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Have forms been treated with a release agent? Have any required permits to block the sidewalk or street been obtained? Ask your concrete supplier for more information. Has a path from the truck parking spot to the project been cleared? Have you constructed a ramp for wheelbarrows to scale forms and get inside project area where required? Have you confirmed the delivery time, amounts, and type of concrete with the readymix supplier?
The actual costs of buying bagged concrete or having concrete mixed and delivered to your site can be hard to predict. Like gasoline or plywood, concrete is a commodity and is subject to fairly wild price fluctuations as market conditions change. The costs also vary quite a bit regionally and seasonally. But for the sake of comparison, here are the results of some recent price shopping quotes obtained on the same day in the same city , along with some notes on each method.
If you are pouring footings or if your project is broken up into smaller sections, you may be able to mix the concrete by hand, especially if you halve the mixing time by recruiting a helper and an extra wheelbarrow. But for large slabs and walls, hand mixing is too slow. You will not get consistency of water content, which can lead to cracking along seams between batches.
Tooling also works better if you can finish the whole project at one time. A larger gas-powered mixer that can handle three pound bags will yield two cubic feet of mixed concrete in about five minutes. High-strength and fast-setting concrete cost about twice as much as general-purpose, and special purpose mixtures, such as countertop, concrete can cost five times as much. A concrete mixer on board a concrete truck turns continually, so road vibration does not create a problem.
But in a trailer, separation of the liquid and the heavier solids will occur during transport, weakening the concrete. If you need to haul the concrete more than 10 or 15 miles, a trailer is not recommended. Adding tint to the mixture can result in a surcharge of 50 percent or more, however. Others prefer to stay in their climate-controlled cabs. Follow the instructions carefully and take note of exactly how much water you add so the concrete will be uniform from one batch to the next. Never mix less than a full bag, however, since key ingredients may have settled to the bottom.
For smaller projects, mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow or mortar box.
For larger projects, rent or buy a power mixer. Be aware that most power mixers should not be filled more than half full. When mixing concrete, the more water you add, the weaker the concrete will become. Properly mixed concrete is damp enough to form in your hand when you squeeze and dry enough to hold its shape.
If the mixture is too dry, the aggregate will be difficult to work and will not smooth out easily to produce an even, finished appearance. A wet mixture will slide off the trowel and may cause cracking and other defects in the finished surface. Form a hollow in the mound of dry mix, and then pour water into the hollow. Clear out any dry pockets from the corners. Do not overwork the mix.
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Also, keep track of how much water you use in the first batch so you will have a reliable guideline for subsequent batches. Pour in half the water. Before you start power-mixing, carefully review the operating instructions for the mixer. Add all of the dry ingredients, and then mix for 1 minute. Pour in water as needed until the proper consistency is achieved and mix for 3 to 5 minutes.
Pivot the mixing drum to empty the concrete into a wheelbarrow. Rinse out the drum immediately. Once the surface is smooth and level, control joints are cut and the edges are rounded. Special attention to detail in these steps will result in a professional appearance. Be sure to apply a release agent before pouring the concrete. Experiment with sand or dry mix to find a comfortable, controllable volume.
This also helps you get a feel for how many wheelbarrow loads it will take to complete your project. Make sure to plan ahead to create access for wheelbarrows or ready-mix trucks, and get all of the help you can round up for the actual pour. Lay planks over the forms to make a ramp for the wheelbarrow.
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Avoid disturbing the building site by using ramp supports. Make sure you have a flat, stable surface between the concrete source and the forms. Clear a path from the source to the site. Always load wheelbarrows from the front; loading from the side can cause tipping. Do not pour more concrete than you can tool at one time. Monitor the concrete surface to make sure it does not harden too much before you can start tooling.
Start at the farthest point from the concrete source, and work your way back. Pour so concrete is a few inches above the tops of the forms. Work the concrete with a hoe until it is fairly flat, and the surface is slightly above the top of the forms. Remove excess concrete from the project area with a shovel. Avoid overworking the concrete and take care not to disturb reinforcement.
