Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How To Fix An Ugly Retaining Wall With Vertical Carved Concrete

Recently I've received multiple questions regarding the decorative concrete finishes we've applied to various projects around the house so I thought I'd share with you a little more about the process.

I've also added a new postcard to the Cheat Sheet Postcard Series, a collection of postcards to collect and reference on a variety of topics.   For your free Subscription to the series, click here:  10 Ways to Decorate Your Home with Concrete.  

Do you have an ugly concrete raining wall, we had two?  I hate looking at them. When we built the house I knew something would have to be done to hide them. I took a class or two and voila'.... a unique, OOAK carved rock wall. Much better.



We started with a blank wall and my husband wanted to add "bump-outs." That's the beginning of what you're seeing with the rebar. The hole you see at the top is for a waterfall (when we poured the wall and the upper patio we also added piping for this, and anything else you could possibly imagine). 

We began with the armature, drilling holes for rebar support and using tap-con's to secure metal lath to the wall, you can really see it taking shape in the second picture.


I know there's an easier way to do this but hubby was determined to use mortar so here we are, I bet we used 60 bags of mortar to fill in all our armature, shoveling it in one shovel full at a time, boy was that fun!

The bump-outs are done and we've also added a scratch coat where the waterfall will be.

Before I can add the carve coat and begin the finishing process, the entire wall needs a good scratch coat.

I started in the corner with the carve coat and worked my way around. It took me a couple weeks to finish it. I worked alone most of the time. Mixing, throwing and carving wears me out so I don't get as far in a day by myself as I could if I had someone doing the mixing. 

The product I use is called Tru-pac.  Each bag gets mixed with a 60lb. bag of mortar, then you literally throw it onto the wall.  It's a fascinating product and so versatile.  So much fun to play with.  I use a pool trowel to spread the mix, stamp it with a variety of textures using tons of releasing agent (that's the light grey powdery substance you're seeing) and carve with both the pool trowel and a narrow tuckpointing-type trowel.   

This is my first project carving concrete.  My husband had taken a trip to Vegas for World of Concrete and signed me up for internet learning thru Vertical Artisans.  I sat and watched videos until I completed them all and then ordered the necessary materials.  After a few practice boards, playing with a variety of mixes to see which one I liked, I got started on my wall.  

It rained on me for a couple days so I made a "make-shift" tent so I could continue working.  I'm no tent-builder that's for sure, but it worked.


For the area directly under the stairs I had to be in the lake.  Yeah, I jumped out of my skin a couple times. The fish "hunt" right here around the edge and a good sized snake hangs out in some rock right near here. Stinkin' bass made a quick dart, splashing and I nearly came out of my boots!

Got some staining done.



At the bottom of the stairs we poured individual "planks" that need to get set in.  Other than that, its done!


 Since this project I've completed a fire pit in the center of the patio right in front of this wall, a fireplace  surround, another waterfall for my BIL, a pool surround, a pump-house and a man-cave.  Each project is unique and OOAK.

For a free subscription to my Cheat Sheet Postcard Series, a collection of quick reference postcards dealing with a variety of topics, click here: 10 Ways to Decorate Your Home with Concrete.

Have you done anything unique to a concrete retaining wall?  Would love to see what you've done and get a peek at your finished project.



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