Concreting Tips and Tricks

In the past, concreting has had a bad wrap in the landscaping scene. People think of it as the cheap and ugly option when it comes to the hard surfaces choice and is generally the go to for project builders for driveways and paths. Or in my good mate Chris the Greeks house, this grey gold occupies almost every square metre possible!

 

Over the years the concrete choices have expanded widely and there are many more options besides the standard grey concrete we are accustomed to such as stencil, stamped and exposed aggregate. This has caused it to come back as part of the landscape scene as it is becoming more decorative and still generally cheaper than other hard surfaces such as paving or tiles and generally less maintenance. There are many pros and cons to concrete overall but is no doubt a effective option in the landscape for durable and cost effective application.

Below are a list  the common types, colours and finishes of concrete options available for you to choose from. (We will be releasing articles on each of these in the coming weeks.)

1.Plain Concrete

2.Colour through concrete

3.Colour on top concrete

4.Colour sealed concrete

5.Spray on colour

6.Exposed aggregrate concrete

7.Stencil concrete

8.Stamped concrete

9.Polished concrete

10. Various finishing techniques

Example of exposed aggregate concreted driveway
Example of exposed aggregate concrete driveway

 

When deciding on which type of concrete you will opt for you need to ensure you choose the right type. Planning and designing concrete areas, like any building project, is one of the most crucial steps in the process. 

What will you be using the concrete for?

Is your concrete on a slope?

Will you have vehicular traffic on your concrete?

Do you need council permission or engineering?

Sydney concretors planning and designing concrete installation
Natural Services planning and designing a concrete installation

 

These are some of the many things you have to take into the planning and designing concrete aspect of the project.  

If you are building a new home or renovating an existing home you may require engineering drawings and as part of the process in getting the concrete down. If you are doing the concrete yourself it is important to follow standard Engineering and standards for concrete to ensure it will not fail and last many years to come. Cutting corners on concrete can be a costly mistake.

If you are concreting areas in a council area such as your driveway crossover (council section of driveway) then you may have to complete a council application before starting works. This may also involve getting council inspections before, after and during the process to ensure it is done as per the council guidelines. All councils have different specs, fees and processes so be sure to contact your local council before beginning any work so save any confusion. Ideally use a licensed contractor (like Natural Landscaping 😉 ) who is highly experienced with council dealings and will take care of the entire process for you.

Once all these decisions are made and all your plans, applications etc are sorted its time to dig in and get started. The thickness of the concrete, base preparation and even soil type can determine the excavation depth so make sure you see our excavating and preparing for concrete notes if doing the work yourself. For larger areas with access; machines are the way to go but in tight spaces the good old mattock may have to come into play. Most decent concrete contractors will have machinery to be able to price to excavate but always get a separate price for this item so you can compare apples for apples between contractors.

 

Sydney concretors excavating for concrete installlation
Natural Services concretors excavating for concrete installation

 

 One expensive pitfall individuals may experience when getting pricing for concrete is not accounting for the soil that is removed from the job (spoil) to allow for concrete. This item alone could add up to thousands of dollars depending on the project so make sure the contractor has given you at least an estimate per tonne for the removal of excess soil if there is nowhere to use it onsite.

Concrete excavation and spoil removal can be a costly expense
Here's an example of how much spoil you may need to remove after excavation for concreting!

 

Now all your levels are at the desired heights you should do a quick measure of the area and book the concrete as it can be over a weeks wait to get the concrete at a reasonable time. Measuring exact quantities of concrete at this stage is not super crucial, you mainly want to ensure you get your delivery scheduled in time.

The time has now come for concrete preparation and installation. The basic principle of concreting is that all edges of the concrete that aren’t butting against other hard edges, such as a house or existing concrete, must be secured with timber boards. These boards are called formwork and are fixed with pegs hammered into the ground and create the finished shape of the concrete like a mould or frame. Inside this area of formwork a layer of sand or similar is laid as a base and then steel mesh suspended on chairs above the sand to make sure it is off the base and completely surrounded by concrete.  Expansion foam and other means are included to reduce risk of cracks. The concrete is then pumped or barrowed into the area and screeded (levelled off with a metal straight edge) to the heights determined by formwork.

Concrete formwork and dowels ready for council inspection before concrete pour
Natural Services concrete formwork and dowels ready for council inspection

Once the concrete is in place there are various ways of finishing concrete such as broom or cove which will be released in more detail  in future posts. From there the concrete is left to cure for a few days until the formwork is removed and expansion sawcuts completed. 

After 30 days the concrete is cured and can be sealed in one of many ways explained in sealing and maintaining concrete. If the proper procedure, guidelines and maintenance are followed then the concrete should look great and last for a lifetime.

Sydney concrete installation for driveway Natural Services
Natural Services completed concrete driveway installation

 

Thinking of paving instead of concrete? Look out for our Concrete vs Paving article coming soon, to hear the pros and cons of each.

This is only the beginning of our blog and info sharing, we have a whole big brain of info from Simon’s experience over the years. If you’d like to get notified each time we release info like this, click the button below to sign up!