Concrete is a great material for pouring driveways, sidewalks, and backyard patios. However, when it is not properly installed, the concrete has a much shorter lifespan and you end up with cracks, crumbles, or shifts that compromise the strength and structural integrity of the concrete pad. Here are some tips that can help you make sure you're ready for the concrete truck when it comes.
Don’t Skimp on the Base
Concrete needs a nice, solid foundation to help support its weight on the ground. A base that is too thin or that is not properly compacted or leveled will result in poor concrete installation. Some people think they can save money by using less base material, but in reality, it should be several inches thick and nicely compacted before you pour any concrete at all. The best base materials are similar to road crush: they have a mix of rock and sand. The gravel provides strength and stability; the sand eliminates spaces of air and allows for a smooth finish.
Your base layer might need to be even thicker if you are pouring over soil that is normally very wet, clay-like, or loamy. These soils have pour drainage and shift around, so the more stable and thick your base, the more protected your concrete will be from shifting, unstable soil.
Compact the base as you slowly add layers. If you are working in dry conditions, using a mister to slightly dampen the material will help you get better compaction.
Secure Your Forms
Poured concrete needs forms to create the edges of the structure. For a pad, your forms will most likely take the shape of a square or rectangle. For forms with curves, you need to be certain that they are secure. The force of the pouring concrete will place a lot of stress on the perimeter forms. Drive form stakes deep into the ground, and make sure that you use stakes every couple of feet to prevent the forms from breaking when the concrete is poured.
You might be tempted to skip using rebar for your concrete if the poured area is small. However, reinforced concrete will last longer. Concrete can be brittle on its own. Adding steel bars provides added strength. Do not lay rebar directly on the ground; you want it running through the middle of the slab. Set the rebar up on spacers and do not allow people to walk over the rebar after it is set in place. You don't want it to bend before you begin pouring.
Don't worry, you don't have to do all of this on your own. For assistance, contact a professional like P & L Concrete Products Inc & Garden Center for more information.