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concrete mixes - Choose which concrete mix is best for what you want to make

I know what it’s like standing at the concrete aisle and getting that odd look from the guys at the building supply store… Since I get a lot of questions about which concrete to use I’m going to eliminate some of the guesswork. Follow me as I Compare Concrete Mixes for Crafting

So many Concrete Mixes for Crafting:

When I started buying concrete many years ago, I’d be quite puzzled reading and checking the packages. Someone would often think I was sent by my husband to buy ‘normal’ concrete. After a few attempts of trying to explain what I wanted to do I would just buy what I felt was right since they usually thought I was a bit crazy… Even nowadays there are so many that it’s quite daunting.

Cement and Concrete is not the same:

Do be aware that concrete is usually a mixture of portland cement & other things like sand and aggregates. The ingredients like the gravel give the concrete mixture strength, make it into a rock-like substance once cured.

I did know what I did not want; large aggregate in my mix, which is what the regular Concrete mixes usually have. They are quite cheap and can work for large pours in molds (planters), sidewalk slabs or fence posts. I am usually making smaller projects that are going to be cast in molds or hand shaped for decorative home use.

‘Leaf-casting’ was perfect to make my Concrete crafting tests since I like to work quite thin. These leaves are made with my new favourite; Savoy Cabbage!

Working Fast:

Since time is always short around my place so I like to see my projects finish quickly and I am constantly improving or redesigning so I can’t wait weeks or even days!

I really do love the ‘fast set’ mixes but am not exactly sure about what makes them set & cure so quickly and also so much stronger. There are special additives in the concrete mix resulting in a dense  and less porous finish. The sand in these mixes is so much more fine than regular sand as well. Fast set mixes have special chemicals that make curing quite quick. Each manufacturer usually has some version of  fast-setting concrete mix. These mixes also come with quite a hike in price, but it’s worth it in my eyes!

All concrete mixes go through curing process that involves hydration. The water is needed in order for proper curing to happen, and ensure that strength is achieved. Traditional bricks are made by firing clay in a kiln, much different than concrete.

Rapidset Cementall:

The above Rapidset Cementall is probably my all-time favourite!  The specs say that it can be used at different consistencies and it will cure much harder (up to 9000 psi compressive strength) than regular concrete. I am sure there are specific additives like polymers for strength and those also make it quite moldable at a thicker consistency. This mix does not contain large aggregates.

I learn by testing and it has worked well for many of my projects. Usually readers who have had concrete problems it’s because of their choice of concrete mix.

Rapidset Cementall Concrete Mix will start to thicken in about 30 seconds and can usually be taken out of the mold after 1 hour. The molds that I make are quite stiff and this mix will withstand the vigor needed to sometimes take them out. This mix is super fine, will pick up all the details and provide a super smooth white finish. A shiny finish can be achieved if the mold is also shiny material. It tends to not have many bubbles since the consistency can be fairly fine & does not need as much water as other mixes.

So Strong Concrete:

At a thin consistency it will be easily poured such as the Coasters and the Monster Eggs. The strength achieved in a thin wall is quite amazing! Check out all the projects that this mix is great for.

When reading the specs for different mixes it will give you a clue at how it can/should be used. ‘Featheredge’ means that it can be used at a very thin edge layer. Some mixes will state not to be used above a certain thickness.

The Rapidset Cementall mix can also be used at a thick; sculptable consistency. It will still slump ( a high pile of mix will flatten and sag) but not usually run away. That makes it work well for leaf casting such as the Lacy Circle the Smiling Stones. The workflow can be quite fast since sections harden quickly allowing more material to be added such as around an Orb or a Face sculpture fairly quickly. Temperature will also accelerate the setting/curing.

Dampening the drier sections is good practice before adhering new mix so there is good adhesion..

Quikrete Fastset All-crete:

Different brands offer similar products. Since entering the Quikrete contest I wanted to use a Quikrete product that compared to the RapidSet Cementall. I find this mix is almost exactly like Rapidset Cementall. It does seem like it comes under a few different names; Dual Purpose Grout & Structural RepairFastset Repair Mortar and Quikrete Fastset All-Crete. (See a selector guide here) It may be a difference of countries (here in Canada) Do NOT confuse it with any regular Fastset Mix though, as it will have large aggregate in it. If it says that it is meant to make sidewalks, post foundations and foundation walls then it usually contains large aggregate.

When comparing different types of concrete mix read the fine print and specifications.

Quikrete Fastset AllCrete has much of the same qualities, workability and also stated it can be used at all kinds of consistencies. It also a fine powder but the colour is more like a true concrete ‘grey’; darker than Rapidset Cementall.

The DIY Gigantic concrete Leaf Orb used this mix. It performed well at less than 1/2″ thick and the quick-setting allowed great workflow.

Make sure to consider enough overlap as this will make the open-work structure strong.

Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher:

This product will also work well if you can wait a bit longer. Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher also has additives to make it really strong but does not set as fast as the first 2. It has a window of 30 minutes of work time (conditions can affect it) and will be hard in 24 hours. It has good bonding abilities so layering works great as in this Giant Orb making.

You can see it still is a fine mix but I’d say it feels a bit more sandy. It cures to a similar concrete colour to the Fastset. You can see a slight bit more texture in the final product.

Sakrete Top’n Bond:

This is another of the bonding mixes with great strength and it performs very much like the Quikrete Vinyl Patch. Sakrete Top’n Bond will work for the continuous building around an orb shape (ball of some type) or casting of thin leaves. It will set & cure in about day as well.

