement of “fresh” cement or rather with the intention to beautify pre-existing concrete installations as well as the skills of an available, reputable contractor.    


Concrete Stamping

Concrete stamping is applied to newly placed concrete before it has had time to final set and cure. Where colour hardeners and release agents are added to the concrete before the stamping process begins, by adding a dye to the concrete prior to stamping creates an authentic appearance where the finish resembles realistic brickwork, cobbles and stonework. While stamping techniques create intricate outcomes and where contractors will be required to work swiftly in order to create the desired results, the practice of concrete stamping is easy to install and far less labour intensive than other decorative concrete techniques. Making use of large polyurethane forms that act as the stamp, these are pressed onto the pliable concrete to create the desired image or pattern.

Spoilt for choice by way of design, stamped concrete surfaces can be matched to suit both outdoor and indoor decor mimicking almost any surface imaginable but care should be taken not to install stamped concrete on load bearing surfaces. Vulnerable to cracking and wear and tear, stamped concrete may weather faster when installed in areas that are exposed to frequent and high pressure high wear foot traffic.

Concrete Stencilling

Offering a decorative option to concrete flooring that has already been placed, concrete stencilling caters to a Do It Yousef route to adorning drab concrete installations in delicate detail.  From floors to walls countertops and various concrete surfaces, concrete stencilling techniques create elegantly etched designs that add accents and emphasis to both indoor and outdoor installations. An inexpensive rout to decorative concrete upgrades, stencils can create a variety of looks from basic brick, to tiles and stone or more elaborate patterns, contemporary designs, lettering and imagery.

Durable hard wearing and an obvious choice to make use of as a decorative flooring feature in your home or workplace, concrete flooring  offers  property owners with a versatile and affordable flooring solution.

Where many may opt to invest great expense in fitting ornamental flooring features, decorative concrete flooring provides a professional and trendy appeal easily achieved and at a price tag that is accessible to most budgets.

Decorative concrete flooring takes its shape around the latest interior decor trends available in a variety of themes, finishes, colours and one of a kind customs designs. What’s more is that these concrete floors can be installed to create a broad range of surfaces and finishes, depending on its placement and purpose. Where different compound mixtures result in varied surface textures, concrete specialists and contracted interior design architects are equipped at recommending the ideal proportions of texture to create admirable decorative results while fulfilling a serviceable function.

With a number of advantages to installing decorative concrete flooring versus other embellished flooring solutions, Sephaku Cement unpacks the various Pros to concrete floors and how to select the best of decorative concrete designs.

  • Compared to natural stones, slate, granite or marble flooring options, installing concrete floors is done so at a seemingly more affordable cost. From materials to labour, technique and specialist skills, decorative concrete floors produce visually appealing results at a fraction of the cost when stacked up against alternative flooring options.
  • Not nearly as labour intensive as other flooring solutions such as wood laminate and vinyl options, which goes on to concrete floor anyway, tiling, stonework, carpeting resin and brickwork, decorative concrete flooring is simple to install, easy to stain and to finish by applying a sealant.
  • Resulting in a one of a kind custom design, decorative concrete floors create a unique look that cannot be replicated even by the most talented concrete specialist. Colour stains and pigmented concrete floors create a mottled and marbled effect in any colour that you can imagine. Once sealed and cleaned with appropriate products and annually maintained with basic care, stained concrete floors won’t fade, peel chip or wear away regardless of foot traffic. Polished concrete flooring creates an equally aesthetically appeal whereby depending on the depth of the polish will result in varied looks. From simply a smooth glossy finish to a salt and pepper appearance of the first layer of aggregate, polished floors can be taken all the way down to create an exposed aggregate finish resulting in a decorative marbled look.When applied to vertical surfaces, decorative concrete holds well and allows for various designs and imprints to be cast as delicate features and decals. Where some install decorative walling as a continuum to flooring, others may imprint decorative skirtings’ and bevelled corners to finish the floors look.

When making use of the finest quality cement products and only a reputable concrete contractor, the Sephaku Cement range of products offers lasting strength and durability catering to even the toughest flooring requirements. Indoor or outdoor, load bearing or basic home foot traffic, Sephaku Cement fully complies with the South African National Standard SANS 50197-1:2013 for the various strength classes that each product fits in to.

