Thursday, June 23, 2016

How To Carve A Vertical Concrete Wall

This is all we need to get some carved vertical concrete work done.  A couple buckets, a mixer, releasing agent, chip brushes, a couple trowels and some stamps.   Each bag of Tru-Pac gets mixed with a 60 pound bag of mortar and covers roughly 12 square feet.

Thankfully, my hubby volunteered to do the mixing as long as we start bright and early in the morning, and I do mean bright and early!  I am not a morning person but handling it all by  myself makes it go even slower.... I'm too worn out from the mixing process that I can't do as much each day and by starting so early I avoid the hottest parts of the day, win/win!  Even with him mixing I can only handle 6 batches at a time and it takes me roughly 5 hours from start to finish.

Here's a great video that shows how it mixes up and goes on the wall.  Really neat stuff to work with and so versatile, imagine the possibilities.

First things first, there's a layer of plywood on the wall and we've added roof liner as well, then the metal lathe.  Be careful with this stuff, its nasty and will tear you up.  I forgot my gloves one time and paid for it.  Ouch!

To ensure your finished work stays on the wall you've got to add lots, and lots of screws, every 6-8 inches.

Once your metal lathe is on the wall its time for a scratch coat.  Just use the same mortar you'll be mixing with your tru-pac.

Now, its time to add the finish layer.  I always forget how much fun this stuff is to work with.  What you see here is my first batch.  It should cover 12 sq. feet at 1 1/2", obviously I can't throw it that thin.  My first day of work six bags averaged out to about 7 sq. feet per bag.  Hoping to do a little better than that tomorow.

To apply this to the wall you simply throw it in handfuls and use a pool trowel to spread it out.  I don't worry too much about the tool marks yet.  After I stamp I use what's left as inspiration for where to carve, which removes them in the process, works for me.

Once I get a couple batches on the wall I go back and add some texture with stamps.  When I got started doing this I ordered the kit with all kinds of texture rollers, small trowel size hand stamps and larger stamp pads.  I find I really only use a couple of the rollers, an occasional hand stamp and a couple of the larger pads.  Didn't take long for me to pick out my favorites.

The powder substance you see all over is the releasing agent.  It comes in a variety of colors so you could mix it up if you wanted to but I use the standard grey color.  It keeps your stamps from sticking in the mix and affects how the color takes when its times for staining, allowing for some variations.  I end up using quite a bit of the stuff.

Once I've gotten the mix up on the walls I begin to carve the basic outline for the design, using my pool trowel.  If I don't like something I can go back in with the trowel and change it up, the material is workable for quite a while at this point.  You can really do just about anything you want.  I have seen people make really small stones but I am not able to do that, they just fall off the wall.  The suction holding the mix to the wall releases if you mess with it too much and the smaller the stone the less surface area it has to hold it on the wall, that's my excuse anyhow.

I haven't done too much with individual stones, I tend to carve "cliffs" so I'm on a learning curve here.  I completed my third day so far and each day I've learned a little something new to make the next day go a little smoother.

Now that I've got my individual stones marked I go back in with the trowel and start carving away to create some depth differential between the stones.  Be sure to come back in with a hand stamp and give these areas some texture now or you'll forget and it'll be too late (learned that the hard way, it will be alright when it gets some color on it but every time I see it I'll know it was a goof up on my part).

I use another trowel, a tuck pointer, to finish off the carving.  There is a wedge stamp that'll help create the individual stones but I didn't have it the first day so I've been using my little tuck pointer instead.  It works just fine but I'm sure the wedge would speed the process up a wee bit.

Here's a look at what I got done on day one.

... and two.  

I've managed to get one side of the building completed this week and next week, the other half.  Then its time for staining.

One of my favorite things about this material is how creative you can be.  It'll do a variety of designs and you can get as creative as you'd like.  Here's a look at a few of my other projects using the same mix:

This is a pump house carved to look like a stone facade.

This is a pool surround with a mine entrance and small tunnel.

A waterfall carved like a stone cliff.

A retaining wall carved to look like a cliff wall.

It also has a waterfall...

The tree stump table legs are carved concrete.

This is another retaining wall, the trees are carved concrete.

Lastly, a fireplace carved to look like stacked stone.

I have always wanted to do an art piece and thought maybe I'd get my chance when we finished off the basement, well, that hasn't happened yet, but soon we'll be opening a shop called The Chirping Frog, (an antique & more mall) and I'm thinking of doing one for it.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how that goes.

If you're looking to see more projects and watch some videos you'll find all kinds of stuff at Vertical Artisans on YouTube or type in "Carved Vertical Concrete" and you'll find a variety of projects to watch.  Really fun stuff.


  1. While living in the country, I noticed some homes had these rock wall just like you have in the picture and always wondered how they put it together. Now that you put this out, I'm confident I can do it too. It seems like so much work, but the finished product looks simply great. Nice job!

    Kendra Tran @ LECO Concrete Forms

  2. Very beautiful work, love it! Looks real and authentic. With step by step pictures, it becomes a simple process, just a lot of work. Thanks

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this topic. This is really helpful and informative, as this gave me more insight to create more ideas and solutions for my plan. I would love to see more updates from you.


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