My 20″ Giant Orbs have lasted well through the canadian winters and are light enough to carry with one hand. Amazingly only 1/4″ thick. These are considered ornamental garden sculpture so if it was stepped on it would likely break.

So, there you have 3 direct comparisons (left to right) Quikrete Fastset Allcrete, Rapidset Cementall, and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher. This is by no way the only available mixes but it does give me quite the selection. Also notice the difference in colours…

As for sealers; you will notice I often do not seal my orbs since I like the look of old patinated concrete. I am also happy to report I have not had any issues with cracking with these mixes. If you have issues about cracking see this post.

If you are still a bit apprehensive about working with concrete visit my tips post. Believe me; it does not mean that you need to be ‘covered in concrete’ to make some easy concrete crafting treasures! Concrete crafting is like making a cake mix that does not need baking… And you can almost keep it forever! Concrete crafting – made simple…

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 153 Comments

    1. I’m glad it’s appreciated! I know I could have used that kind of info way back when… Gee, what did we ever do before the internet?!

        1. I get my mixes at the local Home Depot or other home improvement store. (Canada) However there are probably similar mixes in other countries. Happy concreting!

          1. What kind of cement r u using to make these projects ? The kind I got either had rocks or fine gravel in them , and that’s not what I’m looking for, please help me thank you

          2. The post states the mixes that I use. If you go through I compare Quikrete Fastset Allcrete, Rapidset Cementall, and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher. Cheap regular concrete mix does have aggregate (stone) in it.

          3. I have been making small concrete statuary in latex molds. The recommended mix is 1 part Portland two parts sand and 1 part gravel. I find I lose ears and noses in these small molds. I believe it’s due to the gravel size. Do I really need the pea gravel? Any suggestions?

          4. Have you ever tried the fibres that can be mixed into the mix? It does help a lot. I have never actually used the gravel in the mix. My bowls are only a Concrete sand mix and hold strong. If they are small enough to not be too expensive the Rapidset Cementall is even stronger!

      1. I really appreciate this article you prepared. I was wondering if you have anywhere that helps walk people through making stepping stones for the first time. I’m wanting to do Stepping Stones as part of a mentoring group for teenagers.

      2. Very good info, im trying to make temporary heart grave stone marker, also letters with tiles. Do you think it might work? Shirleyjo

        1. I like the strength and versatility of the Rapidset Cementall. It also says it’s a non-shrink grout so it would hold well. When I am in doubt I do a tiny test run, as it sets in one hour and I can see how it worked. Good luck

    2. Thank you for this valuable information. I’ve been dabbling with concrete art here and there over the last couple years cause I don’t have the money or time to not get it right. So now I can do more than lady bugs I mold and paint and the sheets I concrete into plant/ candle holders. Thank you!!!

      1. Hi, i love all your information.
        I was jus wondering wen using moulds or blow up balls etc do u need to wipe them wiv oil or anything to get them out wen they hav set?

    3. I don’t know how to thank you for this post. I’ve been scouring the internet for a week looking for this exact information. Thank you!!!

  1. Hi I am in the process of making a mold for melting lead into for fishing weights I have used the fire cement they use in setting fireplaces it works but not the best as it breaks up after a couple of uses. Do you know of or can recomned some mix or make of cement that would be suitable for me to use.

    1. I’d say that you are using the mortar mix? I don’t think lead gets that terribly hot as other metals and cools pretty quickly. I bet (but am not sure) that the Rapidset cementall could work since I find it ‘crazy strong’ for a concrete mix. You can cast it a bit thicker to ensure that it can dissipate the heat quickly. I think the problem is if there is moisture in the mold, so make sure it is REALLY dry. I do wonder how you get the lead out though? The rapidset cementall is very smooth if used with a smooth object to mold from. Dumb question; silicone molds don’t work? (saw some on youtube)

      1. Hi! I bought 2 different types of cement mix, ready to use concrete and mortar mix, can either of these be used to make the fabric layered crafts? I want to do the bag and flower ones, thank you for your time!!

        1. I wonder if the ready to use has aggregate in it, you could strain them out. I find when using the concrete draping the sand does not absorb and just stays in the bucket. I have not had any good results with mortar mix, but you could research that more. You could try the tied bag if the walls are thick enough. It would probably work on some concrete bowls

  2. Can you please help? I tried to make a concrete pot this weekend but when i took it out it crumbled in my hands. What is the sand to cement ratio? I cant get the ratio right. Please help. I am from Rep of South Africa. We dont have the same products as you.

    1. It would help me if I knew what ratio your used. It may also be that it cured too fast. Keeping it damp will help strengthen the concrete as it cures as well. The ratio for mortar is 1 part portland cement to 3 parts sand. Slight more cement will make it stronger as will some acrylic additive. If you add some fibres that will strengthen as well. My bowls are made with a sand topping mix.

      hope that helps

    2. Hello Barb ! This guide is so helpful! Im trying to make concrete keychains using a silicone mold and on my first attempt the crosses were easy to break and with not much pressure at all would snap in half. They are about 1/8” to 1/4” thick. I looked all over the internet to see what i could do. Some suggested mesh but the molds are so tiny I dont think I could fit mesh in them. Id love your suggestions on what I should do 🙂

  3. Good day Barbmaker.

    I want to attempt my first try to make something out of concrete.

    I have had this idea for a long time now and have been searching for information and the what and how’s for a long time now.

    I want to make Hands but the arm should be a little longer than what we usually see in pictures. I want to make a few as i want to set them up in my garden in a specific corner. So these hands must stand with the hand pointing upwards.