Backed by Africa’s largest cement producer, Sephaku Cement, powered by Dangote Cement offers quality assurance, strength and lasting durability when building your ideal concrete home. From foundations to masonry, mortar, plaster and screed applications Sephaku Cement offers a superior quality cement range, fully compliant with strength requirements in their respective class in accordance with the South African National Standard SANS 50197-1:2013.

Making use of cement to erect your ideal concrete home would be the obvious construction material or choice given its strength, durability and affordability. And, where many home owners are now invested in converting their homes into green star graded buildings, reducing their carbon footprint and positively contributing to environmentally conscious living, Sephaku 32 offers a reduced Co2 footprint which attributes to “Green Building” initiatives.

From general purpose, to early strength and for more specific construction applications, while contractors make use of Sephaku Cement in the structural build of your ideal home, concrete has begun to feature in interior accents of décor and design planning too. Where some of the country’s most esteemed interior designers, space planners and home décor specialists are now incorporating the use of concrete in interior features and centrepieces; concrete now features as an architectural oeuvre in South Africa’s most affluent homes.

Concrete Surfaces, Countertops and Work Stations

Consistent predictable and suited to a variety of general purpose applications, Sephaku 32 and Sephaku 42 is every sensible contractors product of choice when incorporating concrete installations, highlights and focal features in the interior of your ideal home. When utilised as a cement paste without incorporating any sand or aggregate the concrete will take on a glossy polished finish and makes for stunning reflective concrete surfaces, worktops, and counters.

Pigmented Concrete and Polished Floors

Polished, stained and sealed, concrete flooring options offer a variety of finishes that can be carved, stamped or pigmented. Offering homes a one of a kind, durable and lasting flooring solution, for an elegant marbled or mottled effect, concrete pigments take centre stage in the latest flooring trends. Alternatively, polished concrete floors offer a gorgeous granite look-a-like with a variety of finished effects depending on how deep the polish is buffed into the various layers of concrete.

Sculptures, Art Forms and Concrete Features

Pliable, easy to pour and a concrete artist’s dream material, concrete can take on almost any and every form imaginable. From sharp angular lines to voluptuous curves and bevelled edging and boarders, cement is put to good use when cast by moulds or sculpted using ceramic carving techniques. Various designs result in an array of artworks in your concrete home. From feature walls, to striking entrance hall décor, contemporary or classic stair cases, sculptures or centrepieces, each adding to the aesthetics of your ideal concrete home. 

Outdoor Entertainment and Garden Landscaping

Limited only by your imagination, concrete is responsible for some of the most classic or modern and contemporary outdoor entertainment areas and garden landscaping designs.  Versatile, durable and hardwearing, concrete is forgiving in heat, humidity, heavy rainfall and cold weather conditions. Thought to be cold, scant and drab, on the contrary outdoor concrete installations result in some of the most hospitable and attractive exteriors, including contemporary concrete fire pits and circles, patios, built to fit braais and barbeques, poolside paving and garden landscaping features.

Sephaku Cement offers a resourceful range of cement options each ideally suited to various builds and construction projects. While versatile and adaptable to suite a number of contracted or DIY cement uses, a constant characteristic attributed to Sephaku Cement is its lasting quality, fast, strong and confident DNA, affordability and sound after sales support.

With the 2018 décor and interior design industry a flurry following the various trade shows and 2018 trend showcases, Sephaku Cement explores the latest trends and concrete inspiration to debut in South Africa’s most affluent homes.

From bathrooms to lounges, patios and free stranding decorative features and ornaments concrete trends continue to gain momentum with industry leading décor and design specialists.

To follow, behold our favourite household installations inspired by concrete trends and how these can take centre stage in South Africa’s most pristinely styled homes.

Concrete Bathrooms

From concrete tubs to flooring, walls and decorative water features, concrete offers a versatile solution when put to use in the bathroom, because of its love of water, concrete is hard wearing and weather resistant to steam, moisture, mildew and mould. Kept clean using appropriate care products and maintained with various annual applications, concrete can create a natural, stone like finish offering an effortless untreated look to various bathroom themes. We love the recent design ideas for concrete tubs that showcase angular, square shaped baths, oval and even round concrete tubs, as well as naturally marbled bench top counters and basins to match.

