Key Points For Installing Concrete On Your Own

Your mistakes will be visible for years after you are gone.

Practice makes perfect. You won’t have a good looking job until you have done 5 or 6 jobs, so make sure to try laying concrete on other jobs first.

Concrete is a chemical reaction. It goes faster and faster as it gets hotter or drier.

Drier means stiffer, harder to work. Low slump is 2 or 3. If concrete gets ahead of you, you won’t catch it. You cannot simply add water to the mix as it will affect the finishing and strength of the concrete.

Concrete is extremely heavy.  It will take more than you and your son to tackle it.

You will need 5 – 6 adults to help you install it properly. The bigger the job, the more help you need.

Technical Details

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Ordering Specifications

For outside concrete, use 4500 psi, 6% air entrained concrete at a 6-7 inch slump. Do not ask for accelerators. Pick a day that is long sleeve weather. Long sleeve weather is better because it gives you more time to do the work. Forget November or the rest of winter.

Measure the depth of your concrete form. Stretch a string line across the forms in several places and measure the depth. One cubic yard will cover 81 square feet 4” deep (recommended minimum), 72 sf 4.5” deep and 65 sf 5” deep. If you are deeper than you want to be add fill material and remeasure. Tell the dispatcher your dimensions and order heavy, at least ½ cubic yard. If you run short, you may never get it right.

Forming Concrete

Make the water flow away from your house. Make the concrete slope 1 inch in 10 feet. The forms will be the edge you strike off of.

  • Use pea gravel for a base. This gravel will drain water that gets under the concrete and reduces the chances of frost heave.
  • Thicken the edge that will take the most traffic on and off the slab.
  • Make sure you are on your own property. Obey the building code where necessary.
  • Do not pour over old paving or change the depth of the concrete suddenly, like 4 inches to 6 inches, or expanding a patio by simply placing over the old one intact. The concrete will crack at that point.

Expansion Joint

Asphaltic or foam material. You can buy 4’ x ½” thick, material may very.  Make sure you use it between new concrete and old concrete. This is also called isolation joints. It is to isolate the new concrete so it will not stick or attach to the other concrete. It will crack if it does. A mile of concrete will expand and contract 34 inches as the weather changes from winter to summer. If you have long runs, use expansion joint material every 80 feet.

Necessary Tools

  • nail stakes
  • 2 x 4’s
  • string
  • tape measure
  • levels
  • shovel
  • come along
  • strike off (a long stiff 2×4 that spans the forms that you will use to get the concrete in the forms at about the right height),
  • bull float (long handle 3 ft wide float that will help you reach out on the slab to start floating with out walking in the concrete),
  • enough handle extensions for the bull float
  • straight edge(a really wide bull float like 8 or 10 ft)
  • joint tools
  • hand floats
  • edger tools
  • broom for texturing
  • rubber boots
  • paint roller frame and roller cover for curing
  • curing compound.

Placing the mix

Make sure you are ready when we show up. It is the drivers job to drop off the concrete. They are not finishers or installers. The driver is only responsible for dumping the concrete. He is not responsible if your forms break. Your tools and forms need to be ready to go. The concrete has a short self life once it leaves the truck. Again, you will never catch concrete that gets ahead of you.


Beginners should stick with outside work that you will just broom finish. Don’t attempt decorate concrete on your own. Strike off the concrete and start bull floating. Both directions if possible don’t over do it. If possible get and use a long strike bar (8 ft channel float), this tool will give you a flatter job with fewer bird baths. If you need to walk out on the slab after it starts to harden, use a 2×2, 2 inch blue board to walk on.


Curling is the single most important thing you can do to improve durability is to apply a curing compound. As soon as possible without marking, roll the compound on, keep a wet edge at all times. Dip and roll. Use a non yellowing high solids product. Astm c 1315 type a @ about 300 sqft / gal

Protecting the Surface

Keep dogs, cats, and kids away until they can’t mark it. Watch the leaves in the fall, bugs in the summer. Barricade it from heavy traffic. Stay off it for at least 2 weeks, longer if it is cold.


Questions About Self Installing Concrete?
Call our dispatchers (317) 782-3200.

They’ll get you the answers you need or direct you to the right person.