    Do you think those long, thick, garden gloves will work for such a project. Also, will it not be a problem to cut the rubber loose from the concrete after it has set?

    I would appreciate your advice.

    Thanking you


    1. Haha, I have tried the rubber-gloves-concrete-hands. It did not go so well. You need to consider that the rubber needs to be pulled out from between the fingers so any really close fingers is a problem. IF I did it again I’d use really strong mix like the RapidSet Cementall as I had the fingers break when I used hypertufa. (I hate waiting eons for it to set) So that may have been the problem.

      If you want a REALLY cool result you could do some life-casting with alginate… I LOVE how much detail you can get! But unless you make a mold from the first plaster you will only be able to cast one from each. See mine here

      Good luck, any concrete project is good… if in doubt try a small test first

    2. I have tried several cements and mortars for crafting projects like on you tube but can’t seem to ever find the right products to make them look smooth. My mixture is very grainy and my crafts never hold together. What should I be using for a smoother, stronger craft?

  4. I really appreciate this post! I have been afraid to try the rapid type concretes and have had to be so patient waiting for my projects to set! It was driving me silly, so now I can’t wait to try the rapidset cementall!
    I have been making concrete leaves this summer to make a rhubarb leaf water fountain. As a fellow Canuk, i’m wondering what you use to seal concrete, especially if you “paint” it or dry brush some color? Do you find sealing is enough to help it last through winter, or do you store your cement creations indoors through winter? (I’ve been using Portland cement with sand in a 1:3 ratio for most of my concrete).
    I’m grateful and thankful for any advice you can provide.

    1. I have made what seems like millions of rhubarb leaf stepping stones, everytime I cut rhubarb. The birdbath bowls that I made were not sealed and left out all winter. They have now lost some of their nice detailed texture but they are probably over 10 years old. I have yet to really get into the sealer issue since I see how the neighbourhood driveways never have a long lasting seal and they don’t even hold water. I think it’s an ongoing battle. Maybe a pool paint would be best since it does hold water and should be human safe. Concrete is porous in most cases so that is one reason that paint does not tend to stay that well as it gets ‘pushed off’ by the moisture if it’s penetrating. (as seen in block walls)

      Sorry it’s not a quick answer… I have noticed though that Cementall is so dense that when I made some sealers to test they did not perform any different than the ‘naked’ concrete, ie- it did not leach any water through. I’d almost be inclined to see how it would last just as is without any coating. The water would be running over the leaves? or sitting?

      I have made the stepping stones with a sand-topping mix which would be much like your mix. They have held up as well as any sidewalks. The ‘cream’ will eventually wear off and will show more of the sand or aggregate.

      Last thing I want is to be a slave to my concrete… that’s why I make concrete. If it does not last I’ll make some more. It outlasts my attachment in most cases.

  5. I have recently moved to Nicaragua from Canada, any idea as to what ratio of builders concrete I would have to use to make concrete planters? It is all that seems to be available here. Thanks for your time.😀

    1. That is a tough question. Sometimes people refer to Portland Cement as concrete. When you say ‘builders concrete’ is it a mix? or the portland cement? If it’s the cheap mix with the stone/aggregate I have heard that some people just sift out the big rocks and use it as a sand mix. If it’s portland cement use a ratio of 1 part portland cement to 2-3 parts sand. Do keep the curing planters out of the sun and dampen during curing.

  6. Hi Barb, thank you so much for sharing this very useful information, I truly appreciate it! I’m interested in making jewelry (pendants, bracelets, rings, etc.) is there a mix that you’d recommend for that?

    Many thanks!

  7. How do you feel about pure portland cement?
    I got it as it was 10 bucks for 90 pounds. It works but just wondering what you may jave experienced.

    1. Pure portland cement is quite versatile as it’s generally in most mixes. You could make a hyper tufa with it or add sand to make a sand topping mix which I make stepping stones with. Use it alone with fabric to make the ghouls. Just be aware concrete does seem to get ‘old’ especially if not stored properly… The general understanding is that aggregate/sand etc in addition to the portland cement makes it stronger, but you have many options. I like learning by practice and doing…

  8. Hi barb, thank you so much for sharing this very useful information. I’ve been testing different materials for 1 month and I really needed this information. Although I do not know English very clearly, you are so glad you learned so much

  9. Hi, Barb! I love your pins on Pinterest! I am retired and crafting away. I’m recently interested in sculpting; i.e., clay, cement, etc. I want to build/sculpt a figure using cement and want your opinion. I feel like Rapidset Cementall will be my best bet after reading your blog on all the different types of cement. Whew! There’s a lot to know when going into this. The figure will have some height (not more than 2 feet) and will be an outdoor decoration for a plant, or birdseed, etc. In building the ‘body’ of this figure, is it best to let it dry first and then build it up and up after each application of cement? Meaning, if thick enough, it won’t slush down? If necessary I can send a picture of what I’m trying to make in a separate email. Thank you! Virginia Dryden

    1. Frankly the Rapidset Cementall sets so fast that I manage to keep working and adding as I have for the Gigantic Leaf orb. It will depend on how/if you need to maneuver the sculpture as you work on it. Sometimes it even sets too fast, before I can use what I have mixed. If you are subscribed you can reply to an email post.

  10. Hi Barb,
    I just love your artwork. Thank you for sharing with us. I have a question about sand. I’ve tried using an all purpose sand, but it was too rough and gritty. The hardware store suggested paver sand, which I purchased today. After opening the bag I found it to be kinda chunky too. I tried finding the Quikrete sand/topping mix locally, but had no luck. Do you have any other sand suggestions? Can I use play sand?

