Tips for Pouring a Concrete Slab
Know what to expect, prepare for the worst, and the rest is easy.
Synopsis: Sooner or later, you’re bound to encounter a project where you need to pour a concrete slab. When you do, take advantage of the lessons contributing editor Mike Guertin has to share. Guertin outlines the process from the proper way to prepare for the pour with the right techniques and materials to the best way to finish the concrete after it has been poured. This article includes sidebars on minimizing concrete cracks and ordering concrete.
Magazine extra: Read Finishing a Patio Slab to learn how to achieve the right finish for your project.
For the first 15 years of my building career, my partner and I subcontracted all the flat work: basement, garage, and patio slabs; driveways; and sidewalks. But as labor prices went up and scheduling concrete pours became harder, I figured we could do it ourselves. Pouring concrete slabs didn’t look very complicated.
Luckily, our first foray was on my own house. The look on the ready-mix truck driver’s face showed that he knew we had only half a clue. What I learned during that 17-yard pour was that the same critical ingredients for any construction project — planning, preparing, and having the right equipment — apply to even the seemingly simple task of placing concrete.
It took a few pours, but we picked up some basic knowledge and a few handy tips that don’t come easily to someone not working with concrete every day. I hope the following information will take some of the anxiety out of your next slab pour.
Most concrete cracks can be minimized if the base is well prepared
The soil must be well drained, especially in frost-prone regions. Remove any organic material (wood, leaves, tree roots). If possible, I dig out any large rocks within a foot of the surface.