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Concrete Casting News from the Hill and Griffith Company

Choosing and Using a Form Release Agent

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Aug 15, 2019 3:16:52 PM

Excerpt from the article by M.K. Hurd in the October 1996 issue of Concrete Construction

Concrete Form Release Agents Help Form Removal

Most form materials require the application of a release agent to prevent adhesion of concrete to the face of the form. Many form oils and other release agents adequately prevent sticking, but using the correct type of agent for the form material can also help to minimize concrete color variations, staining, bugholes, and poor surface durability. Article discusses the two basic types of release agents (barrier and chemically active), how to select a release agent for different form materials, and release-agent application methods. It also describes the newer types of water-based release agents, which are formulated to meet environmental regulations limiting volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Photo caption: Forms will strip cleanly and easily if you use the correct form release agent and apply it properly. - Photo by Bob Sawyer

With the wide range of release agents available today, how do you choose the best one for your forms?

Types of Release Agents Historically, form release agents have been grouped in the following categories :
• Petroleum oils
• Emulsions—either water- or oil-based
• Nonreactive coatings with volatile solvents
• Chemically active agents
• Waxes

Though products in these categories are still available, new products and new formulations are being introduced to meet environmental regulations limiting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Also, manufacturers may combine release-agent types, such as a chemically reactive product and an emulsion, to produce a product that has the advantages of both. Many newer form release agents, therefore, do not fit neatly into the above categories. Because environmental restrictions have caused changes in the commercially available agents, and because of the great variety of chemical formulations, manufacturers now simply classify release agents in terms of how they act instead of what’s in them. The two basic categories are barrier agents and chemically active agents. Read More.

Precautions in Selecting A Release Agent

A release agent may be incompatible with concrete that contains a number of admixtures. Compatibility problems have been reported when chemically active agents were used with concretes containing microsilica, high-range water reducers, and unusually high amounts of admixtures. Be sure to discuss possible compatibility problems with the admixture and release-agent suppliers. Read More.

Application Methods

Use enough release agent to prevent adhesion, but don’t apply too much. When overapplied, the material runs to low points in the form face where it can retard cement hydration or produce staining. Most manufacturers recommend a thin, uniform coating. With some products, the thinner the better; sometimes as little as 1 ⁄2 mil (0.0005 inch) is recommended on nonabsorbent form surfaces. Read More.

Precautions to Take During Release Agent Application

•Keep release agents off construction joints and reinforcing steel. To avoid spilling release agent on rebar, apply it before placing the steel.

• Never use release agents containing wax or silicone if the concrete surface is to be painted.

• Follow manufacturer recommendations for when to apply release agent. Some agents must dry or cure before concrete is deposited, while others can be applied only minutes ahead of concrete placement. Generally, the shorter the time between applying release agent and placing concrete, the better. Too long a wait can result in the agent drying out, running down the form face, or being washed away by the rain. (Note: Some agents are rainproof.)

• If there is any ponding or puddling of release agent, be sure to wipe away the excess material.

• After coating form faces, protect them from contamination and weather.


Read the complete article in Concrete Construction Magazine

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