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Material Focus: Concrete

Cast Concrete Work Surface at the Hanging Gardens

Cast Concrete Work Surface at the Hanging Gardens

Concrete is an incredibly versatile material. Nowadays it is not only considered a building material, but is also used for interior design; from kitchen worktops, to chairs basins and lamps. In the office we have long favoured this dynamic material, due to the endless possibilities it offers us in terms of form, colour and texture. There are countless customization possibilities which offer a truly unique surface finish.

We have been recently experimenting with a number of fittings for our projects, making various items out of concrete, including basins, fireplace surrounds and parts of furniture. Annika, our Part-I intern shares her experience of making concrete along with the casting process during her time at Fraher.

“The exciting thing is that the finished product is very high quality in terms of polish, texture and through colour, however there is no scope for a second chance, what you strike is what you get! This unpredictable nature of the final finish makes the process really exciting as you are trying to anticipate the finish that was originally envisaged. It is almost like cooking, you just need to follow a precise ingredient!”

Annika highlights the necessity for a testing process to get the right formula and tone of the concrete.

“Using different quantities of sands and pigments will bring various results from which you can then choose. It is important  to always source materials for the test samples from the same supplier you intend to use for the final pieces. This is especially true for the colour of the sand and for the brand, variety and colour of cement. Using white cement always results in a more pure colour, as it doesn’t interfere with the pigments ( if used). In addition, any cement based material goes through a substantial colour change between wet and dry stages, regardless of whether or not pigment has been added. Besides the materials, it is important to ensure the ratios are the same.”

“For the molds we used melamine faced, moisture resistant mdf which has been CNC cut to the required size and then fitted together.  It it necessary to make sure the molds are absolutely water tight as leaking water carries fines with it which would cause some imperfections in the surface later. Usually, we’d cast everything upside-down to get even surfaces everywhere.”

When experimenting in the Etch House, we found that the  following  ingredients helped to improved the look and touch of the finished product.

Microsilica increases the density of the concrete. Therefore the quality of a polished finish is improved and the concrete is more stain and water resistant, which is especially important for making basins.

-Water-reducing-plasticiser  makes the concrete more dense and can improve the colour where pigments have been used , along with fibres for shrinkage and cracking control.

FiaWe works really well to seal the surface. It gives it a very nice touch and smooth finish to the final project. This worked especially well with darker concrete.

Fraher have used this method in a number of recent projects so please keep your eyes peeled for our bespoke concrete fittings in the following projects;  The Etch House, The Hanging Gardens, The Music Bar and The Butterfly House.