November 3, 2023
Building a concrete patio is a great way to enhance your outdoor space and create an inviting area for entertaining, dining, or simply relaxing. With the right tools, materials, and a little bit of know-how, you can create a beautiful and functional patio that will last for years to come.
Whether you're a seasoned DIYer or a beginner, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to build your own DIY concrete patio slab.
In this blog post, we'll cover everything from planning and preparation to pouring and finishing the concrete. You'll learn about the tools and materials you'll need, how to calculate the amount of concrete you'll require, and how to mix and pour the concrete to achieve the desired thickness and finish. We'll also provide tips for curing and maintaining your concrete patio slab to ensure its longevity.
So, if you're ready to transform your backyard with a stunning concrete patio, let's get started!
Before you start building your DIY concrete patio, it's important to do some planning and preparation. This will help you ensure that your patio is the right size and shape for your needs and that you have all the tools and materials required for the project.
When it comes to determining the size and shape of your new concrete patio, there are several things to consider. Here are some suggestions to help you determine the ideal size and shape for your patio:
To determine the size and shape of your concrete patio slab, you'll need to measure and mark the area where you'll be pouring concrete. Start by using a tape measure to determine the length and width of the area.
Once you have these measurements, use wooden stakes, a string line, and a line level, to create a perimeter and mark the corners of your patio. Make sure to drive the stakes firmly into the ground and tie the string tightly, and level, between them so the string doesn't sag.
To make sure the slab for your patio is square, use the 3-4-5 rule. This rule states that a triangle with sides measuring 3, 4, and 5 feet will always have a 90-degree angle at the corner opposite the 5-foot side.
To apply this rule to your patio, measure 3 feet from one corner along one string, and mark the spot with a piece of tape. Then measure 4 feet from the same corner along the other string, and mark that spot with a piece of tape.
Finally, measure the distance between the two tape marks. If the distance is exactly 5 feet, your patio is square. If not, adjust the string until you achieve a 3-4-5 triangle, and then re-measure and mark the area.
If you're working with curved concrete for a patio, you can use a flexible hose or rope to create the curve. Lay the hose or rope on the ground in the shape of the curve you want, and then use stakes and string to create the perimeter around the curved shape.
Once you've marked the corners of your patio, use spray paint or chalk to mark the perimeter of the planned patio directly on the ground. This will make it easier to see the outline of your patio as you begin to prepare the site for pouring the concrete.
When installing a poured concrete patio next to a house or garage, it's important to create an isolation joint to prevent the wet concrete from bonding with the structure.
Glue a 1/2"-thick piece of foam isolation strip to the foundation of the adjoining building to create this joint.
The foam creates a bond break between new concrete patios and existing buildings, allowing them to move independently and minimizing the risk of damage.
After you've planned and prepared the site for your DIY concrete patio, it's time to build the forms. The forms will contain the concrete and help create the shape and thickness of your patio slab. Here's how to build the forms for your patio:
1. Measure and mark the height of the forms
The first step in building the forms for your patio area is to measure and mark the height of the forms. This will help ensure that your concrete slab is the right minimum thickness of 4". Measure the height of the concrete forms using a measuring tape and mark the height on the stakes you installed in step 2 of the preparation process. Make sure the marks are at the proper level, especially if you have a slope in mind.
2. Cut the form boards to size
Next, cut the form boards to size using a hand saw or a circular saw. You'll need boards for each side of the patio, as well as extra boards to brace the forms. You can use regular 2x4's or 2x6's depending on your patio slab's thickness.
Pro Tip: If you're pouring a curved edge to your patio, I use Azek 1x4 PVC trim boards as these curve easily but are still quite rigid for strength.
3. Assemble the form boards
Once you've cut the form boards to size, assemble them using screws or nails. Make sure the boards are level and plumb when you stake them in place. Use a 4' builders level or a Laser level for an accurate way to set the forms to grade. You can brace them with extra boards or stakes as needed.
Adding wire mesh or rebar reinforcement is a great idea for any concrete slab in the backyard because it can help improve the durability and longevity of the patio.
Concrete is a strong material, but it can still crack over time due to various factors like soil movement, weather changes, or heavy loads.
Reinforcements, such as wire mesh or rebar, are added to concrete slabs to create a slab that can better resist these factors and remain stable and strong over time.
Wire mesh is a flat sheet of light gauge wire, usually 5' x 10' in size that can be placed inside the forms, and it covers the entire area to be poured.
Rebar is a steel reinforcement bar that is placed in the formwork and tied together in a 2' x 2' grid. 2" thick cement bricks can be used to prop up either one to get it up in the center of the slab.
Both provide additional strength and support to the patio slab, especially in areas where heavy loads are expected.
Once you've prepared the site and built the forms, it's time to pour and finish the concrete for your patio.
Here's how to do it:
For more insight and training on how to form, pour, and finish concrete patios, you can join The Concrete Underground and learn from my concrete training videos.
Using a concrete groover or jointer is a good idea for controlling cracking in a concrete patio because it allows you to create a straight and consistent groove or joint that will act as a weak point in the concrete slab.
When concrete dries and cures, it shrinks as it loses moisture. This shrinkage can cause cracking in the concrete, especially if it's poured in a large area like a patio.
By using a groover or jointer, you can create grooves or lines in the surface of the concrete, which will create a controlled path for the concrete to crack when it inevitably shrinks.
By creating these controlled joints or grooves, you're effectively dividing the concrete into smaller sections, which will reduce the chances of random cracks forming across the entire surface of the patio.
These expansion joints are installed soon after bull floating and while the concrete is still quite soft.
I recommend installing control joints for any patio size that's larger than 10' x 10'.
After the final finishing of your concrete patio, it's important to allow it to cure properly to help prevent cracking.
Here are some tips on curing and maintaining your new concrete patio:
Yes, a beginner or DIY'er can do their own concrete patio with the right preparation, tools, and guidance. While concrete work can seem intimidating, there are many resources available, like The Concrete Underground, to help make the process easier and more manageable.
Congratulations! You've now learned the basic steps for building your own DIY concrete patio. With careful planning, the right tools, preparation, and a bit of effort, you can create your own concrete patio that's beautiful and durable and will last for years to come.
Remember to take the time to plan and prepare your project thoroughly, including measuring and marking the area, excavating the site, and installing a proper sub-base. Also, make sure to check your local building codes and get a permit if it's required.
Building a sturdy wood form will help you pour the concrete in the desired shape and size, and adding reinforcement like wire mesh or rebar will increase the strength and longevity of your patio.
As with any home improvement project, safety should be a top priority. Wear rubber boots, wear gloves, and safety glasses, and take precautions when using power tools or handling heavy materials.
Finally, don't hesitate to ask me for help or guidance in my private concrete training group, The Concrete Underground if you need it. Consulting with a professional or expert can save you time and money in the long run and help ensure that your DIY concrete patio turns out as you envisioned it.
By following these steps and taking the necessary precautions, you'll be on your way to creating a beautiful and functional concrete patio that you can enjoy for years to come.
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