Hypertufa Projects Tips – Skim Coating Vertical Walls

Can Hypertufa Really Be Used As A Top Coat
On A Vertical Wall?

I recevied an email from Donna asking me a simple question:

Can hypertufa be used to face a vertical wall?

My reply:

Hi Donna:
Thanks for asking me about this, and yes! You sure can use hypertufa to face a wall. This would certainly be a very doable hypertufa project that shouldn’t require too much “skill” – meaning this won’t require an advanced ‘tufa technique.

But, I need to know more in order to make sure about a few things … such as what is the wall made from? Brick, or concrete blocks? Or something else?? Are these walls outside in your garden, or inside a home or other structure?? (For now I will assume you mean a garden wall.)

Reason I ask is depending on the material of the wall’s surface, it might change the ingredients in the hypertufa recipe and/or application method. But if your wall is made from bricks or concrete blocks, from my research (I’ve never faced a wall with hypertufa) you will definitely want to wet down the wall’s surface; apply a liberal coating of a bonding agent to the surface; and use a hypertufa recipe that also has bonding agent added to it.

I can assure you that wetting down the wall surface is important, just like it is important when adding more hypertufa to an already cured area of ‘tufa. Wetting the surface is an important step. 😉

This is bare-bones information, but without knowing all the particulars, this info should get you pointed in the right direction. Does this help you?

~~~

Donna replied:

Thanks for the answer, Claudia. I’ll try to clarify my question a little but I like your answer.

We’re building a new house with an enclosed atrium. The walls haven’t actually been built yet but the contractor wants to face it with a concrete material like Hardyplank and then put some kind of stucco material over that to make it look like a rock cliff.

I want to allow plants to grow on the wall and thought a hypertufa “stucco” would work better than a plain concrete stucco. The contractor is concerned about the hypertufa being as durable as conventional concrete in this instance.

In your opinion would we use the hypertufa just like conventional concrete – over a expanded metal base used as the “support”?

Thanks again for your help. Donna

~~~

I answered back:

Hi Donna:

The contractor is concerned about the hypertufa being as durable as conventional concrete in this instance. In your opinion would we use the hypertufa just like conventional concrete – over a expanded metal base used as the “support”?

Hypertufa being durable? Well, if it is mixed up in proper proportions and cured correctly, and if you’ve added reinforcing poly fibers (as one example) … heck! It is incredibly durable & most likely would last for goodness knows how many eons! 😀

Plus, now that I understand that the hypertufa is going to be applied to the INTERIOR walls of your atrium (I’m jealous … an antrium! You lucky duck!!) the walls are protected from the “abuse” of the outside elements. That in itself should prove to help add to the longevity of the hypertufa.

If you’ve not yet looked at, or downloaded a copy of this very thorough stain and colorant chart that is on my website, please do so – it will be an immense help to you: Hypertufa & Concrete Stains Chart. You’ll see the link to open the chart about 1/2 way down the page.

About coloration: think carefully about the desired COLOR you want when you’re done. Peat moss is already “dark” by itself, and then you’ll have the grey portland cement. You really might want to use white portland with a colorant to lighten up the walls in your atrium. And be aware that the peat moss is going to be visible.

Also remember that the peat moss is meant to decompose over time, so that ultimately you replicate real Tufa rock. That’s the whole idea of people making things with a hypertufa recipe. But decomposition happens for objects like troughs or planters that are outside in a garden 24/7. In your situation, the hypertufa is not going to be affected by “normal” outdoor weather and seasonal conditions.

However, maybe over many years the peat moss will decompose in the planter pockets you’ll be fashioning – because when you water the plants, the water will cause the ‘tufa to slowly decompose … the peat moss in the walls might not. Unless you can hose them down?? Are you having a brick or pebble based floor with floor drains so that watering your plants and having to be “careful” with puddles isn’t an issue??

See where I’m going with this? I don’t see why a hypertufa recipe couldn’t be used. BUT!! I have NEVER done this myself; nor do I personally know anyone who has done this, so that I could pick their brain for you!! I say this to protect myself with the suggestions I’ve given you. Your common sense and more research into the best recipe; proper sub-surface for application; thickness of hypertufa to be applied … all that is up to you. 😉

If I were you I’d experiment on practice boards with a few recipes using grey and white portland cement; maybe different colorants, etc. and let it cure so you really know what the final outcome will be color-wise! I’d hate to think you get the room done, and about a week later when the walls are getting dry, you say “Egad … I really don’t like what this looks like!!”

This is one of the more unusual hypertufa projects I’ve been asked about, but it should prove to be a wonderful addition to your home. I’d say “Go for it!”

Good luck!

