The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Posted on: September 19th, 2023 by mandig

The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Learning more about reusable concrete formliner materials may help you decide if your project can benefit from using them. These tools are used in the construction industry to mold plain concrete into decorative concrete pieces. They are a cost-effective way to mimic expensive materials, such as brick, stone, and wood, using concrete. They can be used in a variety of cast-in-place, precast, and tilt-up jobs to enhance bridges, parks, residential areas, and other architectural concrete projects.

When choosing the best form liner material, you’ll want to consider how many times you want to use it. The types of materials used to make them play a big part in their longevity. Some materials are made to withstand hundreds of pulls, but others are only good for one use.

What Is a Reusable Concrete Formliner?

What separates reusable liners from single-use ones is their ability to generate multiple pulls before they wear down. Reusable formliners are made of stronger, more durable materials that last longer as long as they are properly cared for between uses.

What Is It Made Of?

No matter what material you choose, a good way to preserve a formliner for reuse is by applying a release agent before each use to limit adhesion to the concrete. The 4 main materials used include:

1. Urethane Rubber

Among all the materials used to make concrete formliners, urethane is the best option for reuse. It is a very high-quality, durable, and flexible material that is poured over a master to create panels of various shapes and sizes. It is the only material with multi-reuse potential, as a single liner can achieve as many as 100 pulls.

Urethane is great for custom patterns with high detail and depth, custom panel sizes, and, most importantly, large projects that require high reuse. Also, when it is bonded to a plywood backing, it makes it easier to move and work with.

2. Foam

As a lightweight material, polystyrene foam is easy to use and trim to the size you desire. It can be either hot wire cut or molded to generate a smooth finish on concrete, but it is generally limited in the shapes it can create if you intend to reuse the mold more than once.

It is a decent alternative to urethane rubber, but it must be coated with a 2-part urethane encapsulant of some kind, or it will be destroyed in the stripping process after one use. For this purpose, VFI offers VFI-2538 70 D EPS Form Hard Coat, which creates a uniform and releasable surface when casting concrete. When coated, foam liners can be reused if maintained, but they will not produce nearly as many castings as urethane rubber.

3. Plastic

The number of uses you’ll get from plastic will depend on the type of plastic used and its thickness. Plastics such as styrene and ABS are used in form lining, but only ABS is capable of multiple uses (usually up to 5). While it’s more cost-effective, it won’t provide nearly as many pulls as urethane.

Plastic formliners also provide concrete with a subtle, less detailed finish since they are made using a vacuum-forming process. Plastic is a desired material if you’re working on smaller projects where only basic patterns are needed and high reuse is unnecessary.

4. Fiberglass

Concrete formliners were once made of fiberglass sheets fastened to a form to create basic ribbed patterns. As new materials and techniques emerged, fiberglass took a backseat in the industry since it was much more time-consuming to use. Urethane rubber is easier to work with and produces results just as good in most applications. If more than 3 inches of relief is needed, fiberglass is preferred, though urethane is capable of high reliefs as well.

Benefits of Urethane Rubber

  • Cost efficiency – While urethane rubber is a more costly material, its reuse potential more than makes up for the initial cost. With proper cleaning and storage, you’ll be able to maximize the life of your reusable concrete formliner.
  • Durability – Most urethane formliners are made of solid rubber, so they have the strength to endure multiple pulls. The best reusable ones use higher durometer urethanes, typically between 70A – 90A. The harder the material, the more capable it is of maintaining its strength over time.
  • Flexibility – Urethane can be more flexible or rigid depending on what kind of incuts you require in the design of your formliner. This increases the design potential you have while the material maintains its reusable nature.
  • Versatility – Unlike other materials, urethane can copy extreme detail from a master and transfer those details onto wet concrete. You’re then left with concrete pieces that have the realistic finish you desire. There’s no limit to the concrete textures, patterns, or designs you can create with urethane. It is also capable of creating reusable concrete formliners of any shape or size needed.
  • Consistency – Because urethane concrete formliners have such high reuse potential, they produce repeatable, uniform patterns after each use. Urethane reflects the same amount of detail in every cast, so large projects are desirable and seamless.

