Concrete is a durable, cost effective way to create a level surface. Whether for a walkway, patio or simply a concrete pad, this is a great option for your yard. Pouring concrete is usually left in the capable hands of a concrete contractor because it can be tricky to get a professional finish, so find out what you can do to make the process and finished product smoother and stronger.
10 Tips for a Perfect Pour
1) Prepare the Site
You should have the site of the patio, pad or walkway dug out and packed well. Use a hand tamping tool for a clean job. For better drainage add 2 inches of gravel to the top of heavy or clay soil.
2) Order the Right Concrete
You can mix your own, but for larger jobs it's well worth the expense of a concrete truck delivering the product directly to your home. Make sure they have easy access to the site and be sure to order concrete that will be easy to work with, yet strong and durable.
Ask for concrete that is between 4,000 and 4,500 psi (or pounds per square inch) with a 4.5 inch slump. A slump rating indicates how much water is mixed in — the higher the number, the more watery the concrete is.
3) Have Good Tools On Hand
You'll need clean, solid tools at your fingertips when working with concrete. A wheelbarrow, shovels (with a round point), concrete or heavy duty garden rakes, a magnesium finishing tool and a wood hand float, a stack of straight wooden 2x4s, an industrial push broom and a jointing tool.
4) Use Steel Reinforcements
For the optimum strength you should embed reinforcing steel into the poured concrete. Set a grid of steel bars (1/2 inch in diameter and laid in a grid with 2 feet spacing) on top of flat rocks within the forms. Sit the steel about 2â€ up and pour the concrete around the grid. This way the reinforcements will be in the center of the pad providing the most strength.
5) Pour To the Right Thickness
Plan for a minimum 4 inch thickness, but 5 inches is better. That is plenty strong enough for residential applications like sidewalks and patios.
6) Use Water Sparingly
You can gently wet down the soil and gravel before pouring the concrete. This reduces the amount of water that is sucked directly out of the mixture as it sets on the ground. Don't add any water to the actual concrete or you will change the strength and stability of it. Also, don't add water to the surface of poured, wet concrete.
7) Keep the Wheelbarrow Manageable
Have the concrete truck fill your wheelbarrow, but not completely. You should be able to safely get the wheelbarrow over to the far side of the form. An overly full wheelbarrow can tip over easily, causing injury and wasting product.
8) Work Carefully and Quickly
Once the concrete is poured you have only a limited amount of time to work on it. This is why you'll need more than one person to tackle a sizable patio or walkway. Start at the far end, away from the truck and use the rake and 2x4s to push the concrete around, filling up the form to the top. Don't forget to add joints that are at cut down through the concrete to at least 1/4 of the slab's thickness.
9) Spread the Top To Push Aggregate Down
Working with the magnesium and wood float is an important step. What you're doing by â€œsmoothing outâ€ the top of the concrete is actually pushing the aggregate down into the form and allowing the sand and cement to make their way to the top. This will result in the best looking, most comfortable and durable concrete pad. Use your broom to create an attractive pattern on the top.
10) Time Your Installation
The hotter the air temperature, the shorter time you have to work with it. Not because of your own heat tolerance, but because the concrete will harden quicker. Aim to complete your pouring when the air temperature is between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. And it goes without saying that you'll need a dry day.
With proper planning, the right conditions and careful work your DIY concrete job will be top of the line.