A Hypertufa Recipe's #1 Cause For Failure – Water!

Avoiding Project Mishaps When Adding Water
To Your Dry Hypertufa Ingredients

Without a doubt, the amount of water mixed in with the dry hypertufa recipe’s ingredients is the most critical and determining factor of success or failure! Let’s call it your “make it or break it” ingredient. Why do I say this, you ask? Well …

Nearly every crafter who is new to working with hypertufa adds in too much water. (This mistake also applies to newbies who are trying to mix up a concrete recipe.) Too much water makes a recipe mixture that slumps badly. In other words, slumping means that your wet hypertufa just sort of slips off the sides of whatever you are applying it to. And there it is, sitting in a very wet blob on your work surface. 🙁

Even just an itty-bitty too much water can cause problems. Though you may think you’re doing quite well because you are able to keep the ‘tufa clinging to the vertical sides of your mold, just a hair too much water most likely will guarantee that you’ll end up with “weak” hypertufa. Weak meaning though it may appear to be curing properly, it might crack or crumble when you go to unmold it. Or it might survive the unmolding, but may fall apart during the hardening (curing) phase. Or it might make it through all of the cure … and then fall apart on you soon thereafter.

Yes … working with anything containing Portland cement can be tricky. Even professionals who pour concrete driveways and sidewalks (as examples) can have sloppy disasters on their hands if the ratio of water gets goofed up. So … how do you get the hang of how much water is or isn’t just right for a successful batch of hypertufa? I’ll tell you …

But first – as I ALWAYS encourage everyone who is new to working with hypertufa or concrete recipes – PLEASE do yourself a favor a try your hand at a small project. In this way if you do have a disaster, you’ll not have wasted a lot of ingredients. As a matter of fact, I have a beginner’s recipe on my website, which can help save you a little money if you want to give hypertufa a try and see if it’s something you really enjoy working with: Hypertufa Recipe For The Beginner.

Back to learning about the water ratio … understand that the consistency of wet mix you want SHOULD NOT look like the concrete you see being poured for sidewalks, driveways, patios and the like. No … what you want is more of a peanut butter consistency. A wet mix that you can hold in your hands and form a nice ball with, and when you give it a squeeze just a DROP (or two) of water will drip from it.

The magic trick to estimating the right amount of water for success is to add in the water in VERY small increments, and then stir, stir, stir! Wait a moment and if it appears dry and crumbly, add in a LITTLE bit more. Then stir, stir, stir again. Err on the side of your mix looking just a bit dry versus it appearing to look “just right”.

Walk away from your wet mixture at this point for about 10 minutes. Really! You know why? Within 10 minutes the recipe is going to go through a slight chemical change and the water is being absorbed even more by the dry ingredients.

After 10 minutes come back. How’s the batch of ‘tufa look? Can you make a ball of hypertufa in your hand as I explained before? If your mix is just a bit dry … then add only a tiny bit more water. Maybe a tablespoon or so and stir, stir, stir. Your mix should be ready to be applied at this point.

This is about all I can teach you about the right amount of water for a hypertufa recipe. (Sorry I can’t be standing right there next to you to demonstrate! 😀  ) As the saying goes “Practice WILL make perfect”!

But what I and almost every other person who has worked with hypertufa have found, is that it is amazing that you can be mixing and carefully and slowly adding the water, and you’ve almost got it just right and then you think, “Hey! I’ll add just another little splash of water”, and … it’s a splash too much! Perhaps only one tablespoon was all that was really needed.

The result from that extra splash? Hypertufa that begins slipping, sliding and slumping down the sides of your mold.

I’m not trying to scare you away from trying your hand at making something with hypertufa. Not at all! What I’m trying to do is alert you to what is the #1 biggest mistake most every crafter makes in the beginning. Disaster can strike even after we’ve had many successful projects, normally because we get a little lax in paying attention to the careful addition of water.

So again, let me stress, though many crafters are successful in their very first attempt of working with ‘tufa and end up with a nice large trough or planter, I can only encourage you to start small. Get the hang of working with hypertufa recipes and then graduate to larger projects.

Good luck! 😉


  1. […] Here is a blog post you will find informative since you’re new to working with recipe mixtures containing Portland cement: The Number #1 Cause For Most Hypertufa and Concrete Recipe Failures. […]

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