A patio is an excellent addition to your house’s outdoors and increases the resale value of your property.
The best thing about concrete patios is that they’re relatively easy to pour, so you can do the job yourself and save labor costs, which can be a hefty sum.
In today’s guide, we’ll show you how to pour a concrete patio in a simple guide that walks you through each step of the way.
Additionally, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the process. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Pouring concrete yourself is much easier than many people think. However, aspects like laying out the area and assembling the form are critical for a successful build.
Here’s a brief guide that shows you how to perform these steps properly for clean results.
Concrete dries up much quicker than you think, so you have to prepare everything before pouring since you don’t have enough time for going back and forth beyond that point.
Here’s a simple list of all the necessary tools and materials you’d need for pouring a typical concrete patio:
- Shovel or rake
- Tape measure
- Nails with a Hammer or electric drill
- Bull float
- Magnesium float
- Wheelbarrow or concrete pump (optional)
- Respirator mask, goggles, and gloves (recommended for safety)
- Wood stakes
- Crushed gravel or rocks
- 2×4 lumber (depending on the size of the project)
- Concrete Mix and water
- Concrete mixer and pump (optional)
- Wire mesh (optional)
- Expansion joints (optional)
- Plastic sheet (optional)
The first thing you need to do is decide where you want to build a patio and how big it needs to be.
For beginners, it’s better to stick to standard rectangular or square-shaped designs while laying out the dimensions.
Make your calculations and lay out the perimeter where you want to build the patio using sting/wire and stakes.
You should also calculate comfortable legroom while you work on the project and keep underground utilities and local regulations in mind.
Using a shovel or a rake to remove the topsoil and sod from the work area. You should also evenly dig the area 4 inches deep for a slightly raised patio or 8 inches if you want it level with the ground.
Compact the exposed surface as much as possible, then add a layer of crushed gravel around 4 inches thick. Repeat the compacting process again to prevent cracks in the concrete due to uneven surfaces.
A layer of crushed gravel or rocks is absolutely necessary while pouring a concrete patio.
It creates a barrier between the concrete layer and the soil underneath. Moisture from the soil can erode the concrete slab and cause obvious cracks.
The crushed gravel also provides good drainage and allows water to seep slowly into the soil without pooling beneath the concrete.
Drive wooden stakes along the area intended for pouring, leaving a distance of 2 feet between each one.
Make sure that they’re deeply embedded into the ground for added stability. (wet concrete is very heavy and needs sturdy support).
The standard slope for a concrete patio is around 2% (1/8 inches per foot) away from the property.
However, it can be up to 1/4 inch per foot depending on the local codes, so make sure that you check them beforehand.
Cut the 2×4 to match the dimensions of the pouring frame. Adjust the alignment so that the inner length of the frame is exactly similar to the area of the patio.
Make sure that the 2x4s are stabilized while you nail them to the stakes to ensure their stability when the heavy concrete mix is poured.
Remember to also check the dimensions and angles of the form before you fully stabilize them to ensure that they’re the right dimensions.
Lastly, cut the excess height of the stakes and lightly grease the inner part of the form with a releasing agent like oil.
Rebar helps concrete retain its durability and prevent cracks by holding the concrete slab level under pressure.
Luckily, you don’t need to raise the rebar above the ground for simple slabs like concrete patios.
Instead, you only need to lay them out in a grid form so that they’re 2 to 3 feet apart and parallel to each other in each direction.
Now that the form is ready, it’s time to prepare the concrete and pour it right in (follow the package instructions).
Luckily, there’s a simple formula that can show you how much concrete you need for the project.
Multiply the length, width, and thickness of the intended patio (use the inner dimensions of the 2×4 as a reference), then divide the result by 27. This gives you the volume of concrete necessary in cubic yards.
You can either use a concrete mixer or do it manually. Also, you can transfer the concrete using a shovel and a wheelbarrow or using a concrete pump.
Now that the concrete is mixed and ready, you start pouring it directly inside the patio form. Speed is somewhat necessary so that all the concrete is poured evenly, so you might need the help of others while pouring to spread it out.
A wire mesh provides remarkable reinforcement for concrete to prevent cracking under pressure.
This is especially important if you’re going with thicker concrete to support a heavy structure, such as a hot tub or a pergola.
However, a wire mesh is an optional addition and isn’t necessary if the concrete grade is suitable for the project.
Ideally, you need to keep wet concrete away from moisture as much as possible so that it doesn’t mess with the composition of the concrete or change its texture.
For that reason, it’s best to avoid pouring concrete on rainy days and use a covering tarp or plastic sheets for the whole area if you can’t avoid it.
Now that you’ve poured the concrete into the form, you should use a flat piece of wood to spread it evenly and remove excess concrete.
Once the entire form is filled with wet concrete, you should run a bull float back and forth to smoothen the surface of the concrete and fill any lower parts evenly. You can also use a darby for hard-to-reach corners.
Some water may start floating during this step, which is perfectly fine, but you need to wait for it to evaporate after you’re done.
While this step is optional, it can massively improve the quality of the finished product by creating a curved edge.
For this, you’ll need to slide the edger carefully through the area between the form and the concrete, and run it across the edges.
If you’re planning to stamp the concrete or add a certain texture to it, this should be a good time before it fully cures.
Expansion joints are essential for preventing the concrete slab from cracking under immense pressure due to temperature changes.
As a general rule, you should multiply the thickness of the concrete slab by 30. The result is how far (in inches) you should space the expansion joints apart.
If you want to skip the math, you need to make these joints around 8 to 10 feet apart. If the slab is smaller than 8 to 10 feet across from any direction, you can get away without creating one.
You should now wait for the concrete to cure. This should take around 24 to 48 hours. To reduce cracks, allow the concrete to lose moisture slowly.
A good trick to achieve this is to cover the slab with a plastic sheet. This also protects the slab from dust and the elements of weather as it cures.
You can easily pour concrete over an existing patio if you want to renew it. However, the old concrete needs to be in a good condition to handle the weight of an extra layer so that the new one retains an even surface.
It’s typically best to pour all the concrete at once. However, if the project is too big, you can pour it into sections.
However, you must use the same concrete mix and keep all other conditions similar for a uniform curing time.
You can pour concrete directly over dirt if it’s stable and dry enough. You should also make sure that the dirt is compacted as much as possible and provides enough barrier between the concrete and any underwater moisture.
You shouldn’t pour concrete over grass because it doesn’t have the compactness necessary to support it.
Also, grass has a high moisture level, which can compromise the sturdiness of concrete, so it’ll end up cracking easily under slight pressure.
Footings provide a durable foundation for building with concrete. Although they can massively enhance the durability of concrete slabs, you typically don’t need them for a patio since the concrete isn’t subjected to immense pressure.
There you have it! A brief guide that shows you how to pour a concrete patio in simple and easy-to-follow steps.
As you can see, pouring a concrete patio shouldn’t be a difficult job if you have intermediate-level DIY skills.
Remember, the curing process is as important as the other steps and has a huge impact on the final result, so make sure that you don’t rush the process to avoid chips and cracks.
Also, allow the concrete to cure for an extra 20 to 30 days before you stain or paint it so that it’s completely dried up to the core.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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