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How to Pour a Small Concrete Patio - A Beginner's Guide

Author: Odell Complete ConcreteTime: 2024-01-25 12:05:01

Table of Contents

Introduction to Concrete Pouring for Patios

Pouring a new concrete patio slab can be a rewarding DIY project. With some basic materials, tools, and techniques, you can extend and improve the patio space around your home. This guide will walk through the entire process from start to finish, covering everything a beginner needs to know about concrete pouring for patios.

We'll go over the materials you need to get started, how to prepare the area, mixing and pouring techniques, finishing the slab properly, and final steps like removing forms and curing the concrete. Follow along to gain the key skills for pouring and finishing your own patio slab.

What is Covered in this Concrete Pouring Tutorial

In this concrete pouring guide, we'll cover building forms, subsurface preparation, using rebar reinforcement, mixing concrete, pouring and leveling the slab, finishing techniques like edging and brooming, cutting control joints, and proper curing. The video demonstrates the process on a small 12x16 ft patio slab. However, the techniques apply to any size residential patio or sidewalk project using hand tools and a mixer. With the steps shown, you'll gain the knowledge to pour, finish, and cure basic slabs. This will prepare you to take on larger and more complex concrete projects in the future.

Who is this Concrete Pouring Guide For?

This tutorial is intended for homeowners with little to no prior experience working with concrete. We'll explain concepts simply, so it's approachable even if you've never poured concrete before. The small patio slab example is a perfect beginner DIY project. With proper preparation and the steps outlined here, first-timers can achieve great results and a long-lasting patio. If you're interested in concrete work around your home, this is the perfect guide to get you started. Follow along to pick up the core skills needed for solid, professional-looking concrete slabs. With practice, you can use these techniques for driveways, walkways, pool decks, and more.

Materials Needed for a Small Concrete Patio Project

To complete a small DIY patio pour like the one shown, you'll need the following basic materials:

  • 2x4s or other lumber for building concrete forms

  • Nails and stakes for securing the forms

  • Sand and gravel for the sub-base

  • Concrete - you can either mix your own or have premixed delivered

  • Shovels, hoe, and rake for prep work

  • Mixing tools - wheelbarrow, hoe, and shovel if mixing yourself

  • Magnesium trowel, fresno, edger, groover, and jointing tool for finishing

  • Broom for texturing the surface

  • Concrete curing compound

  • Plastic sheeting for curing

  • Water supply like a hose for wet curing

  • Optional rebar or wire mesh for reinforcement

Preparing the Area for a New Concrete Slab

Proper subsurface preparation is key for a long-lasting concrete slab. Here are the steps involved in getting the area ready for pouring:

  1. Layout and Set Forms - Build forms using 2x4 lumber to serve as the outer edges for the slab. Secure forms with stakes and ensure corners are square.

  2. Clear Area Inside Forms - Remove all topsoil, organic material, sod, and debris from the pour area.

  3. Add Gravel Base - 4"-6" of gravel compacted down serves as a solid base layer. Tamp thoroughly.

  4. Level and Pitch Slab Area - The sub-base should be sloped 1-2% away from structures for drainage. Use a screed board and level to slope properly.

  5. Dampen Sub-base Before Pouring - Water down the gravel base to prevent the sub-base from absorbing moisture from the concrete.

Mixing and Pouring Concrete for a Patio Slab

Once your forms and sub-base are prepped, it's time to mix and place the concrete. Here's an overview of the pouring process:

  1. Choose Your Concrete Mix - Aim for 3000-4000 PSI concrete with 3/4" aggregate for exterior slabs. Add fibermesh for strength and crack resistance.

  2. Mix Concrete per Manufacturer's Specs - For bagged concrete, mix as directed on packaging. For ready mix delivered in a truck, it will arrive pre-mixed.

  3. Wheelbarrow Concrete to Slab Area - Take care not to segregate the mix when transporting from mixer to forms.

  4. Spread Concrete Evenly Inside Forms - Shovel around the perimeter first, then fill in the center area.

  5. Consolidate Concrete Thoroughly - Use a shovel or come-along tool to work mix and eliminate air pockets.

  6. Screed to Proper Elevation - Drag a straight 2x4 across the forms to level the concrete evenly.

Finishing a Patio Slab - Edging, Brooming, Curing

Floating, edging, and brooming are key steps for finishing a patio slab correctly:

  1. Float the Slab - Use a magnesium float to embed large aggregates just below the surface.

  2. Cut Control Joints - Use a grooving tool to cut joints to control random cracking. Space joints every 8-12 feet.

  3. Use an Edging Tool - Round over the slab edges with a radius for a finished look.

  4. Apply Surface Texture - For traction, use a push broom to create a non-slip brushed finish.

  5. Apply Curing Compound - Spray liquid membrane over the slab to slow moisture loss as concrete cures.

Removing Forms from Poured Concrete

Wood forms can often be removed the same day after the concrete achieves initial set, usually within 6-12 hours of pouring. Follow these tips when stripping forms:

  • Apply form release agent before pouring concrete to prevent sticking

  • Remove nails and stakes as forms are stripped off

  • Pull forms slowly and carefully to avoid cracking edges

  • Fill any small defects or holes with a concrete patching mix

Conclusion and Key Takeaways for Pouring Concrete

With the right materials and proper techniques, pouring your own DIY concrete patio is very achievable. Key takeaways include:

  • Compact and level the sub-base thoroughly before pouring

  • Use forms and reinforcement to minimize cracking

  • Consolidate concrete well when placing to avoid voids

  • Follow steps for floating, edging, and finish texture

  • Cut control joints to direct cracking

  • Cure slab completely with water or curing compounds

This covers the essential processes for pouring, finishing, and curing decorative concrete patios or slabs. Apply these best practices on your next concrete project for professional-grade results.


Q: What size patio can a beginner pour?
A: A good beginner patio size is 12x16 feet or smaller. This allows manageable concrete mixing and finishing for first-timers.

Q: How thick should a concrete patio be?
A: 4 inches is the recommended thickness for patios. Wire mesh or rebar should be added for strength.

Q: What tools do I need to pour concrete?
A: Basic tools include forms, a shovel, float, edger, broom and curing compounds. Rent or buy used tools to save money.

Q: How long does concrete take to dry?
A: Concrete dries in stages. It can be walked on in 24 hours but reaches full strength in 28 days.

Q: Can I pour concrete over existing concrete?
A: Yes, adding rebar helps bond old and new concrete. Scrub existing slab and dampen before pouring.

Q: How do I prevent cracks in concrete?
A: Proper joint placement, consistent moisture during curing and control joints help minimize cracks.

Q: What do I do after pouring concrete?
A: Finish surface as desired, cut joints, spray curing compound and cover slab to retain moisture during curing.

Q: How long after pouring can I remove forms?
A: Wood forms can usually be removed in 24 hours if concrete has hardened enough.

Q: Is a permit needed for a patio?
A: Most areas don't require permits for simple flat patio slabs. Check local regulations to be sure.

Q: What is the best concrete mix for patios?
A: A 3000-4000 psi mix with small aggregate and fibermesh works well. Add air entrainment in cold climates.