Can I lay a concrete slab

Lay a concrete slab

You can lay a concrete slab yourself with a few basic tools.

We’ll tell you how to lay a concrete slab in this post.

Before you start

Decide if the concrete slab you want is small enough to be completed by one person or if you require a professional to get the job done.

Concrete slab dug out

Generally slabs up to 3m2 can be done by one person, anything bigger will get away from you and requires more hands to lay the slab properly. Also if the concrete slab requires a specific grade of concrete, a professional is required.

You can do garden shed slabs and small paths easily with no help.

Once you have decided where you want your path or slab, measure the job and calculate how much concrete you will need. As an example if you are going to lay a 3m2 slab, you multiply 3m x 3m x 100mm, which equals 0.9m3.

There are many sites that have concrete calculators you can use to estimate your requirements.

A general guide for deciding which method of mixing concrete is right for you is. Concrete up to 0.1m3 can easily be mixed with bags of premixed concrete you mix yourself. For concrete slabs between 0.1m3 and 0.5m3 consider mixing the materials yourself, using 1 part cement, 2 parts sand and 3 parts stone. Slabs over 0.5m3 should consider getting pre-mixed concrete delivered by truck.

Tools required

  • Metal or wood screed
  • Wooden float
  • Magnesium float
  • Steel trowel
  • Edging trowel
  • Jointing trowel (groover)
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Turf cutter (if required)
  • Mattock
  • Measuring jug
  • Hose
  • Broom
  • Bucket
  • Hammer
  • Timber saw
  • Carpenters’ square
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow or concrete mixer
  • Tamper or plate compactor for compacting the base material
wood float
Wood float

Materials you will need:

  • Bags of Concrete Mix 20kg or Bags of cement, sand and stone
  • Lengths of timber for boxing/formwork
  • Timber stakes
  • Clean water
  • Reinforcing mesh (& bar chairs if required)
  • Double headed or clout nails for easy removal
  • Road base or crusher dust to bed slab

Prepare your site

Peg out the area you want to concrete and remove any grass from the area. Dig out the area to the required depth of concrete wanted. 100mm is the usual depth of a concrete slab. As most sites are not level, you will need to work out areas that need building up and areas that need to be dug out. Roughly dig out the area and check your levels.

The easiest way to work out your levels for your slab is to build the boxing for your slab and use this to help find your levels. Boxing for concrete slabs is usually 30mm x 100mm wet pine. Once you have dug out your area, place the boxing down and put your level on it. Raise the boxing in low areas and fill and dig out more if the boxing is to high.

When your boxing is level, secure the boxing onto the ground by driving wooden stakes into the ground next to the boxing and nailing it together. Fill in any low areas in the slab area with sand or crusher dust and tamper down to ensure a stable base for your concrete slab. You can line the slab area with black plastic but it isn’t necessary for paths.

Place your reinforcing wire on plastic chairs so that it is in the middle of the slab thickness and not resting on the ground. Reinforcing wire helps stop concrete from cracking structurally.

Boxed out concrete slab

Mix your concrete

If your using premix bags of concrete, grab your wheelbarrow and empty 2 or 3 bags into it. Dig a well at the front of the wheelbarrow in the materials and tip your water into this well. Then mix in the dry ingredients into the water, continue until all the dry material is wet. Never use to much water as this will weaken your concrete mix. Your better off adding small amounts of water until you get your concrete mix to the right consistency instead of to much from the start.

You can use a shovel, rake or hoe to mix your concrete.

When mixing cement, sand and stone, use a shovel and measure out the number of shovel fulls to get the right ratio. For example, 2 shovels of cement plus 4 shovels of sand and 6 shovels of stone. Another way is to buy the sand and stone already mixed and adding it to your cement.

Before placing your concrete wet the area so that the ground doesn’t suck your concrete dry and gives you more time to finish your slab properly.

Lay your concrete slab

When you have mixed your concrete and are happy with the consistency empty your concrete mix into your boxed out area. As you place your concrete, screed it level to the top of your boxing, filling up any low areas and re-screeding to get it level. Continue filling your boxed area until it is completely filled and screeded level.

You now have to wait for any bleed water to evaporate from the concrete before finishing the slab off. Once the bleed water has gone you need to float the slab with your wooden float to smooth out any ridges from the screeding process. A metal trowel can be used if you want a smooth finish, however this will be very slippery when wet. To provide a textured finish use a broom to give your slab some rough surface.

