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Thursday, May 10, 2012

DIY Concrete Bird Bath for Under Ten Bucks

Today, I discovered my new favorite material:  Concrete!  I love it!  I couldn't stop making things today.  I made stepping stones and a bird bath out of Quikrete, and I am going to show you how to make a bird bath for less than ten dollars.  Here's how:

Materials required to make a bird bath out of concrete are as follows:



The minimum required materials are:
2 bags of Quikrete
Large container for mixing cement
Measuring cup
Cement Trowel
Molds for bird bath
Lubricant for molds
Burlap scraps



2 60-lb bags of Quikrete.  Make sure you don't buy the one that says "fast-setting," as that will set up before you have a chance to fill your molds!

This is the kind you should buy, it's in the yellow bag for $2.65
at Home Depot.

Instead of paying upwards of $85.00 for a bird bath mold, I used my husband's office garbage can and two large bowls from my kitchen.  It's not like I cook very often, so I figured I could sacrifice them. 
$85.00


(This is not the exact garbage can I am using, but I forgot to take a photo of it before I filled it with cement.  Mine is actually the same size on all 4 sides.  When flipped upside-down, it makes for a nice tapered base, and the top (bottom) is also slightly concave, which is perfect for holding something like a big cement bowl full of water.  Since you obviously don't have the same items on hand as me, I recommend going around your house or a store and just flipping some containers upside down and see what you like.  Before I came up with the trash can idea, I was also considering taping together some cardboard oatmeal canisters to make a large pillar.   However, I think I will prefer the larger base that comes from the trash can.


 Instead of spending seven dollars on a large mixing tub, I used the tub from my bathroom closet I used for toilet paper storage, since the size was right and it didn't function too well for toilet paper storage anyway.  I bought a new basket for the closet at Dollar tree for a buck to replace the one I was inevitably destroying with cement. 

Hmm, it's a big tub with a large lip around the edges, and it's fairly thick plastic.  Medium is $6.29, Large is $12.65, both at Home Depot. Here is the tub that was in my closet with toilet paper in it, which you may remember from my prior post about closet organization:


You can find something similar to this (but smaller) in the basket section at Dollar Tree.  Because of the size, I recommend you mix half-batches of cement at a time. The only thing to do is make sure you use the same amount of water/mix  in each batch.  On that note, make sure you have a measuring cup for this project as well.  Here's what I was able to find at Dollar Tree that could be used for mixing cement:
This bucket has a 12-qt capacity.

These large wastebaskets were about 18" high and about 14" across.  I would go with the bucket, but some Dollar Tree stores don't stock them, so I'm trying to provide everything available that could work.


I had vinyl gloves on hand.  You should always have a box of gloves in your home, I use them all the time!  Plus, it's very important to wear gloves when working with concrete, because it contains acid at will burn your skin.  If you don't have gloves on hand, you can get these at Dollar Tree:
10-pack latex gloves for $1.00 at Dollar Tree



 Instead of spending  bucks on a concrete trowel, I bought garden tools from Dollar tree.  They worked great. 
$10.97 at Home Depot for a concrete trowel


$1.00 each for metal garden trowels at Dollar Tree



To start, I emptied the concrete mix into my tub and added the minimum amount of water at first, then a little extra.  This tub is clearly too small, but I didn't want to spend money for a little convenience sake.


Cut a slit down the middle of the bag (across the short side) and then flip the bag over gently.  This will ensure the least amount gets spilled onto your work space.  I probably should have used a drop cloth here.



It took the full batch of concrete to fill the trash can (base of bird bath).  I used the measuring cup to scoop the concrete into the trash can, spreading it out with my hand as I went along.  Once it was full, I kicked the side of the trash can several times to reduce air bubbles, then used my hands to smooth it out. Be sure to grease your molds using WD-40 or any type of grease you have on hand.  I used olive oil and a washcloth to spread it around.  It worked wonderfully.



here's the remnants, I didn't get any photos of the mixed concrete, because my hands were covered in it, and I didn't want to get my camera dirty.  The mixed concrete should look like lumpy cake batter, almost like wet clay.  it will appear a bit dry and lumpy, but if you squeeze it in your hand, it will easily mold into a solid piece.  If you add more water, it is okay, but the cement will not be nearly as strong.  For every extra pint of water you add to a full bag of cement mix, it loses 40% of it's final strength, according to the Quikrete website.  

I then mixed a half-batch (which I should have done in the first place!) in a drier mix and used my hands to press it into the bowl to shape the actual bird bath.  After I built it up quite a bit, I put the smaller bowl inside of it and pressed down.  I discovered that, after several minutes, the weight of the concrete was pushing that small bowl up and the concrete was pooling in the bottom.  To remedy this, I used a few rocks from the garden to hold it in place for an hour while it set up.  I also put some beads in the edges for decoration:



I put the last of my concrete into a plastic mold to make a stepping stone, along with a single bead for decoration.  I made a second one, but I gave it to my next door neighbor so her kids could decorate it.


