If you’re ready to get your hands dirty and really get stuck into landscaping, we’re here to help. With its almost limitless design flexibility in terms of shape, colour and texture, cement is one of the most versatile materials available for enhancing your outdoor space. No matter how big or small your job, we’re here to help you tackle it with confidence, with a great range of cement products at Flower Power.
Cement and cement products at Flower Power
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty and really get stuck into landscaping, we’re here to help. With its almost limitless design flexibility in terms of shape, colour and texture, cement is one of the most versatile materials available for enhancing your outdoor space. No matter how big or small your job, we’re here to help you tackle it with confidence, with help from a great range of cement, mortar, rapid set concrete and gap sand at Flower Power.
What is cement?
Cement is the binding agent in concrete. It’s normally the most active component and, as a result, the most expensive part. Choosing and using it properly are important for making concrete the right consistency and price.
Although the words cement and concrete are often used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient of concrete, which itself is essentially a mixture of aggregates and paste, which itself is a mix of water and Portland cement. The cement and water react together and harden in a process called hydration, binding all the materials into concrete.
Aggregates are usually sands, gravel or crushed rocks, and they form up to 80 per cent of the total volume of concrete, so are a highly important part. The properties of the aggregates chosen can affect the performance of the finished concrete.
What is gap sand?
Gap sand is a product placed in between pavers to hold them in place. It’s sand with a mixture of additives that give it different qualities, allowing it to produce a stable yet flexible barrier between pavers that also prevents weeds from popping up in that space.
To use it, just work it into gaps between pavers with a broom, sweeping as much sand as possible into the gaps. Use a vibrating compactor, or a mallet if that’s all you have, to work the gap sand into the spaces firmly. Top it up with more if necessary.
Spray the entire surface with a moderate level of water. You don’t want to wash away the gap sand. Don’t walk on pavers until the gap sand has dried thoroughly.
What is mortar?
Mortar is another building material composed of cement, in this case mixed with fine sands and lime. Water is added to this mix to activate the cement so it hardens, or cures, just like with concrete. Mortar is not as strong as concrete and is not usually used as a sole building material. Instead it’s used as the glue that holds bricks, concrete blocks and stone together.
Best cement mix for pavers
If you want to lay your pavers on a surface that will hold them in place for years to come, cement is your best option.
You can choose mortar or concrete mix – cement is the most important ingredient in both, but they have different properties and installation techniques.
A 10 to 15cm slab of concrete is a great base for pavers, which you can lay directly onto the wet concrete. The disadvantage of using a concrete slab under pavers is that you have to lay the slabs one chunk at a time so you can lay the pavers in place before the concrete dries.
You can use mortar as a 3 to 5cm-thick base for pavers, with a 10cm layer of crushed rock under the mortar. You can also use dry mortar in place of gap sand between pavers; moisture in the air will cause the dry mortar to stiffen over time.
How to make cement garden stones
If you want to DIY stepping stones for your outdoor space, you’ll find they’re a great way to add character to your home, and they also make great gifts for friends’ and family’s homes. They’re also surprisingly simple – just mix concrete, pour it, decorate it and let it dry. Here’s how to make cement garden stones yourself!
- A mould. You can buy purpose made moulds if you want specific shapes, otherwise just look around you. Old baking tins are good, or try pizza boxes, takeaway containers, whatever you can find.
- Rapid set concrete mix from Flower Power. A friendly staff member will be able to tell you which is the best cement mix for pavers.
- An old bucket. To mix your concrete in, you’ll need a bucket or a bowl that you didn’t plan to use again. And use a stick or spoon you’re happy to throw out.
- Drop cloth. You may want gloves too.
- Cooking spray or a tub of Vaseline.
- Embellishments. If you’re going for decorative garden stones, you may want broken pottery, marbles, sea glass, etc.
Line your mould with cooking spray or Vaseline. If you’re using a cardboard box, you’ll probably just be able to tear it off, but extra Vaseline never hurt anybody.
Mix your concrete in your bucket according to the instructions on the packet. Pour concrete mix into your mould.
Add any embellishments you want to use into the top of the concrete. You can also create casts with handprints or other objects that will leave an impression, like shells.
Let your stepping stone dry for 24 to 48 hours, then remove from the mould and place it in your garden!
How to cement garden edging
Decide on the placement of your concrete garden edging and lay it out with a length of rope. Aim to have edging of at least 10cm wide. Dig out the edging area to about 8cm deep and tamp the soil down to create a solid base for your concrete.
Stake the edges of your border with small wooden stakes at 30cm intervals along your border, then screw flexible hardwood (for curved edges) or rigid plywood (for angular edging) to the stakes.
Mix your concrete to the right consistency, then pour it into the edging space, using a trowel to spread it evenly. As it settles, smooth the surface with a piece of wood.
Let the concrete cure for three to five days, then remove the border hardwood or plywood and backfill with dirt or turf.
If you’ve got more questions about concrete products, or you’re ready to get started with using concrete in your garden, check out our range of cement, mortar, rapid set concrete and gap sand online, or visit us in-store and let our friendly staff help you out.