Why should you care about your formwork?
Formwork is a major investment for builders and concreters. A key tool of the trade, formwork is routinely subjected to really tough environments and heavy duty use. Regardless of whether you use plywood, fibreglass, aluminium, steel or urethane, it’s an asset you’ll want to take care of.
Taking care of your forms now saves money down the track when damaged or unusable formwork has to be replaced. Additionally, taking good care of formwork will result in less time and effort rectifying problems in finished concrete surfaces if forms aren’t adequately prepared and released cleanly.
An important aspect of form care is the use of a good release agent. Release agents fall into a handful of different categories, but in all cases, proper application is the key to producing the best concrete finish.
Types of form release agents
Release agents are formulated to provide a barrier between the formwork and the freshly poured concrete. They are either a barrier type – a product that simply sits in a layer to separate the concrete and the form – or, they make use of a chemical reaction with the concrete itself. These reactive types contain compounds that react with ingredients of the concrete such as lime, creating a slippery film in between the form and the concrete surface. Other agents are a mix of the two, providing both a barrier and a chemical reaction.
Barrier type release agents include natural formulations like Lanotec, which is derived from lanolin. Diesel and grease release agents also form a barrier, however, they can sometimes cause surface voids, staining, or a lower quality appearance. As they are highly viscous, they can take longer to apply and often cannot be sprayed.
Conversely, reactive release agents are easily applied in a thin film by spraying or brushing. These release agents are more likely to produce stain-free concrete surfaces. They often also allow the form to strip more cleanly which saves on clean up. However, the chemical reactions at play can release VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere.
Low VOC Form Release Agents
VOC’s harm the environment by causing ozone when they react with sunlight. Many countries have followed in the footsteps of the US’s EPA rulings in the 90’s that sought to limit VOC content in coatings such as form release agents.
Nowadays, it is common practice to choose the most environmentally sound product available, so many concreters and precast companies routinely choose low VOC products. The VOC content (or lack thereof) of the form release agent may also be a deciding factor if Green Building Council requirements are specified in your project.
Extensive research and development by companies such as Sika and Dayton have resulted in the best of both worlds: effective reactive agents that contain minimal amounts of VOCs.
How to apply form release agent
Spraying is probably the most efficient and even method of applying form release agent. Using quality spray equipment, an extremely thin film can be applied to large areas, resulting in a consistent application and minimal wastage. Although thin chemically reactive release agents can appear more expensive, often they provide more coverage and are therefore as economical as grease or barrier type products.
Other ways of applying form release agent include using a sponge or rag to wipe the product onto the forms, or in large scale facilities such as precast operations, dipping the forms into the agent may be used. Some agents are brushed onto forms, although as this is a manual process, the consistency can be hard to control.
Looking after your formwork
Protecting your forms when they are not in use makes good economic sense. Forms will last longer when properly cared for, which includes protecting them from rust or corrosion in the case of metallic forms. In this case, rust inhibitors can be useful.
Protecting forms whilst in storage can sometimes be achieved with a coating of grease, diesel, or release agent. However, a heavy-handed or repeated application can end up damaging the forms. How easy the grease is to remove should also be taken into account.
At the end of the day, formwork is a major investment and it makes sense to extend the life of your assets as much as possible.
Jaybro’s Form Release Agent Range
Lanotec Release Agent is a concentrated, lanolin based concrete release agent for formwork, precast and tilt-up panels. It is safe for use on a range of surfaces and is derived from natural, sustainable ingredients. It is safe for use near environmentally sensitive areas and waterways.
DBF Formseal Release Agent is an economical concrete form grease. Made from biolubricant, it is superior to mineral based counterparts as it is intrinsically safe, environmentally friendly and user-friendly. DBF release agent contains non-toxic materials ensuring less safety hazards for workers.
Formol is a chemical release agent applied to concrete formwork. It is designed to act as a bond breaker between formwork or moulds and freshly placed concrete. Formol can be used as a general purpose release agent on construction sites. It can be applied to formwork or moulds made of timber, steel or fibreglass.
Clean Strip J1EF is an economical VOC compliant, eco-friendly concrete form release agent. Clean Strip J1EF acts as a barrier to the adhesion of concrete while minimizing surface dusting. Properly applied, Clean Strip J1EF will not stain concrete or interfere with the adhesion of coatings.
Clean Strip Ultra J3 chemically releases hardened concrete from steel, aluminium, plywood, and composition forms. It promotes easy stripping and minimizes form clean up. It is non-staining and reduces the number of surface air voids (bugholes) on regular and superplasticized concrete.
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Disclaimer: This information is provided as an introductory guide only and does not constitute professional advice. Ensure you make your own independent enquiries before deciding if a particular product is right for you. Consult the regulations and standards applicable to your area and check with your workplace health and safety representative for further information. Jaybro does not warrant the accuracy, content, completeness or suitability of the information on this site (or any site owned by the Jaybro Group) for your individual purposes.