There are many choices that you can select from when putting a walkway around your home, business or property. However, when you want something that will last, concrete is the number one choice. Concrete can withstand both hot and cold, if prepared and poured correctly. It is also extremely durable, providing a hard, smooth surface that is easy to walk on. It can, however, be a bit of a challenge to build a concrete walkway. If this is your first do-it-yourself project, you may want to enlist a bit of help from a more skilled friend or neighbor. Either way, by following a few basic rules, you can ensure that your walkway is finished nicely and for a reasonable cost.
Prepare Your Site
The first step in getting a well-finished concrete walkway is to prepare the site. If there is grass in the area, it will need to but cut out. You will then need to level the ground as much as possible to remove bumps and rolls that could affect the finished look of your concrete walkway. Renting a machine like a compactor can be extremely useful to ensure that the ground is level and that no settling will occur after you place the walkway.
Once the ground is level and compacted, you will need to take a look at your immediate environment. Depending on where you live, you may need to place a layer of gravel underneath the concrete to mitigate issues with ground water. If you live in a more desert-like climate, you can get away with no gravel at all, pouring directly onto the grade. However, if groundwater is an issue, anywhere from 2-5 inches of gravel is recommended; make sure that you over-excavate to account for the increased depth.
Forming the Walkway
When the concrete arrives, you will need a contained area to place it. Forming the walkway ensures that the area holds a distinct and pleasing shape. Forming doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, simple 2x4s can easily form a straight walkway. If you want to include curves, of course, more flexible material will be required. To keep the forms in place, stakes can be pounded immediately outside the wood, giving you something to nail to and keeping the forms from shifting. Improper forming can cause huge problems once the concrete is being placed, including blow-outs and problems finishing, so take the time to get this aspect right.
With the grade taken care of and the forms placed, it’s time to start thinking about ordering the concrete. You will want to calculate this correctly to avoid ruining the project by running short or spending too much by over-calculating. Concrete is sold in cubic yards, so you will need to convert your area to this.
When placing the order for the concrete, you will likely be asked about additives. If you really have no idea what your area requires, don’t be afraid to ask what the batching company recommends. They will know the standard specifications for outdoor concrete in your area. This may include additions such as air entrenchment to mitigate the freeze/thaw cycles. Get your final price at this time; you will be required to pay upon delivery.
Pouring and Finishing
The final part of the project will be to place and finish the concrete. This happens fast, so be prepared with the proper tools, including trowels, floats, screeds and knee pads, if necessary. If you don’t have your own concrete tools, borrow or rent the appropriate supplies. When the concrete is first poured, you will be working on rough placement, such as leveling, screeding and raking. Once things are in place, it’s time to finish with your hand tools. Work quickly but carefully, as concrete can dry fast. When the concrete is almost dry, create a light broom finish. Stake off the area until it has had a chance to cure; this can take about 24 hours in normal weather. If rain threatens, cover the walkway with a light tarp.
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