A patio is one of the most common additions to the American backyard, and for good reason. Placed directly up against the home, a patio provides a place for leisure in the outdoors, without the risk of dirtying one’s clothes in the grass and dirt. Patios can come in many styles and materials, but chief among them is Concrete.

Why Choose Concrete for your patio?

A patio can be built with all sorts of materials, including wood and stones, however, no other material compares to concrete. A concrete patio holds up well under extremely harsh weather or conditions. In heavy rain, a wood patio runs the risk of beginning to rot away over time, causing splintering, which is less than ideal for bare feet in the summertime. In addition to splintering, mild rot is a beacon for bugs and mites to move in, further destroying the wood patio and making enjoying it difficult. A stone patio can erode under these same conditions. Not to mention, both of these options have many gaps inherent in their construction, meaning grass and weeds are prone to pop up in these many gaps, leaving the homeowner with another shore to keep up on.

However, a concrete patio does not suffer from these detriments. Concrete is sealed, and unlikely to crack over time, meaning the only grass and weeds to deal with would appear on the outer edges or seams, and the concrete will not erode in harsh rainfall. Concrete is ideal for keeping a beautiful outdoor living space, with minimal maintenance.

One may consider these practical reasons to go with concrete, but not be convinced, as they see concrete as bland and not aesthetically pleasing. This could not be any further from the truth. Concrete’s versatility allows for it to come in a variety of colors and shapes. Concrete can be mixed with dyes to change its color to something more appropriate to go with the colors of the landscaping or home, and concrete can be stamped. Stamped concrete takes the other more usual flat top to a concrete slab, and imprints it with patterns mimicking that of laid down brickwork or tiles, without losing the practical benefits of a patio without cracks.

This is great and all, but what makes or breaks one’s choice in material is always cost. Once again, concrete wins out. Concrete is the cheapest material to build with, both as an amateur and when hiring experts. The low initial cost is in conjunction with the money one would save from expensive cleaning and maintenance over time. While wood or stone requires an in-depth look, and a deep clean, or sanding, or weeding, every few weeks, a concrete patio needs only a water hose, or power washer if you want to be particularly thorough. For a deep clean, concrete patio owners can invest in an inexpensive cleaner as well.

Concrete-Patio-Being-Leveled

Is this a DIY Job or a Job for an Expert?

Laying concrete is almost certainly a job for an expert. It doesn’t matter how handy one might be, if they have not laid concrete before, the potential to make a permanent mistake on the job, is usually too much of a risk for most. Now, while the job may be for experts, experts can only be made through trial, and especially error! The following are the steps to follow if you really want to lay that patio yourself:

Contact a concrete contractor

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Materials Needed

Materials
  • 2×6 or 2×8 inch lumber for forms
  • 1½”x1½”x18” wooden stakes (one for every 36” of form length plus one for each corner)
  • 3½” screws to build the form
  • Bagged concrete mix
  • Crushed stone or gravel
  • Concrete reinforcing fibers
  • Spray Paint
  • String and Stakes

Tools
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Handsaw
  • 48” level or laser level
  • Hammer
  • Power drill
  • Trowel
  • Broom
  • Portable cement mixer
  • Masonry cut-off saw

Steps to Pour Your Own Concrete Patio

Now that you are equipped with your arsenal of tools and materials ready, let’s begin:

Step 1: Mark Your Area

  • Using either spray paint or strings, mark out a path for the area the finished patio will take up.
  • Next, place stakes about 1 foot away from these corners, tying string to them in such a way that the string forms the patio shape, but the stakes are further away. This extra space will be used for forms, and for working around the area.

Step 2: Excavate the Area

  • Use a shovel, or your own preferred method of excavation, to dig up the sod and topsoil in the area around the patio to approximately 6 to 8 inches deep.
  • To avoid pooling of rain water, make sure to dig one eighth of an inch deeper, for every foot of patio length away from the house.
  • Be sure to also dig out 6 inches around the outside of the marked area.
  • Pour in about 2 inches of crushed stone/gravel and tamper it down. This provides a level working area, as well as space for water drainage.

Step 3: Build the Concrete Formwork

  • Join the 2×6 or 2×8 lumber to form the outer shape of the patio. Use 3 3½” screws at each corner. 
  • Be sure that the corners are square (assuming your patio will be rectangular), and stake the now squared corners into the ground to help it hold its shape and position. Be sure to add stakes along the outside of the form with string that marks a truly straight reference line, as lumber can often warp.
  • Once the Form is decidedly straight, use the 3½” screws to fasten the form to the stakes, locking it in place and in line with the string.
  • At this point use the handsaw to cut down the stake and make it flush with the top of the wood form, as you will be later pulling a flat piece of wood across the width of the form the level out the concrete.
  • Finally before mixing and laying concrete, lay in the reinforcement. Some use steel mesh, however ½” rebar in a 12”x16” grid works best. Place the reinforcement in the form,and remember to lift it up during pouring, so it’s about 2 inches off the bottom once hardened.

Step 4:  Pour and Finish Concrete

  • To determine how much concrete you need, follow this helpful formula: Thickness X Width X Length of patio in feet, divided by 27, equals the volume of concrete needed in cubic yards.
  • In a bucket with a concrete mixer paddle, or in a drum type concrete mixer, combine concrete mix, the prescribed amount of water necessary, and mix until a uniform mixture similar to cake batter consistency is made. If you choose to go with concrete reinforcing fibers, add them to the mixture.
  • Next pour the concrete into the form.
  • Grab a long section of wood, or any long stiff and straight object, long enough to reach all the way across the form. Draw this piece of wood across the top of the form, smoothening and pulling off any excess concrete.
  • Leave the concrete so that the surface water dries, but the concrete remains soft. Then use a trowel to further smooth the surface. You may also use a special trowel used for edges, to make your concrete resemble that of sidewalks.
  • Leave it to cure for at least three days, then remove the deck screws and dismantle the form. Backfill the areas the form took up with the soil dug away in step 1.
  • Finally, to combat cracks when the patio contracts and expands in different seasons, use a concrete cutting saw to cut control joints into your patio. A control joint cut should be about 1½” deep, and approximately 8-12 feet apart.

Is It Worth the Savings?

Using concrete as a whole is a great way to save money when installing a patio, however, installing it yourself is far too great a risk for it to truly be cost effective. The amount of money that would be spent collecting necessary tools and materials, as well as the time commitment, all combined with a concrete laying novice, does not bode well for a flawless patio installation. A concrete expert could come and do the whole job in a fraction of the time a novice would take, all with their own tool

Call Apex Concrete & Hauling Today!

The above tutorial really goes to show just how much goes into laying your own concrete, and the openings for disaster when a novice tries to do it themselves. A concrete patio will do everything you need it to, for a fraction of the cost of a wood or stone patio. It can be customized and laid in a way that perfectly suits your needs, and we here at Apex Concrete would be pleased to help you in laying your next concrete patio. Contact us today at (336) 900-6212 or, fill out our contact form down below, and we’ll get back to you soon!

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