Comments

  1. Catalina says:

    Could you use this same method to cover the walls of a metal shed? I have an ugly metal shed that really needs some help!

  2. Claudia says:

    Hi Catalina:
    Let me preface the information I’m going to give you here with this: I will **ASSUME** that you can successfully cover the walls. But I have never anything like this myself, nor have I ever read of anyone doing this.

    But, I am very aware of how a hypertufa or concrete recipe will stick forever to most metal surfaces. I have read more than one time of a crafter boo-hooing over the loss of their favorite stainless steel pot that they used for a mold but DIDN’T put any type of release agent on. The ‘tufa or ‘crete stuck to the pot and nothing the crafter could do to try and remove the hardened stuff to save their pot worked.

    Other metal types may or may not have varying degrees of corrosion take place when they come into contact with Portland cement. but you may have to paint the walls first. So, that being said, it **appears** that in essence, yes should be able to cover the walls of your shed. But – I sure would encourage you to make up a small batch of your recipe and experiment on one of the walls to see if it adheres, and if after it has cured for awhile, can you chip it off the wall?

    And as I just mentioned, the Portland cement does react differently with different metals, and that **could** be a problem for you, depending on what your shed’s walls are made from. I just dug out a non-copyrighted document I found online years ago in my file and the information in it will be helpful for you. I’ve posted the information here: Concrete Reacts Differently With Various metals.

    Let us know if you do try this project and how it turns out! Good luck!

  3. About 10 years ago, I was experimenting with hypertufa and I decided to see what I could do with a broken concrete wall about 3 ft. tall and 6ft. wide, pretty irregular and ugly like walls made out of old concrete can be..I went to the local Farm& Fleet and bought some fibreglass reinforcing in the auto department.. I cut it into 1 in. pieces with a scissors, unraveled it into threads and followed my hypertufa recipe except in each batch, which I mixed with a drywall mixer on my electric drill, in a 5 gallon bucket, I would throw in a handful of fibres before I put in the water,mix it all well, and put it on the broken concrete. I slapped it on with a trowel, pushed it in the cracks and scored it the way I thought it looked like boulders.. It is still there after 10 years, not a crack in it, the concrete coloring has faded but it looks good. Most people wonder how I got those big rocks in there and how I got them to fit so well.

  4. Carl:

    Great information. Thanks for sharing!

  5. kathaurielle says:

    hello,
    i was really glad to find this info about your hypertufa wall. i would be very keen to see any pictures/ hear any tips on how it went.
    reason i’m so interested is i’m hoping to cover a 2ft high wall that contains a raised flowerbed in hypertufa. the wall is made of ugly bricks. i have never used hypertufa.
    your project is the nearest thing i have been able to find.

    any advice on coverign walls appreciated.
    byee

    kath, south west London

  6. kathaurielle says:

    ps,
    could hypertufa be made thinner with water, and could i coat the wall with a thin coat only?
    thanks again!

  7. Claudia says:

    If you try to make a “thinner” ‘tufa by adding more water into the recipe you will have a DISASTER on your hands – guaranteed! Please read up on proper ratios, mixing and such in this article I wrote: Mixing Guidelines for Hypertufa

    Using a thin coating is really difficult to answer – your “thin” may be enough to adhere and last long-term, or maybe your “thin” is closer to a skim coat which probably won’t work. Again … please read over all the hypertufa information on this blog and the main website (The-Artistic-Garden.com) and then you’ll have all the answers to your questions.

    DON’T try to go too far outside recommended guidelines. Concrete-based recipes can be a bit inflexible – just like a cake recipe … if you try to alter the recipe too much it just won’t come out right. You’ll likely have to throw it away … same with hypertufa or pure concrete recipes and application methods.

  8. Claudia says:

    One BIG word of advice – PLEASE don’t tackle this project head-on. Learn how to work with making, applying and curing hypertufa. Make a small project first – like a small trough. You do NOT want to do this wall as your first project! Sometimes it takes a couple of times working with ‘tufa to get the hang of it, especially getting the ratio of water right.

    I will also suggest you get a helper for this wall project. You’ll be mixing up and applying a LOT of ‘tufa onto this wall in order to have it come out right! Buy more products than you think you’ll need so you don’t run out in the middle of mixing up your batches. (You can always return unopened bags.) Plus … you’ll want to mix up batches – not one huge big batch. You don’t want the wet recipe to start drying out before you’ve even gotten around to applying it.

    Again I stress … PRACTICE FIRST on small projects. READ through all the information pages on my website and here on my blog. You’ll be happy you did! Having all the ‘tufa start to crumble off your wall during the cure or thereafter won’t put you into a very good mood! Good luck!

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