Although it may be tempting to roll up your sleeves, mix up some concrete and tackle a concrete project yourself to save money, you will likely spend most of your time preparing for the project.
From planning a complete and realistic budget to considering help from professional concrete contractors for certain steps of the project to making sure your project is allowed by the local permitting office, there’s a lot to do before you start mixing up that gray matter!
Here are eight “to-do” items to consider:
Regardless of the project — whether you’re pouring a concrete driveway or patio, indoor concrete floor or forming up concrete bricks for borders for planters — check to see if and what permits you may need to comply with municipal building regulations. In this case, it’s better to ask permission than forgiveness.
2. Outdoor Reconnaissance
If your DIY concrete project requires digging outdoors, call 811 to contact your local Before You Dig center to schedule a residential visit. This free service will send an expert out to mark any underground utility lines that could otherwise be damaged or destroyed.
If you are inexperienced in leveling soil, hire a professional excavator to level the ground before you plan or construct the wooden framing for your project.
After securing proper permitting and having any outdoor areas marked for utilities to avoid, measure out the length, width, and depth of your project. Use a handy online concrete pad calculator to calculate how many pounds of concrete you’ll need to buy.
Armed with measurements, price out the concrete mix and other supplies and tools you’ll need. Check what you have on hand before spending a lot of money on shovels, trowels, stakes, string, a saw and framing wood.
5. Strong, Level Foundation
If you’re pouring concrete into an outdoor slab and you don’t have naturally sandy soil as a base for your residential project, you will likely need to purchase gravel to create a stable foundation to prevent shifting and cracking.
Before pouring, you’ll need to be prepared to build a wooden form for your project. For a typical concrete slab, this guide from doityourself.com should help. There are also a wealth of YouTube video tutorials available for do-it-yourselfers.
7. Spacing Joints or Reinforcements
For small concrete projects, joints or steel rebar reinforcement aren’t necessary. But you’ll want to plan for a few control joints if you’re pouring a concrete slab, to help prevent unsightly cracks that may develop over time.
Joints can be scored into concrete after it has dried or added after you’ve poured the concrete and done your first floating and smoothing pass.
If you’re planning on pouring a large, thick slab like a driveway, consult with an expert about rebar reinforcement. Plan before you pour to ensure you have the how-to knowledge and proper tools on hand or have hired a contractor.
You’ll want to plan ahead when budgeting on the cost of this step.
Finishing treatments such as stains, dyes or sealants can create both a wow factor and extend the longevity of your residential concrete pour. There are several affordable decorative concrete techniques you can apply to dried concrete, but you’ll definitely want to factor them in before you pour if you’re on a tight budget.
If the technique you want seems too advanced, get quotes from contractors specializing in concrete finishing and budget to have an expert do it for you.