It’s a hard-knock life—for outdoor concrete. Just consider the year-round punishment outdoor concrete surfaces take in the Western states:
Spring – April showers might bring May flowers, but what do they do to concrete patios, walkways and driveways? They bring the water that can create holes and swell the ground material under a slab, ultimately leading to sinking and cracking of unsealed concrete structures.
Summer – Extreme heat can worsen concrete cracks. And the sun’s ultraviolet rays can weaken unsealed concrete from the inside out.
Fall – Who doesn’t love the changing leaves? Concrete. That’s who. Along with the water-related damage that can come from autumn showers, fallen leaves can stain unsealed concrete.
Winter – The doozy of all seasons. Unsealed concrete suffers a slow and painful demise during the winter months. Freeze-thaw cycles are mostly to blame. Water enters concrete pores, then expands as the temperature plunges to freezing—creating cracks.
So what’s the solution to these yearlong outdoor concrete challenges? A quality exterior concrete sealer.
Exterior sealers can help protect outdoor concrete from water penetration, stains and corrosion. However, the wrong sealer can make concrete slippery. And some sealers even yellow with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Outdoor concrete is best protected with penetrating sealers. These, as the name implies, penetrate the pores of the concrete and form a chemical barrier that helps to protect it against ice, moisture, deicers, excess wear and more. Penetrating sealers won’t yellow or make the surface slippery. In fact, most won’t even change the surface appearance.
Film-forming sealers, on the other hand, create a protective barrier on the surface of the concrete. This is ideal for waterproofing and protecting concrete countertops, sinks and floors inside the home. However, this protective layer can be slippery when wet. Worse yet, epoxy, one type of film-forming sealer, can yellow in the sun.
So, for protecting exterior concrete, turn to penetrating sealers. There are two main categories of penetrating sealer, water- and solvent-based. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Read the manufacturers’ recommendations or speak with an expert to choose the best exterior concrete sealer for your given application. But, whether it’s water- or solvent-based, selecting a quality product within either category will help ensure your hard work is protected for the long haul, given that the sealer is properly maintained (more on that below).
Solvent-Based Penetrating Sealers
Solvent-based penetrating concrete sealers can provide long-lasting protection. Like water-based sealers, they often come premixed and can be applied to both fresh and existing concrete. However, because of the typically higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in solvent-based products than water-based concrete sealers, they are slowly being replaced by more environmentally friendly versions.
Water-Based Penetrating Sealers
W.R. Meadows INTRAGUARD, Creto DPS and MasterProtect H 400 are examples of easy-to-apply and maintain water-based penetrating sealers. They each use a blend of silane or calcium silicate crystals that form a hydrophobic barrier in concrete capillary pores. In simple terms, they form an environmentally-friendly, microscopic protective barrier to fend off water and harmful chemicals. Plus, unlike film-formers, penetrating sealers allow the concrete to breathe, which is vital in reducing substrate damage.
Applying concrete sealers to new or old concrete alike can help protect it from corrosion and premature wear. But, like most things, concrete sealer requires regular maintenance. Even light to moderate traffic areas should be resealed every three to five years. And frequent cleaning keeps outdoor concrete surfaces looking their best.
Choosing the right sealer for your application will help keep your concrete in the best condition possible, so you can enjoy it for years to come. Visit your local Intermountain Concrete Specialties location for any concrete help you need. With seven locations, from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
Once marginalized as an unsightly but necessary building material, concealed by flooring, drywall, or any other façade as quickly as possible, concrete has finally found its day in the sun with designers and homebuilders. It’s not uncommon to see exposed concrete floors and walls in modern homes and offices alike. In fact, some interior designers have moved to using concrete as the focal point in their designs.
And it’s hard to blame them. Concrete is a functional, practical, durable and beautiful product (in that postmodern, brutalism sense). It makes for a hard-to-beat surface for floors throughout a home.
But what’s the best way to clean interior concrete floors?
