Enhancing gardens with concrete bird baths has a long-standing tradition. Setting out a water bath in a yard to serve as a lawn ornament is a centuries old practice.
Concrete is an extremely "castable" medium and quite easy to use. You can add colorants to the mixture or once cured stain or paint it. You can embed objects such as beads, stones, ceramic shards, tiles, etc, and they will stay there forever. You can scribe designs into it while is is still moist. You can also use it with molds and it will give you wonderful details from what ever mold you use. And of course when it dries to a hard sturdy substance you can adhere mosaic tessera to it giving you a one-of-a-kind piece of functional art.
To make this bath Las Pilitas Nursery says just make depression in some sandy soil and pour a thin layer of cement. Use a gloved hand or a trowel to spread the cement around the depression. Make sure you don't do this on a hot day or in hot soil or it will instantly crack. Give it a couple of days and carefully lift it out. You can press in pretty rocks to ad some character. To make a stronger more long lasting bath place chicken wire in the depressions before you add the cement. A rock helps to stabilize it and holds down the drip line.
Las Pilitas Nursery also made this bird bath out of thin cement with some chicken wire and rocks in it. Because it is very heavy it needs to be well supported.
Kim Vergil has a great idea in making a twig base for her shallow bowl style bird baths
hunterridgefarm made this bird bath cheaply by making a simple basin from concrete and a cedar post for the stand. This would look great in a rustic garden.
Erika's cement birdbath with water. Embedded stones, painted freeform cement birdbath by art student, Erika, age 12.
In this concrete bird bath, Laurie and Chris embedded shards of broken tile into the moist concrete and made use of an old broken bird bath they had lying around for the base.
Making a hypertuffa bird bath. Bristen from the Gardener’s Journal made this bird bath from hypertufa. To help give it a more natural look he roughened up the outside with a scraping tool once the hypertufa had set (usually within 24 to 48 hrs).
The following links will take you to various tutorials and projects on the internet that will show you step by step how to make a bird bath from concrete.
In this tutorial from Mold-Making.com you are shown how to make concrete bird baths from templates and “sweeps”. This technique shows a simple and inexpensive way to form concrete for any type of item that has both an inside shape and an outside shape. For instance, a birdbath has a bowl shape on the inside, and another curved shape on the outside.
In these shallow cement birdbaths, Debra Sutton added fiberglass mesh strips to wet cement for reinforcement, added another layer of cement then scribed a design into the just wet cement ready for a mosaic inlay.
In this tutorial “Build a Cement Birdbath”, Kendra Haskell demonstrates how to sculpt a cement birdbath using two bowls. A large bowl (stainless) and a slightly smaller bowl. First he lines the large bowl with a plastic grocery bag and fills it with cement 1/4 of the way. Then he puts another plastic bag on top of the concrete and places a slightly smaller bowl on the concrete, keeping the plastic bag between the bowl and the cement.
WildWorldWoman shows how easy it is to make a decorative cement birdbath basin using glass dishes as a mold. The patterns in the dishes not only gives this bird bath decorative details but also a textured surface for the birds to stand on. For extra texture she adds sand to the lip of the bowl. Once the cement is dried you can stain or paint your birdbath to give more color for added interest. Below are some shots of the finished concrete bird baths.
Instead of casting her bird bath on a mound of sand, Kate Carter Frederick makes a depression in the sand and places the concrete into the depression shaping it into a basin a approximately 15 inches in diameter and 2-3 inches thick. She makes sure the basin slopes gradually from the base to the rim and forms a lip around the outer edge. For a decorative surface she presses recycled glass bits, shells, and other objects into the still-soft concrete.
Safety First With Concrete and Cement Mix
Concrete is caustic and can irritate skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Always wear eye protection, dust mask and rubber gloves when working with concrete mix. Before opening concrete mix, read instructions and safety information.
On a flat surface place a mound of damp sand and cover the mound with saran wrap, this keeps the concrete from coming into contact with the sand. Following directions on the package, add water to the concrete powder mix starting with the minimum amount. If you want to add colorant to the concrete mix, add a small amount and mix in thoroughly with the water. Use a small trowel or planting shovel to blend the mix, water and colorant together.
Mix well until the concrete mix is the consistency of tooth paste.
The mix should not be watery; it should be workable like play clay or craft modeling dough
To form the birdbath, take a little of the mix and place it on the top of the mound, then begin working the blob of mix toward the edge making a thin layer.
Your birdbath should have some sort of reinforcement such as chicken wire (or fiber glass wall tape).
Cut chicken wire the approximate shape and size of your bird basin. Place it on top of the cement covered mound criss-cross the "tape" and gently press it in to the concrete. Place another thin layer of concrete over the chicken wire (or fiber glass wall tape) and finish the edges.