VFI Urethane Rubbers

VFI manufactures various urethane rubbers for the creation of reusable concrete formliners. Depending on the detail desired, we generally recommend the 50A-90A rubbers in our 2100 series. Our VFI-3170 and VFI-3180 rubbers are also excellent materials but must be used in controlled, high-production environments. If you’re interested in either product line, contact VFI today for more information.

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

Posted on: September 11th, 2023 by mandig

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

Unlike traditional materials such as plastic or foam, polyurethane formliners offer a unique blend of qualities that make them the superior choice for concrete projects. One of urethane’s most remarkable characteristics is its flexibility. Due to its flexible nature, it can replicate complex patterns and intricate designs, including incuts, curves, and irregular shapes. It has unlimited design potential for replicating natural materials, pushing boundaries with abstract patterns, and even incorporating logos into architecture.

Other, more rigid materials can’t achieve the same highly realistic detail and definition on concrete surfaces. Urethane is also much more durable than any other material. With its resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and excessive wear, a single liner withstands multiple uses.

How are Urethane Formliners Made and Used?

Polyurethane formliners are made of a high quality, two-component material that combines isocyanate and polyol, which forms a liquid rubber that is poured into a mold and over a master. The liquid flows into all voids and contours every line to pick up every minor detail, including the porous nature of rocks, creating a perfect replica. Urethane cures at room temperature and comes in a range of hardnesses to fit a variety of application needs.

Before casting concrete into the new mold, it’s recommended that an acceptable release agent be used on the face, edges, and ends before each cast. Do not over-apply, as this may create pooling in the mold that will cause surface voids or bug holes. These voids prevent the concrete from copying all the details from the urethane.

The formliners are generally placed inside formwork before the concrete is poured. They must be properly aligned and secured for the best results. Large liners are usually attached to plywood backing since they weigh more and are less flexible. Plywood allows for attachment points in order to pick up the liners with machinery for precise placement and increased size. Using larger liners this way also allows for a quicker set-up and application on larger projects.

Once the concrete hardens, the formliner is removed, and all the details are transferred onto the surface. Urethane’s elasticity simplifies the stripping process, allowing it to easily release from intricate details and undercuts in the concrete for damage-free demolding. These formliners can also be inverted to generate different, less predictable patterns on the concrete. When using urethane, it’s much easier to avoid noticeable seams in the design as well, especially if you’re using large panels of the material. When plastic is used, more effort goes into making larger forms, as an adhesive must be used to glue several pieces together.

Where Are They Used?

Polyurethane form liners see the most use in large projects and areas with a lot of square footage to cover. If you need long spans or a seamless appearance in the concrete, urethane is the best option capable of fulfilling these requirements. It is a cost effective choice for any project that requires a high number of reuses.

Urethane is the best material for producing high detail and relief for projects, especially when a certain level of realism is needed. There’s almost no limit to where urethane can be used, including tilt-up, cast-in-place, and precast applications. Other instances where urethane makes a great form lining material include:

  • Architectural facades. Add depth and character to flat, plain concrete surfaces on the exterior of buildings and give them a new identity.
  • Landscaping. Craft inviting outdoor spaces such as charming pathways with natural rock formations in retaining walls to connect with surrounding landscapes.
  • Interior design. Enhance plain walls and columns and turn them into a stunning focal point for indoor spaces such as hotels, residences, and shopping centers.
  • Beautify utilitarian structures such as bridges, tunnels, and public spaces with artistic, textured elements.

How to Take Care of Your Formliners

A urethane formliner’s reusability will depend on how it’s used, how it’s cared for, how detailed it is, and the job site conditions. Key steps to preserve the life and quality of the liners include:

  • A release agent should be applied before each use for easier demolding and to prolong the life of the liner. Cleaning the release agent off after use is also essential, as some release agents can be reactive and degrade the material over time.
  • A clean liner will last longer and produce excellent results each time. Proper cleaning after each use removes concrete dust and buildup, preventing debris from affecting the detail of subsequent pours. Clean with hot water, soap, and a natural bristle brush. Never use a wire brush or harsh chemicals that might damage the urethane.
  • Be careful and gently pry the formliner from the concrete in the stripping process. Peeling it back can create additional stress, reducing its usefulness over time.
  • The form should be removed within 24 hours after the concrete has cured, or stripping may be difficult. While urethane is durable, you want demolding to be easy to keep the detail intact.
  • Proper storage is also required to maintain its usability. Store it flat and in a clean, temperature-controlled environment. Do not let it sit face up in the sun for long durations of time. UV rays deteriorate urethane and may cause it to expand and fall apart.