First, it’s important to know whether you’re dealing with sealed or unsealed concrete floors—as the cleaning method varies between these two surfaces. Interior concrete surfaces should be sealed with a film-forming sealer, rather than the penetrating sealers used on exterior surfaces. Not sure if your floors are sealed? It’s easy to test for sealer. Simply pour a small amount of water on the surface. If the water beads up and doesn’t soak into the concrete after a couple of minutes, you know it’s sealed.
Sealers create a protective, nonporous surface on top of the concrete. So, cleaning sealed concrete is straightforward and easy—much like the other floors in your home.
Simply sweep or vacuum up dust and loose debris off the floor. Then, mix one gallon of water with 1/8 cup of mild liquid dish soap and mop the floor with the solution. Proceed with caution, as the floor will likely be slippery. Rinse out the bucket and mop, then refill the bucket with plain warm water and mop again to rinse off any leftover residue. Let the floor air dry. Steer clear of harsh cleaners, which can break down the sealer over time.
Make sure to reapply sealer per the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure your floors stay looking great for the long haul. This timeframe can differ drastically from product to product, but a general rule of thumb is that you should start looking into reapplying interior film-forming sealers after about five years. It may be helpful to talk with an experienced concrete professional to help you determine when it may be time to recoat.
Unsealed concrete is porous, which makes it susceptible to stains and wear. Therefore, it’s important to act quickly if anything is spilled onto the floor. Clean accidents up with a wet rag as soon as possible to avoid staining.
For day-to-day cleaning, go about it much the same way as described in the process for sealed concrete floors. Sweep or vacuum up dirt, dust and debris first. Mop a mixture of mild dish soap (1/8 cup) and warm water (one gallon) across the floor. Then, rinse with clean water and let the floor thoroughly air dry.
Attacking stains and stubborn messes takes a more concerted effort. Most stains won’t simply scrub away—although you can always try removing the stain with a mixture of dish soap and hot (or boiling) water and a stiff-bristled, nylon brush before going on to more aggressive approaches. If the dish soap and water mixture fails, you’ll need to “pull” the stain out of the concrete. Mix trisodium phosphate (TSP) with water and an absorbent material, such as kitty litter or sawdust, to create a smooth paste. Apply the mixture to the stain and wait until the paste dries. Then, sweep or vacuum it away. One application may not get rid of the entire stain, so patience and repeating the process may be necessary.
Be careful when working with TSP. Wear gloves and a long-sleeve shirt. Safety glasses and a respiratory mask are also recommended. When working indoors with TSP, make sure there’s adequate ventilation. Also, know that TSP can damage metal, ceramic tile, grout and glass, so proceed with caution when working around those surfaces. Some local regulations may have limited the use of TSP, so make sure to look into your local guidelines.
Premixed concrete stain removers may also be used. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully. Even still, it may be best to test these products on a small, inconspicuous area of the floor before going after any stains in more visible areas.
Do NOT Use Vinegar on Unsealed Concrete
Don’t use vinegar or other acid-based cleaners for unsealed concrete floors. These can actually etch into the concrete, creating permanent or, at least, tough-to-reverse surface damage.
Cleaning concrete floors is similar to other types of hard flooring materials. Just make sure to use mild products for general cleaning to avoid damaging sealed floors. And when attacking stains in unsealed floors, take a graduated approach. Start with warm, soapy water and move to more aggressive methods with a mixture of TSP for those stubborn messes. Properly maintained, concrete floors will stay looking great for life. If you have any questions about maintaining concrete floors, contact Intermountain Concrete Specialties today. With seven locations from St. George, Utah, to Idaho Falls, Idaho, help is never far away.
There was a time when interior concrete just meant the hard material buried under layers of basement carpet. Now, concrete is being celebrated as the durable, affordable, practical and, even, beautiful product it is. Indeed, concrete has made its way to the center stage of interior design. Just do a quick Internet search and you’ll find concrete floors, countertops, sinks, shelves and even furniture.