This will help settle the concrete. Move the board in a sawing motion, and keep it flat as you work. If screeding leaves valleys in the surface, add fresh concrete in the low areas and screed them to level. This action draws finer aggregates in the concrete against the forms, creating a smoother surface on the sides. This is especially important when building steps. For larger pours, rent a concrete vibrator for this job inset.
Float with the leading edge of the tool tipped up, and stop floating as soon as the surface is smooth so you do not overwork the concrete. You may need to make several passes to create a smooth control joint. Avoid digging into the concrete surface with the flat edges of the tool. Smooth out tool marks with a float once the joint is cut. When concrete is poured, the heavy materials gradually sink, leaving a thin layer of water—known as bleed water—on the surface. Otherwise, crazing, spalling, and other flaws are likely. Stop floating if a sheen appears and resume when it is gone. Shape concrete with an edging tool, smoothing between the forms and concrete to create a finished appearance.
Make several passes if necessary and use a float to smooth out any marks left by the groover or edger. Note: Cutting a radiused profile in the edges also prevents concrete from cracking and chipping. Note: Bleed water may not appear with air-entrained concrete, which is used in regions where temperatures often fall below freezing. Creating the final finish may be as simple as troweling the surface and letting it dry. Or, you may choose to do something a little more decorative, such as an acid stain, a broomed antiskid surface, or exposed aggregate. Some of the fancier finishes you can do with concrete are covered in the Decorative Masonry Finishing chapter.
Once the fresh concrete has been edged and the control joints have been cut, it needs to dry for a period of time before any surface finishing, such as brooming or exposing aggregate, can be done. After that, it should dry overnight before any forms are removed. Finally, it should cure for three to seven days, or even longer depending on the type of concrete, the conditions, and the nature of the project.
Traditionally, concrete is covered with burlap or sheet plastic for the drying and curing phases, and the surface is dampened a couple of times a day to slow down the process. Concrete that dries too fast can crack. However, most professionals today have recognized that covering the concrete often causes more problems than it prevents. So they are less likely to cover the concrete, preferring instead to treat it with a curing or sealing agent once it sets up, or simply to let it dry naturally in the open air.
Wait until concrete is firm to the touch to achieve a finer texture and a more weather-resistant surface. Make sure all strokes are made in the same direction and avoid overlapping. This effect helps the concrete surface blend 1 Place the concrete. After smoothing the surface with a screed board, let any bleed water disappear; then spread clean, washed aggregate evenly with a shovel or by hand.
Spread smaller aggregate up to 1" in dia. Let concrete set for 30 to 60 minutes, and then mist a section of the surface and scrub with a brush to remove the concrete covering the aggregate. If brushing dislodges some of the stones, reset them and try again later. When you can scrub without dislodging stones, mist and scrub the entire surface to expose the aggregate.
Rinse clean. Do not let the concrete dry too long, or it will be difficult to scrub off. Chose from a wide variety of decorative aggregate to achieve different finishes. Do not overfloat. If bleed water appears, stop floating and let it dry before completing the step. If you are seeding a large area, cover it with plastic to keep the concrete from hardening too quickly. If a residue remains, try scrubbing it clean. If scrubbing is ineffective, wash the surface with a muriatic acid solution, and then rinse immediately and thoroughly with water. The basic steps include the following: 1.
Lay out the project using stakes and strings. Clear the project area and remove the sod. Excavate the site to allow for a sub-base and footings if necessary and concrete. Lay a sub-base for drainage and stability and pour footings if necessary. Build and install reinforced wood forms. Proper site preparation depends on the project and site. Plan on a sub-base of compactible gravel. Some projects require footings that extend past the frost line, while others, such as sidewalks, do not.
Consult your local building inspector about the specific requirements of your project. If your yard slopes more than one inch per foot, you may need to add or remove soil to level the surface. A landscape engineer or building inspector can advise you on how to prepare a sloping project site. Patience and attention to detail when excavating, building forms, and establishing a sub-base help ensure that your finished project is level and stable and will last for many years.
