Cement: filling the gap for installers

Installers may not initially see the benefits of keeping cement close to hand as they go about their busy schedule – but according to Simon Chudley at Tarmac Cement, it will come in useful more often than you might think. 

Plumbers regularly face jobs involving pipes and vents routed through an exterior wall – repairing or installing non-condensing tumble dryers, boiler vents, waste pipes and water pipes for instance. Of course, it’s essential that the finished job is sealed to guarantee it’s weather-tight and  keeping heat in and the elements (plus unwanted pests) out.

With the right products and the correct technical know-how, cement can fill the gap for installers and provide a hassle-free, long-lasting solution.

Benefits vs polyurethane foam
For some in the trade, polyurethane foam may be the first port of call when it comes to sealing up the gap. For many professionals, however, it wouldn’t be their first choice. It can be difficult to get a neat finish and, once hardened, it must be painted or sealed to ensure it doesn’t degrade due to sunlight exposure. This can, therefore, make it more of a short-term solution. In addition, foam sealants are harmful if they come into direct contact with the skin, as well as extremely difficult to remove from the hands.

Opting for a ready-mix mortar can, on the other hand, provide a much more durable solution. Products such as Tarmac Blue Circle Quality Assured Mortar will result in reduced maintenance of the finished job over many years and, importantly too, provide a neat and professional finish to any specialist’s handywork.

Quick guide
Let’s take a quick look at what mortar is.

Cement is a powder and is the bonding element in any mix. When mixed with water, the setting and curing process hardens the mix and bonds it together. Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand and coarse aggregate (stone) with water. Without the coarse aggregate, (i.e. a cement and sand mixture) it is called mortar.

Mortar is typically used to bond brickwork and blockwork in walls as well as in renders. When it comes to application, ready-to-use mortar offers real benefits on site. Opting for ready-mix guarantees the correct mix – getting this wrong can result in decreased strength, increased permeability and reduced durability of the hardened mortar. The guaranteed proportions of the ready-to-use formulas eliminate any issues relating to mixing, such as excess water or the addition of other inappropriate materials.

Process is important
A pre-mixed cement mortar, such as Blue Circle Quality Assured Mortar, is a dry mix which comprises limes, sands, cement and admixtures. Mortar is simple to use – installers should just follow the simple steps below:

• Taking extra care not to damage the pipe, carefully prepare the hole by squaring the edges using a hammer and chisel.
• Remove any leftover dirt or debris by brushing around the pipe.
• Start by adding a small amount of water to the mortar, adding in more if required – the recommended amount of water will be labelled on the bag. It’s important to use just enough to make it workable as more moisture means a weaker mortar.
• Use a margin trowel to apply mortar around the pipe’s perimeter while, if necessary, making sure to work the mixture into the gap to fill any voids behind the surface.
• Mortars must be kept moist while they gain sufficient strength, as is the case with all cement-based products. If the mortar is left to ‘dry out’, shrinkage will occur and will cause gaps around the pipe and cracks in the mortar. To ensure the mortar cures and hardens correctly, it should be covered with a damp cloth or polythene sheeting.
• Care must be taken when using mortar in hot and cold weather. Mortar should not be mixed below 3°C while the temperature is falling, or below 1°C whilst rising – nor should mortar be laid on frozen surfaces. Care must be taken to avoid evaporation of the mix water during hot weather. This requires dampening of the surrounding masonry units prior to application, and the mortar should be covered with a damp cloth or polythene sheeting as it cures and hardens.

Always to hand
Larger 25kg bags of cement can be impractical to store in the back of the van so it’s worth looking for smaller bags or re-sealable tubs. This can lead to less wastage – not to mention less spillage. Smaller tubs also make mortar easily transportable, making it easier to carry up ladders or through confined spaces and helping reduce the risk of accidents.

It goes without saying that for installers seeking a sleek and durable finish on projects, a ready-to-use mortar mix, with its ease of workability and its cohesive nature, can prove a valuable asset. And definitely something to keep handy in the van.

For further information visit www. https://tarmac-bluecircle.co.uk

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