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How to Use Broken Pieces of Concrete for a Patio

By Ruth de Jauregui
When this broken slab is removed, the eco-friendly solution is to recycle it into a new patio.

Reduce, reuse, recycle -- the mantra of the frugal homeowner. When your neighbor breaks up an old concrete slab, you are ready to recycle those broken pieces into a new patio. Also known as "urbanite," broken concrete is nearly always free for the industrious do-it-yourselfer, requiring little more than a wheelbarrow, a truck and a strong back. This talk-of-the-neighborhood project will take one weekend to complete.

Measure the space for the patio. Outline the area with a garden hose, adjusting as necessary for trees or bushes.

Remove the grass and dirt to a depth of 6 inches, using a shovel. Level the ground with a rake. Using a wheelbarrow, move excess dirt and grass to low spots in the lawn. Set aside a few clumps of grass in a shady spot.

Pour 4 inches of gravel onto the dirt. Spread with a shovel or rake until evenly distributed. Sprinkle with water, then tightly compact with a plate tamper.

Add 4 inches of sand over the gravel. Dampen with water, then compact with the plate tamper.

Sort the concrete, setting aside the pieces with a straight edge. Arrange the straight-edged pieces around the outside perimeter of the patio. Place the remaining concrete pieces inside the outlined edge, much like a jigsaw puzzle. Vary the shapes and sizes to provide visual interest. Add or remove sand as necessary to make a level surface and tap the concrete into place with a rubber mallet. Use a long board and a level to check the slope. Patios should have a slight slope to allow water to drain.

Sweep sand across the patio with a broom, filling every crack and crevice. Sprinkle the patio with water and add more sand as needed. Use reserved clumps of grass to fill in around the edge of the patio.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Garden hose
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gravel
  • Rake
  • Plate compactor
  • Sand
  • Rubber mallet
  • Broom

Tips

  • Like flagstone, recycled concrete may vary in height; measure the height and adjust your patio depth accordingly.
  • Free concrete is available through websites like Freecycle and Craigslist.
  • Concrete is heavy; ask your family or friends to help you.
  • Plate tampers, also known as plate compactors, are available at rental stores.
  • To make a permanent installation, mix a dry mortar of eight parts sand and one part dry cement. Sweep in between the concrete pieces and wet thoroughly. Repeat as necessary until the cracks are filled.

Warnings

  • This project requires stooping, kneeling and lifting. Be careful of your back.
  • Use gloves and safety glasses.

About the Author

 

With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.