First, drive stakes at each end of the project area. At each stake, measure from the string to the ground. The difference between the measurements in inches divided by the distance between stakes in feet will give you the slope in inches per foot. If the slope is greater than 1" per foot, you may need to regrade the site.
Sandy or loose soil may require amending; consult a landscape engineer. For most building projects, pour a layer of compactable gravel about 4 to 6" thick, and use a tamper to compress it to 4". The board creates an isolation joint, allowing the structures to move independently and minimizing the risk of damage. Lay out a rough project outline with a rope or hose. To create the actual layout, begin by driving wood stakes near each corner of the rough layout.
The goal is to arrange the stakes so they are outside the actual project area, but in alignment with the borders of the project. Where possible, use two stakes set back 1 ft. Note: In projects built next to permanent structures, the structure will define one project side. The strings should follow the actual project outlines. To make sure the strings are square, use the triangle method: Measure and mark points 3 ft. Measure between the points, and adjust the positions of the strings until the distance between the points is exactly 5 ft.
A helper will make this easier. Check all corners with the method, and adjust until the entire project area is exactly square. This can be a lengthy process with plenty of trial and error, but it is very important to the success of the project, especially if you plan to build on the concrete surface. Adjust the string up or down as necessary until it is level. Adjust the other strings until they are level, making sure that intersecting strings contact one another.
This ensures that they are all at the same height relative to ground level. Most concrete surfaces should have a slight slope to direct water runoff, especially if the surface is near your house. For example, if the stakes were 10 ft. Start excavating by removing the sod. Use a sod cutter if you wish to reuse the sod elsewhere in your yard lay the sod as soon as possible.
Otherwise, use a square-end spade to cut away sod. You may need to remove the strings temporarily for this step. First, measure down to ground level from the high end of a slope line. Mark the total distance on the story pole, measuring from one end. Remove soil from the site with a spade. Use the story pole to make sure the bottom of the site is consistent the same distance from the slope line at all points as you dig. Check points at the center of the site using a straightedge and a level placed on top of the soil.
Pour a 5"-thick layer of compactable gravel in the project site, and tamp until the gravel is even and compressed to 4" in depth. Note: The sub-base should extend at least 6" beyond the project outline. Starting with the longest form board, position the boards so the inside edges are directly below the strings. Set a level so it spans the staked side of the form and the opposite form board, and use the level as a guide as you stake the second form board so it is level with the first.
Trim one end of each stake to a sharp point. Drive the stakes at 3-ft. Use the earth as a form when building flexible sheet stock attached at the inside corners of a footings for poured concrete building projects. Use form frame. Use bolt cutters to cut wire mesh. Overlap joints in rebar by at least 12", and then bind the ends together with heavy-gauge wire. Overlap seams in wire mesh reinforcement by 12".
Leave at least 1" of clearance between the forms and the edges or ends of metal reinforcement. Use bolsters or small chunks of concrete to raise remesh reinforcement off the sub-base, but make sure it is at least 2" below the tops of the forms. Some take the always-overbuild approach and set every post in concrete that extends a foot past the frost line.
Others prefer the adjustability and improved drainage you get when setting posts in packed sand or gravel. The posts may be set all at once, prior to installing the stringers and siding; or, they may be set one-at-a-time in a build-as-you-go approach.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to set posts in concrete comes down to weight of the panels, as well as where they fall in the fence layout. At the very least, gate posts and corner posts should be set into concrete. Then, you can lay the fence section or sections in place and mark post locations exactly where the posts will hit. Level and brace the structure and fill in the concrete.
These chemicals may be applied with a brush or, if you are setting a lot of posts, by dipping them directly into a container. Most wood preservatives are quite toxic so follow all safety precautions and handling recommendations. Use a posthole digger for most of the digging and a digging bar to dislodge rocks and loosen compacted soil. Attach wood braces to two adjacent faces of the post. Check for plumb, then drive a stake into the ground near the end of each brace, and attach the ends of the braces to the stakes.
