Spring is once again upon us and if this has you thinking of home improvements, work in the garden or adding a summer house or shed, you may be starting to work with concrete. Before you do, why not take a read through our beginners guide, so you know what lies ahead if you plan to do the work yourself. Even if you are enlisting help, having an understanding of what is happening is never a bad idea either.
Why Use Concrete
Concrete is an inexpensive material. This is why it is often chosen for buildings, bases and even many decorative features in both homes and gardens. It is readily available and can allow you to create many imaginative additions at very little cost and a little work.
How do I prepare concrete?
Having prepared your mould, completed the ground or framework work required, you are now ready to start. Firstly, ensure you have all you need to hand. You may need cement, sand/aggregate or ready to use concrete mix, water and suitable tools such as a trowel, board or mixer and protective clothing.
You may choose to use an additive such as fiberglass filaments which can reduce cracking for patios or stucco repair work, or decorative additions such as glass or stones, so be sure to have them handy too.
Depending on the weather, you might need to move quickly. Once mixed, curing times can be pretty swift on warm days. Adding water to your concrete starts off the chemical reaction hardening process and it is important to add the right amount of water, so the hydration process works effectively to produce correctly hardened concrete.
Concrete is self-levelling when poured at the correct consistency, so the correct formwork to retain your wet mixture is vital. You don’t want to see your hard labour running out of gaps or moulds and creating a hardened unwanted mess in the wrong place.
Concrete work is likely to need reinforcement
Concrete itself has relatively poor tensile strength, which may require the use of steel reinforcement rods, bars or mesh and rebar tie wires to ensure the required strength for your structure. This is important not only for safety but to ensure its integrity in use.
Steel reinforcing measures can be tied in place using the tying wires to build overall strength to your structure where it is needed. Remember it is usually better to overdo strengthening measures than not use enough. They will not increase the inherent strength of the concrete, but they will give overall structural integrity to a wall, base or even a decorative garden or home feature when used properly.
Caring for your concrete
You may choose to smooth the surface as the concrete stiffens or polish with a buffing machine to give a gentle sheen or to apply a protective sealant after hardening.
If you are using concrete for an indoor floor or countertop you will definitely need to seal it to prevent dirt lodging into the pores. You will need to leave concrete to dry thoroughly before applying a sealant – this may take several weeks and once done will last for several years before reapplication is needed.
Look after yourself
You must take personal safety measures against corrosive properties when working with wet concrete. It is critically important to wear the right footwear, and protect your hands, knees and any skin that will spend time in contact with the wet mixture. Most damage is done before you notice so minimising the risk of it making contact with you is the safest idea.