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.
Sloping a concrete patio or walkway is critical to provide the drainage it needs. Concrete that is not sloped properly will not drain. This is great news for mosquitos, who will use pooling water as a breeding ground. And concrete that slopes toward your home, instead of away, can lead to rot and mold. The lesson: Before beginning a new project, make sure to account for proper drainage.
The standard slope for proper concrete drainage is a one-quarter inch drop for every foot of length. So, to calculate the difference in height between one end of a patio or walkway and another, simply multiply the length by one-quarter. This means the end of a patio protruding 10-feet from a home will drop two and a half inches from the starting point.
Oftentimes, a walkway will naturally tilt away from a home or other structure. But if it doesn’t, you need to account for proper slope to avoid water damage. A 4-foot wide concrete walkway that runs parallel to a house should drop one inch away from the home. If it’s running perpendicular to a structure, follow the one-quarter inch pitch for every foot of length rule. This will ensure water isn’t an unwelcome guest at your front door.
Now, a caveat: One-quarter inch drop per foot is the standard measurement for concrete drainage. Depending on the surrounding conditions and the expected amount of precipitation, the slope can range from one-eighth to three-eighths per foot. In a drier climate? You can likely get by with one-eighth. Really wet climates may call for three-eighths per foot for proper drainage.
The surface’s exposure to sunlight and heat can impact the amount of slope as well. A sunbathed patio on the south or west side of your home will, of course, dry faster than a shaded concrete surface.
Alright, so there are a few conditions to consider when planning for concrete drainage. But—in addition to the amount of slope required for proper concrete drainage—there is the way in which a patio slopes to consider. Existing conditions like landscaping and neighboring properties will, in large part, dictate the direction in which a patio needs to slope for proper drainage (other than away from any structures). The goal is to ensure water sheds away from buildings or toward any drains.
The takeaway? Carefully consider the expected precipitation, existing conditions and surrounding properties in order to ensure a finished concrete patio drains properly. Your efforts will not be in vain. A thoughtfully constructed patio or walkway that sheds concrete-corroding water will last for years.
In order to properly slope a concrete patio or walkway, simply pitch the forming according to the above calculations. Done and done . . .
This is all fine if you are planning a new project, but what if you’re stuck with a patio or walkway that doesn’t slope, or cants the wrong way? Unfortunately, the best solution to this problem is to remove and redo the concrete.
The good news? Intermountain Concrete Specialties has the knowledge, products and equipment needed to help with any of your DIY project needs. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
Did you know you can color concrete using stains or dyes? That’s right: Whether your concrete is new or old, it isn’t doomed to be drab forever. From dandelion yellow to violet purple, it can be easy to add pigment and interest to cementitious surfaces.
There are definite pros and cons to using stains or dyes to color concrete. Understanding the different approaches (and which one is better for a given project) is important if you’re considering adding character to your own concrete structures.
Dyes are nonreactive which means, unlike stains, they don’t chemically react with the concrete. So, they are safer to use than stains. And because they have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC), they are easier on the environment. Plus, they can be quick and simple to use for the DIY homeowner. You basically have two types of concrete dyes to choose from.
Both water- and solvent-based dyes work by penetrating the concrete’s pores to change the color. A coat of sealer over the top of the dye ensures it stays looking good.
Stains, on the other hand, typically contain hydrochloric acid, metallic salts and water, and react chemically with the calcium hydroxide in the concrete to permanently change the color. Unlike penetrating the pores of the concrete like dyes, stains actually etch the surface and create a mottled, variegated finish.
And that’s the real difference: Stains are permanent. Dyes? less so.
So, which one is right for your project? It really depends on your preference, style and long-range goal for the surface. It’s worth noting that dyes aren’t UV-stable, meaning they will fade or discolor in the sun. So, they aren’t the best option for outdoor spaces. However, because dyes don’t permanently alter the concrete as stains do, it’s possible to change the appearance years later. If you get tired of pigment, it’s possible to re-color the concrete with dyes.
No matter what coloring option is right for you, Intermountain Concrete Specialties has you covered. From stains to dyes to sealers, we have the products and expertise you need to successfully complete any home project. Come and talk to one of our experts at any of our seven locations, from St. George to Idaho Falls, for all your concrete project questions.