Concrete Lounge Decor

Pliable, easy to pour and the perfect material to manipulate into taking on decorative forms and features, from coffee tables to quaint benches or even decorative concrete walls, making use of concrete in your lounge can create the perfect contrast juxtaposed to the soft and welcoming sofa appeal, add a masculine angle to daybeds and loveseats or compliment the posture of armchairs and wingbacks.

Concrete Ornaments

Adding a creative flair to various DIY décor, you need not have much of an artistic command to create “home grown” décor and concrete ornaments with a bag of cement and water. From candle holders to planter’s pots or vases, using moulds to create the form, cement-based designs blended with wood, glass or even steel can result in unique decor, fire resistant and versatile in achieving a number of different looks and finishes in a variety of concrete ornaments. Almost the only limitation is your imagination.

Concrete Patios

A sturdy, solid building material widely used as an ideal flooring, walling, table top solution, concrete is one of the most commonly used materials in creating a striking patio and patio decor features. From concrete fire pits and fire circles, to patio paving, DIY braai installations and even basins, counter tops and benches surrounding your outdoor entertainment area, concrete compliments the aesthetics of wood, greenery and poolside views offering a modern finish that can be custom coloured to match your homes exterior and theme. Not only put to use in patios, decorative concrete pavers make for the most charming garden paths, walkways and garden landscaping, including cobbles and stepping stones, flower bed borders and ornaments.

Creating centre pieces, accents, functional installations and cost effective decorative structures, the use of concrete in leading 2018 trends is anything but dull, as its popularity and proven durability continues to grow, the design and décor industry including artists, sculptures and ceramists are turning to cement as their product of choice in creating some of the most striking works to debut on the concrete trend circuit.

Resulting in a one of a kind custom finish, find out about acid stained concrete and why interior decorators will often turn to acid stained concrete applications to uplift the uninteresting look of concrete slabs. Colloquially referred to as coloured concrete, acid stained colour techniques are a popular application to decorative concrete installations. Making use of various staining practices applied to the already uninform concrete installation, a typical concrete stain mix is made up of water, hydrochloric acid, and acid-soluble metallic salts. When coming into contact with the chemical compounds of the concrete, together with hydrated lime, the stain and the concrete work together by way of a chemical reaction that result in a unique mottled and marbled effect to typical dull grey

Unlike painting because the colour results from a chemical response to the concrete and the stain,  acid stained floors create a permanent feature that does not chip, peel or weather with time. The finish results in an uneven, translucent colour that can resemble slate, marble or stone. Where no two looks will appear the same, concrete staining brings a one of a kind, authentic look to any interior or exterior concrete installation.

When applying an acid stain to concrete flooring, walls or even countertops, contractors will follow the below steps in ensuring the end result takes on the desired effect.

Step 1:

The application of acid staining begins with a high pressure wash to clean the surface of the concrete. Ensuring that all grime, dirt and build up is removed, your contractor will also scrub the surface with an abrasive pad or brush to remove any debris that might inhibit or influence inconsistent colouring.

Step 2:

Ensure that the concrete is cleared of any waterproofing agent or muriatic acid. These will inhibit the chemical reaction required during the staining process. To check if the concrete installation has been waterproofed, pour a glass of water onto the surface and check to see if the water beads and runs away. If there is no application present the water will be absorbed by the porous concrete indicating that an effective acid staining process can proceed.

Step 3:

Next, the concrete floors will be sprayed with the water, hydrochloric acid, and acid-soluble metallic salts stain mix, initiating the chemical reaction. Keep in mind that how the concrete surface has been trowelled or if any patch work or repairs have been applied will influence the outcome of the stain. For the best staining results it’s advisable to apply a stain to a newly applied concrete floor or concrete flooring that has been buffed out with a micro finish overlay.

Step 4:

Reacting to the hydrated lime and the chemical compounds that come into contact with each other, both the concrete and the stain will see the start of the concrete colour begin to change. During the initial process the concrete stain colour will undergo what is referred to as the “Ugly Stage”. During this time almost every home owner witnessing the staining process will panic that they have selected the wrong colour however, as the acid is neutralized with an alkaline agent such as ammonia and water the lasting effect begins to reveal and the end result is more closely aligned to the desired colour finish.

Step 5:

The second last step to completing a concrete acid stain, the concrete floors will need to be cleaned removing excess water and neutralizing agent. Once mopped up, use a vacuum to remove any additional residue before it can dry to the concrete.

