A concrete sidewalk provides a smooth surface for foot traffic, bikes and transporting equipment without taking attention away from gardens and landscaping. Installing a concrete sidewalk is a project you can do yourself, but it's advantageous to have at least two helpers. You'll have limited time to pour and manipulate the surface once the concrete is mixed, so familiarize yourself with the steps and work methodically.
Outline the borders of the site with two parallel ropes. Space the ropes 4½ feet apart so two people can pass and wheelchairs can use the sidewalk.
Dig between the two ropes with shovels until the entire site is 7 inches below ground level. Pound a tamper tool over the bottom of the expanse to push out air pockets and moisture, stabilizing the ground.
Sink 9-inch-long 1-by-3-inch wooden stakes into the ground along the inner walls of the expanse, every 3 feet. The tips of the stakes should be 2 inches above ground level, or even with the height of cut grass.
Set 2--by-6-inch forms against the wooden stakes around the inner walls of the expanse. Position the boards so the top side is level with the stakes, 2 inches from the ground, and attach the boards to the stakes with a hammer and nails.
Pour a 4-inch layer of ¾-inch aggregate fill into the expanse. Rake it even with a gauge rake, then tamp until the rocks are packed together.
Place ¼-inch-wide expansion strips, made of foam, cork or rubber, across the aggregate every 8 feet. The strips should be the same height as the thickness of your intended concrete sidewalk.
Mix concrete in a wheelbarrow with premade mix and water until it is thick enough to pour, but not runny.
Pour the concrete into the first section of the expanse as another person spreads it with the rake. Press the expansion strip up against the interior side of the poured concrete, and pour the adjacent section right away. The pressure of concrete from both sides will hold the strips up vertically like walls dividing each section.
Continue to pour the concrete in sections, having a helper rake it, and stand the expansion strips up. Keep the top of the strips clear of concrete by wiping them off with a trowel or cloth if concrete spatters on them. Have another person work a wood board across the surface to shift excess concrete into low areas and level the surface.
Press a squeegee over the surface to make it smooth. Water will naturally seep to the surface of the wet concrete about 15 minutes after it is poured. Stop working and wait for the water to reabsorb before you continue smoothing the surface. Add traction to the sidewalk by going over the surface with a push broom.
Set wet burlap over the concrete and moisten the burlap over the course of a week to dry the surface slowly. Once hardened, add expansion joint compound over the expansion joints so water cannot run down to the foundation.