    1. Well, the sand topping mix is much like regular concrete but does not have the large aggregate in it. I have read (but not tried) to sift out the large bits to be ending up with something like the sandtopping mix. I would think the portland cement and sand would make a good mix. I recall there being some recipes printed on the bag. The sandtopping mix is not a super one like the Rapidset Cementall but it finishes pretty smooth since the portland cement fills the voids between the grains of sand. When I am trying to figure out things I do a small test mix of just a little pour. It does also depend what you are making…

  11. Hi iam from NZ i am wandering what tuoe of cement i would use to do a few simple DIY garden pots . This will be my first attempt.

  12. Hi Barb, thanks for your helpful information!!! I am planning to DIY concrete planters. Since I am going to paint some cute patterns on it, I am looking for a concrete mix that will have a smooth surface and not pricey (I am a student, and don’t have lots of budgets). which concrete mix will you recommend? Thanks so much!

    1. If you are using some plastic containers as molds and keep the walls thick enough then you can use a cheaper ‘Sand-topping mix’. It’s pretty normal concrete without large aggregate in it. Some people sift out the large stones to use it as it’s pretty cheap. It will be a somewhat sandy texture when done, tamp well so no bubbles… Good luck

  13. Hi Barb,

    I’m making an indirect mosaic for the first time and the depth of the finished project will be an inch deep and a foot long square. What kind of concrete mix would you recommend? I don’t want to be rushed as this is my first time, so maybe rapidset wouldn’t be the best idea. Would the quikrete vinyl patcher work–if so what was the proportion of cement to water that you used?

    Many thanks,

    1. I had a follow up question, too. I was thinking about using the quickrete sand/topping mix to cast a one inch thick indirect mosaic (it is a foot long and foot wide). I recall that you made stepping stones with the sand/topping mix–one question I have is that for applications between 1-2 inches where the sand-topping mix is being bonded to another substance (in my case the mosaic tiles), Quikcrete recommends using a bonding adhesive. Would this be necessary for my project? My gut tells me no–I think the bonding adhesive is only suggested for concrete to concrete, not for rough mosaic tiles, but I thought I’d ask.

      Thanks again!

      1. That’s a tough one. Many moons ago I had made mosaics on premade concrete patio stones using the proper tile adhesive and then a sanded grout (figured if it worked in the shower it would work outside) however the tiles/grout lifted in the canadian winters. It’s probably going to be horizontal so more chance of taking in any moisture. I’m afraid water may get between the tiles and concrete and then freeze/lift. I know the rapidset is super quick but maybe working small sections could work. It is so dense that I don’t see any water penetrate as other concrete.

        If the tiles are porous you don’t want them stealing the moisture from the concrete either so they should be damp/wet. Bottles of the bonding agent are pretty cheap so I’d suggest considering the amount of work you’d be doing. Another option is once finished you give it a super good waterproofing/sealer and be diligent with freezing and water conditions. That’s the best advice I can give considering I’ve not done it. I have combined stone with the rapidset with bonding agent.

    2. I don’t use measurements when mixing, I go by how much flow/slump I want. The vinyl patch may be a good choice but it does not really seem that ‘vinyl’ when done. My orbs have held up over winters well but they don’t have added inclusions…

  14. As you know I think you are the bees knees. I want to know if you have ever used bonding liquid in your cement to make it more pliable for sculpting? If so what is the ratio to water/cement? Thanks

    1. Bonding liquid seems like some version of acrylic medium. I had thought it’s mostly just for helping new concrete adhere to old. I wonder if it would really make a difference. I like the Rapidset Cementall since it thickens enough that I can sculpt it nicely. It does not however become like a clay. There is also the option of Papercrete like this fellow So many options….

  15. Your site has been great for my inspiration and confidence to try new projects. My hypertufa mix now is 3 parts portland cement 1 part type s mortar mix, 4 parts spagham peat moss, 3 parts vermiculite and one part perlite. Its great for bird bathes and troughs. Thank you from California

  16. Thanks for all of the information and anecdotal comments. I tried to make some stepping stones this weekend. What a disaster. I too was one of those newbies standing in front of the bags of concrete at Home Depot, hoping someone would see my despair and confusion. Alas, the product I ultimately chose had stones in it bigger than big! I knew it wouldn’t work when I opened the bag at home, but I mixed it up and pored then into my cake tins, already line with mosaics on contact paper. And of course when it was dry, and I flipped them over, most of the mosaic just crumbled off. LOL – I told my myself ‘I told you so’! I want to make some more – still a bit confused after reading all these posts. What would you recommend as the best (not quick set) product to use – I’m in Canada as well!! Thanks so much!

    1. If you are doing the standard easy rhubarb leaf stepping stones then the Quikrete Sand topping mix is great. NO rocks! It’s also important to not just let it dry but let it cure while being damp. If you were a bit early to umold then it would crumble as it needs to cure for at least a day. Concrete driveways need to be wetted down especially if it’s a hot day. Water actually makes concrete cure to a harder state.

  17. Thank you so much for this wonderful insight on the different concrete mixes. You have helped me tremendously.

    1. It’s funny how many people think they are all the same; but it’s like cooking, you can’t substitute ingredients and expect it to work. It’s the number one mistake…

  18. I found your revue on the 3 different kinds of cement very interesting. I want to make a leaf basin for my master bathroom. What product will you recommend that will work best?

    1. There are a lot of things to consider with that type of use. So far the hardest mix I use is the Rapidset Cementall and it is really dense too. I know there are some special counter-top mixes that have not tried. You will also need an appropriate sealer since it will get much use. I am stubborn in making things work, and there may well be a way… Good luck!

