March 28, 2016

Board Form Concrete

Let’s talk about board formed concrete.  Have you heard of it?  Have you seen it?  If you haven’t in my opinion you should.  In the right application it is beautiful!  So what exactly is it?  Board formed concrete is the name for a process of patterning concrete using wood forms which leave a wood grain image on the finished face of the concrete.  What is revealed when the boards are removed is as varied as the types of boards used – knotty and rough, or smooth.  Before plastic and metal, wood was the forming material of choice for precast and cast in place vertical concrete. Wood was cheap, readily available and could withstand the significant weight and pressure associated with a concrete pour.  Today it is a method that is being used more frequently because concrete is extremely well-suited as a finished material in modern design, and by imprinting the wood grain on the surface, it visually softens and warms concrete’s somewhat cooler appearance allowing it to work seamlessly in many different design aesthetics.

We get excited when we get to incorporate this design element.  We had an opportunity to use board formed concrete in a home we deigned that has a mix of styles incorporating both modern and traditional elements.  In this project we thought board formed concrete would be the perfect fireplace surround.  We wanted this surround to be smooth while still showing that beautiful grain effect.  We could have varied this look by how the boards were spaced when forming the surround.  Boards that are widely spaced create a rough raised effect whereas boards that are tightly spaced create a smoother look.  Below are some photos showing examples of smooth versus a rough board formed concrete.

Board Form Concrete Examples

Now that we have decided what we want our surround to look like we need to frame in the fireplace.  For this space we chose a modern, horizontal gas burning fireplace.  When building the framing we always kept in mind the manufacturers specs of minimum distance to combustibles as well as accounting for how we wanted the fireplace to sit visually.


PastedGraphic-14 Here we installed a sheet of plywood above the fireplace that will be hidden behind the drywall making hanging a television in the future easier.

Once the fireplace was set we had a local company, Gray Rock Concrete come to make their templet for the surround.  To find someone near you who can do board formed concrete  you can contact a local contractor or you can look up a local concrete specialty company in your area.


 The day the surround arrived and was carried into place was an exciting day.  It took 3 men to carry it in.  Boy was it heavy!  They did a great job and didn’t even scratch the freshly stained floors…added bonus.



  The concrete surround is not only practical and durable but it is beautiful as well.  It adds a focal point to the room and a sense of modern and warmth.  We think it is perfect.



What a focal point!!!

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    Very contemporary and beautiful. Can you tell me who made the mantel? Thank you.

    • Libby Barnes at

      Thank you for the kind words. The mantel was milled from a slab of black walnut that I picked up in my travels. It turned out great I think!

  • Jason at

    How did they get the concrete board formed and so thin? I’m looking to do this for my fireplace and just started researching. Very similar style. Looks great!

  • Anita at

    This is stunning and just what I thought of last night for our place! It can be done!!!

    Can you please tell me if the concretise used any backing or form in the piece?

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