VFI Polyurethane for Concrete Projects

VFI manufactures several lines of urethane products not just for use in form lining. The type of rubber you choose for your project will depend on your production process and the detail you require. Our 2100 series 55A-70A rubbers can produce advanced detail for highly aesthetic concrete pieces. Our 2100 series 70A-90A rubbers are also great for concrete projects but offer basic detail at lower pour thickness minimums. If you’re interested in these materials or softer rubbers for cast and manufactured stone applications, contact us today.

Five Benefits of Precast Concrete Products

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

A recent study predicts that the global precast concrete market is expected to reach $130.11 Billion by 2025.

Precast concrete is a construction product that uses a reusable mold during the manufacturing process to form concrete into its desired shape. This method has many benefits over traditional methods.

It Saves Money

Traditionally concrete has been cast using steel or wood molds that take a long time to build, increasing labor costs. Most of the time these molds are used once and then discarded. Precast molds are commonly made from rubber and can be used hundreds of times before being replaced.


With multiple types of rubber, shore hardness and pot life options precast concrete products can be used in multiple applications. These applications include but are not limited to architectural concrete, cast veneer, stone, flexible form liners, sound walls, retaining walls and many more!


Precast concrete pieces that are poured off-site are able to be manufactured in controlled environments, limiting the effects of bad weather and producing a more consistent product.


Precast concrete products are more than just functional, they can be decorative too. These products can be molded into different configurations and shapes that can enhance your building project. Some design elements that can be incorporated into precast concrete products are stone patterns, masonry patterns, arches, cornices and many more!


Products made using precast methods arrive on the job site ready to be installed. This eliminates the need to order raw materials, eliminates the time to set up forms and lowers labor cost.

Volatile Free, Inc. ® has noticed an increased demand for precast concrete products from its customer base and has created the 3100 Series line of rubbers to service those needs.

If your company is involved in precast concrete make sure to stop by booth S12453 at the World of Concrete. Not attending World of Concrete? No problem you can still request more information and samples of our 3100 Series by calling 800-307-9218.

Determining Shore Hardness of Rubbers & Plastics

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Shore Hardness is the resistance a material has to indentation. Determining a materials Shore Hardness requires the use of a durometer, which is a device that measures the depth of an indentation in the material by creating force through a presser foot.

In order for people to have a point of reference on how hard a material is different shore hardness scales have been created. There are 12 different Shore Hardness scales depending on the type of material that is being measured.

When dealing with rubbers and plastics two scales are used. The A Shore Hardness scale is used to measure flexible rubbers commonly used in molds. Hard rubbers, semi-rigid plastics and hard plastics are measured using the D Shore Hardness Scale.

Both of these scales have ranges from 0-100. The lower the Shore Hardness is on the scale the softer and more flexible the material will be. As you increase upwards on the scale materials become stiffer and less flexible.

When selecting a rubber or plastic to use for your mold making needs there are a couple of things that should be taken into consideration.

How delicate is the item that you’re molding. 

If you’re making a mold of an item that has sharp undercuts, thin parts or protrusions it is recommended to use a material that provides greater flexibility and stretches easily. This will insure that you’re able to extract your model from the mold without it breaking.

How much detail is needed for your project.

When using rubbers and plastics detail is directly related to the hardness of the material that you’re using. The harder a material is the greater casting detail it will provide. For example, if you were making a mold for a stone back splash you would want to use a harder material to pick up textural detail within the rocks.

Abrasion Resistance

Abrasion resistance refers to a materials ability to withstand any method of wearing down or rubbing away by means of friction. This point should be taken into consideration if you are planning to use a rubber or plastic mold for construction applications. Some of these application would include architectural precast concrete, cast veneer and flexible form liners. In construction applications you want your material to provide enough flexibility, while being durable and insuring a long useful life.