  19. I am new at this. I have gone to several different places looking for some of the cement mixes you prefer but they look at me like in crazy. I try to explain what I’m looking for and they still don’t know what I want. The closest I’ve got is mortar mix. Any suggestions on where I should go

    1. Are you in the US? Sometimes the fellows at the stores are not that knowledgable and like to think women don’t have a clue. I hate having to tell them info. Most places would carry the Quikrete Brand, so they should carry Sand Topping Mix. Maybe do the leg work before going to the store (Search online for suppliers) so that you have specific product names and even web pages.

  20. Your website has been extremely informative. What do you use for a release agent when working with a plastic or aluminum mold?

    Thank you!

    1. If I use a smooth plastic mold concrete does not stick. I have used a mix of wax and oil, but don’t like the greasiness that it leaves so often I don’t use any. I don’t use aluminum molds. ‘Pam’ spray or WD40 can also work. I the mold is flexible it’s the easiest to get out. Hope that helps!

  21. Color me stupid but concrete and cement are two different things and the verbiage is not interchangeable. Thank you for picture of cement. “The basic difference is that cement is a fine binding powder (which is never used alone), mortar is composed of cement and sand, and concrete is composed of cement, sand, and gravel. Cement is the binding element in both concrete and mortar.”

    1. Yes, you are right. I get a lot of people who are confused. The sandtopping mix has no gravel and when it is cured it is also concrete, but would not be the same as mortar. Then there are the mixes that have more complicated elements that increase setting time and strength but still have no gravel like Rapidset Cementall. I use the Portland cement for the draping

      1. Thank you for replying. I’ve watched and read so many articles on methods and designs it is so confusing. What would you recommend I use to make small to medium planters if I want a smooth finish? I am thinking cement and play sand which I have on hand. Do you soak your finished products in order to leech them?

        1. I tend to keep things simple for myself and use pre-made mixes. The sand-topping mix (similar to sand and cement) works well as I used for my planters/bowls If you want thinner and stronger and very smooth then the Rapidset Cementall is great and pretty well cured in one hour! Even the coasters are great! I always like to make a small test piece to see strength etc. The more you tap to rid bubbles the smoother it will be. The shinier the mold – the Rapidset cementall will even be shiny. So much fun!

  22. I am in Canada also 🙂 I cannot seem to find RapidSet CementAll anywhere! It seems that Home Depot is the only distributor but it is never in stock (in multiple stores). Have they changed their label/brand?

    1. It’s probably the end of the season so it may be more scarce. I noticed not all of their stores carried it. I hope I’ll be able to find it when I need it.

  23. Funny story. I was using some rapid set Quikcrete this summer and it was warm and windy outside. That set in like 5-10 minutes. I had to throw my mixing container with the spoon it it out. Is it possible to mix the rapid set with some that doesn’t set as fast to give me more time? New to your site.

    1. There is an available retardent and I have read that a citric acid solution will slow it down. Using ice water to mix will also help. I have had times where it was just a tad too fast! Good luck!

  24. Thank you so much for your concrete/cement comparisons. I had been using ultracal 30 initially, but it is rather expensive. I am going to try the RapidSet Cement All next and see how it does.

  25. I have a question. I’m looking for some type of cement mix that I can mold into a shape with my gloved hands and it won’t just slump away. Any ideas?

    1. You are looking for a clay-like concrete. The closest I use is the rapidset cementall but it still isn’t stiff enough to mold vertical shapes. If you make a frame work with some mesh etc then it will hold. See this chair and also this bird. There’s other ways to get shapes as well like draping. I have not tried the Shapecrete product but claims to be like clay. Good luck

  26. Hi Barb! So much great info here. I’ve been using the Cement All to make vases. I use plastic recycled bottles for the outer mold and glass bottles or jars inside to create the cavity.

    I love the white, shiny finish I get with the Cement All, but I’ve been having an issue with shrinkage cracks showing up in the vases, sometimes a week or two after making them. I’ve been increasing the time the vases are kept moist during curing, putting them in plastic bags and wetting once a day. Initially I did this just for 24 hours or so, but the cracks were still coming so now I’ve been trying it for up to a week.

    Have you had any trouble with this? I’m just using the CementAll mix with water and pouring it into my molds…. thanks!!

    1. This is happening due to shrinkage. I know driveways need to be cut into seams pretty early on to avoid odd racking across. Since the jar will not shrink that is why it’s happening. I have seen a bit of that the odd time. Maybe, use a denser mix with less water, as that may be less shrinkage? Stay tuned as I have a project soon that you may like!!!Hope that helps!

  27. Hi Barb,

    I really would like to get into making things with concrete. I would like to start with the Cementall. Do I need to purchase anything else along with it to mix in such as sand? I live over an hour away from anywhere I can purchase materials, so I would like to know what all I need before making a trip. I am also interested in using molds as well to make numbers and letters. Do you have any advice on what type or where to purchase molds that would be good for using with cement?

    Thank you for your advice and I really appreciate the information from your article!


    1. Glad you are going to have some concrete fun! The Rapidset Cementall is one of my favourite products. I do not add anything like sand etc. It is a fussy mix that will not really ‘like’ the addition of colours as easily as the regular one. If you are planning a longer project it can set crazy fast especially when in a warm setting so that may require a retarding medium. Maybe have a talk with the rep there. I have not bought any molds as that feels too generic for me. I usually make my own or do sculpt more. If you see any silicone or flexible plastic forms they work well. I bet commercial molds are quite expensive as they are often layered with a plaster rigid form. I usually want what I make to be unique. Maybe do some small test projects before jumping in with both feet… This may also help

  28. Hi Barb. I just picked up a box of Rapid Set Cement All. I have a small mold for a garden gnome, about 10 inches tall. Will I be able to mix this thin enough to pour, and get it into the mold fast enough? Having read some of your other comments, I’m worried it might set before I can pour it in.
    Thanks in advance! Very helpful information!