It’s not uncommon to hear chat around the Intermountain Concrete Specialties water cooler about last nights’ dream of that perfect walkway or stamped patio. Alright, that may be an exaggeration, but we still live and breathe concrete. But what exactly is this building material that makes up so much of our modern infrastructure?
Concrete is a mixture of three ingredients: cement, water and aggregate. While concrete has rudimentary roots dating to ancient Egypt, modern iterations are more refined. But what are these three ingredients, and how do they work together to form a material that is both malleable in one form and incredibly strong in another?
Let’s clear up a common misconception straight away: cement isn’t concrete, and concrete isn’t cement.
The two terms are often used interchangeably. But, in fact, cement is an ingredient in concrete—it is the binding material. Think of cement as the caramel in the concrete chocolate shell of a Snickers. Good enough, but now what is cement?
While there are several different types, we will focus on Portland cement. And it’s worth knowing about. Portland cement is undoubtedly the most widely used building material in the world. In fact, more than 80 million tons of it are produced per year. Portland cement is a key ingredient in high-rise buildings, dams, roads and DIY projects.
Portland cement is a fine powder. It’s most commonly made from limestone and clay that has been superheated, then pulverized into a fine powder. Cement fills in the gaps between aggregate and holds everything together.
It’s clear you know about water. But do you know what an important role it plays in concrete? The water-cement ratio dictates the strength of the finished product. The major compounds of cement form chemical bonds with water molecules through the process of hydration. Too much water results in weak concrete, as it overhydrates the cement. Too little water renders the concrete unworkable.
The final ingredient in concrete? Rocks. However, calling aggregate rocks is too simple a definition for an ingredient this important. Aggregate adds mass and volume to concrete. Without aggregate, concrete would be prone to cracking, excess shrinking and would be outrageously expensive. Aggregate varies in size—ranging from sand to large rocks measuring six inches across, like those found in dams, according to the project. Concrete without aggregate would just be cement. Think of aggregate as the peanuts in a Snickers.
They say knowledge is power. Now that you know more about this powerful building material you can more confidently tackle those DIY projects on your to-do list. Stop by one of our seven locations—from Orem to Idaho Falls—to speak to one of our product experts and learn more.
Forms hold newly-poured concrete in place while it dries and hardens. After the concrete has fully dried, the forms are removed to reveal the final product. Understanding proper concrete forming is important if you’re considering a home project, like a walkway or patio. Improper forming can have disastrous consequences on any project. But forming doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, with an awareness of rudimentary principles, concrete forming is straightforward and easy to do.
First, it’s important to understand forming is only one of the ingredients in a successfully completed concrete project. The process of successfully completing a project begins with thoughtful planning: laying out the project with string or paint, calculating the slope for runoff, checking with your local municipality for a building permit, calling 811 before you dig and preparing the base material are all critical steps before beginning formwork.
After completing the foundational actions, it’s time to start forming. But don’t get too excited to start pouring concrete and finish your project just yet. Rushing through the process can lead to ill-fated forming and a bad outcome. Like the above preparatory steps, it’s important to understand proper concrete forming and avoid common mistakes, such as the three listed below.
Let’s make one thing clear: concrete is heavy. The job of formwork is to keep the weight of freshly-poured concrete secure until dried. Common formwork materials for home projects include 2x4s or 2x6s—depending on the desired thickness of the finished product. Alone, these materials aren’t strong enough to support the weight of wet concrete. That’s why it’s necessary to support the boards with stakes driven at least eight-inches into the ground every three feet. Securing the form boards to the stakes with screws will keep everything in its place. It’s hard not to overstress the importance of properly supporting formwork. Improperly supported boards can result in wet concrete breaking out of its form onto your lawn, garden or . . . boots.
You’re undoubtedly excited to use your new patio or take a stroll on your new walkway. But removing the forms too early can ruin your new project. Instead, relax a bit. Leave everything alone for at least two days—and maybe longer, depending on the weather. Removing forms before this time can cause the concrete to sag, crack or collapse. But, even after the forms are 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. For now, it’s important to know the recommended curing time is seven days, as long as the temperature is more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uneven, wavy and out-of-square forms make for an unsightly final product. Make sure to check the straightness of any board before using it for formwork. Use string lines to keep your boards straight and level—or sloped properly for runoff. Double- or triple-check for square by measuring the distance between corners diagonally. Most important: Don’t rush the process of forming. The extra time, attention and care will ensure you get an aesthetically pleasing final product that will last.
