Completing your own concrete project can be a gratifying experience though it will involve a good deal of planning and plenty of physical labor. A concrete project requires that you plan your pour, set up forms, place your order and finish your concrete. This Do-It-Yourself guide will take you though those steps to help you complete your concrete project.

Hi-Grade Materials provides this information as a courtesy to you, but be aware that once the concrete leaves the truck's chutes, it becomes your responsibility to place and finish it. For a more in depth guide to concrete placement check out "Cement Mason's Guide to Building Concrete Walks, Drives, Patios, and Steps" available from the Portland Cement Association.

Develop a Plan
Concrete is a very heavy material that doesn't move easily once it's on the ground. It is highly perishable and sets within a couple of hours of being batched. Concrete finishing requires some knowledge and skill, so having an idea of what you are doing and how you are going to do it is the first step to making the job manageable.

You will need to contact your local city or county planning department to check on any requirements that you need to follow (i.e., construction permits, code requirements). Often specific dimensions or depths are required for exterior flatwork and footing (four inches is typically the minimum thickness recommended for flatwork). You might also be required to place concrete that meets certain minimum strength or cement requirements.

Digging will be necessary in order to set your forms and you should contact your local utility companies to find out where buried cables are located.

2 x 4s or other dimensional lumber will be needed for forms and stakes. This is a good time to make a scaled drawing of your project in order to figure out how much lumber you are going to need and calculate the square footage of your project.

The height, width and depth of your project will determine how much ready mixed concrete you will need. After you have the dimensions of your project you can use the Concrete Calculator on our website to determine the amount of ready mix concrete to order. (One cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet. To determine the needed amount of concrete, multiply thickness expressed in feet by the square footage and divide by 27.)

Don't forget to add 10% for spillage, uneven subgrade, spreading of forms, and settling of subgrade. Dispatchers or the Sales Department can help you determine your needs for quantity and type.

Prepare the ground beneath your pour area by removing the grass, roots and any vegetation growing in the soil. Unless you are placing concrete on virgin clay, you are going to have to remove any loose or soft dirt and replace it with a granular fill such as fill sand or stone. You need to order and place this fill prior to placing the ready mix concrete.

You will need to be prepared with the proper tools necessary to set up the job and finish the concrete. The tools typically needed to excavate and set up for your job are as follows:
•Spade and square-ended shovel
•Hammer and sledge hammer
•Tape measure
•Level, square and string
•Double-headed forming nails
•Construction-size wheel barrel
•Form-release oil
•Vibrating compactor, heavy tamper or roller
•Screed board (Note: A straight 2 x 4 cut a couple of feet longer than the width of your pour will work fine.)
•Bull-Float (Note: you will need enough handles for your bull float and concrete broom to reach across the width of your pour.)
•Jointer or groover
•Concrete broom
•Trowel (Hard troweling is not recommended nor is it needed when finishing concrete used for patios, sidewalks, or driveways)
•Small mason's trowel
•Water hose (for clean up)
•Curing and sealing materials

Most concrete tools can be rented at businesses that deal with contractors, or can be purchased at most lumber yards and hardware stores.

It is important to think about where you are going to place the ready mix concrete truck when it arrives. Can your pour be reached from the street or will the truck have to leave the road? Mixer trucks are very heavy, especially when loaded. They will put ruts in your yard, break septic tank covers, and crack existing concrete, such as driveways and sidewalks. The truck will need overhead clearance so be sure to check if there are any low wires or branches in your planned route.
Now that you have an idea of what you're doing, how you're doing it, and have the continued desire to tackle the project yourself, it is time to get started.