Concrete slab patios can be one of the best ways to upgrade your outdoor space, whether you’re living in the home, renting it out or looking to sell. Concrete slab patios are smooth and flat, making them suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities and easy to arrange garden furniture on. And unlike gravel patios, concrete is easy to keep clean and won’t leave you tracking grit into the house on your shoes. It’s far less likely to end up covered in weeds and unlike paver and stone patios, it won’t change much with the seasons. And, the best part is that if you want to do it yourself, concrete is often much cheaper and easier to work with than stone, brick and other hard patio surface options.
What Are the Challenges?
While concrete makes for great patio material, there are some challenges to deal with – mainly the concrete itself. Concrete will harden no matter what once it is mixed, so it’s important that you put in a lot of preparation and are able to work quickly. Before you get to mixing your concrete, making sure that you have all your tools to hand and that all forms are well-secured is a must. And, you’ll need to wait for the concrete to set properly after it is poured and screed before you can start the final finishing touches.
Getting the Right Amount of Concrete
Getting the right amount of concrete might be another challenge that you’ll need to face when revamping your patio. The last thing you want is to find yourself half-way through the job without enough concrete to finish it, so be sure to measure the space that you have and use a concrete mix calculator to figure out exactly how much you will need. Once you’ve got a figure from the concrete calculator, it’s a wise idea to get a little extra just in case you need it. Mixit.co.uk has an excellent concrete/screed calculator so that you can determine exactly how much of each material that you’ll need for the job before you get started.
When’s the Best Time to Do It?
Concrete is a fairly versatile material and you can pour it in a range of temperatures, but if you’re new to working with concrete, the easiest time of year to get the job done is when the weather is dry and warm. Freezing temperatures can seriously ruin your entire concrete slab, rain is never nice to work in, and it can wreak havoc with your finish. If you’re working during the summer and the weather is very hot and dry, you might want to use shade to make sure that the concrete is kept out of the direct sunlight. Keep a spray bottle on hand to mist the concrete and prevent curing.
Preparing Your Site
Before you begin mixing and pouring the concrete, you will need to prepare the location that you have chosen for your patio. If the ground is not level, you may need to regrade the area. Even if the ground doesn’t look unlevel at first glance, don’t rely on your eyesight alone. Test it by driving stakes into the ground around the project area and attaching mason strings between them before using a line level to ensure that the strings are running at consistent lengths. Take measurements from the ground to the string at each stake and note any differences between stakes. If there is a difference of more than one inch per foot, you will need to grade the area before you can start pouring concrete.
Mixing Your Concrete
You can mix concrete in two ways, either by hand or using a mixer.
By hand: Mixing concrete by hand is typically only possible if you are working with a small amount. It’s prepared by mixing the powder methodically and thoroughly with water until it is of an even consistently; it shouldn’t be either too dry or too wet. The concrete powder will usually come with instructions on the packaging as to how much water to use.
Using a mixer: Using a mixer is ideal for large amounts of concrete and the most common way for a concrete slab patio. Begin by pouring around a quarter of a bucket of water into the mixer and add sand, aggregate and cement according to instructions. You may need to periodically check the mix to see if more water is needed before adding the rest of your sand, aggregate and water if you need it. Watch the mix to determine the consistently; you may need to add more cement and aggregate if it gets too sloppy.
If you are looking to upgrade your outdoor space on a budget and do it yourself, a concrete patio can be an inexpensive DIY project to try.