Completing your own concrete project can be invigorating and rewarding. Done correctly, the finished product will provide years of use—whether that’s a patio, sidewalk or pad for a garden shed. With 69 years of experience, Intermountain Concrete Specialties can help with any of your home concrete project needs. From forming products to curing, sealing and protection, or even just answering your questions, we are here to help. Contact a specialist at any one of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ seven locations today.
Well-planned, beautiful landscaping is the goal most home owners have for their home and garden areas. We admire perfectly manicured lawns and lively flower gardens during a Sunday afternoon stroll. But how often do we notice or point out the beauty of concrete walkways and patios? Oftentimes, this type of work is overlooked as an element in landscaping, that adds a unique touch to your home. All that stops now!
Concrete is amazingly versatile and can be a creative method to add decorative detail to your home, especially on a budget!
What is Stamped Concrete?
Stamped concrete is an easier, and less time-consuming method for creating beautiful, multi-dimensional walkways and patios that look very similar to their more expensive counterparts of stones and pavers.
After concrete is poured and settled, an experienced contractor uses large stamps from a set of patterns to press the desired decorative look into the soft concrete. Adding a powdered color additive to the mixture before it is poured is another option that creates a beautifully unique element to the finished product. Once the stamped concrete is dried, it can also be sprayed with a color additive; however, this can begin to peel over time. For this reason, many professionals recommend using the powdered additive before pouring the concrete. Another piece of advice is that a good concrete sealer is invaluable to off-set any fading of the coloring over time.
It is important to note that while this finish work does sound simple, there is plenty of room for error. It is advised that only experienced contractors or very serious DIY pros undertake this type of project. If the concrete mixture has too much or too little water, stamping can be quite the challenge, with many undesirable outcomes such as rough or brittle edges.
What are the Pros?
Using stamped concrete to bolster your landscaping can really add an elegant touch that is considerably less expensive and is also a much faster process. Stonework and pavers can be a long and tedious way to break the bank!
Concrete work that is well-designed and poured correctly has proven to stand the test of time and is a remarkable method for keeping weeds and grasses at bay as well. Stones and pavers allow weeds to grow between the joints, creating an uneven pathway. Concrete certainly has the advantage if this is a concern in your yard.
What are the Cons?
As with all good things, there are some drawbacks to consider. There are some stamps that can actually make the concrete be smoother than it might be otherwise. This can produce a slippery affect when wet. To avoid this problem, the use of a non-slip additive can help to prevent this.
The stamping texture itself should be considered. This may cause some uneven places that are not suitable for the elderly or small children who are learning to walk. Moreover, these small grooves are likely to cause some patio furniture to wobble slightly if the placement isn’t just right.
Snow removal can also be a point of frustration due to the uneven textured surface. Moreover, for this same reason, debris and dirt can become lodged in the grooves more easily as well.
If the concreted area will be load-bearing, such as a driveway, it is important to use a stronger concrete mix, or to plan for a thicker slab. Additionally, it may be a good idea to use a textured skin for this instead of an actual stamp, as this will still offer a unique look without creating grooves.
Is Stamped Concrete for You?
Stamped concrete can be a budget-friendly and creative way to add some elegance to your landscaping. While there are a few special considerations, many find this additional touch to be esthetically pleasing and a durable choice for their home and yard. If you are considering concrete work for your new home or you simply need an outdoor upgrade, stamped concrete can really take your landscaping to the next level.
What is a Concrete Vibrator?
A concrete vibrator is a machine used for construction-based purposes. These machines can come in several different shapes and sizes. Some are small and run strictly on battery power, while others are much larger with a primary power source stemming from electric power cords. Choosing the right concrete vibrator can help settle your concrete for long-term stability and maintenance.
Why Use a Concrete Vibrator?
Using vibration to assist concrete during its settling period has proven a worthwhile method that aids in long-term durability. As wet concrete is poured, air bubbles become trapped within the mixture creating cavities or honeycomb-like spaces. Left untouched, “honeycombing” can compromise the cement’s longevity and strength. Vibrators force the trapped air out of the mixture leaving the final product a more compact and level slab. It is not uncommon to see small bursts of air surfacing from the wet mixture when the vibrator is being used correctly.