But here’s the thing: Concrete is porous. And that’s not necessarily a good trait for interior surfaces that are frequently exposed to stain-causing liquids and high traffic. Untreated concrete floors are prone to scuffs, stains and damage. And nasty bugs like Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other bacteria can find a comfy home in the minute holes in concrete countertops, sinks and other kitchen surfaces.
Sealing interior concrete is critical for a long-lasting and hygienic surface. It keeps liquid and dirt out and protects the surface from normal wear and tear. But what types of sealers are best for indoor applications?
Three basic types of concrete sealers are recommended for interior use: acrylics, polyurethanes and epoxies. Rather than penetrating sealers, which are commonly used on exterior surfaces that may be exposed to freeze-thaw cycles (the topic of a different blog), interior concrete benefits most from these products that form a thin protective coat on its surface. The three most common types of “film formers” are listed below.
A disclaimer: This is far from an exhaustive list of all the available indoor concrete sealers. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of products—some are even hybrids of the three most common types included here. This guide is meant to get you on the path to choosing the product that’s right for your individual needs and intended application.
Softer than polyurethanes and epoxies, acrylic sealers tend to wear down faster. However, their fast-drying nature means they may be best for those projects that need to be completed quickly. In fact, most acrylics will dry to the touch within an hour. And, even though they lack the durability of the harder sealers, they still provide adequate protection against liquid and dirt. Both water- and solvent-based acrylics are available, but note that solvent-based products will generally enhance color. Acrylics are commonly available in a variety of sheens. Pro tip: A “sacrificial” floor wax is recommended over acrylic sealers to prevent premature wear, scuffs and scratches.
These are nearly twice as thick as acrylics—making them much more durable. Polyurethanes provide a chemical- and abrasion-resistant finish. They’re common in high-traffic areas to help prevent scuffs and staining. But these film formers aren’t only used on floors; they’re commonly found protecting and enhancing the appearance of concrete countertops and sinks. Like acrylics, polyurethanes are available in a range of sheens and may “edit” the hues in colored concrete. Be sure to choose the sheen accordingly to achieve your intended finish.
If this list was in descending order of “soft” to “hard” sealers (which it is), we’ve arrived at the hardest of them all. Epoxies form a strong, durable, abrasion- and water-resistant finish. However, some of these products can yellow when exposed to UV light, so they may not be good for those areas bathed in afternoon sunlight shining through the windows. However, if you’re looking to “kill two birds with one stone,” many epoxies come tinted in an array of colors. (As an aside, there are additives available to color other types of sealers as well, but you’ll need to check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure compatibility.) Epoxies are best used for those high-traffic areas or, most notably, garage floors. Some polyurethanes can also be used on garage floors, but epoxies are generally recommended for their superior durability, quality and stain-fighting powers. And again, just remember that epoxies don’t love the sunlight as much as the others and will have a tendency to yellow over time.
Choosing the appropriate sealer for the specific application will help keep your concrete in tip-top shape for years to come. If you need help, Intermountain Concrete Specialties is here with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls. We have the expertise and knowledge to help with any concrete undertaking—large or small. Contact one of our helpful and friendly associates today.
As the days of summer are now upon us, there is nothing as satisfying as walking with a pair of flip flops and pitcher of fresh beverages ready to serve a crew of eager friends as the tiki torches burn. That old concrete floor that you are walking across can kind of give off some dusty bookshelf vibes, so your entourage may have a better time walking over concrete that has a distinct dose of style!
Many real estate agents we have talked to claim that completing this fun task will add some of the best elements of curb appeal out there, and brings out the fine edge of a freshly mowed lawn. We’ll show you the correct approach to take when tackling a concrete staining project—and you’re going to love the difference you’ll notice every time you check out the balmy early evening air.
Handle for paint pad
9” tear-resistant deck paint pad
Broom and hose
Concrete stain (water-based)
Bucket of water
Rag for any spillage
The color charts provided by manufacturers are a great guide to choosing a color that is right for you. There are so many different options of coverage available, you’re sure to find one that fits your yard’s personality perfectly.