Have an upcoming project? Have questions or need assistance selecting the right material for your job? Give us a call at 800-307-9218. Our team of technical experts and sales representatives are happy to help!

Different Types of Concrete Stamps Require Different Materials

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Concrete stamps can take a basic concrete project and bring it to the next level. These stamps are used to enhance a surface and make it look decorative by providing a textured detail imitating stone, brick, wood and much more. They are most often used to create decorative walkways, courtyards, patios, decks and on decorative vertical concrete applications.

Most stamps are made out of urethane rubbers as this material provides a range of Shore Hardness options, while remaining flexible and providing maximum abrasion resistance.

Producing stamps can be expensive, that’s why it’s important to understand how to pick the correct rubber for your needs. Stamps come in numerous types and flexibilities ranging from floppy to rigid. Three common types of stamps are stamp rollers, texturing skins and concrete mats.

Stamp rollers are used as imprinting tools on large scale projects, on slab corners and boarders where detail is not as critical. These stamps are popular with contractors because of their ease of use and can cover a lot of ground quickly.

It’s important to have an understanding of what to look for in regards to the type of rubber your stamp roller is made out of. Rollers work best when the concrete is still very soft. Because of the roller application, a harder durometer rubber is needed to imprint detail quickly. VFI would recommend our 3170 or 3180, for this application. This will help to insure maximum detail will be transferred to your project’s surface.

Texturing skins are used in vertical and decorative applications where flexibility would be necessary. These stamps are usually thin to reduce weight and make them more maneuverable on the job-site. Semi-rigid rubbers are used to allow the stamp to be more pliable and capture the curvature of a structure. These skins work best on surfaces with undulations, sloped areas and in flare ups like driveway aprons. VFI-3150 and 3160 provide the perfect amount of flexibility for challenging applications while still providing great casting detail.

Concrete mats are rigid and extremely firm. These mats are very large, and most of the time will have handles to help contractors lift and move them into place. The rigidity of concrete mats will help to leave a highly detailed impression. The polyurethane used in these stamps will range from a Shore A Hardness of 80 or higher (VFI-3180). Interested in making your own concrete stamps? VFI has Technical Service Representatives willing to answer all of your stamping questions. Contact the VFI team at 1-800-307-9218.

The Global Precast Concrete Market is Projected to Grow at a CAGR of 5% Through 2025

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

A recent study conducted by Transparency Market Research shows the global precast concrete market growing at a healthy CAGR of 5% through 2025. Two major factors contributing to this growth are swift urbanization and high demand for commercial construction projects.

Urbanization A Driving Force Behind Global Precast Market Growth

As the global economy has become more integrated a population shift has occurred with residents leaving rural areas and moving to metropolitan hubs. Cities are catering to this demand and are utilizing precast concrete to help build needed infrastructure. Precast concrete provides many benefits such as design-build efficiency, low maintenance, reduced costs, and aesthetic versatility.

High Demand For Commercial Construction

With mass migration from rural to metropolitan areas numerous commercial structures will need to be built including malls, hotels, and offices. Architects and builders love specing precast concrete products in commercial projects as it’s cost-effective, easy to produce, less labor-intensive and reduces build time.

Highly Engineered, High-Performance Solutions Tailored To The Precast Concrete Industry

Volatile Free, Inc. (VFI) manufactures a highly engineered, high-performance line of urethane molding rubbers for the precast concrete industry. With multiple Shore Hardness and pot life options, VFI has a product for all your precast concrete needs.

To learn more about VFI’s urethane rubbers contact us at 800-307-9218.

New Fire-Retardant Hard Coat System

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Volatile Free, Inc. formulated the industry’s first polyurethane hard coat cartridge system with fire retardant qualities. The hard coat was designed for long-lasting protection of foam sculptures, parts, and components and protects against external impacts and environmental elements. The 6170 is available for plural component spray systems and the 6171 is available in the convenient Qwik Spray System® with hassle-free cartridge sets.

VFI is Celebrating 25 Years!

