Do you use anything for reinforcing hypertufa? Is it necessary? If you do use reinforcement, what do you use? I can tell you what and when I use fibers or hardware cloth etc, but that may not be right for you. It is just something that you have to see what fits your projects, your climate, and my most frequent consideration, the size of the hypertufa project.
Reinforcement is available to use in hypertufa in a few different ways. It can be as simple as fibers or as difficult as wire mesh such as hardware cloth or chicken wire or rebars, but for me, I don’t use it on a regular basis. I know that a lot of hypertufa makers use it in most of their pots to give the hypertufa medium more structural integrity as I understand its use.
But I have used the fibers, for instance, in quite a few bowls and I have not seen any difference in the hypertufa’s longevity. If I should, for instance, drop and break a piece, I can see the little fibers in the broken edges, but they didn’t stop it from breaking. Or from the natural wearing away of the hypertufa as it ages.
My Most Common Breakage
When I have felt the need for reinforcement, it has been after a project has broken in half, most commonly in the middle. When I lift a hypertufa trough to move it (if possible), the normal instinct is just to take each side on each end, just as if you’re carrying a large sheet cake. That is when I get the common crack or split right down the middle across the trough.
I tell myself that if I had a length of hardware cloth inside of the bottom of the trough, it would not have been so vulnerable to that split. The bottom would have been more supported by that metal section holding the two ends together. Of course, it could have broken anyway. No guarantees at all.
So when I make a large trough, I like to put hardware cloth in the bottom of it for just that support alone. This includes for the transport as you finish the piece and then place it in its final destination. I always reserve a plan of thought for trying to move a large piece once it has been placed, planted, and situated for its surroundings.
Hardware Cloth – A Little “Harsh”
As you will see in the video, the hardware cloth is a sturdy sheet of a grid of metal stripping and it does give a good strength to any hypertufa project. I have only used it in large pieces and usually feel it’s most needed along the bottom so that is my usual placement. My huge T Rex trough that I made a few years back had the hardware cloth also in the sides since those sides were pretty tall. Since then, I have not made any that huge until I made one this summer, but that is in a future video coming soon.
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The biggest problem with the hardware cloth ( and the same with chicken wire if you would decide to use it) is that there are so many wires left over as you cut your piece to fit. Yes, you can cut it extremely short against the small opening, but that leaves an almost razor-blade like edge to the metal sheet. But cutting with the little tabs left on presents small stabbing needle-like projections to handle as you assemble the hypertufa. Oh my!
Tin snips is the name that my husband calls the tool he uses to cut the hardware cloth. Here is a link (#affiliate link) to some Tin Snips so that you can see what these look like. These are the easiest to cut the cloth and it still isn’t easy with them. Maybe you have another suggestion. Watch how he uses them in the video.
Afterwards I always have to worry as the hypertufa ages and is exposed to a gradual erosion of the surface. When will those little blades or needles begin to poke through the edges? This year? Next year? Perhaps the next time I walk up to the piece to plant something or move it slightly on its pedestal? It is a dilemma to ponder when you decide about reinforcing your hypertufa with any wire meshing.
FiberMesh – The Least “Harsh” ?
Overall the FiberMesh is the least “harsh” method of these other reinforcing methods. At least it is just a soft handful of fibers to mix in the dried ingredients as you make up the hypertufa mixture. No sharp edges, no danger in applying it to your mixture or a hazardous appearance as the aging hypertufa erodes.
As for me, I usually just do without any of these at all. I rarely make a huge hypertufa and I don’t worry at all about the smaller ones. But you’ll have to decide how you want to make yours and how long an acceptable “life” is for your project. My longest lasting hypertufa (that I know of) is one that is large, but has no reinforcement at all. And I have always loved it!