If more coverage is what you want, go with an opaque stain. Just complete a small test area on the concrete first to make sure that you are getting the results you want. Manufacturer’s instructions will offer up any special considerations to assure that every square inch looks just the way you envisioned.
To begin the concrete prepping work, remove furniture and any other objects that are residing on the concrete. Next, a broom and water hose will safely remove most residue and loose particles from the concrete. If you can get your hands on a pressure washer, that’s even better. Anything else that has ended up on the concrete over the years can now be scraped off as well. Then, remove any stubborn stains with a premixed stain remover. After everything is clean, just sit back, relax and let it all dry for at least 24 hours.
After the concrete dries, begin to apply the stain. Just place the paint pan on the tarp and slowly pour the stain directly into the pan. With a paintbrush, apply the stain just at the perimeter’s edge and over the seams. Then, begin to apply the stain over the remaining concrete with a pad. To better manage drying time and ensure an even coat, the best technique is to use the seams as natural divisions to use as work boundaries.
When most of the stain is out of the pad, use the remainder to soften edges from your previous strokes before your next strokes.
Some areas of the new concrete will have different characteristics when absorbing the stain. This is all part of the fun. The stain will take on the characteristics of the concrete’s surface and result in a distinct and beautiful “marbling” effect. Cloudy days are much more practical for stain application, as the blends in your strokes will have more longevity than when completed in the blazing sun.
From giving off the feel and vibe of walking through a Japanese garden to the extremes of an Arizona-style desert landscape, you will love the way your concrete looks. Intermountain Concrete Specialties has long been the authority on a job well done, and we look forward to helping with your next project!
Spring has sprung! And the arrival of warm weather has us itching to head outdoors. It’s the perfect time to clear out the clutter and start fresh. Save the closet organizing for rainy days. Instead, tackle these outdoor spring cleaning and home maintenance projects to get your home ready for spring.
Decks, Patios and Porches
The first step to deck, patio and porch maintenance is a good spring cleaning. Sweep and power wash, clear weeds and debris and check for loose steps or railings. Once your patio is clean and repaired, consider protecting it from future stains and damage with a concrete sealer.
Concrete Sidewalks and Walkways
Concrete sidewalks can take a beating during the freeze-thaw cycles of winter. The first step to spring concrete maintenance is a good cleaning. Sweep away or power wash any debris so you can get a good look at the current condition. Next, carefully inspect concrete, checking for cracked or crumbling areas. Visit one of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ six locations in Utah and Idaho for the products, tools and tips you need to repair concrete cracks before damage progresses.
Check concrete foundation walls, floors and slabs for cracking, heaving or deterioration. Some cracks are minor and can be repaired. If the crack is the width of a nickel, call a professional for assessment and repair.
Wintertime can take a toll on your roof, so perform a close inspection each spring. Check flashings and look for punctured, cracked, curled or missing shingles. Some are visible from the ground, but it’s a good idea to get a closer look to see if roof maintenance is required.
Gutters and downspouts need to be clear of obstructions to properly manage rainwater and to prevent moisture damage to your home. Clear leaves and other winter debris from gutters, reattach loose ones and make sure water runoff is directed away from the house. If there are leaks, dry the area and use a flexible outdoor caulk to seal.
Check for loose siding panels and ensure the flashing is in place. Clean siding with a pressure washer to remove dirt and debris. Take care of any necessary exterior siding repairs or painting.
Routine maintenance on your central HVAC unit can improve airflow, which in turn can lower cooling costs. If you have an outdoor unit, remove dust, leaves, grass clippings and any other debris that may be blocking airflow. Be sure to shut off the power to the unit before performing any maintenance.
This is a given when it comes to spring home maintenance. Clear dead leaves, branches and other debris; clean out garden and flowerbeds; prune and trim trees and shrubs; and reseed thin or damaged areas of the lawn.
Check for leaky valves and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Clean or replace poorly performing sprinklers, check operating pressure and adjust sprinkler heads as necessary. Open the main water valve slowly to allow pipes to fill gradually and avoid bursting a pipe.