Step 6:

After allowing the floor to adequately dry, this will offer a good indication of how the final finish will appear. Next apply a sealant to the stained installation adding a layer of protection to your concrete flooring in the final step of the staining process.

While seemingly a simple process to follow, if inexperienced, it’s best to recruit the help of a contractor or professional concrete staining company to assist you with this home improvement job. Messy and known to be hazardous if not applied with extreme care, acid stain professionals are best advised to guide you with the desired finish, colour and application ensuring a professional and appealing end result.

With just enough prep time before the warm South Africa weather arrives, Sephaku Cement shares top DIY tips to build a concrete braai in time for summer. There’s nothing quite like the sweet smoky smell of meat sizzling on a wood or charcoal fire, but there’s one thing that makes the experience that much more impressive – burning a fire on your own DIY braai!

One of the most commonly celebrated characteristics of our heritage and even with its own public holiday positioned on National Heritage Day (Braai day) on the 24th of September, braai-ing is one of South Africa’s most favoured pastimes. Where many of us rely on portable braai equipment such as the trusty Weber, gas braai alternatives or other portable options, nothing beats a concrete barbeque catered for in your outdoor entertainment area. 

To follow find tips to building possibly one of the easiest DIY installations you can add to your outdoor entertainment area, see Sephaku Cement’s steps to building your own barbeque.

Tip 1: Best Braai by Design

The most sensible place to begin building a concrete braai is to start by preparing a sketch or plan of what your ideal concrete braai design looks like. Include measurements, clearance, foundations as well as materials and finishes. The more detailed the blueprint of your concrete barbeque is, the less chance of error and omission of critical considerations.

Tip 2: A Sound Foundation     

With your concrete braai design in hand pay as close attention to the foundation as what you would to the aesthetics of your DIY braai. The most ideal material used to form your braai’s foundation would be to begin with a sunken subgrade of level set concrete which can then be followed by the desired masonry work.

Tip 3: The Build

With a sturdy foundation in place you can now begin to translate your concrete barbeque design into reality. Placing bricks set 1cm apart, glued together with a cement mortar mix. Be sure to use a level, guided by a Mason's string line so that your brickwork is evenly placed. Building layer by layer allow for some time between each level for the concrete mortar to gain strength and cure, firming up each layer as you go. With various masonry design techniques, make sure to stick with your layout so that the brick work is consistent and uniform.

Tip 4: Make space for the Grill

As your brickwork gains momentum don’t forget to account for space for the grill. For first time builders keep things simple avoiding designs such as a vaulted oven. The best approach is to follow a pyramid design that has a square base for the charcoal and wood. Secure the grilling area to the sides of the staggered bricks anchoring a frame between brick layers into the cement mortar. Creating a movable grate, place two pairs of brackets at different heights that will allow varied levels of heat for grilling.

Tip 5: the Finish

For a more smooth and polished appearance once the brickwork has been placed, before the mortar has completely dried, using a gloved finger, smooth the mortar between the bricks removing any excess. Where opting to place cladding, once secured use a soapy sponge to remove cement stains, splashes and debris cleaning the surface of the cobbles.

So simple to install and offering striking aesthetic appeal to patios and Lapa’s, from brickwork to cladding, built to fit or free standing, a DIY braai brings all the boys and girls to your yard! 

Sephaku Cement explores the common misconception that assumes that cement and concrete are the same thing. Although not entirely incorrect, comparing the two would be similar to likening a cup of tea to milk. Where the one constitutes as an ingredient, the other is the sum total or end result when blending associated elements together. Read on to find the distinction between Cement vs Concrete

Cement and concrete are often used interchangeably and while one can excuse the frequent muddle between the two, cement is in fact the powdery composite that is blended with other materials that results in concrete or mortar. Referred to as the generic term for cement that is used to create concrete, Portland Cement acts as the glue that binds a mixture of aggregate together to form a sticky paste. Portland Cement must be mixed with water to activate its adhesive properties and the type of aggregate (sand and gravel) that the Portland Cement is combined with will determine the number of variations of concrete or mortar finishes. 

While exploring the difference between cement and concrete, we now understand that (Portland) cement is the binding agent that is used to create concrete or mortar. Cement is typically made up of limestones, silica sand, clay or shells. Once crushed this is then combined with a source of iron e.g. magnetite or haematite, and heated/sintered to extreme temperatures. The end result is referred to as clinker which is the brittle stony nuggets that are later ground into fine powder, added gypsum to control the setting and or other different additional materials e.g. Slag or fly ash etc, make up which we now know is cement.