What Kind of Concrete Vibrator Do You Need?
The length and depth of your project determines what vibrator is best for your needs. There are many types of concrete vibrators, each with its own head size.
The practicality of internal vibrators makes them the most commonly used choice available.
Internal vibrators are typically better priced and offer unparalleled maneuverability due to their size and weight. High frequency concrete vibrators perform a power conversion of single-phase energy into three-phase energy, which is a beneficial feature due to the power consistency it provides for large-scale projects. These vibrators are generally used for commercial sites and for projects done by the Department of Transportation.
External concrete vibrators are an optimal choice for any vertical project, such as walls or other areas that require maximum reinforcement. They can also be useful for downsizing mistakes that can be caused by other types of internal vibrators.
Internal gas vibrators are clearly the best option when electricity is either not available or presents a safety hazard on the work site. They also work well for distinct locations such as curbing, gutters and construction joints that call for additional precaution.
Vibratory screeds are a suitable, user-friendly option due to the operator’s ability to remain standing in an upright position. Ease of use and a reputation for being lightweight makes the screed a good choice for large or small, indoor or outdoor projects, such as patios, driveways, and indoor or outdoor basketball courts.
The value of using a concrete vibrator for your next project cannot be overstated. While there are many components to consider in order to achieve a positive end-result, this is certainly not one to ignore. The outcome of any concrete pour is highly dependent upon the use of proper tools and at what stage they are used along the process.
Every year when winter rolls around the avid skiers are jumping for joy and the average joe is grumbling about snow and ice removal. To the average joe—we don’t blame you one bit! Getting that old shovel out usually means sore shoulders and an aching back. It is not uncommon to rely on ice melting granules to help bust through thick ice buildup. However, with so many chemical compounds available, you might be scratching your head as to which ice melt is best for your concrete. Calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)—what’s the difference and why does it matter? Stay tuned and we’ll melt it down for you!
Considerations Before the Winter Season
As with any concrete care, it is always best to plan ahead. Performing a detailed inspection of your concrete areas is advisable before you need to put down ice melting products during the frosty winter months. Locating and repairing any broken or crumbling areas is strongly encouraged due to the physical and chemical composition of commercial ice melting agents. The de-icing granules are hard and coarse—this can cause more damage to vulnerable areas of concrete when ground-in by foot traffic and vehicles. For more on fixing crumbling concrete see our latest blog. A small fix before winter is always preferable to a larger one after the fact. You’ll thank us later.
The Difference in Chlorides
There are a wide variety of ice-melting compounds on the market today, and they all have their place within the parameters of their intended use. One key element to consider is how low the temperature will drop. The availability of moisture on the top layer of ice is an imperative factor that determines the effectiveness of the product. The colder it is, the less moisture is available. “Hygroscopic” ice melting agents work by attracting moisture and absorbing it into the granules. This process is known as “exothermic” and it creates heat when the salt and moisture bond together—thus melting the ice. Take a look below at the most common de-icers on the market.
Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride appear to be the superior products when it comes to quickly melting ice. While there is potential corrosion risk with all chloride compounds, adhering to the application instructions and precautions will provide the best results for your concrete and surrounding areas. A high-grade and well-maintained concrete should withstand any corrosive properties produced by these agents. As mentioned above, removing any leftover granules once the ice has melted is a best practice tip to maintaining your concrete throughout the winter season.
Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and . . . cracks in concrete. Luckily, repairing unsightly or dangerous cracks in concrete is inexpensive and easy. And mending concrete fissures does more than improve the appearance of cementitious structures. Closing the door on water’s ability to penetrate driveways, walkways and patios improves their lifespan.
The recommended steps outlined here can mend cracks less than 1/4-inch wide. Anything much larger requires a closer look. And repairing crumbling concrete requires an altogether different method. To keep water from entering small cracks, and weeds from coming through, follow the easy steps below.
Repairing cracks in concrete improves both the lifespan and appearance of driveways, walkways and patios. Caulk keeps water and weeds away from those pesky breaks in concrete slabs. Intermountain Concrete Specialties has the products and expertise to help with any project. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.