After about 2 hours, I removed (with great difficulty due to suction) the top bowl from the bird bath mold.  Seeing that the concrete was set, I smoothed out a few inconsistencies with my gloved hand, then moved onto the next step, which was to prepare the concrete for curing.



I also took this chance to personalize our stepping stone.  A pen was too thick for this job, so I used a skinny knitting needle.  It took me about five times to get this to look halfway decent!  I wanted to write it in cursive, but my cursive R's are funny, so it makes my last name look like "Butt" instead of Britt sometimes, and I would rather not have a Butt stone in my garden.




At this point, I cleaned up my mess and I wet some burlap.  I soaked it and rung it out so it was saturated, but not dripping.  I draped it over all exposed areas of concrete.  If this is not done,  the concrete will not cure correctly and it will crack.   There are three ways to cure concrete.  The first is the burlap method, which requires the least money and maintenance.  The second is to spray it with water every few hours, but I figured I would forget it, and I was concerned it would dry too much over night.  The final method is to use a curing compound, but they are very expensive.  I had a bunch of burlap table runners leftover from my wedding that I was using to wrap plants when we had freeze warnings at night, so I cut up some of those for this project.


For the bowl, I also bunched up some wet burlap and draped it inside the bowl part.  I then covered the outer ring with a larger piece of burlap I draped over the whole thing.  It's important to have burlap-to-cement contact to hold in the moisture.


I then set these in my mud room to sit overnight.  I'll check on them and take more photos in the morning to see how the cement has cured.  Hopefully it won't take much longer, I cleared out all the tiger lilies in my garden area to make more room, and I'm anxious to celebrate the tiger lily carnage by further crushing their remnants with a cement bird bath on top of that fresh mulch.

Since I am not using a curing agent (which usually contains a cement sealant built-in as well), I need to seal my cement once the project is finished.  This won't be for a couple of days, once the cement is fully cured.  I have some Thompson's all-purpose Waterseal on hand, since I was going to seal the deck later this month.  If you buy it new, it costs about $12.50.


 If you're looking for something more economical, then Thompson's multi-surface Waterseal is available in a 12 oz. spray can for $4.98 at Home Depot:





After allowing 2 days for the concrete to cure, I put a coat of Thompson's Waterseal on it and allowed it to dry for 24 hours.  Okay, I lied.  I let it dry to the touch and stuck it out in the garden.  I put a coat on the bottom of the bird bath and let it dry overnight, then I coated the rest of it.  I figured that it's not going to rain tonight, so I can put it out a little early so I can get a photo.  I've never been patient...  Anyway, here it is!  You see the bottom of the base isn't quite dry yet, but it's getting there:

First, the stepping stone.  Nothing special, but I like the personal touch.

Here, you can see what I mean about the bottom of the bird bath.  It probably should have cured another day, but that's what I get for being impatient.  I'm sure it will be fine, it's not like the birds will be causing a lot of stress to it.



Here's the close-up!  I'm pretty happy with it, especially for the price.  If anyone else makes their own bird bath using my instructions, be sure to link to it in the comments to show off your hard work!


Now for the grand total I spent on this project:

Tub, gloves, burlap, sealant, lubricant (olive oil), molds, sealant, etc:  on hand=  $0.00

2 bags of Quikrete @ $2.65 each, before tax= $5.30
1 garden trowel from Dollar Tree before tax= $1.00

Grand Total:  $6.30 plus tax











4 comments:

  1. Great idea, I added some flower beds this spring and have been looking at some accents to add....yet wincing at the prices of the neat ones, like birdbaths and columns. I am going to make a couple this month. I am also thinking about making those bowls into planters with a couple holes for drainage. Elevated on the column and planted with some trailing color annuals like lantana. Or the column holding a gazing bowl - saw a solar one at Big Lots that would change colors!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the concrete base idea! You had a perfectly shaped trashcan on-hand for that use.

    Just wanted to share that birds prefer to bathe in water that is less than 2 1/2-3 inches deep, and they like graduated sides so they can ease down into the water depth....a pie plate would probably work for a mold. I prefer using a pile of sand covered with a trash bag for a mold (just put chicken wire or hardware cloth in the middle of your concrete for reinforcement). Or a large clay saucer (like you would put under a potted plant) would look great on top of your concrete base -- they would be the perfect depth for bathing birds.

    Love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love the concrete base idea! You had a perfectly shaped trashcan on-hand for that use.

    Just wanted to share that birds prefer to bathe in water that is less than 2 1/2-3 inches deep, and they like graduated sides so they can ease down into the water depth....a pie plate would probably work for a mold. I prefer using a pile of sand covered with a trash bag for a mold (just put chicken wire or hardware cloth in the middle of your concrete for reinforcement). Or a large clay saucer (like you would put under a potted plant) would look great on top of your concrete base -- they would be the perfect depth for bathing birds.

    Love your blog!

    ReplyDelete