If you're considering building an outdoor waterfall, skip the real rocks and opt for homemade boulders. Real boulders are expensive and sometimes difficult to find, as well as extremely heavy and difficult to move. However, you can make fake rocks that look so close to the real thing, nobody will ever know the difference. With a little elbow grease and patience, you can create beautiful fake rocks to complete the look of your outdoor waterfall. Once you are finished, kick back, relax and enjoy your scenic view.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Foam sheets (2 inches thick)
- Tin or copper wire
- Steel mesh (2-inch squares)
- Chicken wire (2-inch diamonds)
- Polymer-modified grout (in light and dark shades)
- Waterproof paint
- Wire cutters
- Wire brush
Cut pieces of foam to the desired shape and size of your rock; lay them on top of one another, if necessary, to achieve your preferred shape.
Cut a length of wire long enough to pierce through the layers of foam. Bend a 90-degree hook on one end.
Push the wire through the stacked foam pieces until they are secured together; the hook will secure the wire to the foam.
Use additional pieces of foam to build up the sides of the fake rock, creating slopes. Attach them with the wire, using the same technique as before.
Use a razor to cut large chunks into the foam, if desired, to create custom rock designs.
Form the Foam
Secure small, thin pieces of foam to various locations on the form with wire; these spacers create a thin gap between the foam and the steel mesh you will next apply.
Cover the foam with a layer of steel mesh and secure the steel mesh to the foam with wire pieces featuring a 90-degree hook on one end. Simply push the wire through the mesh until the hook secures it to the boulder.
Push any open mesh ends into the foam. Ensure that the mesh is completely secured to the foam.
Wrap chicken wire around the formation a few times, making it nice and tight. Use pliers to bend and shape it as needed.
Attach the chicken wire to itself by twisting the ends together with pliers, wrapping them closed.
Complete the Rock Form
Purchase polymer-modified grout in a variety of shades ranging from a light, grey shade to a dark rock colour. Either purchase or mix at least three different colours. Choose colours that mimic those found in natural rocks.
Use a trowel to apply the lightest colour of grout over the left half and top of the rock. Ensure that the grout completely covers the wire, moving beneath the wire frame to the foam underneath and into the area left by the foam spacers.
Allow the grout to dry before applying it to the right half and bottom. Follow the grout instructions to determine the drying time. It may take anywhere from thirty minutes to twenty-four hours for the grout to fully dry.
Continue to apply layers of grout in the same manner, working from the left-top to the right-bottom and transitioning from the lightest to the darkest colour, until your rock is the colour and shape you desire. Allow the grout to dry between applications. Again, follow the grout instructions to determine the drying time, which may range from thirty minutes to twenty-four hours.
Wait a few days to allow the layers of grout to solidify and then apply one last, thin layer; use the darkest colour.
Use a wire brush to scrape away at the grout layers, creating a natural rock look. Use waterproof paint applied with a sponge to add custom colours, if desired.
Apply the Grout
Allow the piece to completely dry.
Submerge the fake rock in water or mist it several times a day for a two to three weeks to completely cure the grout.
Neutralise the fake rock after the grout has cured for several weeks by placing it in water and leaving it there for four weeks. Change the water once a week. It's necessary to neutralise the stone because when it is freshly cured, its pH and rh levels are raised to levels unhealthy for plants and animals.
Seal the fake rock in epoxy to prevent the growth of algae and moss.
Cure and Neutralize the Formation
Tips and warnings
- When building the foam form, make it slightly smaller than you want the finished rock to be. Once you add the mesh, chicken wire and grout, the rock will be the size you are hoping for.
- Use a razor to create grooves and cracks in the grout as it dries for a realistic appearance. Do this on each layer.
- If you cannot find a polymer-modified grout, you can mix regular grout and acrylic polymer together. The acrylic polymer acts as a stabilising agent and prevents the grout from flaking and cracking. Simply replace the water amount given in the grout instructions with the acrylic polymer.
- Always work in a well-ventilated area when using chemicals.
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