A How-to-Guide: Concrete Advice for Home Repair

There are a number of small home repairs and projects which might involve making concrete. Take heart. What used to be backbreaking and intimidating work is now much easier. You’ll need to be aware of some basic considerations, but with a little expenditure of time and effort, you can save lots of money.

Knowing what kind of concrete you need is essential. In reality there are more types of concrete than you can imagine. If you walk down the streets of any city, you’ll see many buildings and structures made of concrete.

On the highways, you’ll see bridges, overpasses, and even dams made of concrete. All of these uses of concrete require a different composition of the basic materials. Concrete used in massive projects like hydroelectric power dams must be able to withstand enormous pressures. Concrete strength is measured in thousands of pounds pressure per square inch. Fortunately, there are dozens of premixed products with their uses clearly spelled out right on the bag to aid you in your project.

The homeowner doesn’t have to worry about tensile strength or other considerations. When the do-it-yourselfer goes to the hardware or home repair store, there will be many products to choose from. All will have sufficient strength for home projects, but the DIYer still has to pick from a variety of choices. Simply reading the bag is an obvious aide to the home project do-it-yourselfer, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to do that.

The size of the project will be one factor to consider when determining which concrete product to buy. Should you get an 80 lb. bag of concrete to mix with sand yourself in the hopes of saving money? Remember, you’ll have to carry those bags from the store where you bought them. You may want to get smaller sixty or even forty pound bags that you can handle more easily. Perhaps, you’ll make the project easier by buying a product already mixed in 40 pound bags.

Setting fence posts is an easy job for the homeowner, especially with the pre-mix aggregate you can buy for that purpose. It’s an aggregate. An aggregate means that it’s already mixed to the recommended strength and that it includes chunks of gravel. You may think that’s cheating but gravel gives the concrete added strength.

Laying brick or block requires additional tools and precision, but can be accomplished with patience, the right tools and a methodical approach. Mortar is the type of concrete you want if you’re going to lay brick or blocks. You shouldn’t mix the mortar with anything except water. It’s already got lime and other ingredients in it. Lime is the ingredient that makes it stick to the block and makes it easier to work with. You’ll need vertical and horizontal levels to keep your project straight for any brick or block project.

Making a sidewalk is a larger, more difficult job but it will become easier if you break it down into sections, making one section at a time. You’ll need lumber, hammer and nails, and small stakes to support the frame. The frame for each section should be constructed to a minimum 4 inch depth. Make one square or rectangle at a time, leaving an expansion joint in between. While large concrete projects require the use of a machine called a ‘bull float’, you can do a small concrete job by moving the concrete around in shovels and then screeding it off with a 2 x 4. There is a premix concrete solution available even for making small sidewalks.

If you’re making a sidewalk, it’s best to cure the concrete slowly. Concrete that is allowed to cure slowly becomes harder and more durable. As the concrete begins to dry, sprinkle it with a spray of water every few hours. This can be done a couple of times before sealing the moisture in with a cover of plastic sheeting. After a week or two, the concrete will have cured to sufficient strength that you can remove the sheeting.

Making concrete is not a difficult job if you organize yourself around the project. Start with a series of small projects until you feel comfortable with the materials. At that point you might want to go for that sidewalk, patio, or outdoor fireplace.

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