Pour 6" of loose gravel into the bottom of the hole to create drainage. Tamp the gravel, using a hand tamper or wood post. TIP: Mask the post temporarily with waxed paper before adding concrete to protect the wood from discoloration and staining. Use a small trowel to smooth the concrete and form a slight crown. Check local codes to determine the size and depth of pier footings required in your area. In cold climates, footings must be deeper than the soil frost line. To help protect posts from water damage, each footing should be poured so that it is 2" above ground level.
Tube-shaped forms let you extend the footings above ground level. As an alternative to inserting J-bolts into wet concrete, you can use masonry anchors or install anchor bolts with an epoxy designed for masonry installations. Before digging, consult local utilities for the location of any underground electrical, telephone, or water lines that might interfere with footings.
Pour 4 to 6" of gravel in the bottom for drainage, and then cut and insert the tube, leaving about 2" of tube above ground level. Pack soil around tubes to hold them in place. Fill about half of the form. Use a long board to tamp the concrete, filling any air gaps in the footing. Then finish pouring and tamping concrete into the form. Add concrete to any low spots. Brush away any wet concrete on the bolt threads. If necessary, adjust the bolt and repack concrete.
Let concrete dry, and then cut away exposed portion of tube with a utility knife optional. Locate the bolt locations and drill using a hammer drill and masonry bit sized to match the rod diameter. After drilling, clean out debris from the hole using a shop vac. Inject epoxy into hole using the mixing syringe provided by the manufacturer.
Use enough epoxy so a small amount is forced from the hole when the rod is fully inserted. Insert the rod immediately; epoxy begins to harden as soon as it is injected. Check the height of the rod, and then allow the epoxy to cure for 16 to 24 hours. If necessary, trim the rod using a reciprocating saw with a metal-cutting blade.
They distribute the weight of the structure evenly, prevent sinking, and keep structures from moving during seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. The required depth of a footing is usually determined by the frost line, which varies by region. The frost line is the point nearest ground level where the soil does not freeze. In colder climates, it is likely to be 48 inches or deeper.
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Frost footings footings designed to keep structures from moving during freezing temperatures should extend 12 inches below the frost line. Your local building inspector can tell you the frost line depth for your area. Footings are required by building code for concrete, stone, brick, and block structures that adjoin other permanent structures or that exceed the height specified by local codes. Frost footings extend 8 to 12" below the frost line.
Slab footings, which are typically 8" thick, may be recommended for low, freestanding structures built using mortar or poured concrete. Before starting your project, ask a building inspector about footing recommendations and requirements for your area. Footings also should extend at least 12 inches past the ends of the project area. Add two tie rods if you will be pouring concrete over the footing.
After the concrete sets up, press inch pieces of rebar six inches into the concrete. The tie-rods will anchor the footing to the structure it supports. Strip sod from around the project area, and then strike off the concrete with a screed board resting on the earth at the edges of the top of the trench. Shown cut away For brick, block, and stone, build level, recessed wood forms.
Rest the screed board on the frames when you strike off the concrete to create a flat, even surface for stacking masonry units. They also should extend at least 12" past the ends of the project area. Add tie-rods if you will be pouring concrete over the footing. After the concrete sets up, press 12" sections of rebar 6" into the concrete. Stake the form in place and adjust to level.
For each grid, cut two pieces of 3 rebar 8" shorter than the length of the footing and two pieces 4" shorter than the depth of the footing. Bind the pieces together with gauge wire, forming a rectangle. Set the rebar grids upright in the trench, leaving 4" of space between the grids and the walls of the trench. Coat the inside edge of the form with vegetable oil or commercial release agent. Float the concrete until it is smooth and level. Remove the forms and backfill around the edges of the footing. The basic elements and construction steps of a walkway are similar to those of a poured concrete patio or other landscape slab, but the smaller scale of a walkway makes it a much more manageable project for first-timers.
Placing the wet concrete goes faster and you can easily reach the center of the surface for finishing from either side of the walkway. Like a patio slab, a poured concrete walkway also makes a good foundation for mortared surface materials, such as pavers, stone, and tile. A coarse broomed or scratched finish on the concrete will help create a strong bond with the mortar bed of the surface material. The walkway in this project is a four-inch-thick by inch-wide concrete slab with a relatively fine broom finish for providing slip resistance in wet weather.
