My yard has been busy with a lot of bird activity lately! It’s wonderful to see & hear the birds so I felt I should offer them a spa. I really needed to ‘reno’ their bathing facility. If you’re thinking the same, here’s; how to fix (resurface) a Concrete Birdbath.
Can you Repair a Concrete Birdbath?
The quick answer; yes! The technology available in concrete (often called cement) mixes nowadays makes this possible, but make sure to use the correct one. Also, see who else came to take a drink… at the end.
I don’t think I am alone – I love Birds! It’s a busy time of year for the birds and this Momma is working on her new family in close proximity to my birdbath. I tested a resurfacing method last year and it is holding strong.
What Happened to this Concrete?
This old bowl has been neglected and sat in the garden unprotected for quite a few years. It was made like a stepping stone but over a mound of damp sand to create a bowl-like shape. The problem with any concrete shape that can hold water is that the moisture can get into the pores and freeze, chipping pieces away during the winter. This does not happen as much on the flat shapes such as my stepping stones (and neighbourhood sidewalks), they have lasted well. The mix I used then was also a portland cement mix with sand ( Sand Topping Mix ). Those sand mixes do absorb water much more than a hydraulic calcium sulfoaluminate (CSA) cement mix.
What can I use as a finish?
Make sure to clean all the loose bits and pieces off. Scrub with a stiff or wire scrub brush to loosen small pieces and dirt. In my style I like to incorporate nature into the garden decor so I am using rhubarb leaves as a very easy and quick way to finish the concrete birdbath surface. You can also opt for more organic or even plastic bowl forms/mold if you like.
Which Concrete (Cement) Should I use?
Before adding any new concrete to resurface and old concrete make sure it is well moistened. If it isn’t it will ‘suck’ the moisture out of the new mix like a sponge and then the adhesion and curing will likely fail. I keep a spray bottle near by.
The commercial mix I like to use is Rapidset Cementall. It is not a typical mix, is very dense and will not absorb water as much as a sand-mix. To create a bond no extra bonding agents are needed. The particles are much finer and therefore the finish is quite smooth, almost not concrete-like.
If you are new to concrete crafting this post will help…
Since this mix will start to stiffen very quickly I tend to work small sections at a time. If you are hoping for more working time there is a product to slow the setting called Set Control. Using extra cold water will help a little as well, as warm water (and weather) will make it cure faster.
Adding the Leaf Textures:
This concrete Bird bath is quite large so I needed a few leaves together. I quickly smeared enough of the Rapidset Cementall concrete mixture (about consistency of peanut butter) to allow my to push the leaf into the surface. Since the bowl was still quite thick (no cracks or leak ) I only needed enough to get a good coverage for the leaf.
The thickest parts of the leaves are the stem veins so take that in account. They will make quite deep details in the concrete. The leaves will be removed after curing so do not worry about overlap as long as no concrete is on top of leaves.
Let the Concrete Birdbath Cure:
It might not be pretty but the entire bowl is covered. You can follow around the edges and add some of the mix to make nicely rounded edges that will also make it more durable.
The surface of the bird bath will be quite smooth after the leaves are removed. It can be tedious to remove the leaves. They can be left to dry out and fall off, or soak in water. Some old dentist tools work well.
When I made my original standing birdbath I also made a simple pedestal from a roll of mesh and a metal colander covered in a hand formed sand topping concrete mix. It has not aged since it pretty well protected from much elements and water.
Should a Birdbath be sealed?
Another thing that I realized is that the water does not seep into the smooth surface of this concrete. I had planned to test some sealers on the Rapidset Cementall and the water did not seep into the concrete.
As for sealers, so far I have not used them. You are welcome to use a concrete sealer but a warning; make sure it is safe for the birds.
How to Fix (Resurface) a Concrete Birdbath
- Brush (stiff or wire)
- Mixing Utensils
- Mixing Vessel (for concrete)
- Water Spray bottle
- Pallet knife, Spatula or Spoon
- Vessel of Water
- Rapidset Cementall
- Large fresh leaves
- Clean off any loose pieces from damaged surface of concrete birdbath bowl using a stiff brush.
- Wash off any mold or debris
- Collect leaves and plan coverage over the surface
- Dampen old concrete
- Mix Rapidset Cementall (add small amount of water first and then dry mix). Mix to about pancake batter consistency as it will thicken in less than a minute. Do not mix more than can be used in 5 minutes (depending on weather and temperature)
- Once the mix does not run, spread it over the area thick enough to imbed leaf (1/4" or more).
- Quickly press the leaf into the mix pushing out any air bubbles.
- Repeat with other sections, lifting to add mix under edges so no concrete is on top of leaves. Consider wrapping leaf over perimeter to create rounded edge.
- Let cure, lightly cover to prevent too quick drying
- Peel leaves off using pointed tools for the vein removals.
- To leach out alkalinity fill and empty multiple times or soak in water.
- Seal with a food safe concrete sealer if desired. Keep water clean by refreshing often.
Since I was curious about the alkalinity after curing I did a litmus test. I was impressed that the water was pretty well neutral. Alkalinity can be leached out it in a bucket of water if it fits in one. I will be changing it for fresh water frequently, as with any birdbath. The one I made a couple years ago tested a bit acidic (possibly since we’ve had rain and also smoky air from forest fires).
Quite by accident I noticed that this fellow liked the way he could take a drink without drowning. My design is quite a shallow bowl since it was cast without a mold; on a mound of sand.
I know these are quite the specie of birds (My handmade Birds with movable wings) Soon the Robin population will enjoy their new bathing. The other bowl is on the ground for the low critters, chipmunks, opossums, raccoons, deer, squirrels, & coyotes (yikes)
I vow to keep it clean, scrub if needed to rid of algae & grime so no moss grows in this shady garden. To prevent winter damage, I will tip them on their side during the freeze-thaw cycle of cold months.