Windows and doors
Check screens for punctures or holes, and inspect windowsills and doorways for cracks and potential leaks. To protect from spring rains, remove eroded caulk and fill cracks with fresh exterior caulking. Repaint and seal for a beautiful home enhancement.
Your home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. Take care of it with a little home maintenance and spring cleaning so you can enjoy a safe and beautiful home for years to come. Don’t forget to check out our list of 7 Outdoor Concrete Projects for Spring and the10 concrete products you need to make them happen!
Admixtures are defined as any material added to a batch of concrete other than the required three ingredients: cement, water and aggregate. Admixtures alter the concrete’s quality, manageability, acceleration or retardation of setting time and other properties. They can help ensure a successful pour in both hot and cold temperatures. And admixtures can even help decrease cost and increase productivity in certain conditions.
While there are many different products available, concrete admixtures break down into two types:
Chemical Admixtures: Modify the properties of finished concrete—such as waterproofing it—and protect wet concrete during mixing, transportation, placing and curing.
Mineral Admixtures: Can reduce concrete’s permeability and increase its strength. They can be used with Portland cement or with blended cement individually, or in combinations, depending on the desired concrete properties.
Anti-Hydro International has helped harden concrete and masonry structures all over the world, from the Hearst Tower in New York to the Sears Tower in Chicago. Its Anti-Hydro® admixture is a combination of organic and inorganic chemicals that react with Portland cement to produce better hydration. And better hydration reduces water requirements, bleed water and shrinkage. The result is a denser cement paste that cures harder.
But Anti-Hydro® doesn’t only harden concrete. It waterproofs it, too. It can be used when pouring a concrete floor to make it totally waterproof. Plus, Anti-Hydro® is relatively affordable, making it a common-sense choice when considering certain concrete projects. Simply put, Anti-Hydro® can both strengthen and waterproof finished concrete, a bonus for, say, basement and garage floors.
Concrete exposed to freeze-thaw cycles can benefit by adding air-entraining admixtures. Entrained air improves concrete’s resistance to damage caused by freezing and thawing, as well as to deicing chemicals. Grace Construction Products has a line of air-entrainment products that work well in the often-tumultuous weather patterns of the Intermountain West.
Water-reducing admixtures do just what the name implies: reduce the amount of water needed to mix concrete. Using these admixtures increases concrete’s workability at the same water-cement ratio. And that makes for a product that’s easier to pour and stronger when cured. In fact, water reducers have been proven to increase compressive and flexural strengths in concrete. Using water reducers can also retard the set time of concrete, making it a smart choice in hot-weather pours.
Concrete poured in near-freezing conditions can benefit from an accelerator admixture. These speed the setting time and, thus, the curing time begins sooner. Using accelerators in conjunction with good curing procedures protects the concrete from freezing. And it’s been shown that concrete is actually stronger overall when accelerators have been used during a pour.
From adding accelerators to speed up the setting time in cold temperatures to adding water reducers to retard setting in hot weather, admixtures make concrete easier to work with and can increase its strength.
For all your concrete needs or questions, contact Intermountain Concrete Specialties. We have admixture products from Anti Hydro International, Grace Construction Products, Xypex and more. With more than 70 years of concrete expertise, you can count on us to give you the advice needed for a successful concrete project. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes and cracks in concrete. We can’t help you with the first two, but, fortunately, there are some steps you can take to postpone the inevitable cracks in concrete.
First, make sure to properly prepare the subgrade before pouring concrete. While it’s drying, concrete contracts and shrinks—which typically leads to its cracking. A smooth subgrade reduces the tension with the ground as the concrete dries, shrinks and hardens. Also, a subgrade of gravel or similar material allows for drainage, keeping those crack-causing, freeze-thaw cycles at bay.
Second, add steel reinforcement to your concrete. By its very nature, concrete has high compression strength, but low tensile strength. In order to offset its tensile-strength shortcomings, steel reinforcement should be added. Steel mesh or rebar (depending on the size of the slab) is the peanut butter to the concrete’s jelly—making a delicious, and strong, combination.