It consists of two straight, footlong runs connected by a degree elbow. After curing, the walkway can be left bare for a classic, low-maintenance surface, or it can be colored with a permanent acid stain, and can be sealed or left unsealed, as desired. The flat, hardwearing surface is ideal for frequently traveled paths and will stand up to heavy equipment and decades of snow shoveling. Always slope the surface away from the house foundation or, when not near the house, toward the area best suited to accept water runoff. Crowned slope: When a walkway does not run near the house foundation, you have the option of crowning the surface so it slopes down to both sides.
Use the board to screed the concrete see step 7, page For a 3-ft. Bend the rebar as needed to follow curves or angles. Overlap pieces by 12" and tie them together with tie wire. Begin the excavation by cutting away the sod or other plantings 6" beyond the layout lines on all sides of the site.
Measure the depth with a story pole against the high-side layout strings, and then use a slope gauge to grade the slope. Tamp the soil thoroughly with a plate compactor. Add 4" or more of gravel and screed the surface flat, checking with a slope gauge to set the proper grade. Compact the gravel so the top surface is 4" below the finished walkway height.
Reset the layout strings at the precise height of the finished walkway. Align the form with the layout strings, and then drive stakes at each corner and every 2 to 3 ft. Fasten the form to the stakes so the top inside corners of the form boards are just touching the layout strings. The tops of the stakes should be just below the tops of the form. Overlap the mesh strips by 6" one square and tie them together with tie wire.
Install isolation board see page 37 where the walkway adjoins other slabs or structures. Secure curved strips by screwing them to wood stakes. Recheck the gravel bed inside the concrete form, making sure it is smooth and properly sloped.
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As you fill, stab into the concrete with the shovel, and tap a hammer against the back sides of the form to eliminate air pockets. Continue until the form is evenly filled, slightly above the tops of the form. As you work, shovel in extra concrete to fill low spots or remove concrete from high spots, and re-screed.
Tip up the leading edge of the tool slightly to prevent gouging. Stop floating once the surface is relatively smooth and has a wet sheen. Be careful not to overfloat, indicated by water pooling on the surface. Allow the bleed water to disappear and the concrete to harden sufficiently see page Carefully run the edger back and forth along the form to create a smooth, rounded corner, lifting the leading edge of the tool slightly to prevent gouging. Starting at the far side edge of the walkway, steadily drag a broom backward over the surface in a straight line, using a single pulling motion.
Repeat in single, parallel passes with minimal or no overlap , and rinse off the broom bristles after each pass. The stiffer and coarser the broom, the rougher the texture will be. Make several light passes back and forth until the groove reaches full depth, lifting the leading edge of the tool to prevent gouging. Remove the guide board once each joint is complete. Smooth out the tool marks with a trowel or float.
Smooth out any air pockets which can cause discoloration , and weight down the sheeting along the edges. Mist the surface and reapply the plastic daily for a few days. As long as the design meets safety guidelines, you can adjust elements such as the landing depth and the dimensions of the steps. Sketching your plan on paper will make the job easier. The single-wall plywood forms seen here are sufficient for stairs of this size, but if the scale of your project is larger, add a second layer to each side prevent bowing or blow-out. Before demolishing your old steps, measure them to see if they meet safety guidelines.
If so, you can use them as a reference for your new steps. If not, start from scratch so your new steps do not repeat any design errors. Ask a building inspector about other requirements. And if your old steps are unstable, replacing them with concrete steps that have a non-skid surface will create a safer living environment.
Drive a stake where you want the base of the bottom step to fall. Attach the other end of the string to the stake and use a line level to level it. Measure the length of the string—this distance is the overall depth, or run, of the steps. Divide the overall rise by the estimated number of steps.
The rise of each step should be between 6" and 8". For example, if the overall rise is 21" and you plan to build three steps, the rise of each step would be 7" 21 divided by 3 , which falls within the recommended safety range for riser height. The landing depth plus the depth of each step should fit within the overall run of the steps.