When combined with water, cement begins to harden as a result of a chemical reaction called the Hydration Process, binding the aggregate and cement together a dense, rocklike mass is created, which is what we refer to as concrete.

Most commonly used for the foundation of various constructs, as well as walls, slabs and other masonry structures, concrete is highly resistant to water fairly resistant to fire. Made up of cement, sand and gravel, concrete can either be fine or course which when combined with water forms a solid end result that continues in the presence of water to gain strength and harden with time. 

For added convenience DIY enthusiasts, contractors and construction specialists can purchase ready-made concrete mixes for various masonry projects. Where the applicable volumes of cement, sand and gravel are pre-mixed and conveniently bagged, all that is required to prepare is to combine the concrete ready-mix with water. 

Concrete's character can be determined by the type of paste that is created using different aggregates. Making up sixty to seventy five percent of the total volume of concrete, the aggregate mixture determines the thickness and purpose of the final concrete product.

When blended with only fine sand, without any trace of gravel or stone, the cement mix creates a compound referred to as mortar. Ideally used to glue bricks and cladding together to form walls or for rendering surfaces to create aesthetic appearances, mortar is not as resilient as concrete but provides for a pliable adhesive paste. Also available in a ready-mix bag, review the Sephaku Cement range to find the perfect product for your brickwork, building or paving project.

In aid of helping you make your final decision, Sephaku Cement discusses the Pros and Cons of sealing your concrete floors. Where some homeowners are often in two minds as to whether or not to seal concrete flooring, it’s worth understanding a little more about the benefits and drawbacks of concrete sealants.

The Benefits of Concrete Sealants

Concrete is porous and as a result of this, it has the propensity to absorb and hold onto liquid and other material almost like a sponge. However, unlike sponges, it’s difficult to extract liquid and other stain creating substances from concrete once it has been absorbed. Through the absorption of moisture, unsealed floors are not only left with unsightly stains and marks that cannot be removed, but prolonged exposure to consistently wet conditions can have a negative impact on the durability and strength of the concrete flooring leading to cracks where steel are too close to the surface of the concrete and discolouration due to the leaching of calcium hydroxide.

In essence concrete sealants form a protective barrier on the surface of concrete inhibiting the absorption/ingress of water, oil, grease and grime, by changing the porous and permeable qualities of the surface of the concrete floors, much like water off a ducks back, sealants simply see water molecules and oil droplets roll over the surface of concrete floors until it has been wiped clean or evaporated. Sealants are also effective in preventing the occurrence of mildew and the black stains caused by the build of this in warm damp areas such bathroom showers and around basins. 

Another benefit to sealing concrete floors is that it adds to the aesthetics of what typically has a drab and dull appearance, by using different types of concrete stains, a variety of finishes can be created, enhancing the appearance of concrete flooring. Epoxy and polyaspartic sealants result in a seamless and high sheen surface while clear sealants deepen the original colour of the concrete floor while protecting designs and etched patterns for a longer period of time.

Drawbacks to Sealing Concrete Flooring

While the pros seem to outweigh the cons there are a few drawbacks to sealing concrete floors that may make you think twice before going ahead. The biggest deterrent is that concrete sealants can cause flooring to become slippery underfoot and even more so when the flooring becomes wet. While there are ways to avoid unnecessary falls due to slipping this involves adding fine abrasives to the coating creating a non-skid surface, however in doing so this will also affect the finish of the flooring which may be unappealing to some. 

Applying sealants can also be a hazardous task where some solvent-based sealants contain harsh chemicals, are harmful to pets, plants and even to humans when coming into contact with the skin. When applying a concrete sealant, protective gear is an essential and pets and children should be kept clear from the area until the sealant has been allowed to set for an adequate period of time. 

Sealed concrete flooring will also require ongoing maintenance and care to ensure that the finish does not fade peel or erode in high traffic zones. It’s recommended that sealants are re-applied every 2 years or when necessary depending on the area and the conditions that the concrete flooring is exposed to.

Whether you are for or against sealing concrete flooring there is no denying that doing so will prolong the life of this installation while maintaining a consistent appearance and aesthetic appeal.  

