Skill Level: Intermediate
High traffic areas around the grill, in front of the doghouse and the trash collection spot are usually bare and muddy. Pour a concrete pad to stop the mud and save yourself the trouble of trying to grow grass in these barren areas. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.
Tools & Materials
- 3 lb. sledge hammer
- Tape measure
- Line level
- Claw hammer
- Hand float
- Bull float (For a large pad)
- Edging tool
- Grooving tool
- Street broom
- Forming boards
- 2x4 long enough to screed the pad
- Mason's cord
- Fine sand
- 6 mil plastic
- Wire remesh (if you don't use fiber-reinforced concrete)
- Concrete sealer
Select the Type of Mix
SAFETY NOTE: Always wear a dust mask and goggles when working with dry concrete mix. The chemicals in wet concrete may cause burns or skin irritation. So, always wear gloves, boots and goggles to avoid skin contact with wet concrete. Always read and follow the manufacturer's safety precautions.
There are many types of premixed masonry products available. Choosing one can be a confusing task. To simplify the selection process, narrow the field to three basic mixes.
- Regular concrete mix is a mixture of sand, gravel, and Portland cement. Regular mix should be used in conjunction with wire remesh. Remesh adds stability to the concrete and helps ensure the pad doesn't develop large cracks. Regular mix works best when it's poured in warm weather.
- High early strength concrete mix is best for cold weather pours. High early strength mixes have the same ingredients as regular mixes and an additive that shortens the setup time for the concrete. The shortened setup time helps the concrete cure before it can freeze in cold conditions. High early strength concrete also requires remesh.
- Fiber-reinforced mixes have the same ingredients as regular mix and synthetic fibers that help strengthen the concrete's bond. Fiber-reinforced concrete can be poured without using wire remesh.
Compare the properties of each mix to your needs and choose the one that suits your application best.
Figure How Much Concrete You Need
To determine how much concrete you need, use our concrete calculator. Keep in mind that hand mixing concrete is time consuming and labor intensive. If you need more than 1/2 cubic yard, you may want to order the concrete premixed in a truck.
Prepare the Site
Determine the best location for the pad. Try to choose a location that is already level to reduce the need for digging.
- Mark the corners for the pad with stakes. Use the 3,4,5 method to check the stakes for square. Set the stakes 6" back from each corner. Dig out the area inside the stakes 6" deep. Most concrete pads are 4" deep; digging to 6" gives you enough room to lay a good base for the pad.
- Use a tamper to compact the bottom of the hole. Fill in 2" of the bottom of the hole with gravel and fine sand. Compact the gravel and fine sand with a tamper.
- To promote water run-off, the pad needs a slight slope. One-quarter inch of drop per foot of length is usually sufficient. Determine which direction you want the water to drain, then stake and nail the first forming board on the high side of the pad. The stakes should be on the outside of the form to help steady the forming boards. Check the forming board to ensure that it is level from end to end. Install the second forming board at the low side of the pad. Use a line level to check for level between the first and second boards. The bubble in the level should read slightly toward the high side of the pad. Adjust the boards as needed. Stake and nail the last two forming boards. Backfill behind the boards with soil removed from the hole so they don't deflect (move) when the concrete is poured.
- Cover the bottom of the hole with 6 mil plastic. The plastic serves as a vapor barrier and helps prolong the life of the pad.
- If you aren't using fiber-reinforced concrete, cut and fit wire remesh into the form. Place the remesh on small blocks so that it rests at half the height of the pad.
Pour the Concrete
If you liked making mud pies, you're going to love pouring concrete. Have all your tools ready before you start mixing the first batch.
- Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Coat the insides of the forming boards lightly with cooking oil. The oil keeps the concrete from bonding to the boards and simplifies removing the forming boards later. Fill the form with wet concrete. Be sure to work the concrete into the corners.
- Screed the concrete with a 2x4 long enough to reach across the pad. Rest the 2x4 on top of the forming boards and work it back and forth in a sawing motion. As you work the board back and forth, pull it from one end of the pad to the other. Make several passes with the screed board to even out the pad and knock down the high spots. Fill any low spots with fresh concrete and screed the pad until the top is flush with the form.
- While the concrete is still wet, use a wooden or metal float to smooth the pad. Move the float in a semicircular motion along the top of the pad. Hold the leading edge of the float slightly above the concrete to avoid gouging the surface. As you float the surface, the gravel is forced down and excess water and air pockets rise to the top. Continue floating until the slab is smooth.
- After the concrete begins to set, use an edging tool along the sides of the pad. The edging tool breaks the pad loose from the form and compacts the sides of the pad. For large pads, use a grooving tool every 6' to 8' to make control joints in the pad.
- Surface the pad. One of the most popular and simplest surfaces for concrete is the broom finish. Dampen the bristles of an ordinary street broom and drag it lightly across the pad's entire surface. The broom makes small ridges in the concrete and provides traction to the surface of the pad.
Cure and Seal the Pad
Proper curing and sealing promotes high strength and long life in the concrete. Follow these steps to protect your pad:
- Cover the pad with plastic for forty-eight hours to prevent it from flash drying on top.
- Uncover the pad and remove the forming boards. Allow the pad to continue curing according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- After the pad cures, apply concrete sealer to protect it.