Round Cement forms, Suggestions Needed
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    SulleyBear's Avatar
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    Round Cement forms, Suggestions Needed

    I am installing 9 new street signs on poles as soon as they arrive from the custom sign company. The poles are aluminum and the holes are going to be 12" in diameter and 24" deep. I would like to pour a round base at the top of the hole, at the base of the pole which will be 18" in diameter and a total of 12" tall, 9" of the height sticking out of the hole.

    The base is to protect the pole from lawn mowers, grass trimmers, etc. I would like the edges of the base to be smooth finished obviously as well as the top of the base. Wondering what others suggest I use for a form to get the smooth finish.

    I thought about cutting 5 gallon bucket and using the plastic for a form so the sides would be fairly smooth. But there are 9 sign posts, so that would be a lot plastic buckets and cutting........

    The round cement form tubes are also another possibility and would be easier to cut. I don't know how easy the tubes remove once the cement sets up. Also, how smooth would the sides of the cement in the tubes be or would they be porous because of the cement not being finished in the sides of the tube. I am not sure if they make those cement tubes 18" in diameter, as most I have seen are 12" in diameter or smaller.

    So looking for ideas and suggestions for the forms. I don't want to pour the entire hole 18" in diameter as I don't need that much cement in the hole for the post and should the pole need to be removed, I don't want to need a crane to get it out of the ground.....

    The posts are fluted and made of aluminum and powder coated. I thought about inserting a PVC sleeve in the ground around which to pour the cement and then having the sleeve stick up about 2" above the 18" round base. Then, I could drill the sign post and the PVC tube and use a stainless spring pin to hold the post in place so it doesn't rotate inside the PVC sleeve. If I need to replace the pole or pull it for repairs, etc. it would be much easier than having the post anchored directly in the cement.

    The base of the poles have cast accent pieces which are about 18" tall that slide over the pole and are secured with a stainless set screw. This way, the pin and the plastic sleeve would actually be underneath the removable base cover piece and not visible. Just wondering what others think of the PVC sleeve idea instead of directly cementing the pole in. As long as the poles fit snugly inside the PVC so it doesn't "wobble", I can't think of any downsides to the sleeve idea.

    The poles are 12' long and the signs and details have to added when the pole is set in the ground. The poles are drilled and tapped for mounting the signs, instead of using any clamps, band straps or external fasteners. With the sleeve, I could assemble the sign poles completely and position them in the sleeve and pin them in place and then slide the cast base cover piece over the retention pin and secure it with the stainless set screws. It would be easier than cementing the sign post in place and then having to assemble the signs onto the top of the post working off a ladder..........Plus if the poles get damaged it would be easier to replace them.

    Thoughts on the best forms to get a smooth finish on the sides of the concrete? Also which forms will be easier to remove from the cement and give me the best end product?

    I thought about other shapes for the bases but if there are any edges on them they will chip from the mower decks over time and look terrible. Round bases eliminate the edges and hopefully look nice longer.

    Thanks for suggestions and tips............

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    Sonotubes. They are kind of like a heavy cardboard anfpd you can cut 5hem to length.
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    Hmmm... Just pondering possibilities here but... would these work if you installed them upside down?

    EZ Tube 4-Section 40 in. Stackable Precast Concrete Pier-Type Footing-EZTUBE4 - The Home Depot

    The base piece is 9" tall and 20" in diameter. The rest of the pieces are 12" tall and 12" in diameter. So you could dig down 24", drop in 2 sections and then mount the base on top of that and it would give you your 9" above ground.
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    Plastic buckets cut easily with a circular saw or saws-all. You can probably get them for free from a restaurant or grocery store if you ask.

    Another possibility would be to use 1/4” plywood 75 1/2” long (pi multiplied by diameter for circumference of circle) and make a form. You would need to stake it down fairly well to make it stay together.

    As far as the sleeve idea goes, I’d be concerned about the pvc cracking and then would be a loose fit. Maybe sink a shorter section of post in the concrete with about a foot sticking out that you could bolt the sign post on to?
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    We call it 'sonic tubing" here in north Jersey but as already mentioned, its easily cut with a jigsaw and will definitely serve your purpose.
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    They sell it at Lowes and Home Cheapo for $13-15ish for a 4 footer. Just a suggestion.
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    Hello SB, i was going to suggest sonic tube too. Lowes and HD usually have it in stock. Works great and used on commercial and residential construction sites.