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

We are excited to announce that Volatile Free is celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2020. To honor the milestone, we are unveiling a refreshed logo and new brand colors. The company is ready to continue offering the same high-quality products and exceptional customer service for the next 25 years with a more modern look and feel.

Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System

Posted on: January 5th, 2020 by Marc

The Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System from Volatile Free, Inc. combines the best performance characteristics of their proven acrylic and silicone liquid applied roof coating lines. VFI-640-1 acrylic gray base coat, used together with non-woven polyester fabric, offers a seamless coating with lasting adhesion and excellent waterproofing characteristics. SEALGUARD VFI-991® standard solids, silicone top coat is then applied resulting in superior protection against standing water and aging with 100% UV resistance. The Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System is unique to the liquid applied roofing industry and is exclusive to Volatile Free, Inc. and VFI approved distributors.

What Is Silicone Roof Coating?

Posted on: January 4th, 2020 by Marc

What Is Silicone Roof Coating?

what is silicone roof coating

Silicone can be used as a liquid applied roof coating to provide waterproof characteristics and UV stability. Roof substrates of all kinds break down over time and eventually cause roof leaks. These leaks typically cause expensive damage to the building itself, as well as the contents of the building.

As roof substrates age they eventually begin to fail. When this happens, a building owner has three obvious options:

  • Repair the leaks. Repairing leaks can be very challenging. The source of the leak is often very difficult to find and the repair is simply a band-aid approach that offers a short-term solution.
  • Roof replacement. Not only are roof replacements very costly, but the material from the original roof ends up in a landfill. Many building owners are looking for more ecofriendly solutions to the maintenance of their buildings.
  • Maintenance coating. Using silicone as a maintenance coating is a way to offer a long-term solution while being much more cost efficient, and ecofriendly, than a full roof replacement. When done properly, a silicone roof coating offers a new layer of protection that can last for years.

Why does silicone work as a roof coating?

The benefit of silicone as a roof coating comes from its non-carbon nature. Silicone is inherently resistant to bacteria growth and resists degradation from ponding water while still providing breathability for the substrate. This breathability helps to protect the substrate which leads to a longer lifespan.

When is it best to use silicone?

Silicone is used when there are concerns associated with UV stability. Silicone is naturally resistant to ultraviolet rays which cause oxidation and can reduce the life of a roofing substrate. Another benefit of silicone is its ability to withstand indefinite exposure to ponding water. Proper drainage is always necessary on a low slope roof, but the risk of standing water still exists. A silicone roof coating provides a waterproof barrier that protects the roofing structure, which in turn helps to expand the lifespan. And since silicone is resistant to mold and mildew, dirt and grime build-ups can easily be washed off with water.

What are the best silicone products and why?

There are three main types of silicone for the liquid applied roofing industry:

  • High Solids Silicone is the most used silicone roof coating. With the ability to apply by spray, roller, or brush, it offers lower VOC, a glossy finish, and decreased application time due to higher volume solids.
  • Standard Solids Silicone has a higher VOC content, but gives better adhesion and a smoother finish with less roller marks and brush strokes. A lower solid content does mean a lower volume solid, but with the increased adhesion this is the preferred product for recoating other silicone.
  • Silicone Flashing Grade is an extremely thick silicone that is used for flashing or seams when combined with fabric. A high solids content in the mastic allows for minimal shrinkage while maintaining excellent adhesion and flexibility. Adhesion and flexibility are important because they allow the flashing grade to move without cracking and remain fixed to the surface.

How is silicone applied?

Silicone is extremely easy to apply. The first installation method is by brush. This is normally for silicone flashing grade or for application over seams in combination with fabric. The second method is roller applied. Roof silicone is compatible with almost all roof roller types. The third method is spray applied and is usually done with a high-pressure spray rig.

Silicone plays a large role in liquid applied roofing. The advantages as a maintenance coating far outweigh costly roof replacements. The properties of silicone are superior to other fluid applied products like acrylic. And more roofing contractors are realizing the benefit of offering application services to commercial building owners. The choice is simple. Contact us today for a free roof inspection from a VFI authorized roofing contractor in your area.