Use a edging trowel around the whole edge of your slab to compact the edge and give a finished look.

Screeded concrete

A jointing tool is used on large slabs to control cracking. Jointing is usually at 1800mm intervals and generally 20mm deep.

Allow your concrete to dry for a day or two before removing your boxing. Keep your slab moist for 7 days by misting water over it daily. Concrete takes 28 days to fully cure. Don’t walk on your slab for 24 hours but avoid heavy loads on it for 7 days.

Got an old path or slab that needs renovating, checkout this post how to renovate your concrete

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How to renovate your concrete

resurfaced concrete

Renovate your concrete

We’ll show you how to renovate your concrete surfaces in this post.

Have you a old driveway or patio that has seen better days. There are many ways to rejuvenate your concrete. You can repair, resurface and or replace your concrete depending on how badly it has deteriorated.

Inspect and assess

The first step in renovating your concrete is the inspect and assess your current concrete.

It may be cracked or worn, maybe discolored or you just want to freshen the concrete up.

If your concrete is badly cracked, it may be more economical to rip the old concrete out and replace with new concrete. For concrete that has the usual cracks that all concrete develops, there are products that will repair the cracks.

Your concrete may have been resurfaced originally and needs a spruce up. Or someone might have painted the concrete and it has started to flake. There are several methods to renovate these types of issues with your concrete.

After inspecting and assessing your concrete, you need to assess your skills. Are you capable of carrying out the repairs or processes required to reach your desired results. Your better to work this out before you start than finding out part way through that you can’t achieve the result your after. Some tasks are quite easy, such as sealing concrete but if you need to replace concrete it will be better to get a professional in to get the job done.

Repairing concrete

Repairing cracked concrete is one of the most common issues with concrete. The size of the crack determines the process required to repair the crack.

Hairline cracks up to a 1-2 mm can easily be repaired with a slurry of neat cement or a chalking filler. However the repaired cracks will stand out because of the difference in color to the old concrete. Coating or resurfacing the repaired concrete is the only way to have a uniform color of the concrete.

Large cracks

Larger cracks need to be assessed to determine if there is any movement still in the concrete or not. If there is no evidence of movement, gouge out the crack with a crack chaser or concrete saw. This will enlarge the crack and allow you a better key for your repair material. Remove any loose concrete and dirt from your crack and make sure the crack is dry before filling the crack. Mix up your repair material and trowel it into the crack, removing any air pockets by stabbing your trowel into the crack. Leave the filling material a little proud of the surface, so you can grind the repaired crack level with the surrounding concrete.

Where concrete with movement has cracks, you will need to fix the cause of the movement and then stitch the crack with metal and epoxy resign. Once you have stabilized the concrete you chase the crack out as explain in the previous paragraph. Removal of all debris from the crack with air pressure will also help dry out the crack. While chasing out the crack, you need to cut cross slots over the crack to allow for steel wire or rod to be in bedded into the epoxy resign. Place the steel in the cross cuts and mix up the epoxy filler to fill the cracks. Again leave the filler a little proud of the concrete surface to enable the crack repair to be ground level with the old concrete.

Chipped concrete

For chipped out concrete on edges you may need to place some boxing around to fill in the chipped out piece. Fixing chipped out concrete may require you to chisel out a little more concrete to get a better key. Mix up your concrete and lay it in the usual way, using your trowel, float and egder.

Painted concrete

Never paint your concrete! If you have painted concrete, you will know it is dangerous when wet and it will always peel.

Renovating painted concrete requires a concrete grinder to remove the paint. A grinder will remove a few millimetres of the concrete surface and allow you to resurface the concrete with a good key.

Concrete grinders work much the same way as a floor polisher works, only much more abrasive.

Check out our post on grinding concrete!

Colored concrete

Concrete can be colored in different ways, oxide may be thrown on once the concrete is laid. Or oxide made be added to the concrete when it is batched at the concrete plant. the concrete may be colored with a colored concrete sealer.

These can be renovated with out having to grind the surface. Usually a mild acid wash will give a good key for renovating colored concrete.

Thrown on oxide is only troweled into wet concrete and only goes down a millimetre or two, but chipped out concrete will be grey. Oxide added at the concrete plant will color the concrete all the way through, so any chip out will still be the same color as the rest of the concrete.

