How to Use Concrete Step Form Liners

How to Use Concrete Step Form Liners

Concrete step liners, or form liners, allow for the easy creation of highly aesthetic faces on step risers. They are available in various convenient sizes to fit six-, four-, and two-inch faces, meaning you can use them for small and large concrete steps, as well as on the edges of concrete countertops.

Continue reading to learn about how to set up and utilize step form liners, which type of colorant you should use with them, and other tips and factors to consider when using these versatile concrete design products.

Setting Up & Using a Form Liner

Standard architectural concrete form liners are made from textured urethane rubber or molded plastic. They are affixed to the concrete-facing side of a form to create ridged patterns on the face of a concrete step’s riser.

You can choose the best size for you to match your form’s framing. Two-inch, four-inch, and six-inch liners are common, but custom sizes can be ordered. Of course, you can also combine different sizes to meet your unique needs, and even trim them to the desired size with a jigsaw or circular saw.

To attach form liners, you simply nail or screw the liners to the inside of your concrete step, making sure to keep them flush on the top of the framing board.

Be thorough with this step to ensure a tight-fitting, well-secured liner. You don’t want spaces between the liner and the form board where debris can fall in and disrupt the final product’s quality.

Which Type of Concrete Colorant Works Best With Liners?

At Stamped Concrete, we recommend using integral colorants instead of topical colorants, meaning that the colorant is mixed in with the concrete, and not applied to the cured surface. This ensures that color permeates throughout the concrete, giving it a deep, high-quality coloring. You can also further enhance the final product’s look with a topical acid stain. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Please understand that the final color, after total curing, will depend on various factors, including:

  • Mix Ratio
  • Volume of Water
  • Addition of Admixtures
  • Atmospheric Conditions

That’s why it’s always advisable to pre-assess your intended procedure on a test slab, to be poured, cured, and approved before you begin the actual job. This may be tedious, but can save you from seeing undesirable results.

Tips & Other Factors to Consider When Using Liners

To ensure the best results when using concrete step liners, or form liners, we recommend the following tips:

1. Make 45-Degree Bevel Cuts

First, it’s good to cut a 45-degree bevel on the bottom of the front of any form board that a concrete step liner is attached to. (The front is the side the form liner is not attached to.) This beveled recess will allow you to reach in with your spade or trowel all the way to the bottom of the face of the step to finish it.

Note that you probably don’t need to bevel cut the bottom of any form board that is at base level to the ground, as it’s almost always covered with landscaping, gravel, stone, etc.

2. Vibrate the Face of the Form Board

Use a hammer or a palm sander to gently vibrate the form boards on their faces. This will cause the cream in the concrete mix to rise to the surface, compacting the small rocks inside the concrete. Failure to do this will lead to “bugholes,” or surface voids, in the concrete. While these voids don’t lead to any type of permanent concrete damage, they are an aesthetic issue.

3. Slowly Remove Form Board

When you’re removing the form board and concrete step liner from the concrete, it’s very important to move slowly and intentionally. Haphazard movement here can cause chunks of concrete to blow out, ruining your entire project. It’s smart to apply a non-petroleum release agent, like soapy water or vegetable oil, to the form liner before you pour the concrete to structure the step.

Need Help? Contact Stamped Concrete Today!

Founded in 2009, Stamped Concrete is a family-owned and -operated supplier of step liners and other decorative concrete supplies for both interior and exterior projects. Click here to start shopping for products. If you need help selecting the solutions, or have general questions about step liners, reach out to one of our pros today.