A concrete patio can be a simple solution to add some character to your backyard, provided you’re willing to take the time to keep it clean and add some good-looking furniture – after all, what’s a patio without the perfect deck chairs?
It also makes for some very easy mowing, since there aren’t odd angles to work around – plus, concrete lasts for a very long time when it’s taken care of properly. When you’re ready to get started, keep in mind that you’ll have to excavate the area before framing concrete patio can begin.
Planning & Preparation
Before you can build, you need to decide how large you want the patio to be and mark out the area. It’s quite typical to see a concrete patio of about 50 square feet, so it’s worthwhile to start there and adjust as necessary.
If you’re going for that size, you’ll probably need around 25 bags of concrete in pre-mixed form, and you should rent an automatic mixer. Or see our page on making your own mixer.
Using a garden shovel, excavate the patio area to about six inches below the surface. Two of those inches will be filled with gravel and the remaining four with concrete, ensuring that your concrete won’t crack with potentially dramatic changes in the weather or trapped frozen water.
When you’ve excavated, you’re ready to start the framing.
Framing the Patio Area
The frame you build, or ‘form’, will be what you use to hold the gravel and the concrete as it sets in place. This will typically be built from wood, and will act to keep the gravel and concrete from spreading outside of the patio’s predetermined space.
If you’d rather not use wood, strong plastic or rubber strips are available from your local hardware store. These should easily be sunk into the ground that lines the border of your planned patio area.
If you plan on having your concrete patio flush with the rest of your lawn, the top of the patio frame should be level with the ground. When you’ve got this set up, put your two inches of gravel inside the frame and tamp down firmly to prevent shifting.
Also grab yourself some high, flat pieces of rock to install on top of the gravel, which will help support the rebar reinforcement inside the concrete.
Place your rebar in a grid pattern: put the pieces every two feet, alternating them right to left and front to back. Where the rebar crosses over another piece, use wire to secure the rebar in place.
Using rebar is a crucial step that can’t be dismissed during framing – it is what acts as a unifier for the concrete, and will help to provide extra support to your new patio. Without it, you may find that the patio cracks more easily or doesn’t set the way you had anticipated.
Finishing Your Patio
Of course, the task isn’t finished when the rebar goes in and the framing is done. Use the automatic mixer to mix up your bags of concrete, closely following the directions on the label. Then, pour your concrete into the designated space between the frame.
You’re going to want to get the concrete all down as fast as possible, so have filler rocks ready to add to the mixture and determine the easiest and quickest route you can take to transport the concrete.
When the concrete is all down, use a creed and the lines of the concrete patio framing to take off the excess mixture. A jointer will be able to help you finish off the joints, and you can cut these simply using a mason’s trowel.