Sealed concrete needs to be maintained to remain in good condition. Most concrete sealers are not UV stable, meaning they deteriorate in sunlight, and will be eaten away over the years.

Resurfaced concrete

Resurfaced concrete can incorporate designs and multi colors. Concrete resurfacing adds a thin layer of concrete which is usually stronger than the concrete slab it covers. There are many stencils and colors available for resurfacing concrete.

If you are happy with your resurfaced concrete but it is looking a bit drab, resealing may be enough to make your resurfaced concrete look like new.

Exposed concrete

Renovating exposed concrete is one of the hardest things to do. Due to the stones being exposed and weathering over the years plus the fact that the stones vary in color from year to year, repairing exposed concrete is never going to look good.

If you want to stay with exposed concrete, you are best to cut out and replace whole sections. They will not match but will be better than blotchy patches.

Sealed concrete

Another option to rejuvenate your concrete is to use a concrete sealer. You can use the concrete sealer as a clear coat or add a tint to color your concrete. Sealing your concrete is relatively easy if your concrete is in reasonably good condition. There are many tint colors available for concrete sealers.

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Which option should you choose to renovate your concrete

The condition of your concrete is the major factor in which option you should choose when renovating your concrete. If your concrete is reasonable to good condition, you can choose any of the options discussed in this post. For concrete in poor condition, you are better off getting a professional in to complete the project.

Sealing concrete is the easiest and cheapest option to renovate concrete as you don’t require many tools and it’s pretty much the same as painting anything.

Resurfacing concrete requires a fair bit of experience and special tools, probably best left to the professionals.

Unless your concreting job is small, your better off getting professionals in as they have the resources and knowledge to do the job best. Small slabs up to a 1m square can be easily done by a DIYer in a weekend.

This will help you to renovate your concrete.

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How to choose a pressure washer

Pressure washer

How to choose a pressure washer? We’ll show you which pressure washer is best for your job.

What is a pressure washer?

Pressure washers pumps water at an increased pressure and speed of water to clean many different surfaces. A typical pressure washer will deliver 50% more power and use 80% less water than a garden hose.

Water blasters can be electrical or petrol powered, and deliver cold or hot water. Most pressure washers come with accessories such as different nozzles, brushes and detergent pickups.

Water blasters are measured by their PSI (pounds per square inch).

1000 – 4000 PSI pressure washers are good for general domestic jobs. Such as washing cars or decks and washing down siding. Washers in this range are usually electrically powered. Being electrically powered means that you are restricted to places with electricity and the length of your electrical cord.

The next step up in power is around 2500 – 4000 PSI. To get this sort of power the washers are powered by petrol engines. Petrol powered pressure washers are much more versatile than electric models. With petrol engine washers you are able to use them almost anywhere.

Bigger and more powerful pressure washers are over 4000 PSI. Some of these models can also produce hot water to clean tougher stains and chemicals. Models over 4000 PSI are used by professionals for commercial cleaning jobs.

Stanley pressure washer

Which pressure washer is best for you?

Questions to ask yourself are:

How often will you use a pressure washer?  If your only going to use your pressure washer on the odd occasion, maybe hiring a pressure cleaner is your best option. You may want to regularly clean your car or a outdoor deck. Then a electrical powered pressure washer could be the best model for you. Are you going to be using your pressure washer on a daily or weekly basis. A petrol model will be the model for you as these are more suited to commercial applications.

How big a job do you want use the pressure washer for?  The size of the area or job will also help you determine which model is best for you. If your only going to clean your car or have a small deck area, a electrical 1000 – 2000 PSI model would be suitable. Petrol powered washers are better for large jobs such as driveways and trucks and tractors.

What is it that you are trying to clean?   Electrical pressure washers for backyard decks or patios and cars.  For ground in dirt or oily stains a petrol power washer is the way to go. Commercial cleaners will often have pressure washers that heat the water to around 90 degrees Celsius to clean difficult stains without using harsh chemicals.

Do you have access to electricity and water?   Access to water and electricity allows you to use a electrical pressure washer, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use a petrol powered washer. If the area that needs to be cleaned is out of reach of your power cord and or hose, use a petrol powered washer.