    1. Yes, I believe so. Is the mold flexible or in parts so that it will come out easily? When I made the Bunnies I poured the Rapidset Cementall (it also says it works in various ways on the bag). If it’s extra warm, work fast…

      1. Yes, it’s a flexible mold. Just checked out the bunnies! Wonderful! So yes, if it worked for those, it should be fine with my mold. Thank you so much!

          1. Funny, my bag has a few drawings of different ways to use. I tend to be a bit of a rule breaker… always looking for a new creative way to use things. ‘Outside the box’ or concrete bag in this case. Have fun!

  29. Thank you for the info about the various types of concrete you use. I’ve wanted to branch out with crafting using concrete but wasn’t sure what to purchase for the projects I have in mind. I want to use various recycled items with the concrete including old towels for flower pots. Would the Quikrete Fastset Allcrete work best with towles?

      1. I would think that Rapidset Cementall would qualify as high strength. Plastic releases quite easily depending on shape. Silicone likes to have a bit of a mold release.

  30. I just found your FABULOUS informative website and will become a fan, I’m sure!
    I have a large garden angel that is ugly resin. I want to age it by covering it with concrete and moss. Can I do that? It will stick forever and ever? It’s for a memorial garden.
    Thank you!

  31. Barb,

    I have really enjoyed reading through some of your articles. My wife is wanting to get into to this and I have found you site very informative.

    As you said Rapid Set is carried by Home Depot and I’m in the US and have gotten a bag.
    You also stated that you go by how much flow/slump you want.

    Could you give me a couple examples of the ratio of water to mix that you use.
    I have tried doing searches on how to mix small amounts and have not found anything that seems to help out.
    My wife is older and would probably use a drill with an attachment in a bucket.. Unless its going to be easier doing it another way. Thanks

    1. That Rapidset cementall is a very fast setting mix. I usually use a small sour cream container and mix less than a cup at a time. I’d say do a very small test to get the feel. It uses less water than most mixes. The drill and paddle would get all full of dried concrete and would set before being able to do what you want. Unless you are just pouring it into a mold. My projects usually involve a slower use. It can be more fluid for a mold or more soft clay type for sculpting like my face mask It is fun because results come so quick. Happy making!

  32. Hi, I was wondering what you would use to make cementall very white, or quickcrete fast set white? (in Canada)
    Want to make some white concrete items for my home and the natural colour to me is just light grey.


    1. I find that the Rapidset Cementall is practically white, I often think it’s too white for looking like concrete. I know some people add latex/acrylic paint to concrete but the fastset kind do not ‘like’ the addition of anything; they start to coagulate. It’s a trial and error. I know in soap, even donuts they use a powder called Titanium Dioxide to make it white. It has a lot of power that I see when making soap. You could try that. Hope that helps

  33. Can I use quikcrete for molding a sculpture like a face on styrofoam. They discontinued shapecrete where i live.

    1. Can you get RapidSet Cementall? Or another fast setting mix? Check specs for thickness suggestions, curing time, and make sure there’s no aggregate. Generally ask for hydraulic concrete, but be aware that it sets super fast so mixing small quantities is best.

  34. I want to make some pots for planting. (will have molds) Which concrete do u think is best for this? I read about each one but still unsure. Thanks for your help.

    1. I have not been disappointed with the RapidSet Cementall as it is super strong (sets crazy fast). The only issue is that it doesn’t look that much like concrete, very smooth and light colour. If the walls are thick enough I have used Sandtopping mix to make many bowls. It has a longer cure.

  35. Thank you so much for this very informative post. I am going to cast cement with higher details, if I use rapidset cementall – do you add in sand ?
    Since there’s lot of articles online teaching how you would cast cement and all would mention sand is needed – otherwise the piece will crack easily. Is that the case for rapidset ? Thank you !

    1. The mixes are already formulated, and it is a very unique mix. I would think sand will throw off the specifications. You could contact them, but I have had very good results with the Rapidset Cementall. Portland Cement should have sand added, but that’s different than this mix. Rapidset Cementall is very fine and picks up the smallest details, see here

  36. Hello Barb
    Thanks for the advice, can you or anyone reading this please advise me on the equivalent products I can use to create craft items such as soap dishes, pots /planters etc in the UK ? I have been looking around for the longest time but still unsure what to use, I’m based in the United Kingdom
    Thank you

    1. I would read the bags of the mix available there. See what the setting/cure times are. Also look at what is suggested thickness minimum. Price also can suggest it isn’t just basic concrete with aggregate in it. Ask the store associate lots of questions. I’m sure there is comparable mixes to ours here in US/Canada. Good luck!

  37. Thanks for your information. I’m working on repairing a fountain. Part of the edge has broke away exposing the metal reinforcement. The rest is in pretty good shape although the existing con rear has a jot of aggregate showing which makes the details ugly. I want to use a smother concrete to resculpt the flowers and repair the broken edge. Not real sure what would be the best mix to use. I’m in the US. I also plan to mosaic over this in places.

