A concrete patio can be a great way to add to the value of your home while providing a place for enjoying the outdoors. Concrete is a durable material, long-lasting with easy maintenance requirements. Building your own concrete patio does not require any advanced building skills, only attention to detail and hard work. It's also a fairly quick project that can be finished in a matter of days.
Preparing the Hole
The best way to prevent mistakes in any DIY project is through careful planning beforehand. Since your patio will be a fairly permanent fixture immediately upon hardening, correcting mistakes after the fact will be difficult without heavy equipment. So plan out every step before you break ground.
For a 50-ft.-square patio 6 in. thick, which is a standard size, you'll need 25 bags of pre-mixed concrete, rebar, gravel, flat rocks 2 in. thick, concrete tools and an automatic concrete mixer. The tools can be purchased from a local hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes, or rented from the same places.
Excavate the area where you'll be installing your patio. Square patios are the norm, but any shape may be selected. Dig the patio hole 6 inches deep to allow room for both the concrete and the gravel. After excavation build a form for holding the gravel and concrete. This form should line the patio hole's edges and can be constructed of wood, plastic or rubber. Sink the form firmly into the ground. The purpose of the form is to maintain the patio's shape without allowing the building elements to spread outside the hole you've dug. For a patio that's flush with your lawn, level the form with the level of your lawn.
Readying for the Pour
Fill the bottom of the dug patio area with a layer of gravel 2 inches deep. By including a layer of gravel you're providing a drainage solution for your patio. This is especially helpful in extreme temperature areas where extremes can cause expansion and contraction of the concrete leading to cracks without the gravel to provide a stable porous layer for water collection underneath. Firmly settle the gravel so as to keep it from shifting. Place 2-in.-high flat pieces of rock on top of the layer of gravel to aid in support of the rebar level.
The rebar is a grid of steel reinforcing bars that you should place 2 inches above the gravel layer on top of the flat rocks. Place these bars every two feet forming a grid pattern and using wire to secure the places where bars join. The layer of rebar will perform two functions for your patio. It will act as a concrete unifier and it will provide you with extra support. With the rebar in place the patio is ready for the concrete pour.
Pouring the Concrete
Mix your concrete in the automatic mixer according to manufacturer's instructions. You should begin by adding some water to the mixer, then concrete, then water again, repeating until you've added the required amount and have a smooth consistency.
Pour the concrete, beginning at the point of your patio furthest from the mixter. A wheelbarrow is useful for transporting the concrete. Using trowels and concrete floats, smooth the concrete. As you proceed you should cut a series of control joints into the concrete about 2 in. deep. The control joints will provide your concrete room to move as it expands and prevent cracking.
You can finish the concrete, once poured, with any desired design elements, stamping designs into the concrete or using paper stencils. Color and stains can also be added to give your patio a unique look. Cover the finished concrete with a sheet of plastic for a week to keep the concrete from drying too quickly, in order to properly cure. Keep off the slab for another two weeks after removing the plastic to give it time to set.