If necessary, you can increase the overall run by moving the stake at the planned base of the steps away from the house, or by increasing the depth of the landing. Tread depth 10" — 12" Overall run Sketch a detailed plan for the steps, keeping these guidelines in mind: Each step should be 10 to 12" deep, with a riser height between 6 and 8", and the landing should be at least 12" deeper than the swing radius width of your door.
Adjust the parts of the steps as needed, but stay within the given ranges. Creating a final sketch will take time, but it is worth doing carefully. Wear protective gear, including eye protection and gloves, when demolishing concrete. Tip: A rental jackhammer can shave hours of hard labor from demolishing concrete steps.
Level and smooth the concrete with a screed board. You do not need to float the surface afterwards. Dig 12"-wide trenches to the required depth for footings. Locate the trenches perpendicular to the foundation, spaced so the footings will extend 3" beyond the outside edges of the steps. Install rebar grids page 59 for reinforcement. Affix isolation boards to the foundation wall inside each trench using a few dabs of construction adhesive 12" below the permanent frost line.
Leave 1 ft. Pour in a 5"-thick layer of compactable gravel sub-base and tamp until it is level with the footings. Cut out the forms along the cutting lines using a jigsaw. Save time by clamping two pieces of plywood together and cutting both side forms at the same time. Bevel the bottom edges of the boards when cutting to create clearance for the float at the back edges of the steps.
Check to make sure all corners are square. Cut an isolation board and glue it to the house foundation at the back of the project area. Set the form onto the footings, flush against the isolation board. Stack the fill carefully, keeping it 6" away from the sides, back, and top edges of the form. Shovel smaller fragments onto the pile to fill the void areas. This conserves new concrete. Keep rebar at least 2" below the top of the forms. Mist the forms and the rubble with water. Mix concrete and pour steps one at a time, beginning at the bottom.
Settle and smooth the concrete with a screed board. Press rebar into the nose of each step. Keep an eye on the poured concrete as you work, and stop to float any concrete as soon as the bleed water disappears. Otherwise, choose railings with surface-mounted hardware see step 16 that can be attached after the steps are completed.
Float the surface. Finish by brushing with a stiffbristled broom for maximum traction. Remove the forms as soon as the surface is firm to the touch, usually within several hours. Smooth rough edges with a float. Add concrete to fill any holes. If forms are removed later, more patching may be required. Backfill the area around the base of the steps, and seal the concrete. Install a railing. In short, you want steps to be durable. And when it comes to durability, poured concrete is virtually impossible to beat.
Building entryway steps can be a relatively simple landscaping project or it can be a fairly complex home remodeling project involving structural engineers and building permits. The key variables are the total height and whether or not the steps are connected to a permanent structure with a frost footing. If your project is simply two or three concrete steps that solve a slope problem in your yard, the standards are relatively low and you can probably accomplish the project in an afternoon with a couple bags of concrete mix and some gravel.
But if your new concrete steps will include three or more risers and will serve as the entryway to your house, then you are looking at a fairly major concrete project. The concrete steps seen here require enough concrete to make pouring them a fairly big undertaking, but because the structures they are integrated with are a retaining wall and a sandset paver walkway, a full concrete footing that extends beyond the frost line is not required. If they are freestanding not attached to a house , they normally do not require a frost footing. Wood steps, such as the railroad-tie steps seen here, generally can be pried out with a sturdy spud bar.
Note: Before you do any digging, contact your local utilities to have underground lines identified and flagged. The base should extend at least 6" beyond the area where the forms will be located. For larger steps you may find it worth your time to rent a small backhoe or hire an excavation contractor to dig out for the project. This type of rock is not compactable, but you can settle it somewhat by working it with a bow rake. Daniel Wright's uses easy-to-follow step-by-step photographs and unique projects to demonstrate many exciting methods and traditional ways of woodburning to create myriad patterns, pictures and motifs including landscapes, trees, flowers, animals and buildings.
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