    1. I just did a similar thing. I resurfaced a bird bath that had seen some winter freezing. I wet it and added a layer of Rapidset Cementall with the rhubarb leaf imprinted into it. It worked so nicely and holds water even without sealing. I’m curious about the winter here in Canada. Just make sure you keep the ‘old’ concrete dampe enough so that the ‘new’ does not steal the water from it. Just be aware about the quick setting!

  38. I was at my aunt’s apartment a little while ago and I guess the handy man needed to repair the stairs that connect downstairs (outside) to upstairs. So the stairs were normally concrete, with which ever color of paint went well with the rest of the apartment building, painted atop. However, I noticed that there were little scraps left behind that were possibly scraped off the rest of the area that was being repaired. ( As in feel in the gap or hole and scrap the access off.) These scraps didn’t look like the typical rough and sandy concrete you’d normally see on the ground, they were light gray but felt more like a smooth sort of clay that easily broke into flat pieces if you picked them up and attempted to fold them with three fingers; you even saw an occasional micro cluster of bubble imprints. This is the sort of “cement clay” material I’d like use for my project. I’m certain it’s exactly what I’m looking for. Would what I’m talking about be precisely what “Rapid Set Cementall” is? Or should I be looking for something else and where would I most likely find this something else?

    Please and Thanks much,

    1. I’m a bit confused at some of what you said especially the bubbles. I do know that the Rapidset Cementall IS very light colour and can work especially thin (as you see the coasters) It does however set very fast which I love, but may not be what you want. Unmoldable in one hour! Hope that helps!

  39. Hi! Thank you so much for this great article. I plan to make a pet memorial plaque/garden stone. I plan to use a silicone mold that seems to be about 2-3 inches thick. What is your best advice for casting a smooth, DURABLE, memorial piece that can be left outside for a long time without intense deterioration. I was thinking of adding some chicken wire in the mold to add a little extra strength if cracking were to occur. Because it is such a sentimental project I want to do what is best for a long lasting product. What is your best advice for going about this project? Thank you for sharing your knowledge and being kind enough to answer so many questions. Best wishes to you!

    1. I have been watching my concrete for years. If there is some part that will hold water then you may get cracking. I have a statue that is now 21 years old, no sealing but pretty thick/solid. It has aged nicely. Lately I have noticed how dense the Rapidset Cementall is, not letting water penetrate at all. I’d say it is much stronger than regular mixes. It also gives a very fine detailed finish. Sure, you can add extra reinforcement. There are also the fibres that can be added to the mix. Good luck. Funny, I’ve thought of making my own gravestone design…

    1. Yes, I have added it sometimes but be aware some mixes do not ‘like’ the change in chemistry. I find the regular type mixes are ok with it but the fast-set type can react with what is in the mix. Best is to try a small test mix.

  40. Hi Barb, I was so glad to stumble onto your post.
    I want to make some birdbaths and am still not 100 sure if I need to add aggregate or sand to the cement to do so. I guess a bird bath doesn’t have to withstand a lot of pressure, but I’d hate for it to crack. It would be made from two bowls one smaller than the out one and possibly be 2. to 3cm wall thickness. Would there be a product you would recommend for that purpose?

    1. If you use a sandtopping mix you don not need to add sand. You can add the fibreglass fibres as a reinforcement. The cracking is usually from water freezing and pushing it outwards. My bowls have withstood pretty well outside but do not fill wit water and are turned over the winter.

  41. Hi this is great information that I will be using for my next project. I just started a project making a small planter and used vinyl quikrete. I was not sure if it will work out but it did. Do I need to sand and put some sealer to it? I will be trying the quick set cement-all you are recommending for my next project as it will take less time to set.

    1. I have not sealed my concrete. I see so many driveways get sealed all the time and they eventually need to be redone. My walkways are 30 years old and do not look much different than those that kept being sealed. I like my concrete crfats to develop patina over time. I also make sure there isn’t some part that collects water to freeze. Isn’t concrete fun?!

  42. Thank you Barb so much. I was going crazy trying to figure what kind of materials everyone was using and no one was talking. Well, there was one that was talking but in portuguese. Your information and projects are just super. So grateful. Thank you for being so thoughtful and sharing. much love. .

      1. Hi Barb! Great article!! What mix to you think I should use for candles!? I’m also Canadian, keep up the crafting!

        1. I am hesitant to just recommend regular concrete for heated vessels. Refractory concrete is made to take heat, as if it gets really how and isn’t cured properly concrete can explode. I know there are many videos where they don’t use a special concrete but you need to make that choice depending on size etc. Happy making!

          1. Seriously feeling blessed that I somehow managed to find you Barb! Thank you for performing tests with different types of concrete, sharing this very interesting information, and for answering all my big questions in one post! I would love to learn more from your genius but due to my long term illness Im very rarely able to access my email, if at all. Curious if I can find you on a different platform like maybe YouTube? Please keep doing exactly what you have been Barb as you are a true gift to us newbie DIYers…and also make me feel proud as a fellow Canadian eh😉 Do you know how or where to find coupons, discounts or the store in Canada that sells these products at the best price? My other question is regarding food safety sealant. I’m planning to create some bowls/vessels that are to be used for food. Which food safe sealer would you recommend if any? Thank you again,

          2. I have not found any discounts and buy from the major chains like Home depot. Lowes and Home hardware. I am not a fan of sealers. I see my neighbours repeatedly applying it to their driveways and I do not see them last any better. I suppose you may though as for the food. I think beeswax is great but I have not tried it yet. I know there are food safe ones for countertops so start your research there. If you have a scrap, try the beeswax or something that would be applied to wood cutting boards. Hmmm, I may give it a shot. Good luck!

