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DIY Faux Rock background- looks awesome!

This is a discussion on DIY Faux Rock background- looks awesome! within the DIY Aquarium forums, part of the TFK Resources category; --> teddyzapper; Here is a breakdown on the material cost. Remember the styrofoam and the mortar go a long way. You can make several backgrounds ...

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DIY Faux Rock background- looks awesome!
Old 04-23-2010, 06:12 AM   #11
 
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teddyzapper;

Here is a breakdown on the material cost. Remember the styrofoam and the mortar go a long way. You can make several backgrounds with them. The most expensive items are the epoxy resin and hardener. Since the resin and the hardener are matched in size. So if you purchase one can of the resin you will need one can of the hardener. I used 1.5 cans of each between my 20 and 55 gallon backgrounds. For my 200 gallon aquarium I would have to estimate that I will use 2-3 cans of each. I believe the benefit of sealing the concrete outweighs the cost. The good news is that I will not need to purchase the mortar, concrete colorants, pump kit, and gloves. I do have some of the styrofoam left over. I may need more of the 2" size.

I may go ahead and get a heavy duty heated cutting knife. The knife costs around $70.00. The heated knife will eliminate the styrofoam dust that gets and sticks to everything. I did find that by cutting or hacking the stone pieces inside of a box helped to control the styrofoam waste.

Material List Cost (Total ~161.00):
2" styrofoam - 2' x 8' - $14.86
1/2" - 4'x8' - $17.72
10.1 oz. Clear Silicone I Window and Door $3.79
QUIKRETE 80 Lb. Pro Finish Blended Mortar Mix $5.25
QUIKRETE 10 Oz. Cement Color $5.17 x 3
Disposable paint brushes 15 for $8.97
West Marine 105 resin quart - $35.65
West Marine 207 hardener small can $34.97
West Marine Pump Kit - $13.99
Disposable gloves - $10.00
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Old 04-24-2010, 12:05 PM   #12
 
I wonder how sand pits on the rocks would look....

IE make raised edges on some of pieces that stick out, in which you can place sand in it.

If I can I might try this later down the road and set this up.
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Old 04-24-2010, 02:03 PM   #13
 
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I think that would work cool.. shrimp would like it I bet.

Make sure they're the same size as a plant pot so if you don't like the sand you can take it out and throw a plant in it. :)

Last edited by redchigh; 04-24-2010 at 02:16 PM..
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Old 04-24-2010, 03:13 PM   #14
 
yeah thats what i was going for, lol thanks for specifications encase others didn't catch on
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:00 PM   #15
 
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What do the West Marine 105 resin and West Marine 207 hardener do? and are they necessary? (i ask out of cheapness)
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:45 AM   #16
 
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Grimmjow;

The purpose of the epoxy (resin and hardener) is to seal the faux stones. The concrete or mortar mixes are made up from a number of materials, limestone being one of them, that will effect your water's pH levels. By sealing the stones in epoxy you will not have to worry about the faux stones affecting your water's chemistry.

I have read on the internet that others have not used the epoxy to seal their stones. What they claim is that they need to fill and drain their aquariums a number of times and in some cases wait weeks, until the water chemistry stays stable.

I did not want to take a chance with my water's chemistry, so I decided that sealing the stone background would be the better way to go.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:08 AM   #17
 
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Ah i see, thanks.

Im thinking about trying this out. Right before i saw that cat in that picture i was thinking my cat would be a problem with all the styrofoam since he ges crazy over it, but then i thought i should just let him tear it up a little or maybe just try it on one piece since the claw marks might end up looking like cracks and make it look more real.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:38 AM   #18
 
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If you are going to try to make cracks, just remember the mortar mix is pretty thick, so you have to over exaggerate the crack. As you are applying the mortar mix you can also use a wooden tongue depressor to get some of the mortar mix out of the crack you created. I have found it a bit tough to make smaller cracks in the faux stones. Maybe before the mortar mix is completely dry you can try scratching it to see if that would work. I plan on trying that technique on my next set of stones.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:29 AM   #19
 
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Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by keno View Post
If you are going to try to make cracks, just remember the mortar mix is pretty thick, so you have to over exaggerate the crack. As you are applying the mortar mix you can also use a wooden tongue depressor to get some of the mortar mix out of the crack you created. I have found it a bit tough to make smaller cracks in the faux stones. Maybe before the mortar mix is completely dry you can try scratching it to see if that would work. I plan on trying that technique on my next set of stones.
A note on "etching" the mortar. I pretty much grew up on a construction site, namely my childhood home. The entire inside was cement stucco. My dad didn't do anything little and as such I learned a lot of techniques to add texture, color, and "flair."

In stucco there are traditionally 3 coats of masonry that go over the lath. The bottom coat is scratch coat. Much like the OP's instructions, it is a thin rough coat that allows the heavier second coat to adhere. After the scratch has set, the brown coat is added. This is a much thicker coat. This is where much of the shape is added. In my house, we carved stones, designs, even a dragon and castle, into the brown coat. This can be tricky since it sets up somewhat quickly and carving at it at different stages changes the texture of the design.

For years of experimentation and tool buying the most effective and versatile tools we used were a fork, knife, and spoon. They're riddled with different angles, edges and shaped that lend to pretty much any design you could want to make. I became proficient at the process very young and eventually took over the carving and designs. ( much of this was done on scaffolding at odd angles in high humidity) Anyhow, my experience taught me three things. Go in stages. Do a rough carve or shape on everything first, then do a second refinement, and finally tweak what ever you need to. This allows the texture of each to remain similar.

This project is not a house and is much smaller in scale so much of this can be ignored, I still dabble in playing with cement and I still rely solely on eating utensils. Another trick to adhering the the cement to the foam would simply be elmer's glue. If you do a medium coat over the foam and allow it to begin drying before adding cement, the glue will seep into the cement and the foam. NOTE, if you mix it with the cement it may lend to discoloration.

Because the cement will be sealed with epoxy, you can also use powdered RIT dye to color it. This is a really neat effect for making green, blue, brown or red. Remember your color wheel and go a shade darker than you want. You can add in bits until you achieve the shade you want. One small box was usually enough for a wheel barrow of mud, so a little does go a long way.

Next time I mix up a batch I'll scratch up some samples of some designs. Wow... I got pretty wordy, sorry.

Last edited by TexasTanker; 06-01-2010 at 09:32 AM..
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Old 06-01-2010, 10:25 AM   #20
 
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TexasTanker;

Thanks for all the insight. I can see a life time of experience is a great thing.

I have found that roughing up the surface of the styrofoam and using the acrylic fortifier along with a good stiff brush does a great job of getting the mortar mix to stick to the foam. You need to remove all of the shine from the foam. It makes a mess, and it's good to have the shop vac handy.

Thanks again for you insight....
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