DIY Concrete Letters
We are kinda sorta obsessed with these little concrete letters. Mainly because a) they’re really easy to DIY because there’s no mold-making required, and b) leaving messages around the house is kinda awesome.
You can watch the video that covers everything above, or keep scrolling for all our choices, steps, and tips in written format. And after this you’ll be looking around your house for other stuff you can pour concrete into (it’s kind of addicting)
If you’ve read/watched any concrete tutorials before, you may notice we’re using a sliiiightly different product from the norm. This was a choice we made for a few reasons:
- It has a really fine grain so the ending surface finish is really nice – no big lumps or rocks.
- It fills into more detailed shapes more easily than some concretes.
- Bonus – it comes in a smaller batch than most concrete mixes, which is nice
Before you start, place plywood (or anything else similarly stiff and board-like) over your work surface. This not only protects your table from the potential mess, but it’s also gonna help you agitate the mold too (don’t worry, we’ll get into that later). Make sure you have your PPE (personal protective equipment on) before you start handling the concrete mix. You’ll need gloves and a mask.
Start by adding a small amount of water to your mixing container. It’s important to add water to the container first before adding any mix. We started with about 50 ml but ended up adding more later. Then add a few ladles of mix. The Quikrete instructions say to use 7 parts concrete mix to 1 part water, but for this project we found that to be too dry. We added a splash or two more water (a little goes a long way!) and kept mixing.
Side note, adding more water DOES weaken the concrete slightly. Which you definitely wouldn’t want if you were making anything that needed to be structurally sound or hold weight. But for this small decorative items, the slightly wetter concrete is so much easier to work with so we think it’s worth it (we’ve made a ton of these by the way – no breaks so far)
It’s easy to add too much water though. So here’s a tip to check and see if you have too much. Agitate the mixing container, and excess water will rise to the surface. We do this by quickly hitting the insides of the walls of the container back and forth with our stirring stick (you can see this better in the video).
This should cause extra water, if there is any, to rise to the surface. If you see water pooling a little at the top, add a little more concrete mix, stir it around, and agitate the container again to test for more water.
Once there’s not more excess water and your concrete is about the consistency of a sandy milkshake (I know, sounds so appetizing), you’re good to go. (In total, you’ll need to mix for 2-3 minutes to make sure everything is incorporated).
Once your mixed concrete is ready, spoon it into the letters of the mold that you want to make. Heads up – some letters don’t stand up on their own too well (like P and F for example, which are asymmetrical and top heavy) but that doesn’t mean you can’t still use them. They can be propped up against something or set down on a table or surface.
You’ll want to overfill the letters a little. The concrete will settle down into the mold.
Now you need to agitate the mold to get out any air bubbles. This is where the plywood comes in handy. We like to shake and drop the plywood with the mold on top of it, since the plywood is a lot sturdier to grab onto than a silicone mold full of wet concrete. You can still agitate the mold itself by scooting it quickly side to side, but I wouldn’t pick it up or anything. Again, this is easier to visualize in video format. Many people recommend using a sander or other power tool to agitate it but I haven't found it necessary. Hitting the plywood with a hammer also works well.
You’ll see the bubbles rise to the surface. You can pop them with whatever stirrer or scooper you have on hand, then give the mold another good shake to see if any more come up.
Honestly, we kinda like the look of a few bubbles… it adds some interest. But you don’t want a ton or it’ll be a weaker end product.
Scrape off any excess concrete off the top (we used a popsicle stick, but again whatever you have around is fine, just something with a flat edge). You can give it one last shake which should smooth out your scraped-off surface.
Then… you just have to wait. These take about 24 hours to dry.
Before we take them out of the mold, you have the option to apply a concrete sealer to the backs of them (the side you can see when they’re still in the mold).
This step is totally optional, but this side of the letters tends to be a little dusty and the sealer will help lessen the dust. Since we do a lot of stuff in concrete, we already had the sealer, but if you don’t want to buy it just for this purpose your letters will be fine.
If you do want to use it, apply a thin coat and let it dry for about an hour (we’ve done half an hour… but if you want to play it safe, wait the full hour). Then you can remove your letters, yay!
I would recommend pushing the letters out from the back. Work carefully and slowly to avoid damaging the mold or the letters. (If you are worried about damaging the letters you could wait a full 7 days for them to fully cure.) At this point, we are demolding after 24 hours or so.
The back edge might be a little rough, so chip off any rough edges with your finger.
I know the last thing you want to hear is that you need to do any more waiting… but you have to do a little more waiting. 24 more hours to be exact. They continue to cure once they’re out of the mold because air is able to reach areas that were previously encased. You can see the difference between a freshly de-molded set of letters and one that is fully cured in the photo below.
Keep them on a surface that can be messy, like your plywood from earlier or simply sitting on top of the molds. If you put these on something absorbent, they’ll leave moisture spots.
Ok… after all that waiting, you can finally use these suckers! They’re super cute as is but there are tons of creative ways to paint them too. I love love love giving them a metallic ombre look.
To do this, put on a glove (so you don’t spray your fingers) and hold the top of the letter, spraying the bottom half with your spray paint of choice. I try to spray about 8 inches away. The farther you spray, the more of a fade your ombre will have. Vice versa, the closer you spray the less fade you’ll have. You can test it on some scrap wood, cardboard, piece of junk mail, etc.
Other ideas we love are giving it a dipped look by painting the bottom third with gold leaf paint or crisp white acrylic, but I feel like you could experiment with lots of different techniques and styles.If you end up making these, take a photo of what you did and tag us @evanandkatelyn on Instagram because we would LOVE to see what y’all come up with!
- Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher (http://amzn.to/2ndaQnD)
- Small mixing container (Home Depot)
- Stirring and scooping devices (Already owned)