Third, and arguably the most effective way to reduce cracking in residential applications, is adding joints to concrete. Joints take the stress off of the slab, create a weakened area to help control where the concrete cracks and separates one cementitious surface from another—such as a home’s foundation from its patio. There are two types of concrete joints: control and expansion.
Since concrete is bound to crack, control joints are simply “planned” cracks. These cracks are added by tooling them into the still-wet concrete with a hand tool, or sawing them into the slab once it has cured enough to prevent chipping during the cutting process. These straight grooves create a place for the slab to crack during expansion and contraction. Sometimes these cracks occur on the underside of the concrete, completely out of sight.
Control joints should be cut into the concrete no less than two or three times (in feet) the thickness (in inches) of the slab. So, for a 4-inch slab (fairly standard for residential applications), control joints should be 8 to 12 feet apart. What about the depth? Well, they should be no less than one-quarter of the thickness of the slab. For that same 4-inch slab, control joints should be 1 inch deep.
Expansion joints, which are usually a pliable material such as cork or plastic, are installed in an adjacent surface before the concrete is poured. These joints create a type of “shock absorber” next to the poured concrete, to allow for the concrete’s natural expansions and contractions as it dries. Expansion joints should be inserted wherever a new slab abuts a building or an existing slab.
The material used for expansion joints should extend the depth of the slab and stretch its full width. Also, it’s a good idea to seal any exterior expansion joints with high-quality, flexible urethane caulk to keep water out.
Not much in life is guaranteed—except for cracks in concrete. Taking the steps to properly prepare the subgrade, use steel reinforcement material and strategically place control and expansion joints will go a long way in delaying the inevitable.
What else is guaranteed? Intermountain Concrete Specialties is here to answer your concrete questions and help with any of your DIY project needs. We rent specialty equipment and tools. We have years of experience, expertise and know-how. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls—all with friendly and knowledgeable staff members—help is never far away.
Stamped concrete is an easy and quick way to create beautiful, multi-dimensional walkways and patios that look similar to their more expensive counterparts, such as bricks, stones or pavers. But how long can you expect a stamped concrete surface to last?
The short answer? Provided it’s installed correctly and adequately maintained, stamped concrete will last just as long as non-stamped, or standard, concrete—about 25 years. That’s because the processes of installing stamped concrete and standard concrete are mostly the same.
The only additional step required for stamped concrete is . . . stamping the concrete. This is done when the concrete is slightly dried but malleable enough to create a texture on the surface with a preformed stamp. Coloring is commonly added to give the surface the desired appearance. From antiqued to modernized, there’s a concrete stain or dye out there for every application.
Lastly, a sealer should be applied to keep the elements at bay. As an aside, some will argue that stamped concrete actually lasts longer than standard concrete due to the use of a sealer. However, standard concrete can also benefit from the use of a sealer, so . . . let’s just call it a wash.
Now, we need to remind you that only three things are certain in life: death, taxes and, at some point, cracks in concrete. And stamped concrete is no exception.
The fact is that stamped concrete hasn’t always been as durable as standard concrete. When it first came on the scene, it was common to hear frustrated homeowners complain about cracks in their relatively new stamped concrete. Back then it was difficult to ensure uniform depth throughout the stamping process. The unevenness of those early stamped concrete surfaces resulted in a decreased lifespan. Fear not, modern concrete stamps have resolved this problem.
Even with this durability, stamped concrete isn’t meant to be used for any substantial weight-bearing surfaces, like an RV pad or driveway. Instead, it should be used as an inexpensive and easy way to enhance the aesthetics of landscapes and improve curb appeal.
Do you have a patio to pour? Great, look to stamped concrete. Have a walkway needed? Stamped concrete for the win! Do you need some garden curbing? Stamped concrete can really jazz those up. Just install it correctly (or hire a professional), avoid substantial on-surface weight, keep it properly maintained and you’ll have a beautiful, functional, finished product that will last longer than you thought possible.
