I LOVE concrete! It’s one of the most amazing building materials! You can do just about anything with concrete — pour the foundation of your home, create the walls of your home, create concrete blocks, patios, decks, fire pits, and more. The list is pretty much endless. You can even create pre-fabricated concrete panels that look like brick on the outside, tilt them up into place and in a matter of days, have a full structure built! I love it!!!
Today, though, we’re talking about those little concrete pads that you need around your home that don’t require a full concrete truck — just a shovel, bag of Quikcrete, a wheel barrow, some water, and a plan.
Need a pad for your A/C unit? Maybe a footer for a concrete block wall? Or, as in the case of our project, a brick wall needs a foundation? Regardless of need, concrete fills many of the holes in your DIY projects, very nicely.
With this project, we assume you already have your formwork built for the concrete pad that you’re building, since they vary so much. However, just some basics on concrete formwork.
- Make sure the formwork is level and square. You wouldn’t want the pad to be out of square or tilted one direction or the other.
- Concrete is heavy! About 150 pounds per cubic foot. Because of this weight, you need to make sure that your formwork is strong enough to hold the concrete. Otherwise, it will just flow out of the forms and all over the ground. Not much help for your project! When in doubt, make the formwork stronger than you think you need.
- Secure the formwork in place! Don’t just build the formwork to create the shape your building. Add some bracing to keep it in place. Generally, this bracing amounts to a few stakes in the ground. If you’re looking at a form that requires more than some staked bracing, you may be looking at a bigger project than we’re talking about, here.
As for the concrete, mix in the water, slowly!! I cannot stress enough that you want to be miserly with the water. The “drier” the concrete mixture, the more strength the concrete will develop over it’s curing time. You still need to mix all the concrete with water, but you do not want it to become a soupy slurry mix. This can happen with just a little too much water. What you need is a “chunky” peanut butter-like consistency. You’ll get an idea of this from the video.
Once you pour the concrete into your form, use a small trowel to finish and level the pad. In some cases, the pad may be big enough to require a screed. A screed is nothing more than some form of level (often a good, straight 2 x 4) to level the concrete when first poured into the forms. You use the screed to move and level the concrete in the forms. Once leveled, use the trowel to finish the concrete. Some concrete pads may require or you may prefer a “non-slip” or non-smooth finish. To accomplish this, finish the concrete as you normally would for a smooth finish, then gently drag a stiff, outdoor broom across the pad. This will provide a rough “broom” finish to the concrete.
When you’ve finished the concrete to your liking, you’re still not done with the project.
- To prevent cracking, keep the concrete wet for the next few days. The curing process utilizes a lot of water and produces a lot of heat. This will cause cracking, if the pad is not kept wet.
- Immediately after finishing the concrete, cover the pad if it looks like it’s going to rain. For the first 24 hours, rain could cause depressions in the concrete.
- Clean all your tools! You don’t need a trowel covered with concrete for your next project. If you clean it now, it will come right off with water. If you wait, you may be chiseling it off.
Let me know your feedback in the comments. Have a strange shape you need to create with concrete? I’d love to help! Maybe a question about building formwork? Or, maybe you have a really unique concrete structure — post it up in the comments and show it off to the world!