If you’re looking to add beauty, value, or just a gathering space to your backyard, a concrete patio may be exactly what you’re looking for. With a little preparation and the proper tools and knowledge, you can even build a concrete patio yourself and save some money while improving your home.
To make your own concrete patio, you will need stakes, string, a line or other level, a shovel, 2×4 boards, vegetation killer, a tamper, expansion joint boards, reinforcing mesh, small rocks, concrete mix, water, a rented cement mixer, float, edger, mason’s trowel, jointer, and polyethylene sheeting.
The first thing you’ll need to do is measure and mark off the area you would like your concrete patio to cover. An easy way to mark off the area is by pounding stakes into the ground at intervals and running string between them. Make your marked-off area about 4″ wider on all sides than you want your concrete patio to be, to allow room for your concrete forms to fit.
Next, you will need to do some digging. Your concrete patio will need a gravel base beneath the poured concrete layer, and you will need to dig deep enough to accommodate both layers. The thickness of the gravel layer you will need depends on the climate you live in and how well your soil drains. For example, in the northern United States, you will typically need a 2″ gravel layer. While digging, you should also take care to create a slight slope away from your home for drainage purposes. Typically, a 1″ drop over every 4′ away from your home is sufficient.
After you’ve excavated to the proper depth all through your planned patio area, you should saturate the soil with vegetation killer, unless the area was previously devoid of vegetation. Place your forms around the perimeter of the patio, making sure they are at the level you want your patio to be. You can use 2×4 boards that are straight and smooth for most forms, but against your home or other structures you should use expansion joint boards. Using a tamper, tamp down the bare soil firmly, and you are ready to pour your gravel base, spreading the gravel out evenly and tamping it down to the desired thickness.
Once your gravel base is ready, unroll your reinforcing mesh, or remesh, over the patio area. You will need to make sure the remesh sits approximately in the middle of your concrete slab’s thickness in order to properly reinforce the slab. To do this, put small rocks under the remesh to raise it up to the proper level.
Mix the concrete with water in the cement mixer, following the manufacturer’s directions. Once the concrete is a shiny medium gray throughout, it’s ready to pour. Pouring should be done as quickly as possible to achieve proper results. Once you have about 4′ of your patio poured, you should stop to screed it. Screeding means taking a 2×4 board that is long enough to span the entire width of your patio. Place it perpendicular to the concrete surface and drag it over the just-poured concrete area to level and smooth it. Screeding is easiest with someone to help you. After screeding, you will see if you’ve poured enough concrete or if you need to add more. You should then use a mason’s trowel to cut 2″ deep control joints every 4′ or so-this will keep the patio from cracking later. Repeat until your patio is finished.
You will see a watery substance appear on the top of the concrete. After this disappears, you can use your float to further smooth the patio’s surface and your edger to finish the edges. Wooden floats or push brooms can be used to give your patio a skid-resistant surface. Once you have finished your patio’s surface and edges, cover it with polyethylene sheeting. Leave this sheeting on for at least a week to allow the concrete to cure completely, after which time you can remove the sheeting and forms. Use caution when using the patio for the first month after constructing it.
With a little preparation and some work, you will have the perfect concrete patio to enhance your backyard for years to come. You will also be able to take even more pride in your new patio because you did it yourself.