Intermountain Concrete Specialties has all the products, expertise and equipment you need to tackle any DIY concrete undertaking. We even rent concrete stamps—because we know you probably don’t stamp concrete every day! Visit us at any of our seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls and talk to one of our knowledgeable concrete experts for help with your next project.
Whether it’s for a shed, stair landing, dog kennel or hot tub, a small concrete pad is an easy and inexpensive home improvement project. Turn that section of matted grass into a functional and practical surface with a little elbow grease and this know-how.
First, a disclosure: This guide isn’t meant to be a concrete-project encyclopedia. But it will set you up to complete a small weekend undertaking for any pad measuring 100 square feet or less.
Determine the size of the pad you need. Take into consideration any extra space required around a hot tub for steps or in front of a shed door to keep grass and dirt out. Mark off the area with stakes or spray paint. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but ensure the area you mark is square. Now dig.
Ultimately, for a pad to sit 2 inches above ground level, you’ll want to excavate down roughly 6 inches. And make sure to remove enough soil outside of your marks to accommodate formwork—4 inches should do the trick.
We know, we know . . . it’s a small project. But regardless of size, properly preparing the base material improves the lifespan of your concrete. Use a bow rake to level the dirt and remove any large rocks or debris. Dampen the soil with water. Now, use a hand tamper to compact the base. Go ahead, take all your frustrations out on that dirt. “Beat the devil out of it,” as Bob Ross would say.
Next put sand, gravel or crushed stone into the hole. It adds to the strength of the concrete and acts as a capillary break, stripping groundwater’s ability to wick up through the pad like a sponge. If you’ve dug down 6 inches and want the pad to finish 2 inches above the ground, you’ll need to add 4 inches of subgrade material. This will allow for a 4-inch pad, a typical and adequate thickness for most home-based uses.
For smaller pads, you can often prefabricate the form using 2x4s and lay it into the prepared area. Make sure you have nice, straight lumber. Cut your boards long enough so that the inside measurement of the form is the desired size of the pad—which will typically mean adding an inch and a half to each side. Now, screw the boards together at each corner.
Place the form into the prepared site and drive stakes 8 inches into the ground every 2 to 3 feet along the outside edges of the boards. After making sure the form is square and level, and accounting for drainage, attach the form to the stakes with screws or nails from the outside so that you can remove them after the concrete is poured. You can even make the stakes yourself out of spare lumber. The idea is simply to ensure the form is supported enough as to not blow out under the weight of wet concrete. Pro tip: Make sure the stakes are flush, or just below, the top of the form to simplify leveling, or screeding, the wet concrete. To avoid three common concrete forming mistakes, check out our other blog.
Here’s where all your hard work pays off . . . or just begins. Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer’s instructions either by hand in a wheelbarrow or with the help of a cement mixer. Pour half of the concrete in the form and roughly level. Now, put in concrete-reinforcing steel mesh cut just less than the size of the form. Do you really need reinforcing material? Does a Snickers really need caramel? Does a chocolate chip cookie need chocolate chips?
While opinions about using reinforcing steel vary online, the fact is that concrete has low tensile strength. To offset this, it’s essential to add a material with high tensile strength, a.k.a. steel. Concrete will crack. That’s inevitable. But using reinforcing steel mesh will help to keep the cracks smaller, allow the pad to carry more weight and increase its lifespan. For larger pads, a stronger reinforcement option is a lattice-work of steel rebar.
After reinforcing material is placed halfway through the concrete, finish pouring to the top of the forms.
Level (screed) the concrete in a back-and-forth sawing motion with a 2×4 cut plenty long enough to span the form. This is where ensuring the stakes are lower than the tops of the form will pay off. Continue working the surface until all excess concrete is removed and there are no voids. If there are low spots or voids, add concrete to those areas and relevel.
Water will appear after a short time, creating a sheen on the surface. Wait until this water disappears back into the concrete before edging, jointing and hand-floating. Aside from waiting for the gloss to vanish, pressing your thumb into the concrete near the perimeter will give you an idea of when it’s ready for the next step. When pushing hard only leaves a 1/4-inch deep impression, it’s ready. Note: Larger pads should be smoothed with a bull float immediately following the screeding.