RECOMMENDED PSI FOR APPLICATIONS

What’s the difference between PSI and GPM?

PSI is the pounds per square inch of pressure a washer puts out and is the usual method of rating pressure washers. Another measurement that helps determine the power of a pressure washer is GPM which stands for gallons of water used per minute. You get a deeper clean from a pressure washer with higher pressure and more water. Hence the best all round pressure cleaner has a high pressure output and uses more gallons per minute.

For example, you have a large driveway to clean. Using a pressure washer with a high PSI but low GPM will take a lot longer than using a high PSI and high GPM. A pressure washer with 3000 PSI and 4 GPM would be the ideal washer to clean your average driveway.

The PSI is what gets the dirt and grime off your surface, GPM is what washes the grime away.

Accessories

Most pressure washers come with accessories such as different nozzles, brushes and scrubbers.

Interchangable nozzles allow you to apply different amount of pressure to your cleaning surface. Red and yellow nozzles are hard and fast cleaning. Green nozzles are not as hard and white nozzles offer the widest spray. Black nozzles are generally for applying detergent and very light pressure. Turbo nozzles operate in a spinning fashion and increase the cleaning efficiency.

PRESSURE WASHER NOZZLES

Brushes are good for washing your car and usually have a spinning action.

Scrubbers are for cleaning large flat surfaces, such as decks, driveways and roofs.

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Pressure washer safety

Pressure washers exert high forces when in operation. Always use two hands, don’t point the lance at people or animals. Test surfaces to determine pressure required for the job. Don’t blast electrical wires or power points. Keep the nozzle moving to avoid cutting into the surface. Take extra precautions when using a ladder or on a roof.

Don’t use petrol or diesel powered pressure washers in enclosed areas.

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Which pressure washer should you choose?

If you only have small, lightly soiled surfaces around the home, a electric pressure washer is for you. These are light and easy to handle.

You need a petrol powered pressure washer for your larger jobs. The PSI and GPM will depend on the type of jobs you want to carry out.

If you are going into the pressure washing business, you’ll need an industrial model.

I hope this has helped you choose a pressure washer for your specific needs.

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Basic Lawn Care

Lawn Mowing

5 Tips for a Great Lawn

Basic lawn care for handymen, how to mow your lawn.

Mow Dry Grass

For the best lawn, you should mow your lawn when it is dry. A dry lawn will stand up straighter and won’t clump as it does when your lawn is damp. This is a basic lawn care tip.

Mowing a damp lawn won’t hurt it, but it does make it harder to mow as the wet grass will cling to your mower and bog down the mower it the lawn is long.

By mowing your lawn when it’s dry also helps if your are not using a catcher to catch the clippings. As you mow, discharge the clippings over the areas of the lawn that you have already mowed and let the clippings mulch into the lawn.

Worx Lawn Mower

Mowing HEIGHT

The height you should mow your lawn depends on the type of grass you have. Heights vary from 1/2″ to an 1″ or 2″ depending on what sort of grass in your lawn.

A general rule for mowing height is 1/3 of the length of the grass blades, leaving 2/3 of the length. This helps with suppressing weeds and delivers a healthier lawn. If your lawn is overdue for mowing and has become fairly long, gradually lower the height of your mowing blades a 1/3 of the length per pass.

In shaded areas, allow the height of the grass to be a bit longer than sunny areas, as this will help your grass with its photosynthesis and is the secret to a great lawn in shady areas.

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mower blades

Keep your mower blades sharp, dull blades make for ragged cuts and doesn’t cut as efficiently as sharp blades.

If you are not catching the clippings, you may be better off putting mulching blades on as these cut your grass into small clippings enabling better mulching of your lawn.

Ensure your blades are balance as this helps reduce the vibrations from your mower.

best times to mow

The best time to mow your lawn is when you only have to remove 1/3 of the length of the blade. Another basic lawn care tip.

Never mow your lawn during the heat of the day, as this produces unnecessary stress on your lawn and on yourself. If you are able to mow when your lawn is shaded, you will have a healthier lawn.

Mowing your lawn on a regular basis will help keep your lawn in good condition and the grass will never get to long.

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new lawns

If you are just starting a new lawn, allow your grass to grow for 3-4 weeks before mowing it the first time. When you do mow your new lawn the first time, cut it to about a 1″ above the recommended height for the type of grass you have.

 
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