    Good luck!
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    I would use sonotubes, and wet them down before you pour, so the cardboard doesn't soak the water out of the concrete. That will help to have a nice finish around the edge. If it is critical to have a nice surface, you could rent a concrete vibrator for around the edges, or at least tap the edges very well to settle the concrete. You could also spray a release agent, or some sort of oil on the forms to help them release.

    If you have frost, I wouldn't make it bigger on top than down below, the frost will eventually pull the whole thing out if it's bigger on top. With smooth sides all the way down, it won't pull it up.

    I like the sleeve idea, but I think you'd be better off with a galvanized pipe or something other than pvc. The pvc will eventually get brittle and break off. You would still have the sleeve inside the concrete, but the stub may break off.

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    Last edited by sld961; 06-23-2019 at 08:51 AM.
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    martincom's Avatar
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    They do offer Sonotubes, or other branded equivalents, in 24" diameters. I have utilized them for a number of projects and if you were closer, I have a 5' length of a 24" sitting in the garage that I would give you. (Where I source them, they are only offered in 10' lengths.)

    The problem becomes making a step from 18" to 24" diameter, as you describe. Keeping it centered, square and level will be nearly, if not impossible, to do so. The other issue will be frost heaving. Pouring a larger diameter cap on top is going to give the frost something to lift against it. It will crack/bust loose in time. That is the reasoning concept behind a sonotube verses just utilizing a post hole auger to make a hole and fill it with concrete. You want a smooth, with no edges, footing so the frost soiled will slide past it as it heaves, rather than grabbing on to it.

    For example, I utilized two 18" diameter, round, heavy wall plastic trash cans that I obtained at Walmart for the form tubes I utilized for my beach house balcony posts. We were only 30' from the shoreline and not much grade, so I was going to be in water at the base of the hole. I needed something that wouldn't come apart in the water, like a sonotube, and was enclosed to keep the water out. They were 36" tall and the top of the first was above the water level. I cut the top 24" off the second one to add to the first, taping them together with duct tape and gently backfilling. The last few winters, we've really had some frost heaves in front of the beach house. The soil will push up nearly 10" around the diameter of those trash can tube footings, making a perfectly round soil collar around the post. Thankfully, it all goes back down when the frost melts in the spring.

    As far as providing a smooth exposed finish, you can add more water to the mix, but that comes at some risk with the long term durability of the concrete. The poor man's method is to vigorously run a shovel up/down in the freshly poured concrete, in the tube, to displace the air pockets. However, this is not fool proof. The big boys have vibrating rods, which are the cat's meow. You may be able to rent one.

    You can peel off the sonotube, down to ground level, once the concrete has set. It is a bit of a job, but not impossible by any means.
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    Elephants Foot

    Have you ever heard of something called 'Elephant Foots'? So named because they resemble an elephants foot. They are shaped to taper from about 24" at the base to about 8" at the top in 2" increments. You can use it all or just portions of it so that it fits your needs. They make frost heave a lot less likely in areas that get frost. You cut the top off to fit your diameter of sonotube and fill it and the sonotube with concrete. If you didn't want it visible, I think that you could slice it off after the concrete sets. I don't know if it's the answer to your needs but it is something to consider. Good Luck.
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    another possibility is cut rings from 55gal metal drums ....and leave the form on when done ....this is similar to what you see at gas station islands they have a leave on metal form in most cases ...smooth paintable durable to impacts etc

    of course sonotube as mentioned is a option (but its relatively expensive)

    rings from plastic drums...30gal or 55gal

    you can premake round form hoops from about anything flexible such as....1/4 plywood strips ...siding....sheet metal....but they will need to be shaped and staked during the pour

    you can go to a corrugated culvert company (tin horns , whistles) and they sell the bands to connect two steel culverts together in each size (google culvert metal band coupler) ....they would either make a permanent or removable form since they are split on one side

    plastic culvert pipe

    just a few ideas...

    if it were mine i would probably go the metal culvert way and just cut rings from the appropriate size and leave the form on since its galvanized and ribbed-(you see this type product in street signs in our area to protect concrete from right o way mowers)

    to answer some more of your questions.....sonotubes come in all sizes they just get quite expensive in larger sizes and would probably not be available at lumber yard (talk to redimix concrete co)(cutting them to length is easy cutting them to remove is more difficult) i have seen persons precut them for removal and put a couple of rachet straps around them during pour to make them easier to remove ....also any removable form needs to have a release agent sprayed on it in the old days they would use diesel fuel (now illegal) but these days you can buy a water based product
    Last edited by ttazzman; 06-23-2019 at 12:24 PM.
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