Use an edging tool around the form to create a smooth, round edge. If the pad is large enough, use a hand groover and a straight edge to create straight joints about every 4 feet. Use a hand float in sweeping arcs to compact and smooth the surface. When it comes to choosing a hand float, you have to decide between magnesium or aluminum, which is a can of worms in itself. It may be worth a conversation with a professional or experienced DIYer to better understand what float may be best to use for your application.
After the concrete is partially hardened—this time varies on the mix and weather conditions—use a trowel to complete a smooth finish and lightly broom for a non-slip surface. If you’re trying to smooth with a trowel or rough with a broom and the surface is not forgiving, add a little bit of water to the top. That should do the trick.
As you work on your project, use rubber gloves, a long-sleeve shirt and safety glasses. Concrete can, and will, cause chemical burns. Safety first!
You’re undoubtedly excited to use your new landing or take a soak in the hot tub, especially after all that work! But removing the form too early can ruin your project. Instead, relax a bit. Leave everything alone for at least two days—and maybe longer, depending on the weather. Removing forms too early can cause concrete to sag, crack or collapse. But, even after the form is removed, it’s important to stay off fresh concrete until it has cured. What’s curing? Read all about the importance of curing in our past blog article.
Completing your own concrete project is rewarding. Done correctly, you’ll be left with a finished product that will withstand years of use. With more than 69 years of experience, Intermountain Concrete Specialties can help with your DIY concrete project needs. We rent specialty concrete equipment and forms. We offer all the hand tools needed for a beautiful project. And we have the expertise and knowledge to help with any concrete undertaking—big or small. Contact us at one of our seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls today to see how we can help.
2,500 PSI. 3,000 PSI. 4,000 PSI. 5,000 PSI. Is your head spinning yet? What do all the numbers on a bag of concrete mix mean? And, more importantly, how do they influence your next concrete project?
The strength of concrete is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) and is a measurement of the concrete’s ability to carry loads or handle compression. The higher the number, the stronger the concrete. Strength is the result of multiple factors, but is primarily the outcome of the concrete’s composition—the ratio of cement, water and aggregate.
Pounds per square inch are measured via several methods in labs or, in some instances, on-site. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll avoid our inner concrete-nerd and focus on the need-to-know basics for your next home project. Use this information to be sure you use the right strength of concrete for your project type and application. While other ratings of concrete are available, here are the most common ratings every homeowner should know, along with suggested uses.
Often more affordable than higher strength concrete, 2,500 PSI can be useful for driveways and walkways. However, some may choose a stronger concrete, like 3,000 PSI, to avoid excessive cracking. A good use for this concrete is a walkway on the side of a home that doesn’t receive excessive traffic. Make sure to check your local building code to ensure 2,500 PSI concrete is permitted for your intended use.
The residential workhorse of concrete, 3,000 PSI can be used for driveways, patios and sidewalks. Its durability will help shrug off the freeze-thaw cycle of harsh winters. This is a fine choice for any general construction use.
Although less likely for general home use, where 3,500 PSI concrete shines is in slab foundations and footings. This is also a good choice wherever heavy loads are expected to be stored or moved, like RV pads.
Typically used in warehouses and factories where heavy traffic or machinery is expected. However, for the homeowner, 4,000 PSI can be a good option for backyard workshops or sheds, due to its strength and surface durability.
Used in special construction applications, including some large-scale commercial and industrial properties, 5,000 PSI can withstand heavy impact and extreme wear and tear.
These are general rules and each scenario and use will vary. A comparatively higher strength concrete can be used on any job—but may not always be called for. And using a lower PSI concrete saves money. Just ensure your local building code allows the strength of concrete for the specific project you’re planning.
Intermountain Concrete Specialties is here to answer any of your questions along the way to ensure you get a superb final product. From equipment rentals to our huge offering of forms, stakes and screeds, we are here to help. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.