After you've finished molding and shaping the concrete on top of mound, carefully drape with a plastic bag or sheet of thin plastic to seal out rain or dust while the concrete dries and sets. Weight down the sides to prevent wind from blowing off the cover.
Your concrete needs to dry slowly to cure and not crack, so keeping it covered lets the moisture evaporate slowly. It can take up to 2 days for your cast concrete project to completely dry and cure.
Your sand cast concrete project must dry completely before you remove the plastic cover. Drying can take up to 2 days; I start checking after 24 hours. Concrete bird baths can be painted with either latex house paint diluted 1.1 with water. Brush on one color and quickly wipe it off with an old cloth, add another color if you'd like. Or you can use a cement stain to give it some color.
The bird bath fully cures in about thirty days. You can seal with a sealer that is for concrete, check with your local hardware store.
You could also make a concrete pedestal for your bird bath using a tubular concrete form. Click here for detailed instructions: Pedestal Instructions
A birdbath requires regular maintenance. Maintenance may be as simple as a daily quick wash and refill, but it will depend on the birdbath materials. This is important because of the possible adverse health effects of birds drinking dirty water or water which may have become fouled with excrement and or algae. Fresh water is important. Concrete bird baths tend to become mossy and, therefore, slippery—requiring an occasional scrubbing out with a stiff brush.
A simple basin settles easily into the garden's edge where feathered friends can drop in to drink, splash, and bathe. Form your birdbath in the garden by scooping out a shallow hole, shaping a 15-inch-wide and 3-inch-deep mold in the soil. Press bits of tumbled recycled glass into the surface of the still-wet concrete for a touch of sparkle. Photo: bhg.cm.
Make a birdbath with Quik-set concrete, stones and a form. Try using a round plastic lid from the bakery for the form. Line rocks around the edge. Mix the cement to consistency of cake batter. Add a concrete colorant if desired. Work quickly and press concrete into form. Stick a straw through three sides to create holes from which to hang the rope after the concrete dries. Let dry and flip out of plastic form. Hang. Source: hgtv.com
Elephant ear concrete casting bird bath by Jan Meng. This bath is one of the most popular bird baths at Hungry Holler Art Refuge. It's a concrete casting from a real elephant ear leaf out of Jan’s garden. It's 37 inches long and 25 inches across the widest part. As it ages, the concrete patina grows ever more beautiful.
Click here to see a lot more examples as well as how to’s on making Concrete Casting Bird Baths.
Mosaic cement bird bath by Teresa Campbell. When a cement bird bath fully cures it becomes strong and hard which makes an excellent base for adhering mosaics turning it into a colorful unique piece of garden art that is not only beautiful but also functional.
As well as decorating a bird bath with mosaics you can also paint cement bird baths to give them color and interest.
You can see the difference of how a cement bird baths can be painted to give them color and pizazz. By Creative Kismet.
Catherine Failor of Garden Molds has this great tutorial on how to make a two-tone concrete leaf bowl/birdbath.
Learn how to apply decorative finishes to your cement projects with the following finishing techniques: Dyeing Concrete, Concrete Paints, Washes and Overlays, Moss or Lichen Covered.
Concrete and Hypertufa Recipes
In this tutorial you will learn about: Concrete Consistency, Concrete Mixes, Concrete Recipes and Hypertufa Recipes.
Concrete in Cold Climates
Catherine Failor of Garden Molds says that special consideration needs to be given to the durability of concrete projects in cold climates. Concrete is porous; any water which has soaked into the stone will freeze and expand during cold winters, possibly creating fractures. Catherine suggest some ways to prevent cracking are:
Found in hardware and home improvement centers. They permeate the pores in concrete, helping form a water barrier. There are many sealants available on the market. Acrylic sealants are UV stable, inexpensive and easy to apply but have the softest, least durable finish. Solvent-based acrylic sealants generally perform better than water-based products for outdoor use, are UV-stable, and are recommended for applications where a flat finish is desired. Water-based epoxy bonds well to concrete, is harder than acrylic sealants, but isn't UV-stable. For stones containing iron oxide pigments, UV sealants will help maintain color. Allow the stone to cure 10 days to 2 weeks before applying sealants. Concrete which has been completely painted with either concrete paint or patio paint need not be sealed.
Wire or nails:
Wire mesh (such as chicken wire) greatly improves concrete strength. Cut a sheet slightly smaller than the mold’s diameter, lay flat into mold half-filled with concrete, then fill mold to top. Another easy reinforcement is a couple handfuls of galvanized nails sprinkled into wet concrete as mold is being filled; think of these as miniature rebar.
WELDBOND Universal Adhesive:
Weldbond brand can be found in hardware and home improvement centers. Mix 1 part Weldbond to 5 parts water; this will be approximately 4-5 ounces of Weldbond per stepping stone. Weldbond dramatically increases the strength of the concrete (up to 1700%).
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