Avoiding cracks on a concrete path may seem like a near impossible task but Sephaku Cement has a few solutions on how to avoid these nasty imperfections. Having followed all the steps to installing a picturesque path in your garden, with fingers crossed and baited breath you watch and hope for the best. Considered to be one of the most widely used products in building and construction given its durability, serviceability and strength, why does concrete almost always seem to crack?

There are 3 main reasons why concrete tends to crack namely:

  • Excess Water Added to the Cement Mix

    The wetter the cement the easier it is to install however, when excess water is added to the cement mix resulting in a soupy consistency it impedes the strength and durability of the final product. Further to this, as concrete hardens it shrinks as the water used to mix the cement dries. The more water there is to evaporate, the greater the propensity for shrinkage, this excessive shrinking is considered to be one of the main causes for cracks in concrete pathways.

  • Too Dry Too Quickly

    In converse to a cement mix that is too wet (soggy), the chemical reaction that takes place in concrete referred to as Hydration, can take place for up to, and sometimes over a week after pouring the concrete. In order to change from a plastic state to a solid state while gaining strength, curing cement requires the assistance of water. If the curing concrete is lacking in the hydration process with too little water to support the chemical reaction, the end result will be brittle and weak concrete that is prone to cracks and fissures.

    Make sure that curing concrete remains moist in aid of the hydration process by covering the pathway with a polythene (plastic) sheet over it for as long as possible or spray with a mist water onto concrete for at least seven days or longer if possible. Ensuring that the curing concrete does not dry too quickly, the concrete is able to gain strength and can therefore withstand more shrinkage as well as extreme temperature changes (expansion and contraction) without cracking. 

  • Neglecting to Use Control Joints

    As the name suggests, control joints create "planned cracks” in cured concrete that caters to the expansion and contraction of the finished product. As a guide it is recommended not to lay concrete without joints in slabs exceeding in length and breadth the following size 32 X the thickness of your slab. E.g. if the concrete slab is 120mm thick the length and breadth must not exceed approximately 3.5 meters. Control Joints also support dry shrinkage during curing and extreme weather conditions where temperatures move from very cold to excessively hot. Where weather conditions can be extreme between seasons and no control joints are fitted, the consistent expansion and contraction of the cured concrete (as a result of the concretes porous molecular makeup) eventually diminishes durability, weakening the concrete and causing unsightly cracks.

In understanding what causes cracks in concrete, contractors and DIY enthusiasts are better equipped at ensuring that the concrete mix is prepared correctly, expertly placed and is allowed to cure under the most optimal conditions, by adhering to these basic guidelines as well as following a regular maintenance, upkeep, cleaning and intermittent sealing regiment, most concrete pathways should remain crack free throughout the duration of their lifetime.

Sephaku Cement shares top tips on how to build a DIY Concrete patio just in time for summer. It’s not just summer bodies that are made in winter; we’re just a few months away from warmer weather, and the ideal time to upgrade you current patio and outdoor entertainment area is during the last legs of winter. 

Outdoor patios create the perfect meeting space for friends and family to convene in a relaxed setting for glorious summer get-togethers day or night. Update your current outdoor entertainment area with a simple DIY installation made possible with a variety of concrete slab options.

Concrete slabs such as flagstone are available in an array of finishes, colours and even design options that result in a one of a kind look in any home. Large or small, concrete slabs are easy to work with and fairly simple to install and offer a lasting result when following a few tips from tried and tested patio installations.  

To follow, see Sephaku Cement’s Top Tips to installing concrete slabs on your patio.

  • Tip 1: Be sure that the concrete slabs are well supported by a stable and sturdy foundation and that they are installed at a slight drop away from the house or surrounding buildings. The ideal would be a 1:40 or 25mm per meter drop.

  • Tip 2: Once you have settled on the size and design of concrete slab, mark the patio's area and where you plan on placing a more intricate design, it’s best advised to draw the design to scale in preparation of the placement of the slabs or even lay the flagstone slabs out on the ground first to make sure the design fits together to create the desired end result. 

  • Tip 3: When digging out the patios surface area, always prepare the area slightly larger than the end results measurements. Also make sure that the depth of the foundation is able to cater for the subgrade, bedding and the slabs themselves resulting in the patio running flush to the surrounding grounds. Make sure to compact the base before adding the bedding layer using a Plate Compactor which will ensure a steadfast installation that does not shift or rock under foot.

