Is it possible to pour your own concrete driveway? SURE! Anything is possible!
Would I advise you to attempt this skillful, labor intensive, semi permanent project on your own? NOT A CHANCE.
I am a huge fan of DIY projects and absolutely love being able to create something for my home and my family with my own bare hands. However, there is a limit to which projects I take on and which projects I leave to the professionals.
If you are a professional DIY’r and have plenty of experience taking on very challenging and time sensitive projects, then taking on this project may be a possibility.
As someone who has worked in concrete for over 10 years and come from a long line of concrete finishers and business owners, one of the most vital aspects of concrete is time.
When pouring concrete, you are on a strict time countdown that is determined by a number of factors which I cover more below in this article. This is important to note because anytime you take on a time sensitive project, you MUST have all of your research and preparation done and on hand.
You will not have time to run to the store to pick up a hand float after you lay your concrete driveway. There is no coming back tomorrow to finish the driveway. When you make the decision to pour concrete, you are at the mercy of the material.
Also make sure you are pouring on a day with zero rain and minimal wind. Most people know that rain can destroy wet concrete, however, not many people know the massive effect wind has on wet concrete.
Fast, consistent wind can cause the water in the concrete to evaporate quicker than normal making the curing time speed up tremendously, meaning less time for you to work with the concrete. Also, at times, wind can cause the concrete to change consistency where the cream becomes sticky, which again, turns the finishing process into a much bigger headache.
Mother Nature is a powerful beast and can make your day pouring concrete a living nightmare. The ideal climate for pouring is 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit with little wind and slightly cloudy. Pouring in 90 degree straight sun heat is also possible but speeds up the curing process and limits the time you have to finish your driveway.
Although pouring a driveway is extremely simple in theory, in actuality, there are hundreds of considerations you must take in order to pour a beautiful and structurally sound driveway.
Here are Top 5 considerations to make before attempting to pour your own concrete driveway:
1. City and Township Requirements
Most townships want to make sure every concrete driveway is installed properly for their residents, so they will give you specific guidelines to follow. Although each township has different requirements, you want to make sure your concrete driveway meets the minimum requirements I believe every driveway should meet.
For good practice, a concrete driveway should be at least 5 inches thick and with a minimum of 10 gauge wire mesh reinforcement. There are many different types of rebar to reinforce concrete, but 10 gauge wire mesh is usually the minimum requirement for your concrete driveway.
2. Framing Challenges
When framing your driveway one of the most import things you want to keep in mind is water fall and having all water running away from your home. Water runs with gravity and will follow whichever direction you point it to.
Keeping water running away from your house will help avoid potential flooding. Another hazard you are avoiding with correct pitch and elevation, is sitting water.
Sitting water is also known as “bird baths” can cause a slip hazard, especially in colder months when the water freezes and turns to ice.
Good practice is to have anywhere from 1/8inch per foot to 1/4inch per foot pitch on a driveway. Obviously there are times where the pitch is more than that. For example at my house, my garage slab is 6 feet above the street and my house is set back 60 feet from the street. My the pitch on my driveway has to be 6 feet of pitch over 60 feet of length, equalling 1.2 inches per foot.
In other times, your street may actually be higher in elevation than your garage floor, forcing water to run towards your home. In this case, if it is possible to run the water to the perimeter of your driveway into the grass, it will help keep water off your driveway and away from your home.
When it is not possible, consider finding a low point in the driveway and installing a drain to catch the water, and trench a drain pipe into your yard away from house.
As you can see, it is very important to focus on pitching your forms to a safe location for water to run and continue to run as to avoid flooding and slip hazards.
3. Concrete Slump (extremely important)
Slump (in common terms) is the word for the wetness of concrete.
This may be the most important consideration when pouring concrete. Please read my article on concrete slump to further understand the importance of appropriate water mixture in concrete. This is nothing to pass over and must have high consideration.
In theory, when mixing concrete it would make sense to add a lot of water to give yourself time to pour the concrete and have time left over to finish the concrete however this is not always the case. When adding water to concrete there is a sweet spot for the amount of water that should or should not be added.
If you are to have TOO LITTLE WATER, the concrete will cure far too fast and will be extremely hard to move around and get flat. usually lower slump concrete, Or dryer concrete, is used when pouring curb so the concrete will stay upright and not “slump“ down losing its shape. However when pouring a driveway you do not want anything below a 5 inch slump in my opinion.
If you are to add space TOO MUCH WATER then the concrete becomes soupy and is structurally weakened. Soupy concrete is also almost impossible to manipulate. When you get the concrete to the height that you desire gravity will pull the super concrete down losing its shape. You will then need to continue to move the concrete around until it is dry enough to sit in its place.
As I said before, you should be safe with around a 5 inch slump when pouring your concrete driveway.
4. Concrete Truck v Bags of Concrete.
You have done all of your research about what your village requires for the specifications of your driveway and you have framed your driveway with the correct pitch for water to run, now it is the time to decide if you should order concrete from a mixing company or use bags of concrete.
A single car driveway will be 20×10 feet as well as 5 inches thick. A driveway this size is just over 3 cubic yards of concrete. For this size driveway you would need over 180 60lb bags of concrete. Mixing over 180 bags of concrete would mean you would have to rent a concrete mixer.
In my professional opinion, ordering your material from a concrete material company is your safest option and will best help with time for concrete to properly cure and time for you to finish the concrete.
Not only will it be easier for you to order from a mixing company but the concrete slump will be more consistent and you will be able to pour your driveway in a fraction of the time giving you a better result when finishing your concrete driveway.
5. Finishing concrete WELL is an ART
Your driveway is poured and you have made it nice and flat with a straight edge bringing you to our favorite part, finishing.
Finishing concrete is often looked over as simply broom-ing, however this part of the process takes the most skill and experience. There are actual schools to teach people how to finish concrete well, but as most things in life, the best schooling comes from years of hands on experience.
Timing is everything when it comes to finishing concrete. There are three separate phases of finishing and are all determined by where the concrete is at in it’s curing process.
When the concrete is still pretty wet you want to use a bull float to keep the concrete flat and eliminate any birdbaths. You also want to do your first pass of edging the perimeter of the concrete. If you want to tool in your control joints, do you want to make the first pass while the concrete is still wet.
On your second pass you want to re-open your edges and control joints as well as flatten out any cream on top of the concrete. By the end of your second pass all of your markings should look ready to be finished.
The last step is to correct any errors on the concrete with edging and floating right before you broom your concrete. This is where the experience really comes in handy.
If concrete is too hard before finishing, it can be extremely slippery and will have no surface for traction. If the concrete is still too wet the broom marks will create a cutting hazard for your feet or if you were to fall on your driveway.
If you want to take this project on and ready to learn more, read more in detail on other posts on this page.