  43. Hello,

    So I am trying my hand at this…and I used the rapid set…way way too fast. But I like the texture. I don’t mind waiting…is there one smooth concrete that will also give me time fill my molds and vibrate the bubbles out?

    1. Have you tried the Quikrete version of the Rapidset as it also a smooth mix. The other idea is that adding a retarder my give you the time you need. I have read that a solution of citric acid will slow it down but you would have to experiment to see the amount without losing the concrete’s strength. The heat also plays into it so using icy cold water can help. Good luck!

  44. Hello Barbmaker, i love your work and have tried making some small concrete stone faces myself, but I want to try some of your other projects, my problem is I’m in England UK and can not buy cementall here, iv done some research to find a rapid set with fine aggregate but can’t find one, what would you recommend (if you know that is as I am UK) i could use, id like to try the Halloween witch.

    1. The Halloween witch is made with the portland cement and burlap. I see that Portland cement is available Perhaps you can speak with a concrete sales person. Ask for an rapid setting type, often called non-shrink grout here. When I am unsure I like to try and play with it… Good luck, I’m sure there must be a version in the UK! If anyone else can help?

  45. I am so excited to have found you. I’ve always admired cement leaves at craft fairs and wished I was so talented. Now here you are!!!!

    Today I am buying a bag of cement all. So excited to start making yard art for my gardens.

  46. Hi there,
    I am really disappointment with finding the right cement for my fountain that I try to make. Could you please watch this video? What kind of cement this person is using for craft? I already bought couple of bags but both of them not really the same. One was with gravel, the second with sand but, I think, too big. I try to find an expert to help me. I would really appreciate if give me some advise.
    Thank you

    1. Isn’t it frustrating!? Clearly they only want to get viewership and not have people be able to make them! I see that it has a fairly moldable consistency to the concrete. There is a product called Sculptcrete but I have not tried it yet since I find it expensive for small amounts and not that easy to get. I do use a fast setting mix as was in the post Rapidset Cementall which becomes somewhat more moldable when it starts to set and less water is used. It is more expensive as well but is much stronger and denser than the usual cheap mixes. Maybe it is best to start with a simple project as these are quite complicated. They really do tease with those videos… If you contact Sculptcrete the may be more able to advise. I have used the Rapidset Cementall for a lot of my projects Good Luck!

  47. Hello, I’ve been reading your posts about different concrete mixes. You write concrete but show bags that say Cement. So I’m confused about that. I’m going to attempt to make a fountain with Styrofoam as the base. Doesn’t concrete have rocks in it? And I’m worried about my choice of mix setting up too quickly as I’m sure I’ll be slow going at first. So I don’t know what to use at this point. Any advice would be very appreciated. Thanks

    1. I just went back to the post and what you see is the brand name for a mix called Rapidset Cementall. It is a very fast setting mix that has no large aggregate it in (no rocks) just super fine sand. I love using this one but if you need hours this won’t work. There are a lot of different mixes and it’s important to read the specifications. If it needs at least 2″ thickness then it prob has aggregate. Also look at the setting time. You can also just use portland cement to make a slurry to dip fabric into and use that as a base for the waterfall as I did here It may be a challenge to have the concrete mix stay vertically on the styrofoam, but I don’t know your exact method. I have seen some who work slowly with a mix of portland cement and fine sand, but it looks like it may take days to fully set. When I do not know a product yet I do some test pieces.

  48. Hi Barb,

    I’ve been using rapid set Cement all last winter and summer. For some reason and not sure if its the temperature now, it is taking longer to dry. I’ve put a portable heater in the room to bring up the temp (i cast in my basement) but no matter what i do it seems to take 2 hours to cure and the bottom looks different now. Not sure if i got a bad batch or what but was wondering if you ever had experienced something like this?

    1. In the world of concrete it’s not really drying, it’s curing. I’m not sure if it’s the heat or if the mix is getting old. I’ve had some plates that seem to have a slight different color. I do notice differences in the mix sometimes and do wonder if it’s about it’s age. I had a few tiles that seemed to break too easily. I try to use up everything in the season and seal it in a closed bucket if I don’t. The ingredients are more sophisticated than usual concrete to I can imagine it does get old. I’ve often wanted to talk to the company but I am in Canada and it is from the US.

  49. Hi Barb, love this blog! Curious if you buy a different/special type of Rapid Set Cementall, mine looks very grey compared to yours that looks almost white. I find with the darker grey it’s hard to add colours and look more industrial than I was hoping.

    1. Thanks! That is odd. Are you sure it isn’t the mortar mix? I have sometimes wished it was more grey to actually look like concrete. I also found that when I added a colour like acrylic paint it didn’t like it and got somewhat coagulated. I am in Canada, maybe there’s some difference, but you’d think it’s a standard.

  50. Hi, I am am artist and I am looking for something similar in consistency to a quick concrete to use on a painting, but something that does not have near the weight of concrete. I want to use a lot of it, and it will just be too heavy to use a concrete but not at all cost effective to use a painting medium or modeling paste. Do you know of a product that would work for this?

    1. I suspect that you are wanting to use it like plaster-work. There are many issues with that as the media needs to attach to the surface and also not shrink as the surface won’t. Having some type of modifier that adds some connective(?) strength would also be good. It also depends on how you are going to sculpt it. One way would be to use a styrofoam and then create a finish on it. It would be similar to the face mask There are strong plaster mixes available at sculpture supply stores, maybe they could direct you. It could be fun to play around with some concoctions, I’ve even read that adding soap to concrete makes it get much lighter since it adds air bubbles… As for a perfect answer, I’m sorry I do not have one…

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