  • Tip 4:  When placing the flagstone slabs, this should be done on top of a 25 to 40mm bed of river sand ideally infused with about 10% of dry cement powder. For optimal installation, lightly wet the surface of the bedding and the underside of the concrete slabs which will activate the cement and ensure that the slabs are securely fixed in place. Tap each slab down as they are placed using a rubber mallet or wooden hammer to ensure the level and uniform placement of each.

  • Tip 5:  Allow a few days for the slabs to set in place. To ensure that these are well supported and do not rock or wobble when stepped on; fill the gabs between each slab with a premix of mortar. Be sure to brush off any loose material or mortar mix from the surface of the slabs to avoid unsightly blemishes or discolouration. Cover the slabs with polythene sheeting for up to 2 days to finish the job. Wait 21 days before any coating is placed on slabs if required.

Although not always a desirable deed, it is possible to successfully remove both male and female concrete fasteners once set into a base material. By following tried and tested steps, Sephaku Cement explains the ideal process to removing both types of concrete fasteners while maintaining the integrity (and aesthetics) of the concrete base in which the fasteners have been secured.

What is a Concrete Fastener?

Characterised by screw-in anchors, concrete fasteners also referred to as concrete anchors that are installed by making an initial hole in a concrete base, inserting a variety of anchor types into the hole to fill the space and then expanding material in the hole using a nail, screw or setting tool.

Common Types of concrete Fasteners include:

  • Wedge Anchors
  • Sleeve Anchors
  • Concrete Screws
  • Drop-In Anchor
  • Machine Screw Anchor
  • Strike Anchor
  • Hammer Drive Anchor
  • Split Drive Anchor
  • Lag Shield

Concrete anchors can be differentiated by male versus female features.

  • Male Concrete anchors are characterised by fasteners that protrude from the base material.
  • Female Concrete fasteners are located below the surface of the concrete base, secured by a bolt inserted through the fixture.

When removing concrete fasteners, the force required is referred to as the ultimate pull-out or ultimate tension load. The amount of force needed is determined by the diameter of the anchor and the depth at which the anchor has been sunken into the base.

Where each type of concrete fastener calls for a different approach when removing, see to follow various methods to removing male and female variants of concrete anchors.

Male Concrete Anchors

  • Wedge anchors - Its best to install these anchors by drilling twice the depth length. In doing so to remove, all that is required is to hammer the anchor deeper into the base whereby the protrusion is plush to the base material. Alternatively using a hacksaw or cut-off wheel simply saw off the Wedge anchor to the concrete base.
  • Tapcon Concrete Screws - one of the easier anchors to remove simply turn the threaded screw of the tap threads in a counter-clockwise direction until the concrete screw has threaded its way out of the base material.
  • Sleeve Anchors – Similar to Wedge Anchors, following installation simply remove the nut, washer and round or flat head of the sleeve anchor. Hammer the threaded stud to align with the base material and cut off using a hacksaw or cut-off wheel.
  • Hammer Drive Anchors - A little trickier to remove, these have a tamper resistant head that will need to first be cut away in order to extract the full installation. Once the head has been successfully removed using a hacksaw or cut-off wheel, the body of the anchor can be drilled out using a high speed bit.
  • Strike Anchor - These can only be removed by cutting the protrusion off to sit plush to the base.
  • Split Drive Anchor - Also equipped with a tamper resistant head, these concrete fasteners can only be removed by cutting them back with a hacksaw or cut-off wheel (with great difficulty given their design and installation).

Female Concrete Fasteners

  • Drop in Anchors - using a setting tool Drop in Anchors are installed beneath the surface of the concrete base and cannot be successfully removed without damaging the concrete. However, once the bolt or threaded rod has been removed the drop in anchor
  • Lag Shield Anchors - because these are installed by inserting a lag screw that expands the Lag Shield Anchor into the base, by simply removing the screw will reverse the anchor.
  • Machine Screw Anchors - set into the base using a setting tool, these concrete fasteners cannot be removed. Although much in the same as Drop in Anchors, by removing the bolt and fixture the anchor can remain in place hardly visible as it is set beneath the surface of the concrete base.

Whether removing concrete fasteners from concrete, brick or block, ideal circumstances would be to know ahead of installation if the concrete anchor will need to be removed at a later stage. With this knowledge a more versatile anchor can initially be installed, that is easier to remove when the need arises in the future.

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 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!