So, you’re ready to make this summer the year of outdoor fun in your backyard, and you’ve got a new concrete patio on your mind. Before you pour the concrete yourself, keep in mind there are practical, aesthetic, and safety concerns that come with any DIY concrete project.
The fact is, pouring concrete requires a good deal more knowledge and skill than other home exterior projects. Doing it right demands careful planning, as well as the proper materials and tools to avoid weakened concrete and an inevitable do-over. There are a number of things you need to carefully avoid in order to stay safe and prevent a DIY disaster.
Not Being Properly Prepared
The most common issue do-it-yourselfers have when pouring concrete is not being thoroughly prepared. The process takes a lot more than getting the shovel out of the shed and clearing a spot. How ready that spot is to receive a ton of concrete determines everything.
Inexperienced DIY-ers tend to overlook many things—such as failing to use a plate compactor to pack the soil, not leveling the area adequately, or not setting up proper forms—the blocking that allows for a smooth, even pour. There are a lot of steps to pouring concrete property.
Not Having the Right Amount of Concrete
Another mistake homeowners make when pouring a concrete patio is underestimating how thick the slab needs to be. To make sure safety is maintained, a minimum thickness of any concrete patio is at least 4 inches. However, if it will bear heavy furniture or features, 6- to 8-inch thickness may be required. This is in addition to a 2- to 3-inch base of something like gravel, sand, or limestone.
In the end, you only get one pour. Err on the side of caution and order slightly more than enough. If you have extra bags, you can always return them.
Not Knowing the Type of Concrete You Need
There are literally thousands of types of concrete. What kind will you use to pour your patio? It’s all the same, right? Not really.
You might decide to pick up some quick-setting cement, low-heat cement, or sulfates-resisting cement. Should it be blast furnace slag, high alumina, or air entraining? These are just a few kinds of cement that serve different purposes. Whatever you choose, a strength of 4,000-4,500 psi (pounds per square inch) after a one-month cure is an important feature to keep in mind.
Failing to Set Up Proper Forms
A concrete form is a frame made of wood, in which the fluid concrete can be poured. These forms must be strong enough to hold the wet concrete in place and in its proper shape until it is dry and fully hardened.
Forms absolutely must have watertight joints to keep concrete from leaking out. They must also be rigid enough that the concrete can’t bow outward. Good formwork makes or breaks the performance of a slab of concrete. A bad concrete form is a recipe for a disastrous patio project.
Failing to Take Weather into Account
Warm days without rain are perfect for concrete pouring. Forecasts of extremely hot weather, freezing temperatures or rain are the worst times for a concrete pour. Here’s why:
Weather that is too hot will cause the cement to dry too quickly, ruining the curing process. If it’s too cold, this weakens the overall strength of the concrete. Rainy days are not advisable because the extra water interferes with the proper water-to-concrete ratio of any good concrete mix.
Bottom line: If the weather isn’t right, don’t try to squeeze the project in. Reschedule.
Mixing by Sight Alone
You don’t want to estimate the water-to-cement ratio of your concrete mix. If this delicate balance isn’t correct, you’ll undermine the concrete’s workability, setting time, strength, and durability. And as stated already, you really only get one shot at this, unless you want to spend twice the money and time.
Too much water in the mix leads to cracking, while too much cement can result in the concrete being impossible to pour and smooth out. Understand and precisely follow the instructions for the mixture you choose.
Overworking the Concrete
Concrete that is overworked before the bleed water has risen to the surface traps too much water in the mix, which weakens the slab and causes the concrete to become cracked. It can also cause too much fine material to settle close to the surface, marring the slab’s appearance.
Using the Wrong Tools
Strong, heavy-duty tools are absolutely a must when working with concrete. Using the wrong tools results in a shoddy-looking concrete slab.
Before mixing the concrete, have these tools ready: a pressure washer, safety goggles, a large wheelbarrow, an electric concrete mixer, a bull float to flatten the surface, a magnesium float for bumps, tools to create the concrete form, a broom, a brush, an edger, a finishing trowel, gloves and buckets.
Taking Insufficient Safety Precautions
Whenever taking on a serious DIY project, safety precautions should be considered. Pouring a concrete slab is a fairly safe process, but there are a few important steps to take to remain protected while mixing and pouring concrete. Wear long pants and sleeves. Use safety glasses and earplugs. Utilize alkali-resistant gloves and rubber boots.
Doing the Work Alone
Trying to pour and finish a concrete slab by yourself is the surest way to fail. Since you really don’t want to do it over, find as many friends and family members as possible to help you do the job. Do not start the job until you know for sure you’ve got people present to help.
Enjoy a Perfectly Poured Concrete Patio Year-Round
Take the stress out of home improvement and ensure a lovely, smooth patio surface by calling on our pros. We’ll make the process easy and help you choose a tint or stamp decoration to create a stunning, low-maintenance design you’re proud of. Contact R&M Concrete for a free consultation.