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A concrete patio can be an attractive part of the landscape, provided it is properly decorated after it is placed. It is also a convenient landscape element, as the patio is usually square and is easy to mow around. Additionally, it is an excellent place to enjoy outdoor cooking and entertaining. Concrete is durable and it can withstand a great deal of wear and tear. Building a concrete patio is something that you can do on your own in about three days. With a little investment of time, you can save money by installing your patio yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it.
The first thing to do, of course, is plan your patio. You need to figure out how big you want the patio, and mark off the area. Additionally, you need to make sure you have all of the necessary tools. 50 square feet is a fairly common size patio, and for that (at about six inches thick) you need 25 bags of pre-mixed concrete. Make sure that you get the pre-mixed for best results and easiest construction. You will also need to make sure you have concrete tools and an automatic concrete mixer. If you do not wish to purchase these tools, it is possible to rent them from a home improvement or hardware store.
Next, you need to excavate the area with a garden shovel. The best thing to do is excavate six inches deep. This is so that you have a two-inch layer of gravel beneath four inches of concrete. This is especially important in the north, where the freezing and thawing cycle can cause drainage problems. The gravel allows for adequate drainage, and that prevents cracking due to frozen water trapped beneath the patio.
After you have excavated your patio area, you need to build a form to hold the gravel and concrete. This form is usually made from wood. It acts as a frame of sorts to keep the gravel and concrete in place, instead of spreading beyond the confines of your patio. The form can be constructed from wood or strong plastic or rubber, and should be sunk into the ground lining the entire border of the patio area. If you want the patio flush with the ground, the top of the form should be level with the surrounding lawn. After that is done, put in the gravel. Make sure you tamp it down firmly to avoid shifting later on. Two-inch high flat pieces of rock should be installed as well, on top of the gravel, to act as supports for rebar reinforcing (the rebar will be built in the middle of the four inch slab of concrete; two inches of concrete below the rebar and two inches above).
Rebar is not solid, but rather a grid consisting of the rebar. You should install the rebar by putting the pieces every two feet front to back and right to left. At places where pieces of rebar intersect, secure them together with wiring. The rebar acts as a concrete unifier and also provides additional support to your patio. It is an integral part of the patio building process.
Next, mix the concrete in the automatic mixer. Make sure that you follow the directions for adding water. It is best to start by adding water with the garden hose, then adding the concrete. Add water again until the concrete is a uniform and medium shade of shiny gray. Pour the concrete into the prepared site. Begin at the end of the patio farthest away from the location of your mixer. If you need to, you can build a ramp to make it easier to transport the concrete (usually in a wheelbarrow). Have plenty of filler rocks on hand to add to the mixture. You should pour as fast as possible, and in order to do this, it is crucial that everything be prepared as much as possible beforehand.
Using the form boards, use a creed to smooth the concrete and bring off the excess. Cut initial control joints in the patio using a mason's trowel. Joints should be 2 inches deep, and located every three or four feet. As you do this, watch for a watery layer to appear. It will disappear on its own, but you should wait for this to happen before proceeding. A jointer will help you finish the control joints. Make a clean groove about one inch deep.
Finally, finish the surface with any desired design elements. A push broom lightly run over the surface can create an interesting design and create a surface that is slip resistant. Lay plastic over the patio for properly "curing." This prevents the patio from drying too fast. Leave the plastic on for a week and then do not subject the patio to a great deal of stress for at least two more weeks