Concrete Planters

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As I mentioned in my “Window Shelves” post, we decided to scrap the idea of hanging the concrete planters as window boxes and instead set them on the front porch. In keeping with the colonial/Tuscan/French country/shabby chic theme of our home, (Didn’t know those all went together? We think they do) we decided to add a personalized touch in the form of a family crest. My Grandfather’s family comes from a small town in Italy called Arienzo. I figured that we must have a large coat of arms that could be proudly displayed in our Missouri home…Nope. imageTurns out our family cleaned the chamber pots of those families with crests. So I was left to my own devices to develop one. Very simply, I used puff paint on a cardboard cut out. It was then glued to the inside of the planter mold. It has to mirror the image of what you want it to look like; a lesson learned the hard way. The images in the crest stand for the mountains of Arienzo, the year my grandparents were married (1943), a crescent moon representative of my grandmother’s hometown of Crescent, OK, and a tree with branches corresponding to all the daughters and grandchildren.

It all sounds great in theory, but in reality we wish it would have come out better. The concrete we used was too rocky and therefor couldn’t take the shape of the small indention. You win some, you lose some. However, it takes on a bit of an ancient castle ruin look and we prefer to just pretend like we planned that all along.

Bottom line, we’re pleased with the outcome. Read on for more in depth instructions. Happy Wednesday!

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The basic construction of the molds in which to pour the concrete was the same as we’ve used in our concrete counter projects. See https://leavingourtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/how-to-pour-and-install-concrete-countertops-in-your-kitchen/ for the steps to building the mold. The differences in the planter versus the counter are as follows:

1. It’s poured into the mold right side up. It cures as it will look when the sides are taken off.

2. Two boxes are made per planter. The larger outer box forms the outside walls of the planter while the inside box acts as a barrier, filling the rectangular void in the center where the soil and flowers will eventually sit. We built both boxes out of melamine, but looking back it would be a much easier task to use foam rectangles (easily cut with a jigsaw) to create the inner void. Each rectangle could be hot glued on top of each other to the height of the outer box. The bottom and sides could be taped with packaging tape to prevent sticking. The 2 inch thick foam is readily available at home improvement stores and would be easier to remove at the and of the project too.The 2 boxes should be level to each other on top to allow for easy screeding of the excess concrete.

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3. Make drainage holes in the bottom. When pouring the concrete, prior to setting the inside box into the outer mold, you will pour the concrete into the bottom of the outer box to your desired thickness. We made ours the same thickness as our sides. To form the drainage holes and give the inside box something to rest on as it cures, we cut small rectangles of melamine to the desired bottom thickness by about 2inches and siliconed (new verb?) them to the very bottom of the planter. Fill the bottom with concrete to their exact height then set in your inside box on top. The concrete will then form around these leaving small slots for water drainage.image

4. Pack the sides. You’ve inserted your inner box on top of the bottom layer of cement, now time to begin filling what will be the walls of your planter with concrete. imageCareful not to let the inner box shift to the side as you fill it causing one side to become thinner than the others. I recommend making the concrete mix a slightly thinner consistency so that it is able to fill in all gaps easily. I’d say pudding would be a good consistency comparison, as opposed to the countertops peanut butter thickness. One mistake we made was using regular bags of Quickrete concrete instead of the Quickrete 5000 or the countertop mix. The regular mix had more rocks than some of the nicer counterparts and the aggregate didn’t allow for easy filling and caused more air bubbles in the finished product than we would have liked. Air bubbles = cracks down the road. Don’t forget to used the handheld sander or even taps with a mallet on the outside of your molds after pouring to bring air bubbles to the surface. As with the counters, we used a deep brown grout stain mixed into the concrete.

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Don’t be afraid to use your pry bar (within reason) when it’s time to remove the molds. They won’t come off without some strength and manhandling. We struggled to get the bottom piece of melamine from the inner box to come out so, rather than risk damage to our precious planters, we decided to just leave it and let it deteriorate over time. Hence, our newly recommended idea of using foam. Do as I say, not as I do.

We can’t say they’re perfect by any means, but they get the job done and look pretty in the process. What more can you ask for? Except maybe a family crest…

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